Enterprise Innovation Institute’s David Bridges Shares Ecosystem Building Best Practices in Slovakia

Rana and Bridges
Gautam Rana, U.S. ambassador to Slovakia (left), stands with Enterprise Innovation Institute at a Fulbright scholars ceremony May 17, 2024. (PHOTO: Courtesy U.S. Embassy)

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Enterprise Innovation Institute Vice President David Bridges spent part of May 2024 in the Slovak Republic, exchanging and sharing ideas for ecosystem building and economic development success with business and academic leaders there.

Bridges’ visit to the Eastern European country was in his role as a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Fulbright Specialist Roster.

As a Fulbright Specialist, Bridges and other U.S. academics and leaders go overseas to meet with organizations and institutions to share their professional expertise with their foreign counterparts. The Specialist program falls under the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and World Learning as part of its Fulbright exchange offerings.

With the Enterprise Innovation Institute being the largest university-based economic development organization in the U.S., Bridges is recognized as an international expert in ecosystem building.

Slovakia is Bridges’ first country visited in his three-year rotation as a Fulbright Specialist.

Slovakia is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. (mapchart.net)

A country of 5 million, Slovakia has an estimated economic output of $180.205 billion, making it the world’s 71st-largest economy. Though the country boasts high-income, is a major electronics and automobile exporter, and has low unemployment, it ranks low in regional innovation.

Building processes to foster innovation and create ecosystems is what Bridges is working with his Slovakian counterparts to help them do.

“So far, I have met with companies, governments, universities, and non-profits to discuss avenues for further talent and innovation development and deployment,” Bridges said.

He also met with many of the Fulbright Scholars — faculty, post-doctoral candidates, and experts — assigned to lecture and/or conduct research across a wide variety of academic and professional fields in Slovakia. In that capacity Bridges discussed opportunities they had in maximizing their skills and areas of expertise to support ecosystem building in Slovakia.

The Fulbright Scholars were honored May 17, 2024, in a Fulbright Commission Award Ceremony hosted by Gautam Rana, U.S. ambassador to Slovakia.

Those 22 scholars — Americans in Slovakia and Slovakians in the U.S. — spent the past year on academic exchanges in both countries.

“From teaching English to writing poetry, from studying medicine to expanding business opportunities, our Fulbright exchanges strengthen our bilateral relationship, and our graduates join a global community that includes Nobel Prize winners as well as heads of state,” the U.S. Embassy in Slovakia said in a statement.

“This year we will celebrate 30 years of the Fulbright program in Slovakia, which connects people and nations. We can be proud of what our graduates have achieved.”

Engage Celebrates 10th Cohort of Entrepreneurs

Five years after its founding, the first-of-its-kind
innovation program is still going strong

Engage celebrated two milestones – five years since its founding and the introduction of the 10th cohort of enterprise technology startups – in October with its Executive Reception. The reception, held at Cox Enterprises, featured close to 300 people including executives from Fortune 500 companies, startup founders, and investors.

Engage began in 2017 as the first-of-its-kind collaborative innovation program and venture fund to connect startups with leading corporations. It’s a formula that still works today, with active involvement from corporate behemoths including Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot, Invesco, and others that are giving tech entrepreneurs a place at the table.

Discussion by Engage founders, from left, Blake Patton, Marty Flanagan, and G.P. “Bud” Peterson, moderated by Metro Atlanta Chamber President and CEO Katie Kirkpatrick.

To kick off the event, Engage founders and board members Marty Flanagan, president and CEO of Invesco, G.P. “Bud” Peterson, president emeritus of Georgia Tech, and Blake Patton, managing partner of Tech Square Ventures, discussed the program’s origin and the way they deliberately set out to meet the needs of both the tech startups and the corporate community.

“What startups really need is access to customers and markets,” said Patton. “And so that’s what we built the concept of Engage around.”

And the corporations, what do they need that Engage can offer?

They need new ideas and the nimbleness of startups. “I think Engage has done a very nice job of identifying the innovation needs of the companies that are participating and then matching that with the entrepreneurs who are being creative and innovative in the community,” said Patton.

Since its founding, Engage has mentored and invested in 10 startup cohorts, a total of 75 companies. Its portfolio companies have inked 116 customer contracts signed with corporate partners. Engage startups have raised more than $2.7 billion in capital after graduating from the program and employ more than 3,000.

Rachel Carpenter, co-founder and CEO of Intrinio, a financial technology startup from the second Engage cohort, hosted a discussion about enterprise data transformation and ways startups can work with major corporations on that, with Donie Lochan, the managing director, chief technology officer, and global head of technology for Invesco, and Chuck Adkins, senior vice president of information technology at Intercontinental Exchange (ICE).

