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Startups win funding at 2018 Commercialization Competition

FuzeHub, a not-for-profit organization that assists small- to medium-sized manufacturing companies in New York state, announced the seven winners of its Commercialization Competition Nov. 8. The seven companies, including three with Cornell ties, were awarded $50,000 each from the Jeff Lawrence Manufacturing Innovation Fund. Cornell startups Capro-X, Íko Systems and VitaMe Technologies were among the winners.

During the competition, held in Albany, New York, 18 finalists from across New York state pitched their ideas in front of a live audience. A panel of 12 industry experts selected the seven award recipients based on the commercialization potential of their technology.

Capro-X Inc. is developing a natural and sustainable solution to convert dairy industry waste into valuable biofuels. Juan Guzman, Ph.D. ’17, began Capro-X in Cornell’s Commercialization Fellows program, a specialized track for engineering doctoral candidates that provides training on commercializing research.

The startup was then accepted into the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps, a seven-week training program focused on product market fit. Guzman later received a $225,000 National Science Foundation grant to develop Capro-X’s bio process and Guzman and Capro-X earned a spot as a top-20 finalist in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 76West Clean Energy Competition. Most recently, the company joined the incubator Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, which is funded in part by Cornell, to further its development.

Íko Systems makes a smart tabletop micro-greenhouse for sustainably minded foodies. Michael Eaton ’18, Santiago Alegria ’18, Liad Hare ’18, Jaiveer Singh ’18, Sivan Sud ’18 and Benjamin Sword ’18 developed the company while taking part in Cornell’s student accelerator program, eLab, a for-credit program that provides mentorship and training for teams of students, from any field of study, who want to launch a business.

Earlier in 2018, Íko Systems won a Cornell Engineering Innovation Award for the most innovative and developed concept. The company was also awarded funding to participate in the Cornell Center for Materials Research Jumpstart Program, supported by NYSTAR. Íko is continuing to perfect its prototype using the hardware lab at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works.

VitaMe Technologies provides fast, accurate, mobile nutrition deficiency testing. Li Jiang, Ph.D. ’14, CEO of VitaMe Technologies, is working with David Erickson, the Sibley College Professor at Cornell’s Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, to develop a low-cost, portable diagnostics platform that can determine micronutrient deficiencies. The company is also working with Cornell to develop a medium-scale manufacturing and packaging process.

The FuzeHub Commercialization Competition launched in 2017 to support pre-revenue businesses and assist them in improving a working prototype or beta phase. The goal is to support companies to pursue additional investments and customers, leading to commercialization.

Leigh Martino is communications coordinator for the Center of Regional Economic Advancement at Cornell.

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Lindsey Hadlock