Athens Brewery Taps into Georgia Tech Assistance to Expand Business

Rob Ginn, a strategic business manager with Georgia Tech

When Brian “Spike” Buckowski and John Cochran graduated from college, they had more experience in drinking beer than in running a brewery. Still, their disparate paths of corporate video communications and risk management insurance led them to work at the same place: Atlanta Brewing Company. Although they were working in different parts of the company, they had a dream of one day building their own brewery.

In 1998, after eight months of hammering out a business plan, Cochran and Buckowski began seeking funding for their dream brewery – Terrapin Beer Co. Although the craft beer movement really kicked off on the west coast in the early ‘90s, microbreweries in Georgia and the southeast were pretty much non-existent at that time.

After finally deciding to use an Atlanta contract brewer to get their product out into the market, Cochran and Buckowski debuted their Rye Pale Ale at the Athens Beer Festival. Six months later, that same beer won best pale ale in the country in 2002 at the Great American Beer Festival. In 2004, Terrapin’s second beer, the Golden Ale, won a silver medal in the World Beer Cup, which led to the company’s unofficial motto of “Two Years, Two Beers, Two Medals.”

With all of the beer company’s success, the two business partners had built the brand to a point where they could attract investors. In 2006, they were finally able to open their brewery in Athens. As the business grew, Buckowski and Cochran favored investing in the brand’s rapid growth but experienced philosophical differences with their investment group. It was around this time that Rob Ginn, a strategic business manager with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2), made a cold call on the company and dropped off a business card.

Ginn, who describes his job as “CEO mentoring,” assisted Buckowski and Cochran with filling the company’s empty board seat and locating appropriate legal counsel. He also helped them with reviewing and finally closing on an investment contract that allowed the two founders to buy out the original investment group while retaining the equity they had developed in the company. EI2 offers strategic business analysis services for small manufacturers and entrepreneurs, including assistance reviewing business plans and financing options for expansion and growth, planning for succession and family-owned business, structured monthly coaching and process benchmarking and resource connections.

“Spike and John are great clients to work with because they are passionate about their company, and they’ve worked hard to get it where it is. My role in helping these guys was to support the management team while looking for investment alternatives, then help them act quickly when we finally had the deal,” Ginn recalled. “If we had not made the end-of-the-year deadline, then this company probably wouldn’t have been here by September.”

Terrapin Beer Co. remains an independent brewery today after receiving a loan from Miller-owned Tenth and Blake Beer Co. When Terrapin started nine years ago, it produced 165 barrels of beer in its first year; last year, it made 18,000 barrels, equal to $5 million in sales.

Terrapin produces four beers year-round and a number of seasonal selections. The nine-year-old company, which employs 30 people, currently has a $3.2 million capital expansion plan in the works. Ginn will continue to assist as needed with Terrapin’s plans for a new brew house mill and other brewing capacity additions to meet the growing demand for the company’s craft beers.

“The next step for Terrapin is an expansion – I don’t mean geographic markets – we’re going to need a bigger brew house, more tanks, more kegs, more employees. Just growing the company and making more beer for the southeast. Our goal is to be the best brewer in the southeast,” noted Cochran. “People in this country are really getting turned on to better things – better food, better coffee, better cheese – and beer is just another part of that. The sky is the limit as to what this industry is going to do.”

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

 

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); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

 

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

 

Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute Wins National Manufacturing Awards

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) – a unit of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) – recently won two awards for making significant impacts on U.S. manufacturing. The awards were presented May 17 at the national MEP annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

The Energy and Sustainability Services (ESS) Group won the Innovator of the Year Award at the national MEP annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Pictured from left to right are: Mike Simpson, NIST MEP; Eric Esoda, Awards Committee Chair; EI2’s Chris Downing, Bob Hitch and Bill Meffert, and Roger Kilmer, MEP director.

The Energy and Sustainability Services (ESS) Group won the Innovator of the Year Award at the national MEP annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Pictured from left to right are: Mike Simpson, NIST MEP; Eric Esoda, Awards Committee Chair; EI2’s Chris Downing, Bob Hitch and Bill Meffert, and Roger Kilmer, MEP director.

