Ten companies with new ideas in optics, photonics and imaging stood above more than 100 others vying to become Luminate NY’s fourth cohort.
Applicants from 22 countries and 21 states applied to the accelerator program. The finalists were chosen following pitches to an advisory panel of industry experts.
“No doubt the cutting-edge ideas from these optics, photonics, and imaging startups will continue to drive innovation and opportunity in the Finger Lakes Region and throughout New York State,” says Eric Gertler, president and CEO-designate of ESD.
Each finalist will receive an initial investment of $100,000 and will have the chance to compete for up to $2 million in follow-on funding upon completion of the accelerator program, Empire State Development officials say.
The fourth cohort begins April 5. The six-month program is designed to assist these finalists quicken the commercialization of their technologies. The competition requires that the winners commit to establishing operations in Rochester for at least 18 months.
The fourth cohort addresses challenges in industries like augmented and virtual reality, health care, agriculture technology and autonomous systems.
“The companies selected have the potential to truly disrupt their categories,” says Sujatha Ramanujan, managing director of Luminate. “With access to our renowned regional resources, mentors, and investor network, we’ll help them speed the commercialization of their offerings so that they can have a meaningful impact on our world and on our regional community.”
Here is a quick look at the cohort’s aims:
■ Andluca Technologies: UV-solar-powered smart glass for improving the energy efficiency of buildings
■ Dynocardia Inc.: noninvasive blood pressure method that measures continuously and with accuracy compared to the gold standard
■ Infrascreen SA: nanotech solutions for better climate control in greenhouses
■ Layer Metrics Inc.: monitoring system that enables intelligent 3D printing
■ Mesodyne: ultra-high energy-density compact power generators that increase the endurance of small autonomous systems by 10x over batteries alone
■ Momentum Optics: high-quality, affordable, and rapidly delivered custom optics
■ OSCPs Motion Sensing Inc.: inertial navigation sensors for autonomous vehicles
■ Owl Autonomous Imaging: 3D Thermal Ranger, providing HD imaging and precision ranging that is a 150x improvement in resolution and cloud density of LiDAR
■ PreAct Technologies: sensors and software that make it possible to angle car seats away, deploy airbags earlier, and raise the car suspension before the impact of a crash occurs to save lives; and
■ 2EyesVision: technology that allows people to quickly and accurately compare corrections available for presbyopia.
In addition to these startups, Far UV Technologies Inc., Qunnect, and Intelon Optics will join Luminate to gain access to regional resources. XR Nanotech and IRIS Light Technology will audit the program to help prepare and advance their businesses for applying to accelerator programs in the future.
Luminate, a $25 million program, is administered by NextCorps. Funds for the accelerator are provided through the Finger Lakes Forward Upstate Revitalization Initiative. Since its inception, the accelerator has invested $7.15 million in 30 startups. The companies in the portfolio have raised an additional $26 million and now have a combined net worth of $160 million.
One example is Copenhagen-founded Nordetect. A member of the third cohort, it recently closed on a $1.5 million seed investment round to bring lab-on-a-chip technology to indoor and vertical farms. Luminate led the round with participation from Rockstart, SOSV, PreSeed Ventures and Vækstfonden (the Danish Growth Fund).
Nordetect plans to use the monies to commercialize its platform in the United States and Western Europe. A one-click device and test kits from Nordetect help growers rapidly test nutrient levels for optimum crop yields.
“The new funding allows us to make the necessary investments in process automation to bolster our supply of the product as we tap into the exploding number of farmers turning to new technologies,” says Keenan Pinto, CEO and co-founder of Nordetect. “We are very eager to now start scaling up the manufacturing of our lab-on-a-chip consumables and deliver to our early customers.”
For Rochester, wins like Nordetect’s are important. The company has created a parent firm here, with the Danish entity as a subsidiary.
Luminate provides the soft landing that international companies need to create U.S. businesses and to grow here, Ramanujan says.
“They believe their business will thrive in New York due to the optics community and because of the strong agricultural growth initiatives that exist here—all of which offer opportunity, support, and market potential,” she says. “International investors agree and are supporting this decision.”
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.