June 13, 2017

Rony Abovitz on Magic Leap: ‘Launch is not far away’

Rony

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

On the eMerge Americas stage, Rony Abovitz shared his thoughts on the future of technology, his vision for more natural computing that will bring science fiction to life and the tech ecosystem in South Florida. But as to details about the billion-dollar startup’s first product, well, the world will have to wait.

To experience the world more naturally, “we’re trying to build a computer that acts like people, so you don’t have to look at your phone all the time,” said Abovitz, in a discussion on stage with the Knight Foundation’s Miami program director, Matt Haggman, and Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of University of Miami’s College of Engineering.

While Magic Leap coined the “mixed reality” description – something like augmented reality, but different – Abovitz said he prefers a different description for Magic Leap’s technology now: “Spatial computing powered by a digital lightfield.” It will allow you to experience the world more naturally. Goodbye tech neck.

But people who came to the talk wanting to know when they can get their hands on the tech, Magic Leap remained vague, as usual.

When will the first product launch? “Launch is not far away.” ... “If we were at NASA … you would see a rocket sitting on the launch pad.”

What will it cost? “It’s being priced for affordability in the mass premium category. .. It’s not a Kindle kind of pricing but it’s not unattainable.”

READ MORE: Tech talk at eMerge: On the ‘rollercoaster’ of startup life, Waze, cybersecurity and Elon Musk

Is Magic Leap raising another big round of venture capital that will value the company at $6 billion to $8 billion, as has been rumored? “You never stop being in the mode of talking to investors. It never stops. It’s like breathing.”

He encouraged students and universities to be drilling in on artificial intelligence – but with an “inward ethical path.”

“You can be replaced by AI computing or you can be amplified by it. ... We are people-first. Everything is about amplifying you, not replacing you.”

Abovitz said Magic Leap has more than 1,000 employees, with about 800 in South Florida. “We are bringing in people from all over the world. This brain trust will at some point spin out their own startups.” The Magic Leap platform also will empower hundreds of thousands of creators, maybe the next Facebook or Snapchat, he said.

“We’re trying to make science fiction real.”

He said basing his company in Plantation allows him to get away from “the noise and group think” of the West Coast and think clearly. He believes South Florida could become a hemispheric tech hub, something he didn’t feel when he was co-founding and growing Mako Surgical, he said. “There is something going on – I feel it.”

Update: Here's the talk:

 

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

June 12, 2017

Facebook alum pulls back curtain on TheVentureCity, to be based in Miami

Newcity

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Former executives of Facebook, Google, eBay and other hyper-growth companies have come together to form a global “city” with everything a startup needs to scale internationally.

Laura headshotCo-founding the unique venture, called TheVentureCity, is Laura González-Estéfani (pictured here), former director of international business development and mobile partnerships for Facebook, and Clara Bullrich, a 20-year private banking and asset management veteran. They call it an accelerator for the global tech ecosystem.

With an “international-first” approach, the accelerator will create cross-functional bridges between key regions to scale startups on a global level, González-Estéfani said. The headquarters of TheVentureCity will be in Miami Beach, currently in the 1111 building off Lincoln Road, with a second campus in Madrid and a presence in San Francisco, with plans to expand into a number of cities worldwide by 2020, González-Estéfani she said.

“All my team has worked all over the world, they have all spent years working outside their countries of origin,” González-Estéfani said, in an interview last week. “When we see a startup that has all the right bones, we will advise where to scale first and how the product needs to be tailored for those companies.”

In addition to the international focus, the all-in-one approach for startup needs and consistent support is what will set TheVentureCity apart, said González-Estéfani, who is a native of Spain. “While others provide entrepreneurs with the initial tools to get them started, TheVentureCity is our response to the need for a solution that offers startups everything from engineering and product optimization to data analysis, guiding them throughout the entire process.”

