08 Jun Midwest fares surprisingly well at Venture Forum in Los Angeles
The eleventh-annual and largest-ever Venture Forum was held two weeks ago in Los Angeles.
The two-day event showcased 130 technology companies to an audience of several hundred venture capital, strategic and angel investors. This forum should be of particular interest to Midwest technology entrepreneurs as there were several surprises. Most of them were pleasant, too.
The forum is organized by the Larta Institute. Based in Los Angeles, Larta manages programs that help companies innovate and grow. All of the forum presenters were provided mentoring assistance, which they consistently commented on favorably. Larta boasts that companies it has helped since its founding in 1993 have raised some $1.5 billion in financing.
As for the pleasant surprises, the first is that 14 of the presenting companies were Midwest based. Considering that this was the first year companies from beyond California were invited, this seems like good representation. This year, presenters were mostly very early stage companies presenting on one of four tracks.
Two tracks were open to winners of federal R&D grants. Another pleasant surprise is that Midwest companies accounted for 15 percent of firms in these open tracks, which has to be some sort of record for a coastal venture conference. The other two tracks, by the way, were exclusively for southern California- or Israeli-based companies.
Twelve of the 14 Midwest companies were life sciences firms that received SBIR grants from the National Institutes of Health. The 12 presenting companies were:
BioTechPlex/Cardiac Connect (Elk Grove Village, Ill.) Autonomic function extraction technologies for cardiac, diabetic, sleep apnea, anesthetic, wellness and consumer applications.
CardioEnergetics (Cincinnati) Tissue-coupling device for bone, cartilage and soft tissue applications.
Detroit R&D (Detroit) Toxicology assays for drug-candidate screening and monitoring environmental toxicants.
DNA Polymerse Technology (University City, Mo.) Mutated enzymes for gene analysis.
Haemoscope Corp. (Niles, Ill.) Device for measuring hemostasis in patients at risk of cardiovascular trauma.
IA, Inc./Threefold Sensors (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Biosensor assay platform for research and environmental applications.
ISS (Champaign, Ill.) Proteomics tools for diagnostic and drug development applications.
Leap of Faith Technologies (Crystal Lake, Ill.) Device that integrates cellular and RFID technologies with packaging for enhanced patient compliance in drug clinical trials. Selected as one of the “world’s best technologies” in 2005.
MC3, Inc. (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Blood pump for pediatric cardiac surgery.
Medical Imaging Applications (Coralville, Iowa) Software tools for cardiovascular disease detection and diagnosis from ultrasound images.
Orbital Research (Cleveland) Dry and disposable electrode for mobile monitoring of cardiac outpatients.
Polium Technologies (Hoffman Estates, Ill.) Catalysts for simplifying and accelerating drug discovery and development.
Though this may not be uncommon, it seems surprising that several of the above firms are well-established enterprises rather than stereotypical early stage development houses.
For example, IA’s Web site notes that it has won 19 Phase I and Phase II SBIR grants for biosensor R&D projects, Orbital Research is a 15-year-old company with established technologies in advanced controls and micro devices and Leap of Faith Technologies has a broad line of products that help to find, manage, interpret and use information.
Despite this record Midwest representation, it’s a not-so-pleasant surprise that there were no firms from Minnesota or Wisconsin – both of which are hotbeds of life sciences research. Perhaps a reader will offer an explanation.
The other open track was for companies that have won grants from the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. ATP is described as a “high-risk, high-impact, cost-share program that has been responsible for key innovations in U.S. industry.”
ATP winners nationwide were invited to submit an application to present at the forum. From this pool, about 20 companies were selected for Larta mentoring and screening and 10 were selected to present at the forum. Of those 10, only two were Midwest based:
Quantum Signal (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Speech-based, biometric video monitoring tools for face recognition.
Rosetta-Wireless Corp. (Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.) Software-driven “wireless pipeline” that enables mobilization of mass data and content for mobile workers, vehicular telematics and portable personal video applications. (Disclosure: the columnist works for Rosetta).
With Rosetta, you now know the last surprise: six of the 14 Midwest firms presenting at the Venture Forum were based in Illinois. That’s another pleasant surprise for some folks and perhaps a record that tech entrepreneurs from other Midwest states will aspire to surpass next year.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.