Keynote speaker Alex Taylor, chair and CEO of Cox Enterprises and Engage Board member, discussed the ways Cox is working with startups. The company has signed 12 contracts with Engage startups, including one with Engage graduate Help Lightning to solve a problem brought on by the pandemic.

“Cox Communications has millions of customers around the country,” Taylor said, explaining that technicians of his company’s cable subsidiary could not go to customers’ homes during the pandemic. In normal times, customers would buy the hardware from Cox and install the television modems and other devices with the technicians’ help.

Now, packets are being sent remotely.

“Not a lot of these people are trained engineers, so they don’t often do it right. When there’s problems, we can’t go into their homes and help them,” Taylor said.

Cox worked with Help Lightning, an Engage portfolio company that uses augmented reality video that enables the cable company to better serve its customers — during the pandemic through today.

“It’s a field services tool. A field services tech is out front of a customer’s home with an iPad. There’s a visual interface, and the customer is holding up the phone, showing the technician what they’re looking at,” Taylor said. “The technician is walking the customer through a two-way interaction when they can’t physically be present.”

Following Taylor, Nammy Vedire, Engage’s director of platform and operations, announced the recipient of the Executive Champion Award, given to corporate partners who exemplify and help accomplish Engage’s mission. The award was presented to Jaimie Clark, head of innovation at Catalyst by Wellstar and the director of innovation and venture strategy for Wellstar Health System.

“Jaimie met with several of our corporate executive teams, understood best practices, and incorporated them into the WellStar Catalyst program, which is this conduit to bring innovation to every corner of the Wellstar Health System,” Vedire said. “In doing so, in the last 12 months, Jaimie has helped five of our startups sign pilots, of which three have now converted to multi-year contracts. That’s an incredible effort.”

Daley Ervin, Engage’s managing director, who was celebrating his last Engage cohort before leaving the position, was also presented with an award to mark his service with Engage since 2018.

To wrap up the evening, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens — a Georgia Tech alum — spoke about his commitment to the city’s tech startup ecosystem. To illustrate the importance of the community, he introduced the city of Atlanta’s first Senior Technology Advisor Donald Beamer.  “He will be an ambassador for this ecosystem that helped catapult Atlanta. He will lift up the startup community and be able to answer the questions of venture capitalists,” Dickens said.

Founders of the cohort 10 companies.

Engage’s cohort 10 companies include:

  • Civic Eagle: Gives policy professionals the tools to more effectively monitor, report, and collaborate on policy work.
  • Coginiti: A collaborative intelligence company that democratizes access to data, fosters collaboration, and supports building, reusing, and sharing data and analytic assets.
  • Manifest Climate: Provides businesses with the tools, data, and support they need to identify climate risks and opportunities, track trends, and build competency around climate action.
  • NameCoach: Uses artificial intelligence-enabled software to solve one problem that can help businesses promote inclusion, belonging, and rapport — name mispronunciation.
  • Qualytics: Delivers confidence in data with real-time automated anomaly detection and remediation to help improve the accuracy of enterprise decision making.
  • Tribute: A micro-mentorship platform enhances team collaboration, learning, and productivity in hybrid workplaces.
  • Workera: This skills intelligence platform is redefining how enterprises understand, develop, and mobilize talent to drive innovation.
  • Wripple: An agency services platform that matches enterprises to individual freelancers and project teams.

About Engage

Engage is a first-of-its-kind innovation platform comprising category-leading corporations in the Southeast that have joined forces to support startups building the future of enterprise. Engage is designed to promote innovation through a network of connections between startups, corporations, university researchers, and the venture community.

Engage’s corporate partners include Chick-fil-A, The Coca-Cola Company, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Georgia Tech, Goldman Sachs, The Home Depot, Honeywell Connected Enterprise, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Inspire Brands, Invesco, Invest Georgia, UPS, and Wellstar Health System. These corporate partners, along with Tech Square Ventures and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), provide tools, hands-on support, and resources that help startups develop go-to-market strategies, open doors faster, and transform strategies into action. For more information, visit engage.vc.

ATDC Annual Showcase Celebrates 2012 Graduates and Highlights Up-and-Coming Tech Startups

The Georgia technology community will gather on May 14 for 2012 Startup Showcase – one of Atlanta’s premier industry events and a celebration of local startup success. The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) will host hundreds of technology leaders, local dignitaries, venture capitalists and Georgia entrepreneurs for an afternoon of networking and innovation.

Held at the Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center, the 2012 Startup Showcase is open to the public and will include Georgia State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson. The annual event honors Georgia’s brightest entrepreneurs and emerging technologies, putting a spotlight on ATDC’s graduating companies.

