Georgia Tech launches $1 million retail technology initiative at ATDC

Georgia Tech  Tech TowerThe Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia’s technology incubator, is launching a new initiative for entrepreneurs focused on retail-related technology.

The new program — which comes as the retailing sector faces a torrent of change in consumer behavior — is being funded by a $1 million gift from the Mookerji Foundation to the Georgia Tech Foundation. The new initiative was announced at the 2017 ATDC Startup Showcase.

The Georgia Tech Foundation, in turn, has earmarked the new funds for the formation of the ATDC Retail Program. Founded in 1980, ATDC is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s chief economic development arm. ATDC is one of the longest running university-affiliated incubators in the United States.

“We chose Georgia Tech because of its commitment to economic development in Georgia and beyond, its focus on incorporating innovation in economic development, and its legacy of success,” the Mookerji Foundation said in a statement. “ATDC is a world-class technology incubator and is at the forefront of helping entrepreneurs not only build companies, but gives them the tools for long term success.”

The Atlanta-based Mookerji Foundation is dedicated to nurturing and enabling entrepreneurs in metro Atlanta.

The gift will fully fund the retail technology startup initiative for the next five years and support a retail technology expert who will serve as an entrepreneur-in-residence to mentor the startups and offer expertise relating to the field of entrepreneurship.

“The retail landscape has undergone a tumultuous shift in the last few years and retailers — from the national chains and department stores to the mom and pop shops on Main Street — are all looking for innovative technologies that help them remain competitive, stay engaged with their customers, and improve the bottom line,” said Jennifer Bonnett, ATDC’s general manager. “This new focus on retail complements some of our other related focus areas, such as financial technology (FinTech).”

The U.S. retail sector, which is comprised of more than 3.7 million establishments, supports some 42 million jobs with a $2.6 trillion impact on the economy, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the industry’s chief trade group.

In Georgia, the retail industry supports 1.2 million jobs, includes more than 120,000 establishments, and adds $75.6 billion a year to the Peach State’s economy, NRF data show.

“This is a very important segment of the Georgia and national economies and an exciting opportunity for Georgia Tech to make an impact and keep to its economic development mission,” said Maryam Alavi, dean and Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Chair of Georgia Tech’s Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business.

Alavi and other Scheller officials, as well as representatives of Tech’s Office of Development, collaborated on the effort that led to the Mookerji Foundation’s gift.

The initiative is the second of its kind for ATDC. In March 2015, Worldpay US, a global payments technology and services company, made a $1 million gift to Georgia Tech, which used the funds to launch a FinTech program at ATDC. Since its launch, that effort has reached more than 350 entrepreneurs across the state of Georgia, including 17 FinTech startups in the ATDC Signature and ATDC Accelerate portfolios. To date, those companies in both Signature and Accelerate have raised more than $34 million in outside funding.

About Georgia Tech

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world’s premier research universities. Georgia Tech is a national and international leader in scientific and technological research and education and is the nation’s leading producer of engineers as well as a leading producer of female and minority engineering Ph.D. graduates. Ranked among the top public universities by U.S. News & World Report, the Institute enrolls more than 23,000 students within its six colleges. For additional information, visit gatech.edu.

About the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC)

The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), a program of the Georgia Institute of Technology, is the state of Georgia’s technology startup incubator. Founded in 1980 by the Georgia General Assembly, which funds it each year, ATDC’s mission is to work with entrepreneurs in Georgia to help them learn, launch, scale, and succeed in the creation of viable, disruptive technology companies. Since its founding, ATDC has grown to become one of the longest running and most successful university-affiliated incubators in the United States, with its graduate startup companies raising nearly $3 billion in investment financing and generating more than $12 billion in revenue in the state of Georgia. For more information, visit atdc.org.

Register for the Advanced Technology Development Center’s 2017 ATDC Startup Showcase

ATDC Startup Showcase Pictures

The annual ATDC Startup Showcase is the premier Atlanta event for technology entrepreneurs.

The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia’s technology incubator, will present more than 60 of the state’s most innovative and market-disrupting technology companies at the 2017 ATDC Startup Showcase.

 

The annual event, which attracts nearly 1,000 attendees, is scheduled for May 11 at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. (REGISTER HERE.)

 

Showcase is designed to give technology innovators, investors, corporate partners, entrepreneurs, university researchers and students an in-depth, first-hand look at Georgia’s most successful emerging technology companies.

