New year, new funds!

Two VentureLab startups, Polaritek Systems Inc. and Carbice Nanotechnologies, were awarded GRA Ventures seed funding in the first two weeks of 2015. GRA Ventures (previously known as the GRA VentureLab program) was established in 2002 to facilitate the commercialization of technologies emerging from the state’s universities through the formation of start-up companies, with the stated objective of increasing the number of innovation-based jobs in Georgia.

Polaritek Systems  is commercializing a novel, patented residual stress measurement technology based on polariscopy, under license from the Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC). polaritek

Carbice Nanotechnologies develops market-leading material solutions for efficient, reliable, and adaptable energy transfer. By enabling superior thermal management, its current products create substantial value in electronic device markets: mobile, power modules, servers, displays, aerospace, energy, and defense.


DHX Electric Machines launches

Rhett Mayor

Rhett Mayor

Andrew Semidey

Andrew Semidey


Prof. Rhett Mayor with Georgia Tech Mechanical Engineering and Dr. Andrew Semidey launched their new electric motor company, DHX.


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Calling all serial entrepreneurs!

Are you a serial entrepreneur looking to give back? VentureLab is always looking for experienced entrepreneurs to match with startups on campus. Topics include customer discovery, pivots, raising capital, and understanding specific industries. Mentoring takes many forms.

  • Quick: Often we’re looking for a one-time mentoring session for a team. Focused on a particular industry or issue, these sessions are 30 to 90 minutes, in person or via Skype.
  • Short-term: Some teams need a deeper dive, so you may work together for an hour a week for several weeks.
  • Long-term: Long-term mentoring has it’s own rewards, including helping a team with grant fundraising, equity fundraising, team recruiting and the startup CEO hire.

Want to learn more? Reach out to Brandy Nagel.

SonoFAST is picking up speed

SonoFAST is a team of four recent GT grads (Keller Tomassi, Gabriela Lamas, Stephanie Camstra and Jorge Mena) who created a technology for improving the ultrasound examination procedure by replacing the messy, cold ultrasound gel. Their technology is a solid, “goop-free” pad placed on the ultrasound probe. It is single-use, clean and neat for the patient as well as healthcare provider.  sonoFAST logo

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Peter Thiel Foundation Breakout Lab

Imagine learning that an ancient protein could have been the wonder drug that cured gout, a disease that affects over 70 million people worldwide. However, that protein existed millions of years ago and has since evolved into something completely different in modern organisms. Frustrating, don’t you think?

Then imagine a process that can “reverse evolution” so that proteins can be devolved to cure disease. That is exactly how Prof. Eric Gaucher uses his novel biologic platform to fight human diseases and promote agricultural development. Evolutionary synthetic biology is the core research area for The Gaucher Group at Georgia Tech.    general genomics

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Customer Discovery Jumps the Pond

As anyone familiar with I-Corps can attest, the program works to help develop scientific and engineering discoveries into useful technologies, products and processes. If you haven’t been through the program, however, you can’t possibly have a feel for what that really means. To gain a deeper understanding of the I-Corps experience, I recently spoke with Chris Bishop, a Rome, GA, native currently working on his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech Lorraine in Metz, France.

Chris Bishop earned a bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from Georgia Tech, and stayed to follow it up with master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering and Optics. He knew he was interested in the startup world because he’s always wanted to be his own boss, with that desire becoming even more firmly established as he began working on his Ph.D. Learning that the I-Corps Lafayette Program at GT Lorraine was a startup-like class piqued his interest, and he made the decision to participate.

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Jamaican/Thai/BBQ Tacos

- by Josh Wine, VentureLab Graduate Assistant

During my time at VentureLab I have learned many things. One is that [Principal] Harold [Solomon] really likes metrics…But one of the more important things is the concept of customer discovery.  The whole aspect of talking to people (customers) before you start something (a startup!) sounds like common sense, but as many of us know common sense ain’t that common.  Especially when you have a GREAT IDEA. After all, how could anyone not want to buy my widget if it solves every problem and I have been perfecting it for some time now?  People just need to be made to understand how much better their lives would be if they buy my product, right?