Each year, ATDC member companies that have met rigorous growth milestones are selected to graduate. In addition, dozens of ATDC’s most promising member companies – representing industries as varied as information security, financial technology, health care IT, mobile technology, clean tech/energy, and medical devices – will exhibit their innovative technologies during the event.

“This year’s ATDC graduates represent the impressive quality and strength of Georgia’s technology startup community,” said Nina Sawczuk, ATDC’s general manager and Georgia Tech’s director of startup services. “They have each achieved significant success in a short timeframe and contribute to Georgia’s growing reputation as a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity and innovation.”

The 2012 ATDC graduates include:

• 3DM Systems (formerly ShapeStart Measurement Systems) offers an in-ear 3D scanner for the digital design of custom hearing aids and earmolds.

• Asankya (acquired by EMC Corporation) is a global leader in enabling businesses and service providers to transform their operations and deliver IT as a service.

• Axion Biosystems developed the first multi-well microelectrode array (MEA) system to provide unprecedented throughput for cellular electrophysiology experiments.

• BioAutomaton Systems Inc. (BSI) designs and manufactures patented automation systems for cost-effective propagation of transgenic tree seedlings.

• Celtaxsys is focused on the discovery and development of therapeutics to treat inflammation by controlling innate immunity. The company has phase I clinical trials planned for its lead compound, CTX 4430.

• Digital Assent provides award-winning PatientPad® technology that delivers personalized health information and advertising to consumers in doctors’ waiting rooms.

• Preparis provides organizations with a new way to protect their people, operations, brands and shareholder value from 21st century threats.

• SimpleC utilizes proven technologies to help seniors of all cognitive abilities engage with those around them and cope with changes in their lives.

Event tickets can be purchased online for $15. Registration closes on May 9. Walk-ins are welcomed, and tickets will be $20 at the door. To register for Startup Showcase, visit www.atdcstartupshowcase.com.

About ATDC:
The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) serves as the hub for technology entrepreneurship in Georgia. Founded in 1980, ATDC helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful technology companies by providing coaching, connections, and community. Through business incubation and acceleration services, ATDC has supported the creation of hundreds of technology companies that together have raised more than a billion dollars in outside financing. Headquartered in Atlanta’s Technology Square, ATDC members benefit from a close proximity to Georgia Tech and connections with other Georgia research universities. ATDC was named one of the “10 technology incubators that are changing the world” by Forbes Magazine in 2010.

Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986)(jtoon@gatech.edu).


Pindrop Security: Georgia Tech Spinoff Secures Silicon Valley Funding & Prestigious Recognition for Telephone Security Technology

How can you be sure that an incoming phone call is really from a customer and not an overseas criminal intent on fraud? For major financial services companies, that’s a growing concern as the telephone system adopts Internet technologies – and the security issues that come with them.

Researchers behind Pindrop
Pindrop Security is using “acoustic fingerprint” technology developed in the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC) to address security concerns of the telephone network. Shown are (left to right) assistant professor Patrick Traynor, GTISC director Mustaque Ahamad and Pindrop CEO Vijay Balasubramaniyan. (Photo: Justin Law)

A startup company based on technology developed at Georgia Tech offers a solution to that challenge, and is quickly gaining traction from investors, financial services companies and the security industry. Using “acoustic fingerprint” detection techniques developed in the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC), Pindrop Security says it can restore trust to the telephone network and help stem the tide of phone fraud.

Supported by a broad range of Georgia Tech initiatives, the company is currently raising a round of funding that includes California venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz – which has also backed Facebook, Groupon and Twitter. It has also been chosen as a top ten “most innovative company” at one of the most prestigious information security events, the RSA Conference.

“We provide a way to detect, mitigate and stop phone fraud by identifying the characteristics of any phone call based on the device making it or the path the call takes,” said Vijay Balasubramaniyan, Pindrop’s CEO, who helped develop the technology as a Ph.D. student in the Georgia Tech College of Computing. “This information is useful in providing both forensic information about the call – whether it is from a landline, cell phone or voice-over-IP device – and the geography of the origin.”

Financial services companies depend on caller ID and other services to be sure callers making transactions such as activating credit cards are who they claim to be. But the advent of simple technologies for spoofing caller ID has raised major security concerns.

In the fall of 2010, Balasubramaniyan, GTISC director Mustaque Ahamad and School of Computer Science assistant professor Patrick Traynor raised the visibility of telephony security issues – and their proposed solutions – in a paper presented at a top security conference: the ACM Conference on Computer and Communication Security.

