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straw to combat drink spiking

Sip Safely with The Straw'd Movement

By Felicia Xiong

January 24, 2019

Over the summer, Yash Fichada visited the University of Pennsylvania to participate in LaunchX, a prestigious entrepreneurship program or high school students. Through LaunchX, Yash was able to meet Jehil Mehta, Sarah Coston, and Aarushi Machavarapu to turn ideas into reality by launching a startup company.

Sarah Coston, Jehil Mehta, Yash ichadia and Aarushi Machavarapu

Together, the four co-founders combined their skills and passions to solve real-world problems. The team decided to focus on the problem of drink spiking, as instances of date rape are becoming more and more prevalent in colleges, bars, and other social gatherings. They decided to name their project, The Straw'd Movement. A study conducted by The American Psychological Association found that among a survey of 6,000 students from three different US colleges, 480 students claim that their drinks have been spiked before.

"Our main goal in this movement is to both spread awareness of the issue of drink spiking and protect students at social gatherings. What inspired us is the fact that while some people are aware of the problem of drink spiking, many aren’t, and they don’t know what to do to combat this issue,” Yash said. The entrepreneurship process can be very rigorous and may include multiple failures before success. Product development, market research and prototyping are just a few facets of the journey to making an idea materialize. With the help of multiple chemistry professors at UPenn, the team is already on their way to making a difference.

“Throughout our four weeks at Penn, we learned a lot about the entrepreneurship process. We started with the problem of drink spiking. We then moved on to market research, and ideas for solutions,” Yash said. “Next, we did research on the feasibility o our product, interviewing multiple chemistry professors at UPenn. We also have begun customer acquisition, and are currently planning our product development.”

While the process isn’t over, the team is on its way to success. However, this doesn’t come without minor pitfalls along the way. Funding, lab access and possible partners and developers are some factors that are in question.

“Some issues in the future may include funding or the development of our product and finding someone to develop it, as the chemistry is not possible to complete without a proper lab,” Yash said.

The future product will be a straw that contains a chemical solution that expands when it comes into contact with certain drugs like GHB and Ketamine, and close up, preventing the user from continuing to consume the spiked drink. Currently, the team’s main goal is to have a working prototype.

“In the future we hope to create more products to help prevent and detect drink spiking, possibly including a flavoring packet for drinks that can detect drugs,” Yash said. “The Straw’d Movement is about spreading awareness o the problem of drink spiking.”

You can follow the movement on Instagram and Facebook @strawdmovement. Use #SipSafely to spread awareness about the movement and drink spiking.