ASU startups pitch their products to SoCal investors
Hoping to join the ranks of Arizona State University startups that have raised more than $120 million in funding the last two years, two young ASU-linked companies flew to Los Angeles this week to pitch potential investors at First Look LA.
This annual showcase for technologies and ventures put ASU startups NextPotential and Pollen-Tech in the mix with five Southern California research institutions: UCLA, USC, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara and Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
ASU’s participation in the event results from work by Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE), ASU’s exclusive intellectual property management and technology transfer organization. AzTE operates out of the ASU California Center in Santa Monica to build connections to the broader West Coast innovation ecosystem beyond Arizona.
“AzTE spends a lot of time working to cultivate relationships with investors and serial entrepreneurs in Southern California and then connecting them with ASU startups looking for funding or expertise,” said Charlie Lewis, vice president for venture development. “It’s a long-term strategy to expand the university’s entrepreneurship networks beyond Arizona, and provides a lot of unique opportunities for ASU’s faculty and student entrepreneurs.”
NextPotential presented at First Look and is an ASU spinout with a technology that converts carbon dioxide produced by power plants into clean-burning natural gas. The recapture process, developed by engineering professor Jean Andino, substantially decreases greenhouse gas emissions and provides a constantly replenished source of energy.
NextPotential is targeting larger coal-fired power plants that also have the capacity to burn natural gas on site. These sites collectively generate more than 400 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, representing about 9 percent of total U.S. emissions.
“Human-caused climate change is the defining public policy issue of our time,” said Jack Blanchette, NextPotential’s managing director and president. “Our revolutionary CO2-to-methane conversion process is exactly the kind of radical leap forward society needs to reverse the warming trend while preserving and improving global living standards.
“First Look LA has been a great opportunity to meet a concentrated group of California-based investors looking to fund cleantech initiatives.”
Pollen-Tech was co-founded by four ASU students and launched via the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, which provides funding, office space and training for student-created ventures. Edson is managed by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group (EIG) in the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development (OKED).
Pollen-Tech has created a high-tech way to pollinate crops that involves machines rather than bees. The spraying technology has been shown to increase crop yields when used alongside traditional bee pollination and could someday eliminate the need to transport large colonies of bees between agricultural areas. In 2013, the Pollen-Tech team won the inaugural Arizona Startup Territorial Cup.
“From our start as part of Edson to the entrepreneurial assistance offered by EIG and AzTE, Pollen-Tech has benefited greatly from all of the resources the university offers high-potential startups,” said David Wade, CEO. “Our technology is being proven in the field every day, and this kind of investor exposure is exactly what we need right now to achieve scale and continue our rapid migration into new plant types and products.”
ASU startups presenting at last year’s First Look LA included HealthTell, Breezing and IMANIN. In total, start-up companies that have licensed ASU IP (or their sublicensees) have attracted nearly $450 million in funding from venture capital firms and other investors, with much of this financing achieved during the last five years.