“The research project was to understand the security challenges of this new environment in which telephony, voice-over-IP, cellular and wireless technologies all come together,” explained Ahamad. “We all know about the security problems of the Internet. Telephony is increasingly going the way of the Internet and using many of the same protocols that we use for everything else.”

The paper sparked international media coverage, and after the conference, Balasubramaniyan, Ahamad and Traynor began getting phone calls from companies that were experiencing precisely the problems the researchers described. Because Pindrop’s solution doesn’t require changes to existing telephone networks, the technology was especially attractive.

“The fact that so many companies were asking about it suggested there was a definite need for this,” said Balasubramaniyan. “The banks reached out to us with their own specific issues. That showed us that they were already looking at various embodiments of the product.”

Convinced that they had something the commercial world needed, the researchers worked with the Georgia Tech Research Corporation (GTRC) to protect the intellectual property with patents.

In the spring of 2010, Keith McGreggor, director of the Georgia Tech VentureLab program, read the invention disclosures on the research, and reached out to Balasubramaniyan. VentureLab evaluates technology developed at Georgia Tech and helps faculty and research staff launch startups that are based on technology developed in the research program.

The researchers also had lunch with Stephen Fleming, a Georgia Tech vice president and executive director of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), which houses Georgia Tech services for startup companies – including VentureLab.  Fleming, a Georgia Tech graduate and former venture capitalist, began his career in the telecom industry and quickly understood both the technical issue and the potential startup opportunity.

With VentureLab staff connecting the fledgling company to relevant resources at Georgia Tech and elsewhere in the Atlanta community, Balasubramaniyan began what is often most the daunting challenge: raising money. Pindrop sought a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, and received help in developing the application from the SBIR Assistance Program that is part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute. The company received $150,000, and was among approximately 10 percent of the submitted proposals to be funded by NSF.

VentureLab also connected Pindrop to additional early-stage funding from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), and supported it in winning the startup competition operated by the GRA and Technology Association of Georgia (TAG). Beyond the additional $50,000 in funding from the competition, the GRA/TAG competition introduced Pindrop to the Atlanta community and provided important visibility with investors.

The company also obtained office space in the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) incubator in Technology Square. The space allowed it to hold down costs while expanding staff to six full-time and three part-time people.

In spring 2011, Pindrop was accepted into the inaugural class for Flashpoint, a new Georgia Tech accelerator that offers early-stage technology companies educational programs and mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs. That led to advice on a broad range issues that the founders were seeking to address.

“When we ran into an issue, such as how to create a marketing campaign with very little money, a person introduced to us by Flashpoint helped us with that,” recalled Balasubramaniyan, who has adeptly made the transition from researcher to entrepreneur.  “The collective wisdom of that group of entrepreneurs has been a significant help.”

The company was also connected to its new chairman, Paul Judge, a Georgia Tech alumnus and entrepreneur with experience in security companies. And the connections made during the startup process brought Pindrop to the attention of Andreessen Horowitz, leading to the California firm’s first investment in the Atlanta technology community.  To allow use of the acoustic fingerprint technology, Pindrop received a license from the Georgia Tech Research Corporation.

“Pindrop is a textbook example of how all the components of Georgia Tech’s commercialization infrastructure can work together to support researchers developing technology that has commercial applications,” said Fleming. “The founders of Pindrop have worked very hard to build the company. They took advantage of all of Georgia Tech’s entrepreneur services and used each one to build momentum.”

Pindrop’s accomplishments, including opening the door to Andreessen Horowitz, should provide encouragement to other Atlanta technology entrepreneurs, McGreggor said.

“Beyond helping Pindrop, this rare early investment from this prestigious Silicon Valley firm will offer others in the community a hopeful reminder that they could potentially also get this kind of investment,” he suggested. “Not every company has the potential to do that, but the community needs to see a local startup based on Georgia Tech research get this kind of a hit.”

Pindrop is the second company arising from the Georgia Tech Information Security Center to attract venture capital funding. The first, Damballa, is a network security company launched in 2006 by College of Computing professors Wenke Lee and Merrick Furst.

“We are in a space where the problems are real and the solutions we can produce offer a path to real impact, solving real problems,” said GTISC’s Ahamad. “We can produce innovations that go beyond writing papers for our peers.”
Atlanta has become a center for cyber-security companies, led by the success of Internet Security Systems, which was purchased by IBM for $1.3 billion.

“Pindrop is right in Atlanta’s sweet spot, building on the strengths of not only Georgia Tech, but also the city,” said Ahamad, who serves as the company’s chief scientist. “Atlanta is a great place to launch a security company.”

Research News & Publications Office
Georgia Institute of Technology
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Atlanta, Georgia  30308  USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986)(jtoon@gatech.edu).