 

The event, which takes place during Atlanta Startup Week, also celebrates ATDC’s 37-year legacy of helping entrepreneurs learn, launch, scale and succeed in the formation of successful Georgia technology startups. Worldpay US — the global payments technology and services company,  and creator of ATDC’s FinTech program — is the Showcase’s premier sponsor.

 

“Showcase is always an exciting time for us because attendees get to see the dynamic visions of our entrepreneurs from across Georgia,” said Jennifer Bonnett, ATDC’s general manager.

 

“Our presenting companies have created products — from tools to combat fraud to disease management to clean energy — that solve problems, create meaningful impact in a host of industries and strengthen the Georgia economy.

 

“What’s more, these companies also exist thanks to the financial support of the state of Georgia, which funds ATDC,” she said.

 

Startups at ATDC also receive direct support from some of incubator’s partners, such as the Georgia Research Alliance, which provides seed investments. The startup companies also may receive funding from a number of federal sponsors, including the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Department of Defense and National Institutes of Health, among others.

 

Each year, those companies that meet the rigorous growth milestones are selected to graduate from the top-tier ATDC Signature program. Two of those companies have already been acquired.

 

The 2017 graduating companies are:

  • First Performance Global: Provides a market leading card management and customer engagement platform for card issuers worldwide.
  • Partpic (Acquired): Its proprietary solution simplifies the search and purchase of replacement parts using visual recognition technology.
  • StarMobile (Acquired): Its codeless, cloud-based enterprise mobility platform delivers any application to any endpoint, with a native user experience, faster, simpler and at a lower cost than any other approach.
  • UserIQ: Through its Customer Growth Platform, UserIQ empowers software-as-a-service companies to foster growth beyond the traditional funnel.

 

For more information about the Showcase or to RSVP, please visit http://atdcstartupshowcase.com. The cost to attend the event is $25 per person (early bird until April 12); $50 between April 13 and May 11, and $75 at the door. Students and faculty of any Georgia university enter free with valid ID.

 

ABOUT ATDC:

The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), a program of the Georgia Institute of Technology, is the state of Georgia’s technology startup incubator. Founded in 1980 by the Georgia General Assembly, which funds it each year, ATDC’s mission is to work with entrepreneurs in Georgia to help them learn, launch, scale and succeed in the creation of viable, disruptive technology companies. Since its founding, ATDC has grown to become one of the longest running and most successful university-affiliated incubators in the United States, with its graduate startup companies raising $3 billion in investment financing and generating more than $12 billion in revenue in the state of Georgia. To learn more, visit atdc.org.

Tech students to present cybersecurity research for commercialization on April 13

Demo Day FinaleGeorgia Tech students will present their best cybersecurity research before a panel of venture capitalists and business leaders for a chance to win cash in the “Demo Day Finale” on April 13 at the Klaus Advanced Computing Building, KACB #1116 E-W, 266 Ferst Drive, Atlanta, Ga. 30332. (RSVP here: http://cyber.gatech.edu/demo-day ).

 

Five student teams representing the School of Computer Science and School of Electrical Computing and Engineering are polishing their presentations now to deliver TED-style talks before business leaders with tech investment experience in the southeastern Untied States, Europe, and Middle East. Research with the best chance of commercialization or demonstrating the most impact toward resolving an industry need receives a cash prize – up to $7,000.

 

Demo Day Finale judges include Georgia Tech commercialization catalysts Jeff Garbers and Harold Solomon of VentureLab, and Thiago Olson of the Advanced Technology Development Center.

 

Work to be presented includes new cryptographic search methods, a malware detection method for IoT or embedded devices, protections for industrial control systems, spectral profiling for catching malware activity, and a model for software engineering policy requirements.

 

Musheer Ahmed, (left) founder of FraudScope, which won the 2016 Demo Day Finale.

Musheer Ahmed, (left) founder of FraudScope, which won the 2016 Demo Day Finale.

For last year’s inaugural winner – Musheer Ahmed – the event was a springboard to successfully launch FraudScope, a healthcare fraud detection system based upon algorithms he developed as a Ph.D. student.

 

After winning Demo Day Finale, Ahmed went on to collect more than $400,000 in seed funding in less than three months. He won the Atlanta Start-up Battle, the Technology Association of Georgia’s Biz Launch Competition, and more. The quick success allowed him to invest in a better user interface design, hire staff, and begin marketing his product at health and technology industry tradeshows.

 

The Demo Day Finale is hosted by the Institute for Information Security & Privacy (IISP) and aims to give students an early introduction to potential investors as they continue their research or if they are ready to move it to market.