EI2’s Energy and Sustainability Services (ESS) Group won the Innovator of the Year Award, which recognizes a team that developed modern practices to help reinvent America’s industrial base and to further the MEP system. The ESS group was instrumental in the development of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Strategic Energy Performance program and in leading the development of the new ISO 50001 Standard for Energy Management. The team included Bill Meffert, Matt Soderlund, Robert Hitch, Ed Hardison, Holly Grell-Lawe, Randy Green, Deann Desai, Mike Brown and Jessica Brown.

The Practitioner of the Year award was presented to the Georgia MEP Lean Consortium Team. The Consortium – a forum for organizations to advance their knowledge and effective use of lean principles – leverages the collective knowledge and experience of its members and drives innovation. Lean Consortium staff members included Larry Alford, David Apple, Alan Barfoot, Tara Barrett, Sam Darwin, Danny Duggar, Art Ford, Tim Israel, Bill Nusbaum, Elliot Price, Bill Ritsch, Tom Sammon, Paul Todd and Derek Woodham.

“We are very honored to be recognized by the Department of Commerce and NIST for our work with manufacturers throughout the state and nationally,” said Chris Downing, P.E., director of Georgia MEP. “These awards reflect the positive impact our Georgia Tech outreach engineers have on the manufacturing sector in Georgia and beyond.”

In addition, EI2 client Power Partners, an Athens-based manufacturer of overhead distribution transformers, was awarded MEP’s Excellence in Sustainability award. That recognition celebrates manufacturers whose outstanding development and implementation of green and sustainable practices has contributed significantly to their business excellence, workplace and their community. Power Partners expanded its product line to manufacture solar water heater systems, which capture energy from the sun to heat water and can provide up to 85 percent of the energy needed to produce domestic hot water.

The Georgia MEP Lean Consortium Team won the Practitioner of the Year award at the national MEP conference. Pictured from left to right are: Mike Simpson; Eric Esoda; EI2’s Larry Alford, Derek Woodham, Bill Nusbaum, and Chris Downing; and Roger Kilmer, MEP director.

The Georgia MEP Lean Consortium Team won the Practitioner of the Year award at the national MEP conference. Pictured from left to right are: Mike Simpson; Eric Esoda; EI2’s Larry Alford, Derek Woodham, Bill Nusbaum, and Chris Downing; and Roger Kilmer, MEP director.

MEP – part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology – is a national network of 59 not-for-profit centers that helps U.S. manufacturers compete globally by strengthening supply chains and increasing productivity. With a team of more than 30 engineers and other professionals, Georgia MEP provides technical assistance and continuing education to improve industrial competitiveness in areas such as lean process improvement, quality and international standards, energy efficiency and management, environmental improvement and management, sustainable strategy deployment and growth services.

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

 

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); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

 

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

 

Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute Wins National Manufacturing Awards

The Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) – a unit of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) – recently won two awards for making significant impacts on U.S. manufacturing. The awards were presented May 17 at the national MEP annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

The Energy and Sustainability Services (ESS) Group won the Innovator of the Year Award at the national MEP annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Pictured from left to right are: Mike Simpson, NIST MEP; Eric Esoda, Awards Committee Chair; EI2’s Chris Downing, Bob Hitch and Bill Meffert, and Roger Kilmer, MEP director.

The Energy and Sustainability Services (ESS) Group won the Innovator of the Year Award at the national MEP annual conference in Orlando, Fla. Pictured from left to right are: Mike Simpson, NIST MEP; Eric Esoda, Awards Committee Chair; EI2’s Chris Downing, Bob Hitch and Bill Meffert, and Roger Kilmer, MEP director.

EI2’s Energy and Sustainability Services (ESS) Group won the Innovator of the Year Award, which recognizes a team that developed modern practices to help reinvent America’s industrial base and to further the MEP system. The ESS group was instrumental in the development of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Strategic Energy Performance program and in leading the development of the new ISO 50001 Standard for Energy Management. The team included Bill Meffert, Matt Soderlund, Robert Hitch, Ed Hardison, Holly Grell-Lawe, Randy Green, Deann Desai, Mike Brown and Jessica Brown.