To be considered for either theVentureCity’s 36-month incubator or 18-month accelerator program, startups that can be in any place in the world must demonstrate at least a six-month track record and solid numbers on growth and engagement metrics, not necessarily revenue. Using a data-driven approach, TheVentureCity builds on that foundation of solid data to help them make the best business decisions to achieve long-term growth. “We aren’t afraid of working with international-first companies all over the world, we just have to fall in love with the founders,” she said.

About 25 startups a year from all over the world will be selected to enter the “factory” each year. Other parts of the “city” include the “data library,” the heart of the city, the airport for internationalization, the laboratory for the product engineering and the bank for venture capital. TheVentureCity will help startups with their funding strategy and tapping into funding resources, she said.

TheVentureCity will be paid in startup equity as the partnership progresses, González-Estéfani said.

Directing the Miami campus will be Elisa Rodriguez-Vila, who formerly worked at Fusión and was part of the co-founding team at The LAB Miami. TheVentureCity is already working with 15 startups, including Boatsetter, Playground, The Fastmind and RecargaPay from South Florida.

TheVentureCity has forged partnerships with a number of entitities including Beacon Council, Startupbootcamp, Venture Café and Facebook on the local level. She said TheVentureCity has been working with Miami Dade College on a two-year degree in entrepreneurship and innovation, for instance. “We make things happen, we are not afraid of taking risks,” González-Estéfani said. “That is the mindset we want to bring here and we are learning everyday from the pioneers and we want to partner with them.”

González-Estéfani came to Miami 2 1/2 years ago with Facebook; she also worked in Facebook’s operations in Silicon Valley and Europe from 2008 to 2014. Before that she worked at eBay, Siemans and Ogilvy.

Upon arrival from Silicon Valley she noticed something quickly: a welcoming community.

“The Medinas [Manny Medina, founder of eMerger Americas] opened the door to their home to us. That is something I have never seen before in Business. "They introduced me to to everything that was happening here. That soul, that spirit, is something that I have never seen anywhere else. Everyone they introduced me to, the Knight Foundation, the Endeavor family, everyone was the same way,” González-Estéfani said.

“There must be something in the water in Miami that makes everyone so welcoming and so enthusiastic about the unknown. I found that willingness to take a risk. Hopefully I can contribute with my team to help make this one of the most exciting and vibrant ecosystems in tech around the world.”
González-Estéfani will be giving a talk about TheVentureCity at eMerge Americas at Miami Beach Convention Center on Tuesday.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg.

June 01, 2017

Boats Group decides Miami is the place to be, anchors headquarters

BG-Portals

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

A quarter of Boats Group’s customers are in Florida, many of them in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area. Now the parent company of the world’s largest online marketplaces for boats is steering its corporate headquarters to Brickell.

Sam Fulton - Boats Group - HeadshotCurrently based in Norfolk, Virginia, Boats Group owns recreational marine brands Boat Trader, boats.com, YachtWorld, CosasDeBarcos, all online portals for buying and selling boats, and YachtCloser, which sells a tool used for yacht closings to yacht brokers. The company plans to complete the relocation to Miami this summer and will add 80 new jobs in the Miami area, said Sam Fulton, CEO of Boats Group (pictured here).

Boats Group has already filled about 20 of the 80 positions, many of those tech positions such as software engineers and product managers, and are actively recruiting for more, said Fulton, an e-commerce executive who took the helm of Boats Group CEO in November.

Fulton formerly held senior executive positions at Orbitz for more than 13 years, most recently as senior vice president of the company’s U.S. consumer travel business and president of Orbitz.com, and continued in e-commerce leadership roles at Groupon. Then he got a call from Apax Partners, the private equity firm that acquired Boats Group last summer.

The opportunity: Although Boats Group was already the leading marketplace for buying and selling boats, there were strategies and processes not being done in a best-in-class way that could be fixed, driving even more growth, Fulton said.