 

“During the course of research, it can be difficult for entrepreneurial students to know how industry may react to a finished project,” said Wenke Lee, co-director of the IISP and a professor in the School of Computer Science who has successfully transferred research to private corporations. “The Demo Day Finale lets students share ideas underway to active investors so they can receive early stage feedback that will inform research directions, the future application of it, or market considerations. This is one way we think the Institute for Information Security & Privacy can help move solutions to market that will improve the security or privacy of our identities, data, and devices.”

While Ahmed was eager to launch his business as soon as possible, ID for Web, last year’s second place winners, used the experience to get an early “gut” reaction from business investors as they try to create a more secure form of identity validation online. ID for Web’s Demo Day presentation led to an invitation from startup accelerator “CyberLaunch,” where they spent summer 2016 discovering the best application of their technology by talking to both potential customers and potential investors.

“The summer at CyberLaunch put us in touch with business leaders from many different industries, and got us a lot of validation to the relevance of our technology; everybody agrees the current authentication mechanisms are a huge pain to both users and service providers,” said postdoctoral researcher Simon Chung. “Their eyes light up when we say we’re trying to get rid of passwords. Also, since our technology can be used to solve many real-world problems, this process helped us find the best use of our technology and focus on developing our first end-to-end prototype system.”

Judges on April 13 will include investors Jeff Garbers and Harold Solomon of Venture Lab, and Thiago Olson of ATDC.

Georgia Institute of Technology selects Jennifer Bonnett to head the Advanced Technology Development Center

Jennifer Bonnett, ATDC General Manager.

Jennifer Bonnett, ATDC General Manager.

The Georgia Institute of Technology has named Jennifer Bonnett general manager of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), effective immediately.

The announcement follows Bonnett’s tenure as ATDC’s acting general manager since October 2015. In taking the permanent appointment, Bonnett leads a team of 22 full- and part-time employees who run the program’s various initiatives, as well as coach entrepreneurs across the state.

 

A unit of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), Georgia Tech’s chief outreach and economic development arm, ATDC works with more than 800 technology startup entrepreneurs each year across Georgia. Founded in 1981, ATDC has grown to become one of the most successful, longest-running, and largest university-based startup incubators in the country.

 

Bonnett will report directly to Chris Downing, vice president and director of EI2.

 

“Jen has been tireless champion of technology startup development in Georgia and an important voice and advocate for the community,” Downing said. “Under her steady and smart leadership, ATDC continues to grow and expand as Georgia’s technology incubator dedicated to serving the state and its economy by helping entrepreneurs learn, launch, scale, and succeed in their technology startup efforts.”

 

Bonnett first joined ATDC as a community catalyst in October 2011, a role she held for three years before being named assistant director of education and curriculum in October 2014. She was named acting general manager in October 2015.

 

She played a key role in developing ATDC’s Entrepreneurs Education Series, a curriculum designed to move “concept stage” entrepreneurs from idea through to angel funding. She is also the architect of the “ATDC @” program which delivers coaching and curriculum to entrepreneurs across the state, including Savannah, Athens, and Augusta.

 

“I’m honored to accept this position and build on what we have done at ATDC, with the support of Georgia Tech and our fellow programs at EI2,” Bonnett said. “We’re committed to entrepreneurs and working with startups all over the state to help them build and launch successful and sustainable, job-creating companies.”

 

Bonnett is a technology entrepreneur with more than 25 years experience in the information technology and software development fields with a specialty in web and mobile technologies.

 

She has served as founder or chief technology officer of several venture- and angel-backed firms, where she both served as lead architect and grew and managed the technology team, including eTour.com, which was acquired by Ask.com.

 

She also is founder of StartupChicks, a 501c3 focused on empowering women entrepreneurs through education, community, coaching, connections, and investment. StartupChicks has touched more than 10,000 women globally through its content and events.

Peachtree Corners readies for incubator program launch with ATDC, Startup Ecosystems

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 09.29.44

More than 200 entrepreneurs, business and community leaders and residents in the city of Peachtree Corners converged May 27 to get a preview of Prototype Prime, the new technology incubator set to open in July 2016.

 

The 12,000-square-foot facility in Technology Park — a former office space — is located below Peachtree Corners City Hall and is currently being renovated to accommodate Prototype Prime.

 

The incubator will provide space and access to education, tools, venture capitalists, and other services to help local entrepreneurs launch and scale their startups.

