Image courtesy of Innovation Fund. From left to right: Chris Miller of Fontus Blue, Audrey Wallace and Amy Husted of Komae, Ronny Shalev of Dyad Medical, and Stephanie Ham of OncoSolutions
Fontus Blue, which received a $50,000 Innovation Fund “B” Award, 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, which was awarded a $50,000 Innovation Fund "B" Award, 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.
OncoSolutions, which received a $25,000 Innovation Fund “A” Award, 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.
I-Corps startups have received significant support from Innovation Fund in 2017. In addition to Fontus Blue, Komae and OncoSolutions, two other I-Corps graduate startups – O2 RegenTech and Triple Beam Technologies – received Innovation Fund awards this year.
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.