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Juicing for Ideas

Wayne Li 11_2014

Last Wednesday evening, 20 Georgia Tech students, faculty and staff gathered in the Idea Incubator in the library to ideate with Professor Wayne Li.

Using juicers.

Li provided a Cuisinart juicer and a Philip Stark design and asked opposing teams to juice as many oranges as they could in 5 minutes. The exercise engaged everyone in the room – if you were not actually squishing oranges, then you were cheering for a team from your seat. starck

At the end of 5 minutes, Li challenged the room to answer, “Which product is best?”

Crickets…There wasn’t a clear answer! The “best” product depends on design, and users’ needs.

“Design is a participatory exercise,” says Wayne Li, and so are his workshops. Li’s workshops are free and open to everyone on campus.   Cuisinart juicer

Interested in attending January’s event? Send an e-mail to to have your name added to the invite list.


Why Should Entrepreneurs Visit the Library?

Ever had one of those great ideas that just burns a hole through your brain?  It’s all you think about.  And now you’ve managed to get your closest friends worked up about it, too.  But you’re not sure where to go from here: you don’t want to give the secret away to the wrong people, but you need to find out if the world thinks it’s as awesome as you think it is. And you don’t want to waste time or break the bank finding out how important this idea is to the world.

Where do you go next? VentureLab, to learn Customer Discovery: the process of interviewing potential customers before you invest time and resources into a “really cool idea.”

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Chicks Rule.


Rachel Ford, Second Place in the 2014 InVenture Prize Competition

Did you know that women founded about half of all small businesses in the United States? Even in areas such as high tech startups, where this number has been historically much lower, we are seeing a change in the trends. Women have begun pitching a broader range of startup ideas, which has lead to more involvement from venture capital firms. This is great news, not just because diversity is almost always a good thing, but also because women have the potential to make darned good entrepreneurs.

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Life Sciences Folks: Accelerate Your Startup!

Are you a Life Sciences student, researcher, or early-stage startup? Then we’ve got an opportunity for you! This September through October, Georgia Tech is hosting the 2014 Southeast Regional Life Sciences Startup Accelerator to help scientists explore commercializing their research.

Our Life Sciences Startup Accelerator offers an opportunity for folks involved in therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices, and health IT to learn and grow. Here, you’ll learn about FDA approval, prototyping, IP reimbursement, testing, and SBIR. There will also be opportunities to tour GCMI and the T3 Labs.

For Life Sciences students and researchers, this startup accelerator is a chance to learn from customers and take the first steps in launching a business around your research. By participating, you’ll be part of a proven program that has helped researchers dramatically increase their SBIR application success rate, allowing them to launch companies in one-third the expected time.

Have you already launched your Life Sciences startup? The program is open to early-stage companies that are pre-clinical or have done minimal testing. If you’re interested in filing your first SBIR applications, this program could be a great next step for you.

Based on the Lean Launchpad Life Sciences program developed by Steve Blank, the Life Sciences Startup Accelerator was first launched at UCSF in 2013, and is being adopted by the NIH for their I-Corps curriculum. The six-week I-Corps curriculum is designed for 3-person teams who want to commercialize research. After a 3-day kickoff, there are 5 weekly meetings and a 2-day conclusion. In-class lectures and keynotes are combined with out-of-class learning—getting out of the building and interviewing people to learn about your business model. It is necessary to commit one day per week on top of class time in order to be successful in this program.