 

“It’s a win-win for communities with a successful incubator,” said Peachtree Corners Mayor Mike Mason. “Not only is the success much greater when there is an incubator program to help support startups in their early years, those new business owners tend to stay in the same community adding jobs as their businesses grow.”

 

The main goal of an incubator is to produce successful firms, which have the potential to create jobs, revitalize neighborhoods and strengthen local economies.

 

The city partnered with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Startup Ecosystems and Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) programs in its efforts to launch the business incubator.

 

Startup Ecosystems helps governments, communities, foundations, entrepreneurs, and small businesses foster value creation by applying innovative ideas, technology, and policy to initiatives focused on economic growth.

 

ATDC, which is the statewide incubator for technology entrepreneurs in Georgia, offers support by providing expertise and resources launching and maintaining a successful incubator program.

 

Both are part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), which serves as the core unit for Georgia Tech’s economic development efforts.

 

The Peachtree Corners initiative began in 2015 when Startup Ecosystems conducted a Community Readiness Assessment for a business incubation program in the city. The drive was part of a larger effort to encourage economic development.

 

“Our team, led by Lynne Henkiel and Juli Golemi, engaged leadership, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders to determine if Peachtree Corners not only desired a business incubation program, but could support it, too, “ said David Bridges, Startup Ecosystems’ director. “Our research analysis of the city’s economic and demographic data, along with its innovation characteristics, showed significant support for the development of an incubation program in Peachtree Corners.”

 

The city, working through Wayne Hodges, a cofounder of ATDC and vice provost emeritus of Georgia Tech, drafted an agreement with ATDC, which will run the incubation program at Prototype Prime.

 

“There is a huge need for a business incubator in this area,” said Sanjay Parekh, Prototype Prime’s executive director and associate director of CREATE-X at Georgia Tech. “We are already receiving feedback from many who are interested in being part of the program.”

 

Investing in an incubator service can provide real returns. According to a 2007 study by the Maryland Technology Development Corp., incubators in that state generated approximately $1.2 billion in gross state product and $100 million in state and local tax revenue.

Advanced Technology Development Center unveils redesigned space

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, center, cuts the ceremonial ribbon following a redesign of the space at Georgia Tech's Advanced Technology Development Center on March 23. From left: House Reps. Doreen Carter and Dar'shun Kendrick; Reed; Chris Downing, interim vice president, Enterprise Innovation Institute; Stephen E. Cross, executive vice president for research, Georgia Tech; and Jennifer Bonnett, acting general manager, ATDC.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, center, cuts the ceremonial ribbon March 23, 2016, following a redesign of the space at Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center. From left: Georgia House Reps. Doreen Carter and Dar’shun Kendrick; Reed; Chris Downing, interim vice president, Enterprise Innovation Institute; Stephen E. Cross, executive vice president for research, Georgia Tech; and Jennifer Bonnett, ATDC’s acting general manager. (PHOTOS by Shane Matthews)

By Péralte C. Paul

 

Following a year of planning, brainstorming, design reviews, and construction, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) unveiled its redesigned space March 23 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

 

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed addresses media and the ATDC community on the incubator's importance in attracting and retaining technology talent in Atlanta and the state.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed addresses media and the ATDC community on the incubator’s importance in attracting and retaining technology talent in Atlanta and the state at a March 23, 2016 ribbon cutting ceremony of the incubator’s redesigned space.

ATDC is Georgia Tech’s statewide incubator and works with entrepreneurs in the technology space who want to build successful startups in the Peach State. Launched in 1980, ATDC is one of the longest-running and largest university-based startup incubators in the country. Though headquartered at the Century Building in Midtown Atlanta’s Technology Square, ATDC operates programs across the state, including in Savannah, Augusta, and Athens.

 

“We had a lot of discussions at ATDC about how best to meet our startups’ needs and make this floor more conducive to the innovation and collaboration atmosphere we have here in the Tech Square community,” said Christopher Downing, interim vice president of Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), the Georgia Tech unit that includes its core economic development initiatives, including ATDC.

 

Stephen E. Cross, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech, describes how ATDC is an important part of the innovation ecosystem not only for Atlanta, but for all of Georgia.

Stephen E. Cross, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech, describes how ATDC is an important part of the innovation ecosystem not only for Atlanta, but for all of Georgia at the incubator’s post-redesign ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 23, 2016.

“The changes you see around you are a result of those discussions and are designed not only to enhance what we do every day, but also to keep to our mission of working with entrepreneurs to help them build and launch successful technology companies right here in Georgia.”

