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Toivoa wins local Startup302 contest award

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Toivoa Laura Randa Startup302 Delaware

Laura Randa pitches her health tech company Toivoa to the Startup302 judging panel during the 2023 program. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DPP

WILMINGTON – After an extensive career in sales and C-suite positions at biotech and pharmaceutical companies including Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, one of the owners of the smash eczema drug Dupixent, Laura Randa is now taking a leadership role in a new company hoping to connect people with disabilities with the mental health care they need.

Randa’s Wilmington-based company Toivoa and its Rauha digital application will offer people with disabilities accessible mental health treatment digitally, with the support of live peer mentors. The company, launched 19 months ago, is one of 15 tech startups with at least one team member from an underrepresented demographic that recently received a share of $198,000 in grants from the third annual Startup302 competition organized by the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and its business partners. 

Randa said the funding will allow Toivoa to continue building its team and support product development. She said the goal is to launch the product, starting specifically for people with hearing and mobility challenges and including dozens of accessibility functions, this summer. By the end of the decade, she expects to hire upwards of 300 people and be working with over 100,000 patient users.

“My whole career has been about building and bringing innovation to patients,” Randa said, explaining that the name of the company and its app mean “hope” and “peace” in Finnish. “There’s a huge unmet need with this very vulnerable population.”

Toivoa took the top earnings in this year’s pool of applicants, earning the first place prize of $22,000 in the Delaware Tech-Enabled category sponsored by the Delaware Division of Small Business and $5,000 as the second-place winner of the Blue Hen Prize sponsored by the University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship program. The first-place prize also comes with a one-year membership to the World Trade Center Delaware.

”It is so inspiring to see entrepreneurs taking the initiative to solve a problem they see out in the world,” said Regina Mitchell, director of the state’s Division of Small Business that helps run the event. “The competitors in the Tech-Enabled category all had exciting and innovative ideas that will offer impactful solutions to real world problems. Their enthusiasm and passion are energizing and are an asset to the state of Delaware.”

This year marked the first time the competition — which attracted 169 applicants from across the United States as well as Canada, Brazil, Uruguay, Italy, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan — was held in person, according to organizers.

“Having the chance to recognize innovative startups, both those from Delaware and around the country, at an event here in Wilmington in conjunction with our partners in the community, was an immensely rewarding experience, and a great chance to show off Delaware to our competitors from outside the First State,” Delaware Prosperity Partnership Director of Innovation Noah Olson said in a statement.

Sponsors of the grants included Delaware Prosperity Partnership, Delaware State University,  Delmarva Power,  Discover Bank, DuPont, FMC Corp., The Innovation Space, JPMorgan Chase & Co., M&T Bank and the University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship program

The following companies also earned first-place Startup302 awards:

  • KidVestors, of Louisville, Ky., earned $21,000 in the “FinTech” category
  • Ecotone Renewables, of Pittsburgh, Pa., earned $25,000 in the “Clean, Green and Blue” category
  • SomnOSA, of Baltimore, earned $10,000 in the “Early Stage” category
  • ReHeva BioSciences, of Dublin, Ohio, earned $22,000 in the “Life Sciences” category
  • SomnOSA, of Baltimore, earned a $7,000 Blue Hen Prize (which was specifically for finalists who had ties to the University of Delaware)

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