Engineering | Entrepreneurship + Innovation

Necessity — and sometimes desperation — drive innovation, and several Arizona State University students have been rewarded for creating amazing solutions to problems they dealt with firsthand.

A woman who faced obstacles in her path to citizenship and a man who watched his newborn son struggle were among the members of five teams that won cash and services for their inventions at the New Venture Challenge entrepreneurial competition recently. The teams divided a $100,000 cash prize and $25,000 in services.

This spring, 10 student-led companies were selected to take a class taught by Scott Wald, a software entrepreneur who earned an MBA from ASU. They worked with Wald and other mentors on specific areas of entrepreneurship, such as financial forecasting and using storytelling. The five finalists pitched their ventures on May 5, winning cash or services such as accounting help, marketing and space.

 Tanairi Ochoa-Martinez shared her own immigration story in describing her venture. Ochoa-Martinez, who earned a master’s of public administration degree this week, created Mi Beneficio Legal, a web platform that helps Spanish-speakers navigate and fill out government forms to acquire legal status or get a green card to work.

“I am the customer,” she said. “I was undocumented, and I became a citizen a year ago. I have lived the fears, and I have felt lonely. I have felt that nobody was able to help me.”

Ochoa-Martinez said the $10,000 cash investment and $5,000 worth of services she won from New Venture will pay for software development and testing the platform this summer. She hopes to launch in the fall.

Spanish-speaking users will log onto Mi Beneficio Legal and choose a form to fill out. The platform will ask a series of questions in Spanish that the users answer, and at the end the form is automatically filled out. An avatar called “Lupe” will pop up to guide them. The goal is to simplify the process and reduce errors through an online format that is more affordable than going to an attorney.

Ochoa-Martinez thought of the idea after helping her father and numerous family members with their paperwork.

“I don’t have the capacity to help everyone. Why not create something that could replicate what I can do?”

Read about the other winners.