Luminate event focuses on underrepresented entrepreneurs

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Luminate NY aims to highlight the unique needs of female and other underrepresented entrepreneurs at its Finals 2021 contest. The virtual event, slated for Sept. 30, will be sponsored by the Optical Society for the second year in a row.

Ten startups with commercial applications in the fields of optics, photonics and imaging will vie for up to $2 million in follow-on funding. Last year, nearly 1,500 people registered for the event, which also includes the opportunity to vote for a favorite team in the Audience Choice category, a distinction that comes with $10,000 in funding.

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.

“We are excited to participate in Luminate NY’s Finals Competition as a sponsor,” OSA CEO Elizabeth Rogan says. “This is a vital program for the optics and photonics community and a key priority for us.”

Finals 2021 will also feature a panel discussion with experts providing quick tips for founders on funding, sales, intellectual property and working with investors.

“There are many gaps that exist today for underserved or underrepresented founders. In 2019, Pitchbook reported that female-founded companies received only 2.7 percent of the total capital invested in venture-backed businesses in the U.S.,” says Sujatha Ramanujan, managing director of Luminate. “Luminate Finals provides an international platform to highlight how we can provide better support across a number of areas so that all founders have the same opportunities to fund and scale their companies.”  

The panelists for the Women and Diversity in Entrepreneurship discussion include:

■ Susan Houde-Walter, who runs LaserMax Defense, a manufacturer of laser equipment for military and law enforcement. She was the first female faculty member of the Institute of Optics at the University of Rochester and served as president of OSA in 2005.

■ Manjari Chandran-Remesh , a deep-tech and software venture investor at IP Group PLC, A Rhodes Scholar, she acts as a non-executive director at several software companies involved with machine learning, AI, and robotics. In 2020, she was named one of the top five investors as part of a broader Top 100 Asian Stars in UK Tech list. 

■ Marcia Lesky, senior director for diversity, inclusion and volunteer cultivation at OSA, where she works to cultivate a diverse and dynamic pool of volunteers and members, and liaises between OSA’s business units, its membership and the broader optics and photonics community. 

■ Leslie Kimmerling, CEO and co-founder of Double Helix Optics, a 3D computational imaging company commercializing Nobel Prize-winning nanoscale precision 3D optics technology and winner of the 2018 Luminate NY competition.

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. 

Here are the finalists who will pitch at the event:

■ Andluca Technologies, a Princeton, N.J., firm, is developing UV-solar-powered smart glass to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

■ Dynocardia Inc. works on a noninvasive blood pressure method that measures continuously and with accuracy compared to the gold standard. The startup is based in Cambridge, Mass.

■ Infrascreen SA creates nanotech solutions for better climate control in greenhouses. Infrascreen applied to Luminate NY from Neuchatel, Switzerland

■ Layer Metrics Inc., located in Wilmington, Del., has a monitoring system that enables intelligent 3D printing. 

■ Mesodyne’s ultra-high energy-density compact power generators increase the endurance of small autonomous systems by 10x over batteries alone. The company is based in Somerville, Mass.

■ Momentum Optics aims to provide high-quality, affordable, and rapidly delivered custom optics. The Longmont, Colo., business hopes to reduce production costs and increase throughput.

■ OSCPs Motion Sensing Inc., from Montreal, is working on design and manufacture of a range of proprietary, high-performance integrated optical motion sensors for the autonomous vehicle and drone markets.

■ Owl Autonomous Imaging, based in Rochester, has a 3D Thermal Ranger, providing HD imaging and precision ranging that is a 150x improvement in resolution and cloud density of LiDAR

■ PreAct Technologies, a Portland, Ore. firm, hopes to contribute to car safety. Its startup sensors and software 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.

■ 2EyesVision’s technology allows people to quickly and accurately compare corrections available for presbyopia. The startup is based in Madrid, Spain.

To register for the Finals 2021 event, click here.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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