 

Several members of the Georgia House of Representatives’ Small Business Development Committee, including Reps. Dar’shun Kendrick and Doreen Carter, attended the ceremony, as well as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who said ATDC is a key part of the city’s efforts to let those in the technology space know that Atlanta is a city of innovation and the place to launch transformative companies.

 

Jen Bonnett, foreground, right, addresses the Tech Square community March 23, 2016 and details the renovations made to ATDC's floor at the Centergy building in Midtown Atlanta.

Jen Bonnett, foreground, right, addresses the Tech Square community March 23, 2016, and details the renovations made to ATDC’s floor at the Centergy building in Midtown Atlanta.

“I’m here to congratulate you and let you know that you have a partner in the city,” Reed said.

 

The renovations — which were done through a refinancing of bonds and at no cost to taxpayers — address growing demands for ATDC’S services from its companies and the greater entrepreneurial community. Key highlights include a new lobby, additional seed space and meeting offices, and a new classroom for ATDC classes that also is open and available for free in the evenings to technology entrepreneurs and organizations related to tech startups. Additional changes include a reconfigured library for entrepreneurs’ use as a communal space in which to collaborate and brainstorm.

 

ATDC startup entrepreneurs and other guests listen as Stephen E. Cross, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech, discusses the incubator's role in being a critical part of the innovation ecosystem at Tech Square.

ATDC startup entrepreneurs and other guests listen as Stephen E. Cross, executive vice president for research at Georgia Tech, discusses the incubator’s role in being a critical part of the innovation ecosystem at Tech Square.

“Since its opening in 2003, Tech Square has become the hub of innovation and new ideas in metro Atlanta and in the greater Southeast. With that being the case, there is no more fitting home for ATDC’s home base than right here in Tech Square,” said Stephen E. Cross, executive vice president for research. “ATDC’s presence here and its ongoing impact for entrepreneurs across the state are critical success factors for the innovation ecosystem as a whole and to Georgia Tech as an institution.”

Tech Square’s corporate innovation research centers reflect growing trend

tech-square-1It used to be corporate research and development was always done in-house and inside labs bunkered away from other units within a company and far away from competitors.

 

Now, that approach is no longer ideal.

 

The new model, according to a report in the Harvard Business Review, is what the Georgia Institute of Technology, along with its partners, has created with Technology Square, home to 12 corporate innovation centers, including Home Depot, Coca-Cola Enterprises, and Delta Air Lines.

 

“What’s driving companies to relocate near urban universities is the changing role of innovation within the private sector as firms are increasingly relying on external sources to support technology development,” the report’s authors, Scott Andes and Bruce J. Katz, conclude.

 

Andes is senior policy analyst and associate fellow of the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based, non-profit public policy think tank. Katz is the Brookings Institution’s inaugural centennial scholar.

 

Tech Square and the surrounding Midtown neighborhood offer what major corporations seek: proximity to a major research university and various cultural among social amenities, as well as an atmosphere that fosters collaboration, and making connections between startups clustered in the are and the large corporate firms.

 

The authors also note that Georgia Tech is particularly successful in drawing corporate innovation centers because the Institute also focuses on bringing research to market and commercializing ideas into actual companies.

 

“Georgia Tech is a national leader at spinning off startups: VentureLab, a university-run business accelerator, is ranked second in the world,” Andes and Katz write. “Georgia Tech’s incubator, the Advanced Technology Development Center, helps create successful startups by connecting entrepreneurs to mentors, capital, and customers.”

 

Read the full report at this link.

National Science Foundation awards StarMobile $500K funding grant

Raghupathy Sivakumar, StarMobile's co-founder and chief technology officer.

Raghupathy Sivakumar, StarMobile’s co-founder and chief technology officer.

StarMobile, a leading codeless, cloud-based solution centered on faster, simpler, and lower-cost delivery of enterprise mobility, has been awarded a $500,000 Phase IIB Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

 

The startup, which is incubating in Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center’s (ATDC) Signature program, said it will continue its work toward enabling rapid mobilization of enterprise applications. ATDC works with entrepreneurs looking to build successful technologies in Georgia.

 

StarMobile also is a graduate of Tech’s VentureLab startup incubator, ranked No. 2 in North America. VentureLab, a sister incubation program to ATDC in Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), works with Georgia Tech faculty, students, and staff to help them validate and commercialize their research and ideas into viable companies.