Writer: John Toon

Startup Receives $4 Million to Develop Drug Delivery Targeted to the Back of the Eye

Technology developed by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University for delivering drugs and other therapeutics to specific locations in the eye provides the foundation for a startup company that has received a $4 million venture capital investment.

Microneedle for treating eye diseases
Postdoctoral fellow Samirkumar Patel displays a prototype microneedle used to inject therapeutics into specific locations in the eye. The technology could allow doctors to target drugs to locations in the eye that are now difficult to reach. (Credit: Gary Meek)

The Atlanta-based startup, Clearside Biomedical, plans to develop microinjection technology that will use hollow microneedles to precisely target therapeutics within the eye. If the technique proves successful in clinical trials and wins regulatory approval, it could provide an improved method for treating diseases that affect the back of the eye, including age-related macular degeneration.

The technology was developed in collaboration between the research groups of Mark Prausnitz, a Regents’ professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and Henry Edelhauser, a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at Emory School of Medicine. Research leading to development of the technology was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Georgia Tech’s VentureLab program helped launch the company and connect it to initial funding and its CEO and president.

“We expect that targeting drug delivery within the eye will be helpful because we should be able to concentrate drugs at the disease sites where they need to act, and keep them away from other locations,” said Prausnitz. “This could reduce side effects and possibly also decrease the dose required.”

Microneedles for treating eye diseases
Postdoctoral fellow Samirkumar Patel displays a prototype microneedle used to inject therapeutics into specific locations in the eye. Image behind him on the screen is a magnified view of a site where yellow dye was injected into the suprachoroidal space using a microneedle.   (Credit: Gary Meek)

Prior to this development, drugs could be delivered to the retinal tissues at the back of the eye in three indirect ways: (1) injection by hypodermic needle into the eye’s vitreous humor, the gelatinous material that fills the eyeball, (2) eye drops, which are limited in their ability to reach the back of the eye, and (3) pills taken by mouth that expose the whole body to the drug.

The technology developed by Georgia Tech and Emory uses a hollow micron-scale needle to inject therapeutics into the suprachoroidal space located between the outer surface of the eye – known as the sclera – and the choroid – a deeper layer that provides nutrients to the rest of the eye. Preclinical research has demonstrated that fluid can flow between the two layers, where it can spread out to the entire eye, including structures such as the retina that are now difficult to reach.

By targeting this suprachoroidal space using microscopic needles, the researchers believe they can reduce trauma to the eye, make drugs more effective and reduce complications. The new delivery method could help advance a new series of drugs being developed to target the retina, choroid and other structures in the back of the eye.

“This is a significant advance in the field of ophthalmology,” said Edelhauser. “Until now, it has been difficult to target drug delivery to specific locations within the eye. This new microneedle technology enables precise drug targeting to the suprachoroidal space and other locations within the eye.”

Microneedle drug delivery for the eye
Postdoctoral fellow Samirkumar Patel displays a prototype microneedle used to inject therapeutics into specific locations in the eye. The technology could allow doctors to target drugs to locations in the eye that are now difficult to reach. (Credit: Gary Meek)

In research reported in the January 2011 issue of the journal Pharmaceutical Research, the Georgia Tech-Emory team demonstrated for the first time that this technique can be used to deliver nanoparticles and microparticles to specific parts of the eye. In later research, they also showed that microneedle injections into the suprachoroidal space rapidly resulted in concentrations of drugs and particles that could be maintained for several months.

Between two and three million eye injections are made each year, many of them to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  The researchers believe that the microneedle-based technique could be useful for treating both AMD and glaucoma, as well as other ocular conditions related to diabetes.

The $4 million in funding for Clearside Biomedical will come from Hatteras Venture Partners, a venture capital firm based in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Hatteras focuses on seed and early-stage investments in companies developing products in biopharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic and related human health areas.

“Clearside Biomedical represents an ideal fit for Hatteras Discovery as the platform technology is highly innovative, based on elegant science and the lead product is expected to be in clinical trials in the United States in less than 18 months,” said Christy Shaffer, Ph.D., venture partner and managing director of the Hatteras Discovery Fund.

So far, the technique has been tested only in animals. The Hatteras funding will allow the company to conduct additional efficacy and safety testing needed to seek regulatory approval. The company’s first product is expected to address macular edema and retinal vein occlusion.

Clearside was formed with the assistance of Georgia Tech’s VentureLab program, which helped obtain early-stage seed funding from the Georgia Research Alliance.  Georgia Tech VentureLab also helped the founders connect with the company’s president and CEO, Daniel White, a veteran ophthalmic entrepreneur. Before joining Clearside, White was a co-founder of Alimera Sciences, an Atlanta company that is developing ophthalmic pharmaceuticals.

