Solome Tibebu

Recent UST graduate Solome Tibebu has been declared the winner of the student division of the Minnesota Cup, an annual statewide new venture competition. Tibebu’s entry in the competition consists of her software startup, Cognific, which helps young adults undergoing mental health therapy by creating “homework” in game format to help them with their tratment; the software also provides analytics for the therapist to help assess the progress of their patients.

In a previous conversation with TommieMedia, Tibebu said that the idea that grew into Cognific originated with a frustrating experience with a therapist. Tibebu was working with a therapist to deal with anxiety, and the therapist’s method of giving assignments to continue work outside of formal sessions didn’t sit well with the patient. “They just write on a little Post-It note what your mental health homework was going to be for the week… I was supposed to make sure I didn’t lose this little thing in the car as a teenager. And)if I was lucky enough not to lose it, I was supposed to go home and do exposure therapy by myself all alone with no guidance,” Tibebu said.

Through this frustration, Tubebu saw a niche to be filled and, in classic entrepreneurial fashion, set out to do so. She developed the Cognifics software as an undergraduate at UST, getting some assistance from entrepreneurship department faculty on the development of the business end of the venture.”She has it. Some do. Some get math, some have to learn math. Well, she gets entrepreneurship,” said UST professor Alec Johnson, one of those who helped guide her.

As the winner of the student division, Tibebu will receive $10,000 in seed capital for Cognific, and go on to compete for the Minnesota Cup grand prize. The winner of the grand prize, to be announced September 6, will receive an additional $40,000.

More information about the Minnesota Cup, including lists of entrants, semifinalists and finalists, is available on the contest’s website.