The Practitioner of the Year award was presented to the Georgia MEP Lean Consortium Team. The Consortium – a forum for organizations to advance their knowledge and effective use of lean principles – leverages the collective knowledge and experience of its members and drives innovation. Lean Consortium staff members included Larry Alford, David Apple, Alan Barfoot, Tara Barrett, Sam Darwin, Danny Duggar, Art Ford, Tim Israel, Bill Nusbaum, Elliot Price, Bill Ritsch, Tom Sammon, Paul Todd and Derek Woodham.

The Georgia MEP Lean Consortium Team won the Practitioner of the Year award at the national MEP conference. Pictured from left to right are: Mike Simpson; Eric Esoda; EI2’s Larry Alford, Derek Woodham, Bill Nusbaum, and Chris Downing; and Roger Kilmer, MEP director.

The Georgia MEP Lean Consortium Team won the Practitioner of the Year award at the national MEP conference. Pictured from left to right are: Mike Simpson; Eric Esoda; EI2’s Larry Alford, Derek Woodham, Bill Nusbaum, and Chris Downing; and Roger Kilmer, MEP director.

“We are very honored to be recognized by the Department of Commerce and NIST for our work with manufacturers throughout the state and nationally,” said Chris Downing, P.E., director of Georgia MEP. “These awards reflect the positive impact our Georgia Tech outreach engineers have on the manufacturing sector in Georgia and beyond.”

In addition, EI2 client Power Partners, an Athens-based manufacturer of overhead distribution transformers, was awarded MEP’s Excellence in Sustainability award. That recognition celebrates manufacturers whose outstanding development and implementation of green and sustainable practices has contributed significantly to their business excellence, workplace and their community. Power Partners expanded its product line to manufacture solar water heater systems, which capture energy from the sun to heat water and can provide up to 85 percent of the energy needed to produce domestic hot water.

MEP – part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology – is a national network of 59 not-for-profit centers that helps U.S. manufacturers compete globally by strengthening supply chains and increasing productivity. With a team of more than 30 engineers and other professionals, Georgia MEP provides technical assistance and continuing education to improve industrial competitiveness in areas such as lean process improvement, quality and international standards, energy efficiency and management, environmental improvement and management, sustainable strategy deployment and growth services.

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

 

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

 

Media Relations Contact: E-mail: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

 

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

 

Georgia Tech to Begin Offering Government Contract Training in Atlanta

Georgia Tech is helping the federal government address a critical need for government contract training by launching The Contracting Education Academy, a Defense Acquisition University (DAU) equivalency provider that will offer acquisition and public sector contracting for both the government and business communities. The Academy’s first course offering in July 2011 – Mission-Focused Contracting – is designed for personnel new to the contracting workforce or non-contracting personnel who play a role in the acquisition process and want to learn and apply problem-solving and negotiation skills.

Through interactive instruction and case studies, participants in this comprehensive, 10-day course will learn how government agencies:

  • Complete a market research report;
  • Develop a bid or proposal package;
  • Evaluate proposals and award contracts;
  • Monitor contractor performance, apply remedies and make proper contract payments; and
  • Modify contracts, exercise options and complete the contract closeout process.

Rhonda Lynch, project manager for The Academy, points out that Mission-Focused Contracting is the capstone course for Level I federal contracting professionals as well as for all non-contracting personnel who play a role in the acquisition process.

“The beauty of this class is that it is applicable to both government and industry purchasing,” Lynch said. “This course engages the participant in the entire acquisition process, from meeting with the customer to completing the contract closeout process. Contracting officials and members of the contracting community alike will have the unique opportunity in this class to sit side-by-side to learn how the government acquisition process works.”

Stephen Fleming, the vice president and executive director of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI²), says that the idea for the Academy began last year as an outgrowth of a range of services offered to the government and business sectors.