Two researchers from the Prausnitz lab who have been involved in development of the ocular drug delivery technique will also join the company. They are Samirkumar Patel, a postdoctoral researcher and Vladimir Zarnitsyn, a research scientist.

Research leading to the development of the technology has been supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the principal investigators and does not necessarily represent the official view of the NIH.

Henry Edelhauser, Samirkumar Patel, Mark Prausnitz, Vladimir Zarnitsyn, Emory University and Georgia Tech have financial interests in Clearside Biomedical and its ocular platform. Edelhauser, Patel, Prausnitz and Zarnitsyn own equity in Clearside and the terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by Emory University or Georgia Tech in accordance with their conflict of interest policies.

Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, Georgia  30308  USA

Media Relations Contact: Georgia Tech — John Toon (404-894-6986)(jtoon@gatech.edu); Emory University – Holly Korschun (404-727-3990)(hkorsch@emory.edu).

Writer: John Toon

Advanced Technology Development Center Adds “ATDC Select” Membership

In the past two years, membership in the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) has grown from 40 companies to more than 500, with members ranging from startups at the earliest conception stage to revenue generating, venture-fundable companies. Now, in an effort to better serve that diverse base, the Georgia Tech-based incubator is unveiling a new membership level aimed at startups ready for acceleration.

To be included in the “ATDC Select” membership group, which will launch on Jan. 1, startups must first be screened and selected based on readiness for acceleration and fit with ATDC services and staffing. The “select” distinction helps to clarify the difference between open and selective memberships. The benefits are similar: coaching, connecting and community. But while most ATDC events and programing are open to the broad membership base, ATDC Select members will be engaged on a more focused and individual level. In addition, they are candidates for ATDC’s annual graduation ceremony.

“We will continue to welcome and support all technology entrepreneurs in Georgia. From business coaching to networking, there are services we can offer to startups of all sizes,” said Nina Sawczuk, ATDC’s general manager and Georgia Tech’s director of startup services. “However, companies that have identified scalable business models and are ready to take advantage of ATDC’s more focused, individual support are encouraged to apply for the ATDC Select membership. This includes custom access to our entrepreneurs in residence (EIRs), mentors, graduate companies and sponsors, ultimately increasing access to potential investors and strategic partners.”

The ATDC Select level will help accommodate a massive membership base that developed when ATDC began welcoming all Georgia-based technology entrepreneurs two years ago. Historically, ATDC has had a selective process of admitting companies into its office and lab spaces in Midtown’s Technology Square and the satellite campus in Savannah. These “resident” companies have demonstrated growth significantly above and beyond that of the typical member, collectively raising more than $40 million in the last 12 months. They will now become the first members of “ATDC Select,” although the membership level is open to companies regardless of physical location.

“Back in 2009, ATDC established new programs to support the broader entrepreneurial community beyond Midtown Atlanta,” said Stephen Fleming, vice president of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, the parent organization for ATDC. “This enabled the scaling of key ATDC services, including the EIR office hours, expanded mentor program, Startup Circles and Lunch-N-Learn educational series. These programs are designed for all ATDC members, while additional customized programs will focus on ATDC Select members.”

Sawczuk said introducing the two membership types will help boost member involvement and pave the way for more relevant member services, ultimately helping ATDC achieve its mission of “coaching, connecting, and community.”

The new membership structure is one of many recent changes at ATDC, including the development of the EIR program and the addition of Community Catalysts to support geographic outreach and further develop ATDC’s educational and mentor programs. Earlier this summer, ATDC worked with Georgia Tech to launch a four-month accelerator program called Flashpoint that is supporting an inaugural cohort of 17 startup teams in their search for a rapidly scalable business model.

About ATDC:
The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) serves as the hub for technology entrepreneurship in Georgia. Founded in 1980, ATDC helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful technology companies by providing coaching, connections, and community. Through business incubation and acceleration services, ATDC has supported the creation of hundreds of technology companies that have raised more than a billion dollars in outside financing. Headquartered in Atlanta’s Technology Square, ATDC members benefit from a close proximity to Georgia Tech and connections with other Georgia research universities. ATDC was named one of the “10 technology incubators that are changing the world” by Forbes Magazine in 2010.

Proximus Mobility to Create 100 Jobs in Georgia

A promising start-up company in Naples has packed its bags and left its home. Proximus Mobility has moved out of Naples and out of Florida. The company’s headquarters are now in Atlanta, Ga. The mobile marketing company expects to create 100 jobs there over the next three years. . . .Proximus Mobility is now inside the Advanced Technology Development Center, a recognized science and technology incubator at the Georgia Institute of Technology.  . . This is where we are starting out here in Atlanta,” Zeto said. “It gives us great access to the university and Georgia Tech is a great school.” The company’s affiliation with Georgia Tech will give it access to top-notch research and technology students and graduates. The cost of doing business in Georgia is also less than it is in Florida, Zeto said.


