Innovation Fund Northeast Ohio, the region’s most active pre-seed fund for technology-based startups, has awarded a combined $150,000 to four young companies. This latest funding announcement marks the Innovation Fund’s 40th funding cycle over the past decade, during which it has committed $12.16 million to 186 Northeast Ohio startups.
“We launched the Innovation Fund to close a gap in Northeast Ohio’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and I think we’re doing that,” said Dennis Cocco, director of the Innovation Fund and co-director of GLIDE, the Lorain County Community College technology incubator that administers the fund. “Our region’s startups have access to funding that gets them from friends and family financing to angel or venture capital investments. This critical capital helps entrepreneurs turn ideas into prototypes and business plans into profitable companies.”
Startup founders typically use the money to build and test their prototypes and validate their business models. The projects entrepreneurs complete often prepare them to raise their next round of financing. Innovation Fund portfolio companies have raised more than $354 million in follow-on funding.
Here are the companies that received funding in the 40th cycle:
Fontus Blue ($50,000 |Akron) has a cloud-based software that helps water treatment plants optimize their use of treatment chemicals and processes, resulting in exceptional water quality with reduced operating costs. Today treatment plant operators don’t have a way to quickly and reliably tell how changing the amount of one chemical will affect the need for others, so they often use more chemicals than necessary. Decision Blue® uses real-world data and unique measures developed at the University of Akron, along with advanced multi-component optimization mathematics, to evaluate millions of possible combinations of treatment chemical dosage levels and search for cost-effective solutions. Fontus Blue, which is housed in the Akron Global Business Accelerator, is using the Innovation Fund award to a hire software developer and add features to its platform. The company already has 12 water utilities in six states using its platform.
Komae ($50,000 | Akron) is applying the sharing economy to the babysitting market, which is valued at $50 billion. In Greek, Komae means Village. For parents, it means free-time. The startup has developed a free app that allows parents to create a personalized social network—called their Village—to quickly and easily swap sits and schedule playdates with their trusted network of friends. The platform is live in both Apple and Android app stores and over 6,000 families have joined. Komae is using the Innovation Fund award to develop, test, and launch a premium subscription model, improve onboarding and user experience, and increase customer retention and engagement. The company is housed at the Akron Global Business Accelerator and is part of Flashstarts, Jumpstart, and The Bit Factory.
Dyad Medical ($25,000 | Cleveland) is creating an automated intelligent imaging analytics platform that makes healthcare more accurate and data driven. It works like an investigator portal accelerating healthcare-related studies and trials from feasibility to close-out, helping to complete studies on time, on budget and with the quality of data required. Manual image analysis is a time-consuming and error-prone process, especially when the study involves multi-center teams. Inefficient communication and the lack of ability to share, store and transfer data securely often hinders efficient research. Dyad Medical’s web-based platform will complement manual image analysis, addressing the need for efficient and repeatable investigations. The Innovation Fund money will help Dyad Medical as it moves through the FDA application process.
OncoSolutions ($25,000 | Akron) is building a drug screening technology that generates 3D cancer cell models that mimic tumors in the body. Today’s cancer drugs are tested on 2D models (flat layers of cancer cells grown in a petri dish) before they’re tested on animals. But the differences between 2D models and real tumors in the body result in a high failure rate—50 to 80percent—in the animal studies. OncoSolutions’ 3D cancer cell model technology is a robotic and automated technology that meets industry standards for robustness and can accommodate 16 times the number of drugs than existing 3D model methods. The company expects its technology to reduce animal drug failure rates by half. The Innovation Fund award will supplement OncoSolution’s Ohio Third Frontier TVSF Phase 2 award and help the startup perform validation studies.
Learn more about these and all the Innovation Fund portfolio companies.
About the Innovation Fund
The Innovation Fund, founded by the Lorain County Community College Foundation, is Northeast Ohio’s most active and successful early-stage fund. It awards technology-based startups up to $100,000 so they can validate their technologies and business concepts. The Innovation Fund averages six funding awards each quarter and fills the capital needs of businesses at the earliest stage of development, before they can attract angel and venture capital funding. Innovation Fund awards are made with funds from the Ohio Third Frontier, which have been combined with matching support and contributions from the Innovation Fund partners. These partners include the University of Akron, the University of Akron Research Foundation, Braintree, Cleveland State University, the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE), the Lorain County Community College Foundation, Stark State College, Youngstown State University, the Youngstown Business Incubator, and Northeast Ohio Medical University.