Meet the Pioneers, Take 5

From a 27-year-old doctor in Lithuania creating next-gen echocardiograms, to a high-school senior creating new nuclear fusion material, to a physically distributed self-hosted WhatsApp alternative, Pioneer’s engine seems to be detecting (and hopefully generating) exceptional talent.

We recently made a giant change to our product: you can apply to Pioneer at any time. No more monthly tournament. Start here:

(We're really trying to remove any excuses you might have to not follow your dream project idea. Give it a shot – maybe you'll win! And even if you don't, you might enjoy the process.)

Meet the winners:

Karolis Šablauskas (27), Lithuania‌‌
Karolis is creating Ligence, software that will analyze echocardiograms (heart ultrasounds) more efficiently. Currently, cardiologists spend a substantial amount of time measuring parameters for echocardiograms. The idea is to use machine learning to predict those values and vastly speed up the process. His goal is to integrate Ligence into hospitals’ information systems or the ultrasound machines themselves.

Noteworthy: Karolis was part of the Lithuanian team that won the grand prize at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) in 2017. He’s also a doctor and self-taught machine learning engineer.

Arun Johnson (18), United States
‌Imagine something so heavy that a 4-inch cube of it weighs 130 tons. It’s called "ultra dense deuterium," and it was first described less than a decade ago. The density and superconducting properties of UDD haven't been seen in any other material. It's like that mythical, rare, shiny Pokemon. UDD isn't very popular to study given the hoaxes surrounding cold fusion. That's what makes it exciting to us. Cold fusion is somewhat of the final, final frontier. And Arun is going to try and understand how to create the fuel for it, which may be UDD.

Noteworthy: Though only in high school, Arun has already done research in carbon dioxide recapture by using electrolysis. He's also a research intern at the Cargnello Lab and an Emergent Ventures fellow.

Sarah Oh (36), United States
‌‌Spectrum allocation today is rigid and regulated. Bidding on spectrum requires industry know-how, connections, large amounts of capital, etc. The prices are not transparent, nor are they efficient. This should not be the case. As the airwaves become increasingly saturated, we'll want a free market it for it, just as there is for gold or oil.

If this were to be created, the "clearinghouse" would become an incredibly important asset. Like NASDAQ, but for radio waves.

Noteworthy: This project is equal parts regulatory and software engineering, and Sarah already works full-time on spectrum policy in Washington, DC. She also previously worked for Tyler Cowen.

Zachary Canann (24), United States
Many of us got into coding by reverse engineering games or websites. Zachary is operationalizing that insight. Squally is a game that teaches kids assembly. It’s the game every software engineer parent wants their kids to play.

Noteworthy: Zachary is already selling the game successfully on Steam and Kickstarter. As an insider, his family is intensely immersed in software games: his Mom started a store selling downloadable content for The Sims, his father is an engineer who taught him how to code and his stepfather was on the original team that made The Sims.

Toni Gemayel (29) and Daniel Fernandez (30), United States
‌The benefits of the cloud are numerous, but a major downside is centralization of trust. All of our data is stored with a handful of companies. Toni and Daniel are changing that with Hola. Hola is a box that plugs into your home router and lets you self-host your own encrypted chat server. Think Wordpress, but for WhatsApp.

Noteworthy: Toni previously built Banyan, a Git-like collaboration tool for academics, and currently works at Figma. Daniel’s previous projects include an award-winning telemedicine app and efficient dataset serializers for researchers. He also spent his teenage years mastering the art of downhill skating, peaking at 62mph(!) downhill.

Sabarish Gnanamoorthy (15), Canada
‌If you’ve ever gotten lost at a conference or in a shopping mall, you’ll appreciate what Sabarish is working on: Google Maps for indoors. Prior apps have required 3D scans of the environment, but WaypointAR only requires a simple floor plan. This can be useful in a variety of places, including airports, college campuses, offices, and large events. Users of the app see a 3D avatar in their current location that guides them to their intended destination.

Noteworthy: When he first started learning about VR/AR, he didn't just want to follow the developments in the industry, he wanted to participate. He cold-emailed Microsoft executives and got sponsored to work on the HoloLens. He’s also a Thiel Fellow.

Tom McCarthy (19), Ireland
‌Tom is the founder of Patch, a summer accelerator for extraordinary teenagers. He created this after feeling isolated as a younger teen, without similar-minded peers to share ideas with. Patch is an 8-week, all-expenses-paid program in Dublin, and 12 participants form teams and work on new tech projects together. Tom plans to expand the accelerator to include those interested in science, engineering, math, etc.

Noteworthy: When Tom was 13, he read about nuclear fusion reactors on Wikipedia and saw that a 13-year-old American had built one. So he built one, too. That is all.

Ahmed Moselhi (17) and Cameron Kerr (15), United States
‌The world is more connected than ever. While generally helpful, this increases the tail risk of a rapidly spreading global pandemic. Super-vaccines take precious time to develop. Ahmed and Cameron are leveraging AI to predict the binding of T-cells to antigens, which will allow them to rapidly predict the efficacy of current immunotherapies as well as quickly develop new vaccines.

Noteworthy: Ahmed studies at the University of Toronto and has worked on a project to double the life of cells and designed a system to slow down cancer growth with light. Cameron is working at the Pugh Lab at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center this summer on a T-cell therapy project and is also part of The Knowledge Society.

‌Pioneer invests in ambitious people working on interesting projects around the world. You could be next.

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