Would-be technology titans confab in the City of Elms
Entrepreneurial wizards from across the Northeast and beyond came to New Haven to make themselves known to the technology community.
Nearly 400 attendees gathered at the October 27 Innovation and Entrepreneurship Summit at the Omni-New Haven Hotel to recognize promising companies and preview 70 new and emerging startups in the “Companies to Watch” poster fair.
It was a Mamaroneck, N.Y. company that won the Elevator Pitch competition, in which participants voted on three startups to receive $10,000 of professional services (donated by New Haven marketing agency Digital Surgeons).
SirGroovy, an online platform designed to streamline the process of obtaining music licensing for film, television and advertising, beat out two Connecticut-based startups: New Canaan’s MyLuckClub, an online portal for making recommendations to prospective homebuyers; and SmallTalk, a mobile phone networking app. The group behind that app met and fostered the idea at Hartford’s Startup Weekend in September.
The SmallTalk app is aimed at professionals attending conferences and conventions, offering conversation-starters by collecting information on attendees from their social networking profiles.
It even features a GPS function so users can locate the person they want to connect with.
Eric Rogers, one of the startup’s founders, said the idea arose from a desire to identify an easier way to network.
“I think we’ve all been there: You go to a conference or a trade show, or even just at the bar. It’s intimidating unless you have that close circle, and many times you don’t know anybody there,” Rogers said. “So being able to dissect and get into that crowd by knowing what you have in common with others is a great way around that.”
The app would generate revenue through advertising, and Rogers said the app also is geared toward event-planning services; the benefit to attendees makes the event more successful to the planners and sponsors as well. The app is currently in beta, and the company is seeking additional programmers to develop it further.
South Glastonbury-based Raditaz is a location-based music streaming app similar to those such as Pandora, though founder and CEO Tom Brophy boasts his app’s access to 13 million songs, versus the Pandora’s roughly 800,000.
“[Other companies] have people that listen to every single song and log the characteristics of every song,” Brophy explained. “We do it differently. If you listen to a station for the Cure, you’ll want to listen to stations that other people who like the Cure listen to. It’s crowd-sourced.”
Brophy said that Raditaz’s GPS functionality shows where the listeners are, enabling the company to be more precise with its advertising. The app creates music “stations” based on an artist the user sets, and plays music by that artist and others that users with similar interests listen to. A map of the user’s location also shows stations set up by nearby users, which can be listened to with a tap of a button.
“The marketplace we’re in is growing dramatically,” Brophy said, raising his smart phone. “More and more people are going to be walking around with these. So we’re in a good position and we think our business model makes sense.”
Chris Briere, a freshman at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, was representing MoxMe!, a Mansfield-based company of which his father, Danny Briere, is CEO. MoxMe! is a community-wide software platform for social networking, allowing schools and organizations to stream and access videos online.
Briere says an investment in a security-style camera mounted in a room is all it could take to make sporting events, classes, community functions and meetings available remotely, even on local television networks.
“If I’m sick, I can look in on a class and see what I missed; now I don’t have to make up a day of school,” Briere said. “And you’d have access to all the games, all the concerts.”
Briere said opportunities for revenue generation derive from advertising or software licensing. The program was given a beta trial last year at E.O. Smith, and Briere said the company is hoping to get schools across the state on board. MoxMe! is seeking investments for marketing and further development.
Other startups at the event produce products you can actually hold in your hand. Biosol is an Australian wastewater technology company whose additive chemicals combat the bacteria in sewage water to prevent corrosion and degradation of sewer pipes and facilities.
Innovation Hub’s John Bethune represented Biosol and discussed its efforts to enter the U.S. market. He said lack of investment in the infrastructure of sewage treatment plants over the years has led to a decline in their productivity and efficiency, and further neglect could lead to a collapse of the system.
“If we stop the process, there’s no production of hydrogen sulfide or conversion to sulfuric acid,” Bethune explained. “We’ve created a process to mimic how cells talk to each other, and we can put the bacteria to sleep.”
Yale alum Doug McPheters is president of HoloTouch, which designs touchless holographic controls that can be used in place of mechanical buttons to open doors or operate elevators, kiosks or medical and military equipment. Waving your fingers over a holographic image is all it takes to trigger the device.
McPheters said the touch-free sensors are also more sanitary since they do not accumulate dirt and germs from repeated physical contact, and don’t have moving parts that could fail from repeated use.
The holographic switches have been installed at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s York Street facility since May 2010 without any problems, McPheters said. According to the building’s Physical Security Manager Marvin White, tactile switches are replaced every two months due to heavy use.
