CCT Alumni Highlight: Shavini Fernando

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CCT Congratulates alum Shavini Fernando (CCT ’18) on winning first place at the 2023 GEA Pitch Competition! In honor of winning this prestigious award, Shavini shared more about her background, her experience at CCT, and how she came to enter and win the GEA Pitch Competition!

Shavini’s background is in VR and as a Video gamer, with an undergraduate degree and first Master’s degree in computer science and an MBA in international business.  In 2015 she was diagnosed with severe pulmonary hypertension due to Eisenmenger Syndrome, which can cause her heart to stop as the result of a drop in oxygen levels.

For Shavini, one of the standout components of CCT was that everyone in the program was very understanding of her condition, and was so welcoming and helpful during her application. With pulmonary hypertension she needed to manage her oxygen at all times, carry a backpack with batteries, and go for testing between classes. She enjoyed all the opportunities to expand her mind and skills at CCT – she held various positions at Georgetown University, including as Makerspace Operations Coordinator – but had to constantly be cautious of her oxygen levels.

Shavini conducted a CCT independent study with Professor Evan Barba to develop an ear wearable Oxygen Monitoring device. Before Covid there were not many easy ways to check oxygen levels, and she wanted to create something so she could live independently and stay at CCT. She utilized access to essential materials through the Maker Hub to help develop this device and tested her creation through IRB and a second independent study. She recognized that there are about 50 million people with chronic cardiovascular conditions that need this technology, so she worked to start a company.

Shavini pitched O2Wear at the second annual Georgetown “Bark Tank” event in 2018, where she was a finalist.  She presented and then won the Leonsis Family Entrepreneurship Prize as well as the People’s Choice Award, providing her with the funding to fully move ahead with her project. She also credits Georgetown for helping her attain an O1 visa, and she then began raising funds, getting developers, and working with a US-based team.

After continuously developing OxiWear, Shavini applied to the 2023 GEA Pitch Competition. In April 2023 during the Georgetown Alumni John Carroll Weekend, she and two other Georgetown alums pitched to investors and alumni judges in entrepreneur and venture capitalist sectors. She spoke on OxiWear’s impact so far, emphasizing her relationships and finalized partnerships with oxygen concentration companies, rehab centers, and hospitals. The judges picked Shavini as the GEA 2023 winner and she was both surprised and appreciative of this morale boost. She was not expecting to win, as during the pandemic she struggled to raise funding for OxiWear.

Shavini’s next step is to get FDA approval by early 2024. With approval, she intends to make the device waterproof and smaller so it can be used by doctors and parents to monitor preemie neonatal babies at home. She will also begin signing with pro athletes for recovery and performance monitoring during training, including Altitude OCR World championship athletes who use it to hike in Antarctica, Everest, and Kilimanjaro. OxiWear’s customer base is not a normal apple user, but for anyone who has oxygen monitoring as their main focus.

Shavini explained that while many oxygen devices were made during the pandemic, none were able to do continuous monitoring necessary for people with Shavini’s condition. She noticed in discussions with oxygen concentrators companies that products were designed by individuals that didn’t use them directly or understand patient needs. This tied directly into the CCT-5006 course, which highlights the difference between users and nonusers. Before starting OxiWear, she knew the importance of understanding, listening, and talking to a customer base, especially since she understood the patient perspective. Many individuals with chronic health conditions think their lives are over, but Shavini adamantly believes they can still live normally and simply need the agency to know when to slow down. Her focus is on creating that confidence, saving lives, and giving individuals their lives back.

Shavini greatly enjoyed her time at CCT and bonding with her fellow Georgetown students. She stated everyone comes to Georgetown not just for the amazing classes and professors, but also for the community. She stressed the importance of tapping into the Georgetown network and encouraged all current students and fellow alumni to make use of these connections.