NEW HAVEN — State government has invested in a local chemical company working to derive industrial ingredients from biomass.
P2 Science’s renewed investment from Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CII) to the tune of $500,000 (CII previously awarded a grant for the same amount in 2013) will help the company continue and expand its production of green-friendly additives.
P2 uses biomass (sourced from vegetable oils as well as from wood, grass and plant-based feedstocks) to produce consumer and industrial ingredients to substitute chemicals found in flavors, cosmetics and personal-care products.
The company produces ingredients using a pilot reactor installed at its Science Park headquarters. P2 licenses some of its intellectual property from Yale University.
NEW HAVEN — Several area companies were winners in the most recent round of CTNext’s Entrepreneur Innovation Awards (EIA), following up a previous round in March.
Two New Haven-based startup companies and one from Hamden were among the four to each receive $10,000 for their project ideas, which were awarded at the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford in April: Biomed Azitra (New Haven) is looking to develop new ways to deliver biological treatments with bacteria. EverSci, of New Haven, is developing a tool that allows scientists to access specific text in research articles with a single mouse click. Hamden’s CaroGen is developing vaccines for viral diseases. And Stamford-based eBrevia is looking to artificial intelligence to analyze and extract information from legal documents.
EverSci also won a $2,000 “Judges Favorite” award, and Hartford-based custom shoemaker the Brothers Crisp took home $2,000 as the “Crowd Favorite.”
CTNext is the name of the state’s “innovation ecosystem.” The next EIA event will take place July 17 at a location ye to be announced.
STORRS — The University of Connecticut has teamed with Comcast to establish a facility that examines IT hardware for cyber security vulnerabilities.
UConn’s Center of Excellence for Security Innovation (CSI) pairs the school’s Center for Hardware Assurance, Security and Engineering with Comcast to analyze computer chips and other components of Internet broadband systems are shielded from cyber attacks and unauthorized access.
The CSI is headquartered in UConn’s Information Technologies Engineering building in Storrs. Its establishment comes on the heels of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s announcement of cybersecurity plan for Connecticut electricity, natural gas and major water utilities. The state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority will work with Connecticut’s major utility companies to establish security standards and measures that would shield systems from attacks and prevent service disruptions.
BRANFORD — Brandfon Honda is going solar.
The auto dealer is installing 560 solar panels to its facility to generate electricity. The system, which includes five grid-enabled inverters, will produce 155,000 kilowatt hours per year, enough to offset 70 percent of its annual electrical usage.
The project was approved through Connecticut Light & Power’s Zero Emission Renewable Energy Credit program. It is estimated that 155,000 kilowatt hours has the environmental equivalent of planting 55 acres of trees, or removing 3,250 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.
This isn’t Brandfon’s first green initiative: The auto dealer already uses waste-oil furnaces to supplement heating, has a natural gas filling station for one line of Honda Civics, and is installing energy-efficient LED lighting throughout the facility.
MADISON — “Brainstorm often, execute quickly and kill bad ideas fast.”
That’s the key to success as a serial entrepreneur, according to Ryan Duques. The Madison native has seen his share of success since the mid-1990s, when he launched Shore Publishing, which ended up publishing 16 weekly newspapers from East Haven into Rhode Island. The company was sold to the New London Day in 2008.
He even wrote the short book 37 Days to Launch in 2011, chronicling his own experiences into a how-to about getting a startup company off the ground in just over a month.
Duques, 38, then turned his attention to education, and in 2007 launched Tutapoint.com, an online portal to link-high school students with online tutors in subjects including math, science, language arts, world languages as well as SAT preparatory courses. The site features live video chats with tutors and interactive elements to assist in learning.
The site connects students anywhere with tutors from all over the country. This semester it is reaching 5,000 students in schools across the country. The site is utilized both by individual students as well as school systems for multiple students. The lion’s of the instruction sought — fully 75 percent — is for math.
“Competitiveness for college applications and the continuous enhancements and changes in curriculum are making the learning process more demanding,” Duques explains. “We’re experts at helping kids master concepts; concepts are the foundation to everything.”
This spring Tutapoint’s SAT prep course EdgePrepLIVE was partially underwritten by the West Haven Public Schools system for use during a session for students.
“Since we’ve been around — and in Internet years that’s a long time — we’ve been fortunate to get a good reputation as a place for tutors to provide their services,” Duques says.
Many of Tutapoint’s tutors — some 100 nationwide, with another 300 on the waiting list — are current or retired teachers or graduate students, but either way, they must have more than two years of experience. “This can’t be someone’s first time being a tutor,” Duques says.