Once on board, Fulton wanted to bring the company closer together — literally. In addition to its headquarters in Norfolk, many of the company’s software developers were in Vancouver, and it also had offices in the United Kingdom and Spain. Boats Group has already begun closing the Norfolk and Vancouver operations in order to consolidate most of the functions in Miami.

“I come from a background where you try to get your team in close proximity to each other so that they can collaborate … and those are all businesses that scaled very effectively,” he said. “In one facility, you will get more productivity and better communication between the teams.”

Why Miami? A big reason was the customer base already in Florida.

“Every company should want to be close to their major customers and should want to have regular engagement with their customers, and being headquartered out of Norfolk, that was more difficult,” said Fulton, who has lived in Chicago for the past 20 years and has moved his family here, settling into Pinecrest.

The relocation also offers Boats Group a physical presence in the largest boating market in North America. The region’s thriving marine industry is responsible for more than 136,000 jobs and $11.5 billion in annual economic output, according to the Marine Industries Association of South Florida.

Boats Group will occupy the 23rd floor at 1221 Brickell Ave. Beyond the panoramic views of Biscayne Bay, Boats Group’s new headquarters will feature an open layout without offices, he said. The common area can also be utilized for hosting meetups and hackathons to engage with local talent, Fulton said. “I love the vibrancy of Brickell. It is one of the things that attracted us here as a company. There are a bunch of reasons to think we made a really good decision.”

The Miami-Dade Beacon Council assisted Boats Group with the relocation.

“This successful relocation showcases Miami’s growing innovation ecosystem and Florida’s ranking as the boating capital of the U.S.,” said Sheldon T. Anderson, interim president and CEO of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, in a statement. “Boats Group perfectly matches our community of entrepreneurs and innovators.”  

Boats Group is recruiting for software engineers and product managers as well as marketing, finance, sales and account management talent. “These are good paying, in-demand jobs. We will be actively competing for them and looking to bring more opportunities for those higher paying jobs,” Fulton said.

Boats Group employs about 190 worldwide. Its brands attract over 65 million unique visitors annually to more than 300,000 boat and yacht listings. Its digital solutions serve over 5,000 dealers and brokers in more than 143 countries.

Fulton said South Florida’s tech community will be seeing Boats Group’s teams hosting meetups, user groups and hackathons and quickly getting involved in the community.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

May 31, 2017

Blackstone invests in Broward tech startup Entic

Entic

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@MiamiHerald.com

When a satisfied customer becomes an investor, that’s a good day for any early-stage company — especially when that customer is a giant private equity firm.

Entic, a South Florida technology company that helps commercial building owners save energy, announced Wednesday that it has received a strategic investment from Blackstone.

Blackstone has used Entic’s technology to provide operational efficiency and energy savings at several buildings owned by the firm’s real estate funds, including Park Avenue Tower in midtown Manhattan and the Howard Hughes Center in Los Angeles. “We’ve closely followed Entic’s track record for some time as part of a search for a best-in-class energy analytics platform,” said Don Anderson, executive director for Blackstone.

Entic CEO Carlos Diaz said the investment will help accelerate six-year-old Entic’s growth plans. Blackstone will also provide the company support and expertise from Blackstone’s Real Estate and Innovations teams. Before the deal with Blackstone, Entic had attracted about $13 million in investments and provided services to about 65 properties, according to the Wall Street Journal. Terms of the investment were not disclosed.

“Blackstone’s investment and decision to deploy our technology are together a major recognition of our success in reducing energy waste and increasing operational performance in commercial buildings,” said Diaz, a seasoned software architect who co-founded the company with Manuel Rosendo, an HVAC industry veteran (pictured above).

Entic, headquartered in Pembroke Pines with more than 45 employees, uses real-time data analysis of major energy-consuming systems to provide prescriptions for improving building operations. Its longtime customers include Marlins Park and the Diplomat Resort & Spa.

 

May 22, 2017

Florida Early Stage Capital Conference: And the winners are ...