Alpharetta Incubator to Launch, Backed by $10M Seed Fund

An Alpharetta small business incubator, backed by a $10 million accelerator fund, aims to grow the next generation of companies. Alpharetta Accelerator (AA) hopes to attract capital light software startups, medical device/services firms and green tech companies… Alpharetta Accelerator launches on the heels of a similar venture launched by Georgia Tech. The Georgia Tech “accelerator” program, held twice a year, would invest up to $25,000 in each of the 12 to 20 startups and help them develop into a “fundable” businesses. Flashpoint Investments LLC, a new entity managed by angel investing institution and Imlay President Sig Mosley, will invest an up to $500,000 fund in the selected startups. Both Flashpoint and now Alpharetta Accelerator aim to address a major issue facing Atlanta’s startup community — a lack of early stage, local capital. The region has lost promising entrepreneurs and companies after outside capital lured them elsewhere.


Atlanta Company Uses Georgia Tech Innovation to Provide Stronger Security for Wireless Financial Transactions

Startup company Whisper Communications is developing software to provide improved security for financial transactions that use the new “digital wallet” technology now under development.
Startup company Whisper Communications is developing software to provide improved security for financial transactions that use the new “digital wallet” technology now under development.

The quality of signals transmitted from devices such as smart phones can degrade dramatically with distance.  Whisper Communications is taking advantage of that basic law of physics to provide more secure wireless communication, including protection for financial transactions that use the “digital wallet” technology now under development.

Based on patent-pending technology from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Atlanta company has developed an encoding methodology that makes data signals transmitted beyond its “cone of silence” useless to any eavesdroppers.  Whisper is now working with First Data, a major payment processing provider, to demonstrate this layer of security using two of the newest Android phones.

“Our product will give consumers a higher degree of confidence that their private information is being protected during transactions, without them having to do anything,” said Steven McLaughlin, co-developer of the technology and a Ken Byers Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Digital wallet technology will enable consumers to use their smart phones and other devices to make financial transactions, replacing traditional plastic credit cards.  But without strong security, transferring data from the phones to merchant terminals could expose it to theft from “sniffer” devices that can capture wireless information.

Whisper’s software would be installed on mobile devices carrying the digital wallet technology, said Jeffrey McConnell, CEO of the company.  It would automatically encode the users’ credit card information, which would then be decoded by similar software on the merchant side of the transaction.  Because of the company’s proprietary coding, the information would only be readable within two or three feet of the merchant terminal – and hopelessly garbled beyond that distance.

“Once you get outside of that cone of silence, communications is no longer possible,” McConnell explained.  “An eavesdropper hoping to get confidential information would get nothing.  This allows us to set a defined zone within which secure communication can occur.  Once you get beyond that boundary, no usable information can get out.”

The company believes that mobile financial transactions are the most compelling first application for the product, but the technology could be used wherever data traveling wirelessly needs to be protected.  Other uses might be in medical devices that transmit wirelessly, in the electronic check-in pads being developed to gather patient information in medical offices, and in streaming video played via wireless devices, McConnell said.

“Our technology is an encoding methodology, so the methodology is the same with any application, whether it’s for mobile payments or high-speed video,” said McConnell, who has a background with payment processing companies including American Express, First Data and Western Union.

Whisper Communications has so far received seed funding from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) VentureLab program, Atlanta-based Imlay Investments and the Georgia Tech Edison Fund.  It has also received a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The company has been working with First Data to evaluate the new product.  A full demonstration is planned for this summer, and McConnell said the software could be ready for the marketplace within six months.

The company expects to license its product to the developers of digital wallets, and to the makers of merchant terminals. Worldwide, there are about 20 million terminals in operation, and most of them would be candidates for the Whisper software.  In the United States alone, there are 150 million smart phones.

With its strong roots in financial services and information security, Atlanta is a good place to build a company like Whisper, McLaughlin noted.

“Atlanta is an ideal city for the mobile payments and security approach that Whisper is taking,” he said.  “It has always been known as a go-to place for cybersecurity and has the largest concentration of credit card payment companies in the United States, so the combination of security and payments is a natural.”

Whisper’s original technology was developed by McLaughlin and Georgia Tech alumni Cenk Argon and Demijan Klinc.  It has roots going back to “quantum key distribution” research done at Georgia Tech’s Lorraine campus with collaborators from Portugal.