“There are record high retirements from federal ranks and the number of jobs is increasing, so there is a huge demand for these classes,” he observed. “Every federal agency is represented in Atlanta, so in these budget-conscious days, having The Academy in the southeast can greatly reduce travel budgets.”

Within the first six months of operation, The Contracting Education Academy at Georgia Tech was recognized by the DAU as an official equivalency provider of DAU course work. This is especially significant for at least two reasons. Since federal contracting professionals are required to obtain a certain amount of hours of contract training annually to keep their jobs, those located in Atlanta will not have to travel far to obtain training. Whereas local agencies and businesses view The Academy as a welcome resource for superior and convenient training, there is quite a bit of interest from prospective students outside of Georgia.

A chance to train at Georgia Tech, the availability of classroom seats, and the ease of access to the city of Atlanta are just three of the many pluses for The Academy. In addition, The Academy’s DAU-equivalent classes satisfy both the Federal Acquisition Certification in Contracting (FAC-C) and Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) certification programs, which means contracting officials from any federal agency will receive credit toward their training requirements.

To register for The Academy’s inaugural class and subsequent classes, please visit http://contractingacademy.gatech.edu/training/. More information about The Academy, including training offerings and services, can be found on the web site at www.contractingacademy.gatech.edu or by contacting Rhonda Lynch at 404-894-6109 or ude.hcetag.ymedacagnitcartnocnull@adnohr.

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

 

Enterprise Innovation Institute

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia 30308 USA

 

Media Relations Contact: E-mail: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

 

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

 

Vendormate: Reducing Risk Through Improved Credentialing

2010 was a banner year for Vendormate as the ATDC graduate company captured the No. 25 spot on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing U.S. companies, making it the highest-ranking software company on the list. In another major coup, in December 2010 the company landed a significant investment from Primus Capital, a Cleveland-based private equity firm, which will position Vendormate for additional growth.

Launched in 2005 by Andy Monin, Vendormate provides a unique credentialing solution that enables health care, banking and other clients to better manage supplier networks and reduce the risk of partnering with fraudulent, illegitimate or fiscally irresponsible vendors. Vendormate’s patented software system screens both new and existing vendors to make sure they meet client requirements and comply with government mandates and regulations, such as HIPPA and Medicare’s and Medicaid’s fraud list.

Admitted to ATDC in March 2006, Vendormate marked Monin’s second tour through Georgia Tech’s startup accelerator. Prior to Vendormate, Monin co-founded BroadSource, a telecommunications expense management company that ATDC incubated from 2003 to 2005. “One of the reasons I wanted to take Vendormate through ATDC was because of the value we got with BroadSource,” Monin said.

Monin estimates that Vendormate received more than $250,000 of cash impact from ATDC membership. This reflects consulting services, the ability to attract talented employees, a $25,000 unsecured line of bank credit, access to office space at reasonable rents — and the flexibility to move into larger quarters as the startup needed more elbow room. Indeed, Vendormate made four moves during its two-year tenure in ATDC as the software company grew from five employees to a staff of 45 when it graduated in May 2008.

In addition, ATDC was able to accommodate Vendormate for several weeks after its graduation while Monin worked out a sublease for office space in Buckhead. As part of its lease agreement, Vendormate received $140,000 worth of office furniture and artwork. “It was an amazing deal, but one we wouldn’t have gotten unless we could be patient about the move-in date. Thanks to ATDC, we were able to wait,” Monin said.

Yet what Monin considers the greatest benefit of ATDC was the sense of community it provides to members. “When there are five people in your company, and you’re sitting in cubes in an office complex in Norcross, it’s hard to build a strong company culture,” Monin says. “At ATDC our team got to be in an environment where they didn’t feel all alone and could learn from other entrepreneurs. The casual conversations that happen on the way to the soda machine, when you could talk to other people about whatever pain you were going through, were priceless.”

ATDC also hosts numerous events to accelerate peer learning, from brown bag luncheons with outside speakers to confidential CEO roundtables.