Wahooo, a swim safety system, was inspired by tragedy in the town of Redding. After a young boy drowned in a local swimming hole, three fathers spent the past five years, and $500,000 of their own money, developing a safety device that can be worn by swimmers.
Marketing director Thomas Healy showed off a pair of swimmer’s goggles with a small sensor on the back of the headband which sends an electrical signal to an alarm receiver that can be heard by lifeguards if the swimmer has been submerged for 20 seconds. The alarms persist the longer the swimmer is under water.
There are also locator devices that can hone in on the location of a submerged sensor, enabling rescuers to find a potential drowning victim quickly, especially in darkness.
“We’re the only lifeguard system that has this locator feature and that works in dark water. It’s revolutionary,” Healy said. “Drowning is a silent killer; people go under and they just don’t come up. We liken this to be the bike helmet for swimming.”
Healy said his company’s products are designed and manufactured in Connecticut, and the company is in the process of getting the product to market, targeting potential users such as YMCAs and Jewish community centers.
Keynote speaker Watts Wacker, a noted author, futurist and commentator, said inspiration was where innovation begins. Wahooo was inspired by unfortunate circumstances, while others were inspired by caution to avoid disaster.
Autotether, a Chester company that was one of two earning the Most Promising Technology Product or Service of the Year Award during the summit’s awards ceremony, is a radio transmitter worn by boat passengers; go overboard and the device stops the boat’s engine and sounds an alarm, allowing the passenger to return to and reboard their vessel.
CEO Anthony Viggiano said the idea came to him while on many solo fishing trips, wondering what he would do if he went overboard and his boat motored on without him.
“What about the millions of people out there that have had this problem,” he said, accepting his award. “We can help them and possibly save a few lives.”
“I’ve been making and manufacturing things in this state for over 40 years, and I know we can compete with anybody in the world. Autotether is committed to creating jobs, building wealth in our state, and sustaining Connecticut Yankee ingenuity.”
Solar manufacturer Dark Field Technologies, of Orange, was the other winner of the Most Promising category.
Awards were conferred in four other categories. East Hartford’s Centritec Seals was awarded Most Promising Green Tech Company of the Year; Biorasis, of Storrs, was given Most Promising Life Sciences Company; Most Promising Software Product went to Occams Resources; and SeeClickFix was given an award for Most Promising New Internet/New Media Company. Both of the latter two are New Haven companies.
The event was presented by the Connecticut Technology Council, the Angel Investor Forum and Crossroads Venture Group.
STRATFORD — Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. made excess profit on parts it sold to the U.S. Army for UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters it bought at a lower price from the Pentagon’s primary supply agency, the Defense Department’s inspector general has reported.
According to Bloomberg Business News Sikorsky, a unit of Hartford-based United Technologies Corp., charged the Army $2,510.06 apiece for six seat assemblies it bought from the Defense Logistics Agency for $143.26 each — a mark-up of $14,201 or 1,652 percent, according to a 66-page audit. “The excessive prices charged have no relationship to Sikorksy’s standard markup,” concluded the audit.
NEW HAVEN — Hamden’s Seldera, LLC and Mark My Media, LLC of Stamford have become associate members of the CTech@Science Park at Yale technology business incubator.
Seldera has prototyped technology to provide lightweight monitoring, sensing and control solutions for electricity management in small and medium-sized commercial buildings. Its technology, developed in part at Yale University, offers detailed data on electricity consumption and electric load characterization that can be used to enhance energy efficiency.
Mark My Media develops digital media software for those in the financial services industry.
Connecticut Innovations Inc, which manages Science Park, is offering associate memberships to accommodate more entrepreneurs at the CTech facility. Associate members can use the facility part-time.
FAIRFIELD — Enough power for 80,000 homes will be generated by the solar panels built at General Electric’s (GE) first thin-film solar factory when production starts in 2012.
The $300 million plant will be the largest in the country and will bring 350 full-time jobs to that area. The facility is part of a $600 million investment in GE’s solar business. The first panels will be shipped to customers in 2013, according to the company.
GE also invested $58 million in an Italian greenhouse in Sardinia, which will use solar power to grow crops and provide 20 megawatts of power to Italy’s national electric grid. The country has a goal of providing 23 gigawatts of solar power by 2016.
The operation is expected to add 90 jobs to the economically stressed town of Villasor, and enough power will be generated to power 10,000 homes.
FARMINGTON — Startup medical device company LambdaVision Inc. is developing an ion-mediated artificial retinal implant to restore sight in patients blinded by photoreceptor degeneration in the outer retina.
The protein-based implant aims specifically to correct vision to those affected by age-related macular degeneration and related diseases.