McLaughlin, who is also Georgia Tech’s Vice Provost for International Initiatives, realized that technology developed for the earlier project could have applications in securing wireless communications.  But he didn’t have a startup company in mind until he was approached by staff from the Georgia Tech VentureLab program.  The VentureLab team, which included Paul Freet, Keith McGreggor and Stephen Fleming, learned of the technology and approached McLaughlin about forming a company.

“VentureLab has been nothing less than fantastic for us,” said McLaughlin.  “From the very beginning, we felt high interest, support and a push to succeed.”

VentureLab introduced McLaughlin to McConnell, and was instrumental in obtaining funding to support early commercialization studies.

“We have created a good product, none of which would have been there without what VentureLab did,” said McConnell.  “They helped the researchers and pushed them to explore how this technology could be turned into a viable company.”

VentureLab is Georgia Tech’s comprehensive center for technology commercialization, open to all faculty, research staff and students who want to form startup companies based upon their research. Part of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, VentureLab transforms innovations into companies by developing engaging business models, connecting researchers with experienced entrepreneurs, locating sources of early-stage financing and preparing these new companies for global markets.

Many companies created within VentureLab become part of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia Tech’s startup accelerator.  ATDC has been helping to launch and build successful technology companies for more than 30 years.


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Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986)(jtoon@gatech.edu).

Writer: John Toon


ATDC Launches Entrepreneur in Residence Program to Mentor Startups

ATDC has created a new Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program and has named four EIRs with a wealth of experience in the technology startup world. Jamie Bardin, Tim Dorr, Hezi Moore and Blake Patton will all serve as advisors for ATDC member companies in the areas of business strategy, fundraising, team development and more. They will also seek opportunities to connect startups with prospective business advisors, investors and customers in the market.

Jamie Bardin
Jamie Bardin
Tim Dorr
Tim Dorr
Hezi Moore
Hezi Moore
Blake Patton
Blake Patton

The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is known for providing strategic entrepreneurial advice and key business connections to help grow Georgia-based technology startup companies. The Georgia Tech startup accelerator is now expanding on these abilities with the creation of a new Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program.

The program features four EIRs with a wealth of experience in the technology startup world. Jamie Bardin, Tim Dorr, Hezi Moore and Blake Patton will all serve as advisors for ATDC member companies in the areas of business strategy, fundraising, team development and more. They will also seek opportunities to connect startups with prospective business advisors, investors and customers in the market.

“Our EIRs offer experience and knowledge that is extremely valuable to startups. They have lived through the demanding process of starting a business, both the failures and successes,” said Nina Sawczuk, ATDC’s general manager and director of startup services. “They will work with young companies to avoid common mistakes and find ways to excel. This is the heart of what ATDC does.”

Each mentor is a repeat entrepreneur with a track record of success in starting, growing and funding a business.

  • Bardin was the CEO of EZ Prints, which he grew from a startup to a $25 million company, and has experience in business leadership for mid-market and Fortune 500 companies as well.
  • Dorr is a Georgia Tech grad who has founded multiple successful web-based startup companies, including A Small Orange and the hot in-town co-working space Ignition Alley.
  • Moore has more than 20 years of experience in technology and business leadership, having raised more than $45 million in venture capital funding. He has founded several technology security companies, including Reflex Security and MicroTech systems.
  • Patton brings 20 years of experience in startup, venture-backed and publicly traded companies in the finance and payments world. He was the president of Interactive Advisory Software and the CEO of iKobo before joining ATDC.

EIRs will host weekly office hours to accommodate one-on-one meetings with member companies. In addition, they will conduct learning circles to help facilitate peer-to-peer learning and networking. Moore will lead the Friday morning ATDC circle in Alpharetta’s Roam Atlanta co-working space. All four will also regularly participate in ATDC events like CapVenture, Brown Bags and the monthly New Member Orientations and Entrepreneur’s Nights.

“In my new role, I am really looking forward to helping the entrepreneurial and startup community in Atlanta.” Dorr said. “Atlanta has a lot of drive to become a big player in the startup world and I’m excited to help make it happen.”


About ATDC:

The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) serves as the hub for technology entrepreneurship in Georgia. Founded in 1980, ATDC helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful technology companies. Through business incubation and acceleration services, ATDC has supported the creation of hundreds of high tech companies that have raised more than a billion dollars in outside financing. Headquartered in Atlanta’s Technology Square, ATDC members benefit from a close proximity to Georgia Tech and connections with other Georgia research universities. It was named one of the “10 technology incubators that are changing the world” by Forbes Magazine.

Media Relations Contacts:

Kate Grusich/Chris Glazier