This program is not open to individuals; you must participate as a team with 3 or 4 members. These members should consist of:

  • One or two entrepreneur leads to provide leadership and organization of customer discovery activity, as well as acting as spokesperson for the project
  • One principal investigator (optional) for technical leadership
  • One mentor to provide business expertise and guidance for the team—this person should be an entrepreneur or executive with deep industry experience

The 2014 Southeast Regional Life Sciences Startup Accelerator is open to researchers in the Southeast, and all Life Sciences research projects are eligible. Unlike the national I-Corps program, there is no requirement for a lineage to NSF research funding. The last day to apply is August 29so if you’re interested in learning more, visit today.

What’s Hot and What’s Not: Tinder for Technology

Back when computers took up a whole room, the things we take for granted now were the stuff of science fiction. Today, technology changes at such a rapid pace that it can be hard to keep up. Staying on top of the trends can be dizzying, but here are some areas to watch this year:

  • Data Privacy is a big issue. In the wake of some pretty disastrous security breaches, consumers are understandably paranoid. As people begin to pay more attention to their digital footprints, successful companies will be the ones who jump on the privacy bandwagon. New measures are being taken to protect privacy—especially for children, digital privacy services let users control how much of their information is accessible, and IT systems are beginning to be created with privacy embedded into the design.
  • No-Touch Interfaces use existing pattern recognition technology to create something fundamentally unique. We’ve gone from keyboards and mouses to touchscreens and texting, with each new generation of technology requiring us to develop new skills. With no-touch interfaces like Microsoft Kinect, Apple’s Siri, or Google Glass, the technology is beginning to adapt to us instead of us having to adapt to our computers. It’s not unreasonable, in fact, to expect computer interfaces to become more and more “human” over the next decade or two.
  • 3-D Printing might just change the world as we know it. This technology has been in existence since the 1980s, but it’s just starting to come into its own. Today’s 3D printers make a variety of objects through the use of a laser of extruder that can build an object, layer by layer, into three dimensions. Imagine the ramifications! Mechanics and entrepreneurs can print their own parts, components, and prototypes, customized to their specifications. Want to know something that seems even more like futuristic science fiction? One day, medical companies may be able to use 3D printing to create organic organs for transplant recipients.
  • Wearable Technology puts your data where you need it. Do you have a Fitbit? Do you crave Google Glass? We’re used to having data at our fingertips whenever we want to access it, but what if your fingertips aren’t close enough for you? Wearable technology offers information as close as your goggles, wristwatch, hoodie, or ring. In fact, there are even snow skiing goggles meant to show the skier speed, altitude, and vertical descent, while plotting the position on a resort map, playing music, communication with others, and even taking photos.
  • Online Video Streaming’s impact is a big topic of conversation. Will it kill cable? What’s its impact on movie theaters? Even more intriguing, what’s its impact on the environment? The answers to those questions are, in order: maybe, probably, and about the same as or a little bit less than renting a DVD. Why is online streaming so popular? People enjoy the convenience of being able to watch movies and television wherever they are, whether on their television screen at home, or on a computer or mobile device, anywhere they choose. And while there has been speculation that streaming entertainment will be less energy intensive than manufacturing and transporting DVDs, a recent study indicates that, while the value is slightly better with streaming over driving to a video store, the comparison with mailed DVDs is basically equivalent.

All of this new technology is interesting for a consumer, of course, but it’s a particularly exciting time to be an entrepreneur. Whether it’s building a more secure data system, coming up with the next big app, figuring out how to reduce the energy output needed for all these gadgets, or finding some other, never-before-imagined niche, the sky is the limit for those with an active imagination and the power to bring their ideas to fruition. The next big technological leap may be in one of the areas we’ve discussed here, or it may be something no one’s dreamed of…yet.