Much of the good will the company has built stems from Tutapoint employ only U.S.-based tutors, which goes a long way in establishing trust with parents, something Duques says has been one of the key challenges to offering services like these online. Tutapoint will also provide informational videos and interviews, and will even phone parents to have them engage with a real voice.
“Developing that sense of trust is easy to do in an offline environment,” says Duques. By contrast, “Online there’s a sense of anonymity that can be challenging to overcome, especially when you’re dealing with someone’s child.
“We have found that parents are cautious about [offshore instructors],” he adds. “We really believe in using tutors based in the U.S. because the rhythm of instruction is hard to duplicate if you haven’t come out of the same system the students are in.”
The logistical aspect of finding a tutor through Tutapoint is also a key factor compared with the time-consuming process of finding a tutor the way Duques recalls from his own high-school days.
“In the ‘90s there were many steps to finding a tutor: You had to find one, call and get their rates, get references, meet with them and see if it works — all these logistical components are gone now,” he says. “Half the students we work with come into our system and are getting help within 30 minutes.”
With all the instruction happening live, Tutapoint can track students’ progress in real time to ensure they’re learning — which has obviated the need for Tutapoint to open a bricks-and-mortar tutoring center, something Duques says he’s had the opportunity to do.
Duques says Tutapoint has been grown steadily especially over the last six quarters. While 90 percent of its business is in online tutoring services, the remaining ten percent is from the modest number of books, e-books and instructional DVDs it publishes.
While the company keeps an office location in New York, the bulk of operations still are housed in Madison, and Duques finds Connecticut to be more and more a welcoming state for other entrepreneurs, given its Innovation Ecosystem, wide range of large companies and educational infrastructure
“The ecosystem has evolved positively over the last 10 to 15 years,” he says. “It has become trendy to a certain extent [to be an entrepreneur]. The state on many levels has embraced the idea. There is a lot of firepower here that I think a lot of people forget about.”
Three local bioscience and medical-device startup companies were among the seven to split a $1 million investment from Connecticut Innovations Inc.’s (CII) Pre-Seed Fund, which has now assisted more than 50 companies since its launch in 2010.
The seven companies each are receiving up to $150,000 which mainly will be used for research-and-development expenses.
Woodbridge-based GlyGenix Therapeutics is developing cures for metabolic disorders caused by genetic mutations. Its pre-seed money will be used to help develop a drug to treat glycogen storage disease type 1A; those with the disease are unable to convert glycogen to glucose in the liver, resulting in hypoglycemia. The drug, G6Pase, has already received orphan status.
InboxHealth, of Madison, is developing software to simplify doctor-patient communication, including digital bill delivery and online payments. Branford’s Tangen Biosciences is developing portable instruments and methods for molecular diagnostics. Its first product will analyze DNA in patients with active pulmonary tuberculosis.
Stamford-based EvoLux Transportation was the winner of the 2013 Sikorsky Innovations Global Entrepreneurial Challenge, and is building an online marketplace for the helicopter and aviation industries.
The other three companies include financial planning company Cashpath Financial and online audience data analytic software firm Tru Optik Data Corp., both of Stamford; and Weatogue-based Yingo Yango, which is developing a platform to link health-care and wellness resources provided by employers to individuals.
The entrepreneurial community likes to honor its own. CTNext, the state’s government-initiated innovation ecosystem honored six startups with some cash to grow at its first ever Entrepreneur Innovation Awards, which had the companies give five-minute pitches of their upcoming projects.
The six finalists were FaceChecks (Bridgeport), a software maker developing facial recognition software for security systems; AdapTac Games (Stamford), developing action and strategy games for tends with ADHD; Dura Biotech (Storrs), a biotech developing technology to improve functionality of transcatheter aortic valves; Green Buildings Online (Ridgefield), an online company developing the Poplar Network social network connecting architectural, design and construction professionals with LEED and green building practices; Secor Water (Vernon), developing a portable water filtration system as an alternative to bottled water; and VAL Health (Greenwich), a behavioral economics firm building an online platform that uses incentives to change health-related behaviors.
Each company received $10,000 for their projects, while FaceChecks won an additional $2,000 “crowd favorite” award. Secor Water scored an extra $2,000 as the “judges’ favorite.”
The pitches were judged by a five-person panel that included David Tomczyk, professor of entrepreneurship and strategy at Quinnipiac University, and Edward Goodwin, president of the Angel Investor Forum and research scientist in genetics at the Yale School of Medicine.
NEW HAVEN — The second year of the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s Tech Bootcamp has seen enrollment double this year.
Thirty Yale students (including two locals) from each of Yale College classes 2014 through 2017, as well as graduate students, will spend this summer learning to code and create Web applications. The program was launched in 2013 and had 15 students enrolled that year. This year’s class was selected from 127 applicants.
