Caldwell partnered with MIT Sandbox to host a virtual panel event aiming to mentor students and student-led startups within the MIT community. Caldwell’s Katie Rubino along with  Jinane Abounadi from MIT Sandbox moderated this panel discussion featuring three past MIT Sandbox Alums: Alicia Chong, Jacob Becraft and Aagya Mathur. The panelists shared insider knowledge on the nuts and bolts of forming a student startup and how they navigated their own IP strategy as a key driver for growth.

MIT Sandbox is an innovation fund program seeking to provide MIT graduate and undergraduate students with seed funding, mentorship, and entrepreneurship education to help take their innovations from being just ideas to a veritable startup.

Meet The Speakers

Aagya Mathur, Co-Founder & CEO, Aavia

Aagya Mathur

Aagya Mathur is Cofounder and CEO of Aavia, the hormone health brand that guides you on a health journey better than your mother’s with technology, education, and community.  Aavia has been recognized as one of Forbes 53 women-led startups disrupting health tech. From starting a volunteer service to fill a community need in high school and founding a small business to provide affordable transportation to her undergraduate classmates, to now leading Aavia to improve the health and wellness of people with uteruses, Aagya Mathur is consistently bridging gaps and solving inefficiencies. Through personal and professional experiences, she found her passion at the intersection of healthcare, innovation, and analytics-driven insights. During her consulting career, she worked with various clients to improve patient experience; however, she found she needed to be closer to the end-user to have the kind of impact she knew she could have. Aagya holds a degree in Neuroscience from the University of Virginia and an MBA from MIT Sloan, and she previously worked at Deloitte.


Alicia Chong Rodriguez, Co-Founder & CEO, Bloomer Tech


Alicia Chong Rodriguez is the CEO at Bloomer Tech. She graduated from the MIT Electrical Engineering & Computer Science program and MIT IDM, where her research focused on sex-specific, computationally generated, cardiac biomarkers at the MIT Computational Cardiovascular Research Group. She received the MIT Legatum Fellowship and the MIT Graduate Women of Excellence Award. She has also been recognized as a 2018 Medtech Boston 40 under 40 Healthcare Innovator, and in the top 100 Female Founders across the U.S. by Inc Magazine. Prior to MIT she worked in the semiconductor industry at companies such as HP and Teradyne and co-founded MenTe en Acción (Mujeres en Tecnología) where she currently serves on the board as a technical advisor.

 Jake Becraft, Ph.D., Co-Founder & CEO, Strand Therapeutics


Jake Becraft is a synthetic biologist and entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and CEO of Strand Therapeutics and serves on its Board of Directors. Together with colleagues at MIT’s renowned Synthetic Biology Center, he led the development of the world’s first synthetic biology programming language for mRNA. Jake has been featured in Fierce Biotech, Bloomberg, the Boston Business Journal, and BioCentury, among others, for his vision and mission at Strand of applying this unique platform for real world disease applications. He has also been the recipient of prestigious national and international awards for his scientific and entrepreneurial achievements, including the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Award, the Andrew Viterbi Fellowship of MIT, Amgen Fellowship, and the Bristol-Myers Squibb 2018 Golden Ticket for recognition of Strand as an innovative startup. Beyond his work at Strand, Jake’s broader interests span synthetic biology, biologically engineered organism-machine interfaces, and the intersection of tech and biotech methodologies. He is an advocate among the life science entrepreneurial ecosystem for supporting young founders in biotech entrepreneurship. Currently, he serves on the advisory board of Starlight Ventures, an early-stage venture firm, and serves on the Executive Board of Public Health United, a non-profit focused on helping scientists better communicate their research for maximum impact. Previously, he served as a Science and Technology advisor to legislators in the Massachusetts State Legislature. Jake received his Ph.D. in Biological Engineering and Synthetic Biology from MIT and his B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, graduating Magna cum Laude with distinction. He is an author or inventor on numerous high-profile publications, patents and white papers, including in top tier journals such as Nature Chemical Biology and PNAS