The company was recently given a $40,000 investment through the Pre-Seed Fund from Connecticut Innovations Inc. of Rocky Hill to conduct proof-of-concept studies. Matching funds were also given by University of Connecticut Research and Development Corporation.
The technology for the implant was developed by Robert Birge, a UConn biology and physical chemistry professor, who formed LambdaVision with his lab students in 2009.
Proof-of-concept studies for the retina will take place in collaboration with the Center for Innovative Visual Rehabilitation at the Boston VA Medical Center.
DANBURY — Power plant manufacturer FuelCell Energy Inc. was given a $3 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop ways to use its Direct Fuel Cell (DFC) technology to separate carbon dioxide from the emissions of its existing coal-fired power plants.
FuelCell Energy’s (FCE) carbonate fuel cell technology separates CO2 during the power generation process, and the separation technology has been seen as a viable method of cleaning up harmful emissions from factories and refineries.
The federally funded three-year project will involve design, cost analysis and long-term testing of a multi-kilowatt DFC stack. If tests show that 90 percent of the CO2 from coal-fired power plant emissions can be captured within cost estimates, a DFC installation may take place at an existing coal power plant.
Efficiency and cost-effectiveness are goals, since coal is widely used all over the world as an energy source. DFC power plants emit few pollutants since they operate with no combustion.
FCE has more than 80 DFC clean power plants operational in more than 50 locations worldwide.
SHELTON — Medical transcription firm iMedX Inc. has acquired another transcription firm: Port Washington, N.Y.’s National Medical Transcription, LLC.
NMT focused on medical transcription systems as well, and its customers will be incorporated into iMedX, which says the buyout will expand its customer base in the mid-Atlantic region.
The company has acquired ten other companies in the medical transcription field since March 2008, the most recent being FORE Transcriptions USA Inc. in October 2010.
The recent buyout came before iMedX raised $950,000 in a recent equity funding round. It raised $2.5 million in January.
iMedX makes TurboScribe, TurboRecord, TurboRx and TurboFlow medical transcription software.
EAST HARTFORD — AdhereTx Corp., a startup medical informatics company, has relocated to the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology incubator, and secured $150,000 in financing from Connecticut Innovations Inc.’s (CII) Pre-Seed Fund.
AdhereTx exclusively licenses its technology from the University of Connecticut, and provides Web-based solutions for patient data collection and automated medication management in patients with chronic diseases. Its goal is to give medical examiners a more streamlined and comprehensive view of a patient’s history as well as to make things easier for the patients to track their medications.
CII’s $4 million Pre-Seed Fund supports the formation of new technology companies in Connecticut.
CII also awarded $150,000 to Canton’s iDevices, LLC, which makes devices that wirelessly connect to computers and mobile devices. Its lead product is iGrill, a cooking thermometer and app for Apple products, which allows users to monitor cooking temperatures on their iPods, iPhones or iPads from up to 200 feet away.
HARTFORD — A mobile phone app for the small talk-impaired was the winning idea at Startup Weekend Hartford in September.
The proposed app, SmallTalk, would give conversation starters to people at conferences and networking events by collecting information on attendees from their social networking profiles. The app would then be distributed to people before the event.
The winning team consisted of Eric Rogers of Hartford, Drew Evarts of West Hartford, Bristol’s Mike Szubka, Chris Czarnowski of Columbia, North Havener Ryan Rose and Igor Anisimov of Waterford.
Eighty entrepreneurs spent the weekend pitching ideas and then formed teams around the best of those to try turning them into startups. While hundreds of Startup Weekends have been held worldwide, this was the first to be held in Connecticut, and was sponsored by the MetroHartford Alliance’s Hartford Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs, and presented by Connecticut Light & Power and Yankee Gas.
A Startup Weekend New Haven will take place November 11-13 at the Grove, 71 Orange Street.
STORRS — The University of Connecticut is implementing a new computer program to protect personal data on their networks from identity thieves.
The program, Identity Finder, is used by many universities to scan websites, file servers and networks to find unsecured data such as Social Security numbers and credit card information.
It will be installed throughout the university, and employees will be required to do so on their own computers.
MIDDLEFIELD — Zygo Corp. has been awarded a $9 million contract with the University of Albany’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) and the chip-making association Sematech.
The company, which supplies optical metrology instruments and optical systems, will develop extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography optics to be incorporated into the next generation Micro-Exposure Tool (MET-5) at CNSE’s NanoTech Complex.
The MET-5 program will aid researchers in extending semiconductor lithography resolution capability to less than 16 nanometers. Development and production will take place over 22 months at Zygo’s Extreme Precision Optics operation in Richmond, Calif.