Each student in the Bootcamp receives a full scholarship for the program’s tuition, $1,500 in living expenses for the ten-week program, and will take part in trips to area startups and tech incubators.
The course will be taught by Casey Watts, assistant manager of Yale’s Student Tech Collaborative.
NEW HAVEN — The business and networking group Over 40 Females is starting a New Haven County chapter. The group officially launches March 18 with a 7-to-9 p.m. shindig at Madden’s Gastropub, 175 Humphrey Street in New Haven.
Over 40 Females founder Judy Goss will be on hand to tell how she has built a thriving networking community specific to the needs of over-40 female professionals. The guest of honor will be Mayor Toni Harp, the first distaff chief executive in the Elm City’s 376-year history.
$1 million-plus committed to technology startups
ROCKY HILL — Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CII), the state’s quasi-public technology investment arm, has announced new investment commitments totaling $1.05 million through its Pre-Seed Fund to seven startup ventures focused on innovations in bioscience, information technology, financial technology and medical devices. The new commitments make CII the sixth most active early-stage investor nationwide.
“These new investments through our Pre-Seed Fund mark a significant fund milestone,” said CII CEO Claire Leonardi. “We have now invested in more than 50 companies through the fund since its launch in 2010.
“Additionally, we’re excited about being recognized nationally among the top ten most active seed/angel investors,” she added. “With these recent pre-seed investments, we are building CII’s, and Connecticut’s, pipeline of promising, young businesses — those that will create important future job opportunities.”
In this latest funding round CII has pledged up to $150,000 to seven startups, including three in greater New Haven.
GlyGenix Therapeutics Inc. of Woodbridge is focused on developing cures for metabolic disorders caused by genetic mutations. The company will use CII’s funding to continue research and development on its lead drug candidate, AAV-G6Pase, for the treatment of glycogen storage disease type 1a (GSD1a). Individuals who have this disease become hypoglycemic unless continually fed. AAV-G6Pase has received orphan drug designation from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which gives the drug exclusivity in the marketplace for seven years following FDA approval of the drug.
Madison’s Inbox Health, LLC is developing software that simplifies doctor-patient communication, with an initial focus on digital bill delivery and acceptance of payments online. The product will automate many facets of patient billing while monitoring patient interaction with the bill and facilitating the payment through debit, credit or bitcoin transactions. Health-care providers using the service have access to in-depth analytics, providing insights into patient interaction with bills and payments. Inbox Health will use CII’s dollars to continue product development and market rollout.
Tangen Biosciences Inc. of Branford is developing portable instruments and methods for use in molecular diagnostics. Its first product, which is being developed with assistance from CII’s investment, will be a point-of-care, DNA-based molecular diagnostic instrument for use in active pulmonary tuberculosis diagnosis. Physicians and other health-care professionals will be able to take sputum samples from patients in clinical settings, load them into the instrument and receive diagnostic results in under an hour.
EAST HARTFORD — The Connecticut Technology Council has nominated 59 women throughout the state as part of its tenth annual Women of Innovation awards, recognizing professionals and students for being innovators, role models and leaders in science, technology, engineering and math.
The 59 nominees include 13 local women:
• Michelle Addinton, Hines Professor of Sustainable Architectural Design at Yale University
• Kathy Ayers, director of research for Wallingford gas manufacturer Proton OnSite
• Manon Cox, president and CEO of Meriden biopharmaceutical developer Protein Sciences Corp.
• Julie Dorsey, professor of computer science at Yale
• Mary Kay Fenton, CFO and senior vice president Achillion Pharmaceuticals, New Haven
• Andreanne Johnson, information technology principal consult at Sikorsky Aircraft
• Paula Kavathas, a professor at the Yale Department of Laboratory Medicine
• Yvonne Kielhorn, CEO and founder of New Haven software developer Why Science
• Nuriye Elif Kongar-Bahtiyar, associate professor at the University of Bridgeport’s Department of Technology Management & Mechanical Engineering
• Lynn Madden, president & CEO of substance abuse treatment center APT Foundation, New Haven
• Elaine Pagliaro, grants coordinator for the University of New Haven’s Henry C. Lee Institute of Forensic Science.
Local student nominees include Eeman Abbasi of Amity Regional High School; and Lu Han, of Cheshire, a graduate student and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering.
The women were nominated by their peers and selected based on professional experience, innovation history, leadership, problem solving and creative thinking skills, or in the case of students, accomplishments, research and academic achievement.
Winners in each of eight categories — biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, software, computer hardware, advanced materials, medical devices and information technology, plus a student category — will be announced at the Women of Innovation awards ceremony at Southington’s Aqua Turf Club on March 27.