Two Teams Win Big for Their Startups at AFRL Commercialization Academy Demo Day; $20,000 Awarded
ROME, NY — The AFRL Information Directorate’s (AFRL/RI) Commercialization Academy held its Fall Demo Day on November 29, at Griffiss Institute, in Rome, New York. Investors, entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, and the local business community, came to watch four innovative, New York State-based, tech startups take the stage to pitch to judges, and an audience of 110, on how they have been disrupting the market with Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate technologies as a pivotal part of their business model.
$20,000 from program funders was up for grabs as teams took the stage for four minutes each, pitching audience members and a panel of judges, to see which startup company and AFRL/RI technology-based products and services were most deserving of the money.
The four startup teams who took the stage on Thursday evening were:
GivDapps – GivDapps provides crowdfunding opportunities to families in need, and specific community projects that have been vetted by other charitable organizations. GivDapps is a non-profit organization leveraging technology and the power of community relationships to promote transparent charitable giving within local communities.
Good People Energy Technologies – Good People Energy’s mission is to make energy saving technology easy, while being an example of responsible stewardship of energy, communities, and human potential. They have created the Phoenix Fan Controller, which provides 10-30% energy savings with improved quiet and comfort, and can be added to existing small fan HVAC systems (PTACs, fan coils, split systems, etc.) to extend their useful lives.
Inky’s Bookshelf –At Inky, curated selections of books are created based on your reading history and interests. The product is simple, send in a picture of your bookshelf, and once a month a book will be sent to your doorstep.
Let’s Chat About It - Let's Chat About It is a wellness support platform and online community for those struggling with mental health and substance abuse. Let's Chat About It is a comprehensive online platform that builds a community to share, support, and gain confidence to combat substance abuse and to better their overall mental health.
The judges’ panel evaluated each startup based on such factors as: the ability of the business to affect Upstate New York's start-up ecosystem and high-tech economy, the culture of innovation that has been created within the startup due to incorporating AFRL technology, the sustainability of the solution beyond the initial startup period, and marketing strategy.
The startups were incubated by early-stage venture capital firm Wasabi Ventures, while embarking on an acceleration process to either build a sustainable startup, or enhance technology from an already existing startup, with Department of Defense Intellectual Property from the Information Directorate.
Ethan Durham and Devin Morgan, co-founders of Good People Energy Technologies, walked away with the judges’ vote and $15,000, while Garrison Grant, founder of Let’s Chat About It, won the audience vote and $5,000 for his startup.
“We were very excited about the win,” said Devin Morgan of Good People Energy, “It was a great validation that we are on the right path and it felt particularly good in front of a hometown Mohawk Valley crowd. The prize money will really help us with getting our local supply chain up and running. We hope we can have Herkimer Industries assembling units for us early next year.”
Additionally, Good People Energy is looking for local building owners interested in trying out their product and, particularly, local state and municipal facilities managers who might be willing to partner on a pilot energy efficiency study with their fan controllers.
"I feel honored to win the audience vote and am happy the audience felt that such a platform is in need," said Garrison Grant, fouder of Let's Chat About It, "I met so many amazing people today and am excited for what the future brings. I want to thank the Commercialization Academy for such a great experience and helping to jumpstart our journey!"
The AFRL Commercialization Academy is a Griffiss Institute entrepreneurial education program. Griffiss Institute has partnered with Wasabi Ventures, a successful venture capital firm, to run the academy since 2015. The program is designed to develop entrepreneurial leaders through the commercialization of federal intellectual property to facilitate the growth of Upstate New York’s economy through tech startups, and potentially speed technology products back into the hands of the Department of Defense.
“Who would have thought five years ago that the AFRL Commercialization Academy would have been leading the Air Force in creating startups from the AFRL technologies developed here in Rome, New York”, says Frank Hoke, Tech Transfer Director at Griffiss Institute, “All total, from the beginning, there have been 35 startups created. That is a huge number, and we are now seeing several of them come to fruition, and able to stand on their own two feet. This is in large part, due to outstanding technology envisioned in a new creative market place, but we can’t forget that if it weren’t for the seed funds and award money provided by the local community, none of this would have been possible. In fact, today, one of the startups, InfluenceLogic, paid forward $5,000 to the Commercialization Academy, and community, in grateful appreciation for all the assistance that was provided by this program. In this cohort, we had all New York State teams and our intent is to keep this going in the future, to build a strong technical base in Central New York, as well as to positively influence the local economy.”
The Fall 2017 AFRL Commercialization Academy Cohort began in August, led by Associate Dean of Wasabi Ventures Academy, Michele Pesula Kuegler, and began with four startup teams commencing a 4-month commercial viability process. Each entrepreneur sought to develop and test strategies to build sustainable startups eligible for licensing, investing, and partnership opportunities.
The 2017 Fall AFRL Commercialization Academy Cohort and Demo Day were made possible by the following generous supporters: National Grid, Oneida County Industrial Development Agency, The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, NYSTEC, Rome Industrial Development Corporation, Bank of Utica, Mohawk Valley EDGE, Wasabi Ventures and InfluenceLogic.
The Commercialization Academy is looking for the next great founder. The next program begins in January 2018. Contact Griffiss Institute for more information at 315-838-1696.
(Photo, left to right: Devin Morgan and Ethan Durham, co-founders of Good People Energy; and Garrison Grant, founder of Let’s Chat About It)