SiteZeus  Tampa - First Place $75 000

The Florida Venture Forum and Space Florida announced the three top winners of the 10th Annual 2017 Florida Early Stage Capital Conference and Space Florida’s Accelerating Innovation prize, held at the Omni ChampionsGate in Orlando on May 19.  A total of 22 Florida-based companies from across the state and a variety of industry sectors were selected to present before an audience of investors, deal professionals and entrepreneurs. Ten startups from South Florida participated.

A panel of judges reviewed each selected company’s presentation and supporting materials. The top three cash prize winners were:

First Place $75,000 - SiteZeus, Tampa (www.sitezeus.com), pictured above, the new evolution in location intelligence, driven by exceptionally engineered big data systems and unparalleled data visualization technology.

Second Place $50,000 -  Auxadyne, Keystone Heights (www.auxadyne.com) has an exclusive licensing agreement with FSU for the design, manufacture and distribution of the first commercially available auxetic foam in a variety of medical device and protective equipment applications.

Third Place $25,000 - Admiral, Gainesville (www.getadmiral.com) offers an advanced adblock analytics and automatic revenue recovery. They provide a multi-faceted platform that enables publishers to size and solve the unique adblock problem presented by their unique userbase.

The 22 presenting companies were selected from a statewide pool of more than 130 applicants by a committee of active Florida venture capitalists and other investors. Space Florida provided the Accelerating Innovation prize money totaling $150,000.

“The Forum’s Early Stage Capital Conference set a few important records in 2017: our largest-ever number of applicants, record overall attendance and the largest investor attendance in the event’s 10-year history,” said Kevin Burgoyne, President and CEO of the Florida Venture Forum. “We take these milestones as very positive indicators of an increasingly robust and well-rounded early stage ecosystem. We congratulate our winning companies, and thank Space Florida for their strong support.”

In conjunction with the 2017 Early Stage Capital Conference, The Florida Venture Forum  also announced the three winners of the 7th Annual 2017 Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition, also held on May 19. A total of 13 universities from a cross section of Florida brought their top students to compete for best in the state. The top three winners were:

 Winner: Sensatek Propulsion Technologies, Reamonn Soto - Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Fort Lauderdale

First Runner Up: Logentix LLC, Randy Lopez - Florida Polytechnic University, Lakeland

Second Runner Up: Spared, Ryan Lockwood - University of Tampa

 

 

May 18, 2017

South Florida companies team up: Paymentez buys majority stake in SpeedETab

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

SpeedetabHomeSometimes startups should team up to take off.

SpeedETab, a Fort Lauderdale startup that enables customers to order and pay for food and drinks from their smartphones, and Paymentez, a Miami-based payments platform for goods and services in Latin America, did just that.

On Thursday, Paymentez announced that it has acquired a majority stake in SpeedETab. The partnership marks Paymentez’s entry into the U.S. market. SpeedETab’s co-founders, Adam Garfield and Ed Gilmore, will continue to run SpeedETab and its current team of 11.

Under terms, of the investment, SpeedETab will implement Paymentez’s technology to expand the SpeedETab app. Garfield said SpeedETab will also have access to Paymentez’s top tech team of about 25 to 30 engineers. Financial details were not disclosed. 

Juan Franco, CEO of Paymentez, said that together they will offer “a superior mobile commerce experience.”

“Our strategy for the USA is 100 percent aligned with SpeedETab’s. The U.S. has always been interesting to us — my co-founder and I live in Miami — and especially when it comes to mobile ordering, there is a market readiness here that surpasses that of Latin America. The space is moving so fast, we felt we would be much more successful building upon what SpeedETab has already done and incorporating our technical capacity, [point-of-sale] integrations and lessons learned in Latin America,” said Franco, who has been watching SpeedETab’s growth for more than a year.

SpeedETab, which launched in mid-2015, provides an app-based mobile ordering, mobile payments and analytics platform for the food service industry. The fast-growing startup powers mobile ordering and payments at more than 200 U.S. locations, including Panther Coffee, Zaro’s Bakery, Gregory’s Coffee, Toby’s Estate, and the Adrienne Arsht Center.

