The competition, dubbed the Scorpion Pit, was held on Friday, May 15, at the Croft in downtown Phoenix. The bioscience companies were selected for investment from local investors, called Scorpions, and also BioAccel. This intense evaluation process is modeled after Japan’s Dragon’s Den and American TV’sShark Tank.
· Two winners: TinyKicks, which is developing technology to advance healthy pregnancy outcomes, will receive an estimated $75,000 to conduct a research study. Omni BioCeutical Innovations, which offers human translational stem cell/growth factor-based skin and hair care product lines, will receive an estimated $60,000 in early-stage funding. Final terms will be negotiated and awarded based on milestones defined by investors.
· Two entrepreneurial start-up packages: Student entrepreneur teams, NeoLight and EpiFinder, will receive an entrepreneurial package of funding up to $15,000 and business and technology services. NeoLight is developing equipment that treats jaundice in babies while EpiFinder provides clinical decision support technology to neurologists for diagnosing epilepsy.
· Grant for young entrepreneur: The Scorpions also awarded a $500 grant to a young entrepreneur, Asher Taghizadeh, for his “designer toothpaste” for children. The grant will be used to develop his website. LifeLock CEO Todd Davis, a Scorpion, provided Asher with a $100 investment on the spot during the young entrepreneur’s presentation to investors.
The winners and all the other companies in the competition will continue to work with BioAccel, an Arizona based non-profit whose mission is to drive economic development through the accelerated commercialization of research. BioAccel will provide mentorship by helping the companies create improved business plans, new business opportunities, technical support and an opportunity to re-pitch their ideas to the Scorpions as they address the recommended actions provided by the Scorpions and mentors.
In 2014, BioAccel launched the Solutions Challenge – and its Scorpion Pit competition – to help advance the biosciences and created an enhanced start-up ecosystem.
“Year two was bigger and better than the first. Having Blue Cross Blue Shield and Gore involved as both sponsors and Challenge Category designers was really the icing on the cake. The Solutions Challenge is all about matching market need with innovation and investment, and this year we nailed it!” said MaryAnn Guerra, Chief Executive Officer of BioAccel. “For Arizona to reach its full potential in creating a strong bioscience driven economy, we need to build a solid ecosystem made up of a robust technology pipeline and local investment. The Solutions Challenge event was designed to help grow this ecosystem.”
Working with local medical centers, provider organizations and specific industry leadership, BioAccel identified five critical unmet health needs in the categories of:
· Digital, Wearable and Mobile Health (sponsored by Molded Devices)
· Regenerative Wound and Aesthetic Therapy (Sponsored by Ulthera)
· Simplified Access to Care (Sponsored and identified by Blue Cross Blue Shield)
· A New Approach to Eliminating Type 2 Endoleaks (Sponsored and identified by Gore)
· Wildcard for Student Entrepreneurs (Sponsored by Medtronic). The Wildcard Category
was new this year and targeted to help Arizona create the next breed of entrepreneurs focused on addressing market needs along with solid work force skills.
To address start-up company needs and to stimulate early-stage funding of these solutions, BioAccel assembled a prestigious panel of local investors, Scorpions, to judge the Scorpion Pit competition. The Scorpions have agreed to invest up to $50,000, if they find worthy projects. BioAccel agreed to match their investment. This early-stage investment is critical as 96% of Arizona investment dollars come from outside the state. Additionally, according to the National Venture Capital Association data, VCs provided only 1% of entrepreneurial funding in 2014 with the vast majority of ventures financed by entrepreneurs, their friends and family. BioAccel supports those entrepreneurs, providing critically needed advice and funding during the formative stages when the risk and potential benefit to society are greatest.
After a competitive process, seven finalists were identified to compete in the May 15 Scorpion Pitcompetition. Finalists were given 10 minutes to pitch their concept, followed by an onslaught of questions from the Scorpions.
Craig Cafferelly, CEO
Saccadous provides the best non-invasive eye-tracking solution for diagnosing, tracking and advancing the treatment of neurological diseases and conditions like Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Alzheimer’s.
