Engineering student wins first place at EQ competition

April 21, 2020

Drew Patel

Drew Patel

A Mizzou Engineering student won first place at the University of Missouri System’s annual Entrepreneur Quest (EQ) Student Accelerator pitch competition last week.

Drew Patel, a sophomore computer science major from Springfield, Missouri, hopes to use the award to help launch his startup business, Pollinate, in the coming months. Pollinate aims to improve e-commerce delivery in developing countries.

His pitch made it through five rounds of competition before earning top honors.

Patel has been developing the company since 2018 after experiencing firsthand the inefficiencies of international delivery. He has family members in India who would ask him to bring them goods from the U.S. when he visited because it was more reliable than delivery services.

“I started looking into the problem and found out there are big issues with package delivery systems in growing economies,” he said.

In countries that do not have mailing addresses, having a package delivered to a home can be tricky. Not only do packages get lost or stolen, consumers are often given 12-hour delivery windows, requiring them to wait on a package for an entire day. With Pollinate, goods are shipped to neighborhood market stalls, where customers can pick them up at their convenience.

On the backend, Pollinate uses blockchain to provide a consistent and accurate record of transactions. Blockchain is a digital ledger that cannot be altered. In this case, it would allow customs to quickly verify the authenticity of international packages and would allow companies and consumers to know the location of packages at any given time.

Patel has been working with blockchain technology since his teens. At 16, he won his first hackathon with BloodChain, a company he created to track and ensure the safety of blood donations in developing countries. He has also worked with Onfocoin, a Springfield-based organization that provides cryptocurrency.

Patel chose Mizzou because of its affordability and location. He said the university’s entrepreneurship programs are especially beneficial and complement his engineering studies.

“The entrepreneurship programs are really good,” he said, “especially for computer science and electrical engineering since all of the big startups are tech startups.”

While he’s hopeful the boost from the EQ win will help make Pollinate a success, Patel stressed that his main goal is making a difference.

Seeking the wealth that comes with entrepreneurship, he said, is the wrong way to think about starting a company. “Make an impact and change lives — touch as many lives as you can — and the money will come.”