“It’s never easy for a founder to part with a majority stake in their company, but Ed and I felt this was an opportunity for us to position ourselves as a major player in the mobile ordering and mobile payments market,” said Garfield, who will be showcasing SpeedETab at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago next week. “Juan and the Paymentez team bring to SpeedETab a tremendous amount of strategic value — from strong channel partnerships to essential point of sale integrations – and their addition to SpeedETab propels us forward exponentially.”

Founded in 2010 by serial entrepreneurs Franco and Jaime Roldan, Paymentez is a leading monetization platform for micro transactions in Latin America. Paymentez has about 50 employees across Latin America and five in Miami.

“We started Paymentez in Brazil, Mexico and Colombia and today have presence in seven countries in Latin America. ... Last year, in partnership with MasterCard, we launched a mobile ordering app that is now being used by the most relevant merchants in the region,” Franco said.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

May 10, 2017

Boca Raton-based Modernizing Medicine attracts $231 million in funding

ModMed

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Health-technology company Modernizing Medicine announced Wednesday that Warburg Pincus, a global private equity firm focused on growth-stage companies, has invested $231 million into the company.

The funding will be used to provide liquidity to existing shareholders, fund further expansion and support future strategic endeavors, said Daniel Cane, CEO of the fast-growing Boca Raton-based company. “It’s a great firm, a great fund, it’s good people ... With this investment we infused some additional jet fuel into our company to be able to execute even more aggressively, to be able to hire and innovate and bring great products and solutions,” Cane said in an interview Wednesday.

Modernizing Medicine currently employs 550 people and is booking $100 million in annual revenue. “If there was any doubt that you could found and scale a company in South Florida, hopefully those doubts are now erased,” Cane said.

Founded in 2010 by Cane and Dr. Michael Sherling (pictured above), Modernizing Medicine has been one of the recent tech success stories in South Florida. Cane, a serial entrepreneur who earlier in his career co-founded and exited education-tech company Blackboard, met Sherling, his future co-founder, in the doctor’s office.

Modernizing Medicine’s flagship product is EMA, which is a mobile, cloud-based, specialty-specific electronic health record system now used by more than 10,000 providers at thousands of specialty practices nationwide, and the company now offers a full suite of products and services including practice management, revenue cycle management, telehealth for dermatology, analytics and more. Before this latest mega-round of funding, Modernizing Medicine had raised about $100 million, including $38 million in 2015.

“We’ve been quiet the last year but we’ve been executing,” said Cane. “We have an incredible team and we continue to grow. We still serve only a handful of specialties – we remain focused – but we do more within each specialty than we ever have in the past.” 

Cane said the latest round of funding will allow it to pursue strategic objectives that not only benefit physicians and their practices but also the patient. “We are building a lot of mobile patient engagement applications, looking at ecommerce, looking at telemedicine,” he said. That includes investing in technologies that streamline “prior authorization” to allow more patients to get the treatments they need faster, said Cane. In ecommerce, there are other opportunities to streamline processes that complement a patient’s treatment, and telemedicine has particular potential to take off in dermatology, Modernizing Medicine’s largest specialty with about 6,000 providers, Cane said.

Modernizing Medicine now has three South Florida locations, its main headquarters in the Research Park at FAU, a temporary space in the Boca Raton Innovation Center while its new space there is being built out, and a Weston office. “We are always hiring,” said Cane. Indeed, more than three dozen job openings are listed on Modernizing Medicine’s webite, including for engineers in product development and product management, as well as for positions in marketing, sales and legal.

Fred Hassan, managing director of Warburg Pincus and the former CEO and chairman of Schering Plough, and Amr Kronfol, Warburg Pincus principal, will join Modernizing Medicine’s board of directors. “We see meaningful opportunities for the company’s continued growth and acceleration of existing products and initiatives, and we look forward to partnering with Dan, Michael and the entire management team,” said Andrew Park, principal of Warburg Pincus.

