Originally published in The Dublin Villager. See it online here.
Wednesday January 21, 2015 11:23 AM
While Partha Unnava was attending Dublin Coffman High School, he broke his ankle playing basketball, spent six weeks using uncomfortable traditional crutches.
He started to think how he could build less-painful crutches.
After graduating in 2010, he started a company, called Better Walk, that makes comfortable crutches.
Last week Unnava was named one of Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 for 2015.
Unnava said he was incredibly humbled and a little surprised by the recognition.
“I actually woke up Monday morning and saw a tweet saying ‘Congrats’ from my friend,” Unnava said.
“I didn’t know the list was coming out, so it was definitely a great way to start a Monday” he said.
Unnava called the award the entrepreneurial equivalent of winning a Grammy Award.
“It’s been a personal goal of mine for a while and so I was very excited,” he said.
Better Walk is getting ready to start manufacturing and incorporating its crutches into hospitals during the next couple months, Unnava said.
He said the company is working to replace standards of care with solutions that make sense.
Unnava said the company has a couple more products that follow this philosophy that are in the works.
The recognition has brought a flood of e-mails to Unnava and has helped him expand his network.
“Being a younger entrepreneur, it can be hard, but having this award to my name improves my credibility,” he said.
Unnava said his Dublin education helped him learn how to work hard inside and outside the classroom.
“During high school, especially through the marching band program, that’s really where I developed a strong work ethic,” he said.
Playing trumpet helped Unnava understand that all those long hours under the summer sun really can pay off.
Jeremy Bradstreet, Coffman’s band director, taught Unnava in the top concert and jazz band.
“Partha was an extremely hard working student around the band wing,” Bradstreet said in an email.
“He was outstanding leader in the marching band,” Bradstreet said.
Bradstreet described Unnava as extremely sincere, dependable and he said he made practices more enjoyable because of his humor.
Inside the classroom, Unnava said he remembered in his AP Physics class how he learned math and physics not through memorization, but by understanding the concepts.
“Teachers like (David) Scott focused on showing us how something worked, instead of making us do a million practice problems for homework,” he said.
Scott, a physics teacher at Coffman said that Unnava was one of the youngest students he ever taught in Physics and in AP Physics.
“Partha was always curious, enthusiastic, and hard-working in class,” Scott said via email.
“Partha finished his science requirements early and completed upper level courses so that he had time to do research at Ohio State while he was in high school,” Scott said.
“Partha got along with students of all kinds and of all ages,” Scott said.
“Although hard-working and ambitious, Partha always considered the needs of others and respected them.
“Partha always showed great respect for me and for other teachers.”
Unnava attended the Georgia Institute of Technology (also called Georgia Tech), where he studied biomedical engineering and was in the jazz band.
He now lives in Atlanta.
“If you had told me when I was on crutches that this would be my life now, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Unnava said.
“I’m so thankful for all the things that have happened in my life.”