Startup investments | Disrupting delivery | AI for everyone | S2MARTS OTA?
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” — George Bernard Shaw
June 18, 2020
New national accelerator eyes Flyover Country startups
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Now comes news of an accelerator after our own hearts. PAX Momentum Accelerator is seeking to invest in startups outside of Silicon Valley. Sounds like an investor that agrees with our mantra that Flyover Country is the best place these days to start a new business.
PAX is looking to invest $50,000 twice per year in 10 promising companies. Startups selected will also benefit from an eight-week intensive program of training, mentoring, and validation. PAX instructors (participating entrepreneurs) include Steve Matthews, Global Vice President of Sales at CrowdStrike; Kyle Hanslovan, Founder and CEO of Huntress Labs; Serene Almomen, Ph.D., CEO and Co-Founder of Senseware, who was featured in Forbes' 50 Women-Led Startups that are Crushing Tech, and Prakash Chakravarthi, CEO and Co-Founder of Machfu.
PAX is reserving three of the 10 spots for companies that specialize in climate technology. In exchange, PAX asks for 4% to 8% equity. Besides clean-tech startups, PAX specializes in support for enterprise software, cybersecurity, insurance, fintech, AI, IoT, telecom, and e-commerce startups. Just so long as they’re not in Silicon Valley.
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Carnegie Melon student starts food delivery service
When you’re hungry and the fridge is empty, nothing says “we live in the future” like restaurant delivery services. But what if you can’t foot the bill for those pricey delivery fees and driver tips? That’s the frustrating position Jay Qin, a business student at Carnegie Mellon University, found himself in. His solution? Start his own delivery service, called Chutoro.
To build his business, Qin has lined up other Carnegie Mellon students and alumni. Students and alumni from the college’s school of computer science and college of fine arts have signed on to do sales, marketing, and design. Oh, and if you’re wondering about that name, Chutoro is a popular type of tuna sashimi but the company chose it as a symbol of “trust, excellence, and a shared passion for food.”
FLYOVER U RESEARCH
IU to build cloud-based computing system
When some of us think back on our college years, we think of frat parties and cramming for exams. Well, prepare to feel like an underachiever.
IU’s Pervasive Technology Institute has been awarded a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to launch a cloud-based system that will be used for AI, research, and data analysis. The system, called Jetstream 2, is designed to make it easier for researchers who lack supercomputer experience to navigate the technology.
David Y. Hancock, Jetstream 2 principal investigator, said the system is aimed at becoming “a democratizing force in the NSF ecosystem,” providing on-demand computing to researchers and educators. “‘AI for everyone’ is a term we’ve coined to embrace that idea. Through the use of virtual infrastructure, we will be able to provide more access to high-end technologies to enable deep learning and artificial intelligence techniques.”
The NSF is expected to give IU $20 million over the next five years to build and deploy the system.
UofM and The Land Institute develop eco-friendly grain
Image courtesy ©The Land Institute (landinstitute.org); (CC-BY-NC-ND)
Growing wheat is a lot of work, requiring farmers to plow and plant every year, and it takes a toll on the environment. But that may be changing, thanks to Kernza (not to be confused with your credenza). Kernza has been under development for the past 20 years by the University of Minnesota and Kansas nonprofit The Land Institute.
Kernza is a perennial grain, so although it’s “wheat-like,” it avoids a lot of the downsides of annual wheat production. It’s credited with numerous environmental benefits as well, like building healthier soil, preventing nitrate leaching, and enabling “carbon sequestration.”
Kernza can be used in cooking, baking, and brewing. The grain has already been used by one local brewery, and award-winning cookbook author Beth Dooley is developing recipes for folks to try. Consumers can pre-order the product as whole grain or flour from Perennial Pantry.
ON THE RADAR
Indiana’s Crane naval lab solicits new spy technology
A strategic naval center in decidedly landlocked southern Indiana is working with industry and academia to develop new surveillance technology for the US Navy. With a whimsical name that only military officials could come up with, the Crane naval laboratory developed S2MARTS OTA as a way for the Department of Defense to issue RFPs. The Department of Defense hopes to collaborate with companies and universities on new sensor detection technologies that can detect potential threats from bad actors or unmanned systems on land or underwater.
FUELING THE FUTURE
Photo by pathdoc for Shutterstock.
Columbus startup raises $2.2M
Columbus startup Aware, which analyzes enterprise collaboration platforms, has added $2.2 million to the $11 million it has raised since launching in 2017. The platforms—Microsoft Teams, Yammer, Slack, and Facebook’s Workplace—have seen a 57% increase in the volume of messages due to the pandemic-driven move toward remote work, and Aware’s customer base has reportedly quadrupled.
The company says its flagship product, Aware Risk Management, “extends traditional governance and compliance technologies by providing human-centric insight to enhance employee engagement and reduce the risk of unsafe behavior on enterprise collaboration tools.”
Investors include Draper Triangle Ventures, Ohio Innovation Fund, Rev1Ventures, and JumpStart Inc.
Minnesota high on the list of Midwest states attracting VC
Over the past 10 years, Minnesota companies have raised $6.2 billion in venture capital. That’s according to America’s Mighty Middle Report, published by Crunchbase and Dundee Venture Capital. The report, based on Crunchbase data as of April 2020, analyzed investment in states it calls the Mighty Middle—those that lie between the Rockies and the Appalachian Mountains. Of those 25 states, Minnesota came in sixth.
As Dundee Venture Capital partner Greg Beaufait noted in the report, “Some of the world’s most valuable companies are headquartered in the Mighty Middle. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies are here. Many of the world’s top research institutions and computer science programs are here. It’s not a matter of if the Mighty Middle collectively catches up to Silicon Valley, but when.”
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