Founded in 1966 and headquartered in New York, Warburg Pincus, with an active protfolio of more than 140 companies, has more than $44 billion in private equity assets under management. Warburg Pincus has been an active investor in the health technology sector, with current investments including DocuTAP, Helix, Intelligent Medical Objects, Specialists On Call, and A Place For Mom.

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

May 09, 2017

Magic Leap settles lawsuit with executive claiming gender bias, 'boys club' culture

09magicleap_CPJ

By Marcia Heroux Pounds / Sun Sentinel

Plantation-based Magic Leap has reached a confidential settlement of a gender bias lawsuit filed by a former executive, Tannen Campbell.

Campbell alleged in a federal court lawsuit that she was hired by the CEO to make the cutting-edge technology company less of a “boys club,” but her efforts were met with resistance. A former vice president of strategic marketing at the privately held technology company, Campbell sued Magic Leap in February.

Notice of the settlement was filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale and signed by Judge William P. Dimitrouleas. Terms were not disclosed. The lawsuit now is expected to be dismissed.

December 28, 2016

Magic Leap commits to creating 725 high-paying jobs in Broward

06magicleap_CPJ

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

Magic Leap officially announced on Wednesday that is will expand its operations in Broward County, creating 725 high-wage positions and making a capital investment of $150 million.

The South Florida technology company said it selected Broward County for its R&D Center of Excellence over locations in Texas and California. Magic Leap received $9 million in government incentives, in an effort by the state of Florida, the city of Plantation, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and Broward County. “Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County is proud to be the home of Magic Leap and its transformational technology,” said Bob Swindell, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance.

With locations in Plantation and Dania Beach as well as offices around the world, Magic Leap is developing a mixed-reality platform to enable people to seamlessly experience the real and virtual environments together. The company’s virtual retinal display technology superimposes 3D computer-generated imagery over real world objects. Magic Leap was founded by Rony Abovitz, who also co-founded Mako Surgical in Davie and is a University of Miami alumnus.

The incentives package has been in the works for about a year, and the $150 million capital investment will be for its Plantation facility. Magic Leap broke ground on its 260,000-square-foot campus in Plantation last fall and has begun moving in. The new headquarters and manufacturing facility is in the former Motorola campus. Magic Leap employs about 800 globally and between 200 and 300 in South Florida. The company currently lists about 175 openings in Plantation and Dania Beach.

“Our new location in Plantation will create many new jobs in the area, and we hope to continue to grow and expand our efforts over the coming years. We see Florida as an emerging hub for both technology and creativity, and we at Magic Leap are inspired by events such as the first launch to the moon, which happened right here in Florida just a few decades ago. Florida is a place where people can dream, and where amazing things can happen,” said Abovitz, in a statement on Wednesday.

To fund its innovation, Magic Leap raised $1.4 billion from investors including Google, Alibaba and others, a record in Florida. “Now it’s heads-down for us and we will be accelerating everything. We are super-focused on our getting first product out and getting it right, and letting it speak for the company. We know we have to deliver against high expectations,” Abovitz said earlier this year.

The secretive company, which hasn’t released timelines or launch dates on its product development, hit media turbulence earlier this month: Tech publication The Information reported that some former employees say its development is behind schedule and that some technology the company invented couldn’t be applied to its consumer product, thought to be spectacles. Management changes followed. New Chief Marketing Officer Brenda Freeman, formerly of National Geographic, recently responded in Recode that Magic Leap “is absolutely on track” and “racing toward launch.”

To be sure, Magic Leap’s commitment to creating 725 jobs in Broward paying an average of $92,066 — twice Broward County’s average annual wage — over a five-year period would make a large bump in South Florida tech employment. Florida is home to more than 26,000 IT companies employing nearly 250,000 professionals; nearly 80,000 people work in information and communications technologies in South Florida. Still, in a Bloomberg study released last week, Florida ranked 34th out of 50 for innovation measures including R&D, patent activity and science and engineering degree holders. 

