• Deepika Gopalakrishnan

Founding dVerse Labs

It all started with a simple cold message I sent on Linkedin last year after reading one of Shreyas’ articles. I had deeply resonated with what he had written and was curious to know more about his work. We got in touch and he soon became my mentor for various projects.

The pandemic had just started when I mentioned to Shreyas that I was looking for ways to create impact as a product designer when he was reviewing my work over a call. He, Krishna along with a few others had in fact just started OpenCovid India and were looking to collaborate with people to build open-source projects to tackle the pandemic.

When I joined the team I was just a nervous design student who was not sure if I could contribute significantly to the cause but I wanted to give my best. I worked dedicatedly and soon became one of the core members leading the project.

After talking to doctors across India, we identified the need for a portable sterilizer that addresses common touchpoints, preventing cross-contamination in COVID-19 isolation wards and ICUs. We developed Sterilo and got an opportunity to present our work to researchers across 11 Latin American countries. We emerged as winners of the healthcare track in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s COVID-19 challenge.

Krishna, Shreyas, Vivek and I realized that besides working well together as a team, our visions aligned, that is to leverage the power of design to create impact. This is when we decided to take the next step towards starting our own venture. I turned down the job offer I had in hand and having just graduated with a bachelor’s in product design, I plunged in as a full-time Co-founder of dVerse Labs.

Several studies indicated elevators to be a high-risk transmission point for hospital-acquired infections(HAIs) since they are confined spaces with a lack of adequate ventilation. More than half the medical staff we surveyed were worried about accessing elevators, especially during the pandemic. To prevent the spread of pathogens in such confined spaces, we developed UVfy, an AI-based sterilizer for elevators.

For the initial few months, all of us founders were working from different locations- Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Netherlands and Delhi. Virtually collaborating to build a tangible product came with its own challenges. How do you communicate and discuss ideas through an audio call? In a physical space, a simple gesture might have done all the talking. How do you create a video or a 3D model or a prototype virtually? How do you build a sense of team in a virtual environment? While we are still on our quest of finding answers to these questions, we create virtual co-working spaces and use tools like Figma, Notion and Miro to collaborate and, Slack and google Meet for communication.

As a team, we found hacks to collaborate virtually and build together

If you’re building a tangible product, there’s only so much you can do virtually. Despite the risk of getting COVID ourselves, eventually, we stepped out there taking all the precautions, sourced materials and built an MVP.

Prototyping and testing

After multiple rounds of iterations and in-house testing, we conducted successful pilots at Aysha hospital, Hotel Cenneys Gateway and my own alma mater, PES University.

Installations of UVfy

We also tested our product for its effectiveness at an ICMR-empanelled lab. We are now reaching out to hospitals across India so we can ensure that their elevators are safer to access for the healthcare workers and the patients.

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