The co-founders of Inirv React are making sure that a forgetful moment doesn’t lead to a catastrophe.

With Inirv React, a user can turn his or her stove off even from outside the home simply by pushing a button on a mobile app.

Akshita Iyer ’14 came up with the idea during a visit from her mother, who accidentally left the stove on when they went to a movie.

“I had a dog at home and lived in a townhome with units on either side, so we were very worried,” Iyer said. “We left the movie, rushed home and found that the pot was completely burnt and the room was filled with smoke.”

Iyer’s experience isn’t unique – according to data from the National Fire Protection Association, cooking equipment is the leading cause of house fires, accounting for 45 percent of them.

Iyer, who majored in neuroscience, pitched her idea to a friend she’d met in a pre-med club – Ranjith Babu, who attended Duke’s School of Medicine and is now a neurosurgery resident at Duke University Hospital.

Babu already had some entrepreneurial experience, having co-founded a biotech company while he was in medical school.

“I saw a great way to not only improve homes, but also to save lives,” Babu said. “I’ve always seen devices as the best way to impact people’s lives on a larger scale. Being a physician is great, but the limitation is that you can only help one person at a time. By developing a device, you can have an impact on millions of people around the world.”

Iyer was also interested in medical school, but ultimately she made the decision to focus on the company full-time. Although entrepreneurship can be a scary decision to make, she said, it helps to find the right business partner.

The team, which consists of Iyer, Babu, eight engineers, and a handful of mentors, has a working prototype. Not only can the rechargeable device be controlled via Wi-Fi, it also has sensors to make smart decisions on its own. It will turn off the stove automatically when it detects smoke or flammable gas, or when the motion detector senses that no one is attending to the stove for a prolonged period of time.

“It’s really making a key appliance in your home smarter and safer,” Babu said.

Few other solutions exist, Iyer said, but they are costly, difficult to install, and not as effective as Inirv React. The team recently raised over $175,000 on a successful Kickstarter campaign and expects to have their product to market by the end of 2017 at a retail cost of $299.

The team has also advanced to the second round of the Duke Startup Challenge. Babu competed in a previous Duke Startup Challenge with his former company, and he said Inirv React decided to enter because of the invaluable feedback.

Seeking and listening to feedback is one of the most important things an entrepreneur can do to be successful, Babu said. Inirv React has also sought feedback and mentorship from the Duke Global Entrepreneurship Network (DukeGEN) and the downtown Durham-based Council for Entrepreneurial Development.

To learn more about Inirv React, visit its website.

To read about more Duke Entrepreneurs, click here.

By Katie Jansen

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