Published: January 23, 2017
UT Entrepreneur Seeks to End Hot Car Deaths
Rashid Gargash ’17 doesn’t have a child of his own, but he is familiar with how dangerous a hot car can be to a child or pet left inside. Gargash is from Dubai, a place where summer temperatures easily exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It’s an issue there, just like in the U.S.,” said Gargash. The average annual number of heatstroke deaths of children in cars is 37, according to research at NoHeatStroke.org.
It’s why he spent his winter break back home, working. Gargash is part of a team that has developed a device to prevent hot car deaths. Their product, Sense A Life, is a small sensor placed on a car seat that is activated when the vehicle door opens, alerting the driver with an audible sound and, if ignored, through a mobile phone application.
“We are a safety company, and we’re trying to create as many products as possible to promote that,” said Masud Hossain, cofounder and chief operating officer, who took a year off of graduate school at the University of South Florida to focus on the business. “We’re excited. I believe we’re going to go very far with this.”
Gargash was introduced to the Sense a Life team through a mutual friend in UT’s Entrepreneurs Club. He took on the role of chief financial officer and has played a significant role in connecting the team to a network of people, from angel investors to legal counsel to people in the car industry. He is also their link to Dubai, where he has a strong connection to the automotive industry and where the team is now working to expand.
Domestically, the Sense a Life team has been working this last year with supporters of the Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seats Act or the HOT CARS Act of 2016, which requires all new vehicles be equipped with technology like Sense A Life to alert of a child/passenger remains in the rear seating after the car is turned off. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in September 2016 and then referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.
“The Hot Cars Act is one of the most influential things we’ve been a part of in the last year, because it would make it mandatory to have a revolutionary type product like this,” Hossain said.
While other devices have been introduced to the market, the team says their technology — using optical sensors — is superior, and they hold the intellectual property rights.
Gargash, an accounting major, said his desire to be an entrepreneur was sparked by his first business class at UT with Dean Koutroumanis, associate director of the Lowth Entrepreneurship Center. Now Gargash intends to get his master’s in entrepreneurship at UT after graduating this spring.
“Dr. Koutroumanis is one of my key advisors. He was my inspiration for everything. Without him I don’t think I’d be doing any of this,” Gargash said. “That’s literally how I got started. He gave me the concept.”
One of the first things Koutroumanis taught Gargash was how to strategically network.
“Networking is a critical success factor for every student, not just entrepreneurship or business students. I discuss the importance of networking in all of my classes and encourage my students to leverage every opportunity they have to meet and speak to people in the fields they have interest in,” Koutroumanis said. “Rashid has a unique perspective and outlook on viewing opportunities. Entrepreneurs also need to be passionate about what they are doing, and Rashid was always very passionate about his ideas.”
The Sense a Life team is currently building a foundation in the U.S., while exploring their options for production as well as opportunities for expansion in Dubai. It’s been a labor of love, and the guys are excited to see where the next couple months take them.
“It’s a challenge, but when you’re creating a product that saves lives and solves a real problem, it makes it worthwhile,” Hossain said. “At the end of the day we’re trying to save a life. It’s not a gimmicky toy or an app you play with, we’re actually solving a real world problem.“
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