Colorado’s innovation ecosystem was represented in full force at the state’s first-ever Destination Startup showcase on Feb. 1 at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield.
In hopes of making valuable industry connections to commercialize and advance their technologies, 25 university ventures spun out of Colorado research institutions and federal laboratories pitched to local investors and venture capitalists from both coasts.
Outside of investors, more than 270 people — consisting of fellow university peers, entrepreneurs and community members — attended the event, which was hosted by Venture Partners at University of Colorado Boulder (formerly Technology Transfer Office).
The five participating Colorado universities at Destination Startup included CU Boulder, CU Anschutz, University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), Colorado State University (CSU) and University of Denver.
“When we learned about Destination Startup, it seemed like a great way to get in front of other companies and investors to see if there were opportunities that might help us in our business growth,” said Mark Schleiger, CEO of Access Sensor Technologies, a CSU venture that produces devices and kits for testing air and water pollutants. “Every time you make a presentation to a group there is an opportunity to learn and talk about your business.”
Making Connections Out of the Lab
According to Stephen Miller, Commercialization Network liaison for Venture Partners at CU Boulder, teams have already reported initial conversations with interested investors.
CU Boulder team ASTRALiTe happens to be one of those teams. They developed a 2-in-1 drone mounted LiDAR system that allows their customers to seamlessly map both topographic and underwater objects. Their technology has several applications such as mapping underwater infrastructure, surveying shallow water, assessment and recovery during natural disasters and military logistics.
“We had a lot of very positive feedback,” said Gerald Thompson, ASTRALiTe President. “We met with new collaborators, made connections within the local investor community and gained interest from several investment groups which have already led to further discussions.”
UCCS Professor Dr. Bob Camley said that questions asked during the Q&A portion of the presentation helped clarify ideas and future issues the company could face in the future. His company, MRX Analytics, created a new way of measuring temperature during MRIs so that MRI-guided thermal surgeries are shorter and have significantly better outcomes.
CU Anschutz startup NowVitals won a live, 5-minute “Pitch Off” competition held earlier in the day, giving them the chance to later present their full 10-minute pitch. Their technology, a soon-to-be FDA-approved monitoring sticker for smartphones, measures phone users’ vital signs, notifying them if their health is abnormal.
“A couple of people came up to me expressing their passion for helping female founders,” said Chief Medical Officer and Co-Founder Robin Deterding. “It was wonderful to meet people who wanted to tackle diversity issues and encourage the success of female CEOs.”
Bringing Investors to the Front Range
Philadelphia-based Osage University Partners — an investment firm that specializes in commercializing university and government laboratory research — was drawn to Destination Startup because it provided a terrific opportunity to see some of the best technologies from the Colorado ecosystem in one place, said Senior Associate David Dorsey.
Pascal Krotee, investment associate at Kairos Ventures in Beverly Hills, CA, echoed Dorsey’s statement. “As investors in early-stage, scientific innovation emanating out of research labs and institutions, this was the perfect venue for us to get exposed to the types of startups we like to support,” she said.
While already familiar with Colorado’s entrepreneurial scene, Peter Adams, executive director of Denver-based Rockies Venture Club, expressed that the companies coming out of Colorado research institutions are innovative and showing commercial potential. “We’re always seeking top-quality deal flow throughout the state,” said Adams.