Are you a Georgia Tech student with an idea for a startup? Or are you interested in commercializing your research? Connect with VentureLab Principal Colin Ake:

Mentor a VentureLab Team: You’ll Be Glad You Did

VentureLab offers amazing opportunities for entrepreneurs, both new and established. The appeal of the program for new businesses is obvious; as the #2 incubator in the United States, VentureLab has a proven program to launch successful startups. But what is the draw for an already established business, already flourishing in the private sector? The opportunity to mentor emerging startups.   Mentor [Read more…]

Meet Narvaro, one of Georgia Tech’s Summer Startup teams

Team Members:
“The Narvaro team is made up of 4 mechanical engineers: Chris Taylor, Kevin Green, Devin Andrews and Tyler Sullins. All of us graduated from Georgia Tech in the spring of 2014. Chris is the mad scientist who came up with this crazy idea [to create 3D presence], and he pulled us together for senior design.”

Business Thesis:
“Our system allows a user to be somewhere else by giving them a 3D vision of a remote area. Our technology uses a head-mounted display to show the video from two cameras, and the user can control the cameras with the simple head turns.

We were a bit different from most teams in that we started with a core technology and have been searching for different applications. This has led to a number of amazing experiences for us. We have been to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for a drag race, we got to see a live robotic surgery where we saw inside the chest cavity of a patient in HD 3D, and we even got to crawl around inside a Bradley Fighting Vehicle at Fort Benning.”

What do you think of Startup Summer?

“Startup Summer is crazy; it’s inspired us to push ourselves to see what we are capable of. The level of talent and commitment among all the teams is infectious and really pushes us to strive to be better everyday. We’ve learned so much in the past six weeks about how the world actually works.”

Share with us an “ah ha!” moment you’ve had.

“Through our experiences, we’ve found that things in the real world don’t work as smoothly as you’d think they would. For instance, when interviewing officers at Fort Benning about armored vehicle operation, we found that oftentimes the viewports on the vehicle become obscured with dust or mud. When this happens, a soldier has to physically get out of the vehicle to act as its eyes. Our take-away from an experience like that was that there are lots of problems with dangerous consequences that people put up with. It’s opened our eyes to the world by showing us there are numerous ways we could improve people’s situations by solving their problems.”

What questions do you still have about startups?

“Most of our questions deal with the step after finding legitimate customer demand, particularly with growing and scaling a company. Scaling a hardware company is a complex task because it requires design for manufacturing, suppliers, shipping and quality control.”

If you weren’t doing Startup Summer right now, what would you be doing?

Tyler: “I would be taking an internship for the summer and then moving on to graduate school back home in Florida.”

Chris: “I would be working for a startup or on the next idea.”

Kevin: “I would be working at a local product development company.”

Devin: “I would try to find an internship while I try to get into graduate school for an MBA.”


Mentoring an NSF I-Corps Team

Recently, we sat down with NSF I-Corps mentors to uncover their thoughts on the mentor/team relationship. The conversations were varied, but there were common threads throughout each discussion:

  •  There doesn’t appear to be a “right model” for mentoring an I-Corps team, and mentors’ involvement varies from team to team.
  •  Many of the mentors we talked with stressed the importance of finding a good fit for both sides. The Entrepreneurial Lead (EL) and the Principal Investigator (PI) need to interview the potential mentor; likewise, the mentor should interview them. Even if the team doesn’t end up starting a business together, the mentor, EL, and PI spend a lot of time together, and an effective chemistry—a shared interest—is a must.
  •  The more all parties involved have thought through what they want to accomplish, the better.
  •  Mentoring an I-Corps team is a 15hr/week commitment…minimum. There are mentors who spend considerably more and some who spend significantly less; relationships vary, and it’s important to discern upfront the expectations.
  •  Though many mentors expressed an altruistic benefit to mentoring, they almost all agreed that there has to be more than just the “give-back” aspect….
    •  …Mentors have to love building businesses…
    •  …And the technology/product the team’s focused on…
    •  …And the idea of transitioning technology from an educational environment to a commercial one.

Finally, many of the mentors we spoke with suggested that they are risk-takers, and that there is a rush when mentoring a team. The element of risk involved with potentially starting a business is the edge that motivates the team to push through the program.

Ready to experience I-Corps from the frontline? Contact Harold Solomon today about mentoring a team.