 

Raghupathy Sivakumar, StarMobile’s co-founder and chief technology officer, is a telecommunications, computer systems, and software professor at Georgia Tech and the Wayne J. Holman Chair in Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

 

“This Phase IIB SBIR award is a significant milestone for us, as the rigorous NSF selection process for Phase II proposals results in only 15 percent of Phase I grants receiving Phase II awards, and even fewer receiving Phase IIB awards,” said Sivakumar in a statement. “This award is an important validation that StarMobile has created a Rapid Mobile Application Development (RMAD) platform that transforms how enterprises mobilize their systems. This award provides support for further development of our core technology and will help us accelerate our go-to-market plans.”

 

The award is based on progress in product, market, and business model validation under a $750,000 NSF SBIR Phase II grant awarded to StarMobile in 2013, and research conducted under a $150,000 NSF SBIR Phase I grant awarded to StarMobile in 2012. StarMobile has now received a total of $1.4 million in grant awards from the NSF SBIR program as part of their efforts to foster innovative technologies.

 

The NSF Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program seeks to transform scientific discovery into societal and economic benefit by catalyzing private sector commercialization of technological innovations. The program increases the incentive and opportunity for startups and small businesses to undertake cutting-edge, high-quality scientific research and development. NSF SBIR/STTR grants not only address research and development funding, they also give recipients training in key business areas. Grant awardees also receive mentorship from program directors who have extensive industry experience.

 

The NSF SBIR/STTR program awards funds in every area of science and engineering.

 

Péralte C. Paul

Zyrobotics wins $750K National Science Foundation grant

By Péralte C. Paul

Ayanna MacCalla Howard

Ayanna MacCalla Howard

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded Zyrobotics a $750,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant that continues the startup’s work in developing an accessible educational platform for children with special needs.

 

Launched in September 2013 by Ayanna Howard, the Linda J. and Mark C. Smith Chair professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the company is commercializing assistive technology that enables children with limited mobility to operate tablet computers, smartphones, toys, gaming apps, and interactive robots.

 

“We are extremely excited about the opportunities that this NSF SBIR grant provides,” said Howard, who is the company’s chief technology officer. “It helps Zyrobotics to continue to evolve as a leader in inclusive smart mobile technologies by enhancing our ability to develop accessible learning systems that engage and empower children with special needs and enhance their quality of life.”

 

Specifically, the Phase II project aims to focus on the development of an accessible educational platform that combines mobile interfaces and adaptive educational tablet applications (apps) to support the requirements of children with special needs. While tablet devices have given those children an interactive experience that has revolutionized their learning, in its proposal, Zyrobotics notes that while some tablet devices are intuitive in use and easy for lots of kids, those with disabilities are largely overlooked due to difficulties in effecting pinch-and-swipe gestures.

 

“This project thus addresses a direct need in our society by providing an integrated educational experience, focused on math education that addresses the diverse needs of children, while providing a solution for variations found in their disabilities,” the company wrote in its grant proposal. “This SBIR Phase II project addresses an unmet need by developing an innovative solution to enable children with motor disabilities access to mobile devices and apps that could engage them fully into the educational system.”

 

In this next phase, Howard and her team plan to design accessible math apps geared to children with or without disabilities in kindergarten through 12th grade. The company also plans to design another set of apps that adapt educational content and provide feedback to parents and teachers based on real-time analytics.

 

The company says it sees ample market opportunity for its products both domestically and abroad. Here in the United States, children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate public education, and Zyrobotics sees its products as addressing that need from both a commercial and societal standpoint. Worldwide, more than 93 million children live with a disability.

 

When founded, the company went through Georgia Tech’s VentureLab startup incubator, ranked No. 2 in North America. VentureLab, a unit of Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), works with Georgia Tech faculty, students, and staff to help them validate and commercialize their research and ideas into viable companies.

 

Zyrobotics is now part of Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), a sister startup incubator program that serves all of Georgia. Zyrobotics, with the help of ATDC’s SBIR program, was able to receive its Phase I award in 2015, laying the groundwork for the Phase II grant.

 

“Zyrobotics is a wonderful Georgia Tech startup, based on the fine research in Dr. Howard’s lab, and enhanced by a very successful journey through the NSF I-Corps program,” said Keith McGreggor, VentureLab’s director. “This is a great example of how the research done in the classroom and lab, followed by idea validation, can lead to real breakthroughs that are designed to have a lasting impact on the lives touched by the technologies that Dr. Howard has created.”