TU student startup SkinCheck named SXSW Pitch competition finalist - The University of Tulsa
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TU student startup SkinCheck named SXSW Pitch competition finalist

Julian Abhari and Daniel Marques.

South by Southwest (SXSW) has announced 45 finalists across nine different categories for its 16th annual global SXSW Pitch competition on March 9-10 in Austin, Texas. Among the finalists is Hurricane Venture startup SkinCheck, founded by University of Tulsa computer science/cyber security senior Julian Abhari and MBA student Daniel Marques.

“It was always a dream of mine to build and unveil revolutionary technologies of my own, and I am immensely proud to be pitching SkinCheck’s cutting-edge technology at SXSW,” Abhari said. “We’re incredibly grateful for the Tulsa community. Through Tulsa’s commitment to innovation, they’ve propelled us into the spotlight. It is truly an honor that this passion project I was building when I was 16 years old programming in my bedroom has grown to become a cutting-edge technology that is changing the world for the better.”

SkinCheck is a convenient, reliable, and accessible solution for early skin cancer detection. Using artificial intelligence to scan and compare potentially cancerous or suspicious moles, the app aims to identify potential skin cancer early, thereby reducing the number of related deaths. SkinCheck started as a Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge project conducted by Abhari and computer science faculty.

Abhari’s interest in this project was personal, since his mother had fought her own battle with skin cancer. Her condition was detected early, though many are not as fortunate. Additionally, many people are unable to afford regular physician check-ups and the associated laboratory tests. Partnering with Marques, the duo further developed SkinCheck. Affordable and convenient, SkinCheck also has the advantage of being racially unbiased, a first for skin care detection software.

SkinCheck was one of the first two startup investments to receive financial backing in September after the launch of Hurricane Ventures, a funding catalyst designed to provide seed money for early-stage companies and support TU student, faculty, staff, and alumni startups. In November 2023, SkinCheck competed as semifinalists in the Regent Bank Hurricane Pitch Competition, a “Shark Tank-style” competition that showcases TU student-created ideas and business ventures with the top three teams collectively winning $25,000 in cash prizes. SkinCheck placed second, winning $7,500.

“We are beyond excited and honored to have been selected as global finalists for the SXSW Pitch,” said Marques. “It’s one of the only, if not the first, time that an Oklahoma startup is being represented at that stage. Building SkinCheck has been a challenging and rewarding journey. We see this conference as an opportunity to showcase our breakthrough technology and advance our continued efforts for commercialization. We are thankful for the TU community and their support thus far; we could not be where we are today without it. And we are proud to represent The University of Tulsa as we take the global stage in Austin this March. And the best part is, we are just getting started.”

Founded in 1987, SXSW is best known for its conference and festivals that celebrate the convergence of tech, film, music, education, and culture. SXSW Pitch serves as a platform for startups from around the globe to showcase their innovative technology to industry experts, high-profile media professionals, venture capitalists, and angel investors.

“The University of Tulsa’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Hurricane Ventures are so excited for Julian Abhari, Daniel Marques, and the SkinCheck team for this well-earned opportunity,” said Chris Wright, director of the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship and research faculty in TU’s Collins College of Business. “Their transformational and accessible technology will change the game for early skin cancer detection and save lives.”