Success Stories

Two Startups Win Big at AFRL Commercialization Academy Demo Day


Photo (l-r): Andrew Jaccoma, Sensible Spreader Technologies founder; TK Kuegler, Wasabi Ventures managing partner; Daniel Goddard, Director at AFRL/RI; Jeff Johansen, MakeIt 3D founder;, and Brian Abbe, ORTA at AFRL/RI.

Photo Credit: Simon Eisenbach Productions

Griffiss Institute and Wasabi Ventures hosted investors, entrepreneurs, and tech transfer enthusiasts to watch seven innovative, tech startups, that had completed the Fall 2016 AFRL Commercialization Academy, take the stage to pitch to judges, and an audience of 100+, on how they have been disrupting the market with Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate (AFRL/RI) technologies as a pivotal part of their business model, during the Academy's Demo Day. This event took place on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, at the thINCubator in downtown Utica, New York.

$40,000 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 seven startup teams who took the stage on Demo Day were:

QwikSupply - Software application company that streamlines the ordering and inventory process for electrical contractor s and related suppliers.

Solaset - Peer-to-peer lending platform (P2P) that provides African homeowners and businesses with loans for solar systems.

Boxscore - Sports team management network for athletes, teams, coaches, parents, and fans to create real-time updates associated with team fees, scores, standings, rosters, statistics, benchmarks, and networking for little league, collegiate, and professional sports teams.

AerialForce - Online test prep platform for commercial drone operators taking the Federal Aviation Administration knowledge exam.

MakeIt 3D - Printing as a Service platform (PaaS) for 3D printing services of all types. The platform links consumers with customers, hobbyists, makers, designers, and inventors.

Homeparify - Web-based service that automates the collection and aggregation of operational and capital expense data on every home. When combined with property data from local Multiple Listing Services, the result is greater in telligence and better decision-making capabilities for buyers, sellers, and agents

Sensible Spreader Technologies - Using mobile devices, wireless sensors, and cloud computing, Sensible Spreader brings operators of winter road maintenance and street sweeping fleets together in real-time through the 'Coverage Indication System' in order to economize resources, increase safety, and decrease impact on the environment.

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.

MakeIt 3D walked away with the judges' vote and $20,000, while Sensible Spreader Technologies, won the audience vote and $20,000.

Jeff Johansen, founder of MakeIt 3D said, "This has been a pretty awesome experience. I needed something to start with, and I'm going to be developing on my own. The services that will be used to build the back-end to handle a lot of people are expensive, so winning this allows me to actually get going and build my platform."

"It is certainly very helpful to have this money, and I think what we'll do with it is probably invest it in our software, and start implementing the IP out of AFRL. It's really great, and it's coming at a good time, and I'm just really grateful" says Andrew Jaccoma, founder of Sensible Spreader Technologies.

The Air Force Research Laboratory Commercialization Academy is a Griffiss Institute entrepreneurial education program sponsored by the AFRL/RI. The Griffiss Institute welcomed Wasabi Ventures to lead the way in the program in January 2015. The program is designed to develop entrepreneurial leaders through the commercialization of federal intellectual property in order 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.

"The AFRL Commercialization Academy has been a super success for the local area and upstate New York, highlighting the technology within the Information Directorate and the entrepreneurial spirit in this area. Since 2014, this effort has enabled 20+ startups, and all of them are still viable companies," says Frank Hoke, Tech Transfer Director at Griffiss Institute.

The Fall 2016 AFRL Commercialization Academy Cohort began August 31, 2016 with a kickoff event hosted by Wasabi Ventures' Managing Partner TK Kuegler, and began with 10 startup teams commencing a 5-month commercial viability process. Each entrepreneur sought to develop and test strategies to build sustainable startups eligible for licensing, investing, and partnership opportunities.



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