Paul Gilbert, CEO
RightBio Metrics is focused on ensuring accurate placement of gastric tubes. RightBio Metrics’ fluid measurement solutions challenge existing clinical and health care economics standards to produce safer, better and more financially viable results.
Jane Christensen, CEO
Omni is one of the first medical cosmeceutical companies offering human translational stem cell/growth factor-based skin and hair care product lines.
Saguaro Medical Technologies, Inc.
Stacy Faught, CEO
Saguaro is developing a novel Liquid Embolic material intended to treat abnormalities in the peripheral and neuro vasculature such as arteriovenus malformations, arteriovenus fistulae, Type I and II AAA endoleaks, and other vascular procedures such as renal embolization.
France Helfer, CEO
TinyKicks is developing a wearable health-monitoring smart sensor that captures fetal movement and uses machine learning to predict and guide healthy pregnancy outcomes.
Student Entrepreneur Teams:
Vivek Kopparthi, CEO
NeoLight is developing high-intensity equipment that treats jaundice in newborn and pre-term babies.
Robert Yau, CEO
Provides clinical decision support technology to neurologists who want to know more about and effectively diagnosis epilepsy syndromes at the point of care.
The morning event was capped with the presentation of a young entrepreneur, Asher Taghizadeh, presenting his concept for “designer toothpaste” for children. He designed a product to encourage the youth to brush more often and longer by using toothpaste that they mix themselves, or co-create with their parents, based on the flavors they like best! Asher’s father, Farhan Taghizadeh, M.D., is a principle in one of BioAccel’s portfolio companies, Aesthetics BioMedical. While Asher lives in New Mexico, his initiative was recognized as a good model for youth and future entrepreneurs. “Obviously it is never too early to take your creative ideas and turn them into a business,” said Todd Davis, CEO of LifeLock. “We hope with BioAccel’s new Fund Raising Campaign, Reaching Our Potential, that we will see many more entrepreneurs, young and old, developing among us!” Watch Asher’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tR7Fcs787KU&feature=youtu.be
The Scorpions for the event were: Alex Brigham, CEO, Ethisphere Institute; Eric Crown, Chairman Emeritus, Insight Enterprises; Todd Davis, CEO, LifeLock; Francine Hardaway, Ph.D., Founder Stealthmode Partners; and Vishu Jhaveri, M.D., Senior Vice President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona; and Jeff Pruitt, CEO, Tallwave.
Alex Brigham, Executive Director and Founder of the Ethisphere Institute, created the world’s most recognized authority in the research, rating and certification of corporate and institutional ethics, anti-corruption, and sustainability efforts.
Eric Crown, Chairman Emeritus, Insight Enterprises, is a serial entrepreneur and investor who has been building and investing in companies – startups to multibillion-dollar enterprises – for more than 30 years. A leader known for creating high-performance cultures and streamlined business processes, he co-founded Insight Enterprises, which became a Fortune 500 company with $5 billion in annual sales.
Todd Davis built an organization at the forefront of helping to combat identity theft crimes. Under his leadership, LifeLock was honored with the 2010 Best New Product or Service of the Year Stevie Award for the LifeLock Identity Alert™ system and the American Business People’s Choice Award for its TrueAddress™ service in 2009.
Francine Hardaway, Ph.D., co-founded Stealthmode Partners, an accelerator and advocate for entrepreneurs in technology and health care, in 1998. Hardaway was an Entrepreneurial Fellow of the Eller Entrepreneurship Center at University of Arizona, and was a founder of Social Media Club Arizona and the Arizona Software Association.
Dr. Vishu Jhaveri, Senior Vice President, Blue Cross Blue Shield of AZ, oversees the development of corporate medical policies and the daily administrative functions of the Health Services Division. In addition to the academics of medical policy development, those functions include: accreditation, medical claims review, clinical quality improvement, care management, disease management, health promotion/wellness, utilization review and provider credentialing.
Jeff Pruitt is the Founding Partner, President and CEO of Tallwave, a venture development firm and commercializor, headquartered in Scottsdale that helps entrepreneurs build their early-stage companies through sound capital strategy and well-executed go-to-market plans. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and has sat on the advisory councils of Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.