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

December 20, 2016

Young innovator to watch: Felipe Gomez del Campo of Weston

 

Gomez-del-campo-fullsize

 

Felipe Gomez del Campo one of four innovators nationally chosen for U.S. Department of Energy’s new entrepreneurship program

He’s been recognized as a rising energy innovator in Forbes “30 under 30” and honored at the White House as an emerging global entrepreneur by President Barack Obama.

Next up for Case Western Reserve University graduate student Felipe Gomez del Campo: He was selected as one of four innovators nationally to participate in a new two-year entrepreneurship program at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois.

On Tuesday in Chicago, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz joined U.S. Senator Richard Durbin and officials from DOE to announce Gomez del Campo and the three other participants in Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI), the Midwest’s first entrepreneurship program to embed innovators in a national laboratory.

All four were selected to embed at Argonne for two years to access the lab’s scientific expertise, world-class facilities and mentorship to develop their innovative technologies.

“For an entrepreneur/ technologist, this is huge because the future is never certain,” said Gomez del Campo, a native of Mexico City who is from Weston, Florida. “You never know when you’re going to run out of money, if you'll be able to find more, what technological problems you're going to run into, etc. Joining the first cohort of CRI means that I don't have to worry as much about fundraising, and I can fully commit to developing the technology and get it to market.” 

CRI is part of a new initiative to accelerate the development of sustainable and energy-efficient technologies and drive manufacturing growth by helping startups and innovators reduce development costs and risks. A panel of judges selected the inaugural cohort of five Chain Reactions innovators from more than 100 applications.

Applicants for CRI came from 22 states. About half were with startups; the rest were students, professors, postdocs or members of industry. The four recipients represent Colorado, Indiana, North Dakota and Ohio.

Gomez del Campo, a graduate student in aerospace engineering at Case Western Reserve, is founder and CEO of FGC Plasma Solutions LLC, a Cleveland-based company that is developing a novel fuel injector for jet engines and gas turbines. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Case Western Reserve in 2016.  

The other three technologies in the first CRI cohort: a novel radioisotope battery made from nuclear waste; membrane-free electrochemical devices; and carbon material synthesis through sustainable bio-manufacturing methods.

Argonne National Laboratory, with a staff of 1,600 scientists and engineers, is the largest federally funded research and development facility in the Midwest. The CRI program provides the selected entrepreneurs dedicated laboratory and office space, support securing additional project funds, research and development assistance and access to a broad innovation ecosystem.  

Gomez del Campo was honored as an emerging global entrepreneur by Obama at the White House in 2015 and was selected by the State Department to represent the United States at the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

He earned a spot on the Forbes “30 under 30” list for 2016 in the energy category, the “Who’s Who to Watch in Technology” by Crain’s Cleveland Business and as one of Mexico’s six extraordinary young people by GQ Mexico. He also has been named a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Aerospace, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

FGC Plasma Solutions is working on a fuel injector that incorporates plasma to better control combustion in jet engines and gas turbines. By reducing fuel consumptions during idling, fuel savings of between 1 percent and 5 percent per flight are possible. The technology will also enable benefits from lower emissions, increased fuel flexibility and improved reliability.

Gomez del Campo said he will likely start the CRI program in late January or early February. CRI is a one-year commitment that can be extended to two years. He is working on his master’s in aerospace engineering, swims on the Case Western Reserve swim and dive team and works part-time.

“Even though I will be at Argonne, I will still be working on my thesis — which is on my technology incidentally — and taking classes online to finish my master’s,” he said. “Although it means a lot of changes for me and I will miss CWRU a lot, it is a fantastic opportunity and I am very excited.” 

- Submtted by Case Western Reserve University