Monin fondly recalls those CEO roundtables. “They were unbelievable networking events,” he said. “Although we were in different vertical industries, you could get fast answers to so many questions, from HR issues to what it costs to do a series A round of funding. While we were at ATDC, our CTO even started a roundtable for other CTOs because I kept saying how valuable the CEO roundtables were for me.”

In fact, the ATDC culture was so ingrained in Vendormate that its management team has replicated some of the incubator’s events. “In celebration of our new digs, Gil Benton and Jeff Beck went out and bought a giant popcorn machine so we could continue to have Popcorn Thursdays,” Monin said, referring to a weekly networking event at ATDC. There’s just one switch: Instead of a different ATDC entrepreneur making a presentation each Thursday, someone in a different Vendormate department discusses what’s going on in his or her area. “It’s a great way for people to feel connected now than our staff has grown to more than 100 employees,” Monin said.

Vendormate has been focusing on the health care market since 2006. Today more than 1,200 hospitals use its flagship product, including such prestigious institutions as John Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic and Harvard University.

Intent on capturing even greater market share, Vendormate introduced two new products in 2010:

  • IDConfirm, a solution that tracks credentials and monitors compliance for hospital staff, volunteers and medical students.
  • VisitorConfirm, a badging application that enables hospitals to document visitors’ entry and create identification badges for them. It also visually screens visitors for health risks, such as fever, so hospitals can deny access for someone who may be ill.

“This is something no one has done before,” Monin said, referring to the new badging solution. “Having a process for tracking visitors provides better physical security — and  demonstrates the hospital’s commitment to patient safety. Hospitals need to know who is roaming their halls. You can’t have 40 people in the same room visiting grandma and expect to have patient care under control.”

In addition to expanding his company’s presence in the health care arena, VisitorConfirm will be key to entering new industries and achieving future growth, Monin said. Vendormate is already providing its badging solution to a private school in Atlanta.

Photo caption: Andy Monin, CEO of Vendormate, considers the greatest benefit of ATDC the sense of community it provides to members.

Research News & Publications Office

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, GA  30308  USA

 

Writer: T.J. Becker

 

ATDC Announces Graduates for the 2011 ATDC Startup Showcase

More than 750 technology leaders, university leaders, investors and aspiring entrepreneurs are expected to witness emerging technology company members and graduate members exhibit their innovative technologies and successes at this year’s Advanced Technology Development Center Startup Showcase. The event, which celebrates ATDC’s dedication to growing technology companies in Georgia, will be held Monday, May 9, from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center.

“ATDC is serving more technology startups than ever before. Our member companies range from concept stage to growth stage and everything in between,” said Nina Sawczuk, ATDC general manager. “ATDC is proud to serve such a large number of entrepreneurs and to be the hub of technology entrepreneurship driving startup growth throughout the state of Georgia.”

Member companies that have achieved exceptional success are selected to become graduate members from the startup accelerator each year. The 2011 graduating companies include:

  • BLiNQ Media, a company that develops and markets industry-leading Facebook advertising technology and media solutions to agencies and big brands, maximizing campaign performance, operational efficiencies, consumer engagement and branding insights;
  • Clearleap, a web-based content management and delivery platform provider that enables television service providers to stream video over existing broadband networks directly to IP connected set-tops, devices and TVs;
  • Iconic Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company developing a protein designed to destroy diseased cells associated with vision loss caused by macular degeneration and certain cancers;
  • Medshape, a medical device company focused on improving the treatment of human orthopedic conditions with a new shape-memory material;
  • PlayOn Sports, a distributor of high school sports media that provides schools the ability to produce and broadcast events on a school branded video portal;
  • Sentrinsic, an industrial technology company that develops fluid control products to increase energy efficiency, improve reliability and lower the cost of operating industrial equipment;
  • SoloHealth, develops and deploys free health screening and information kiosks in retail locations nationwide, including its award-winning EyeSite® product and the next-generation SoloHealth Station™ which will screen for vision, blood pressure, weight, body mass index and provide an overall health assessment.
  • Velocity Medical, a medical device company that develops a FDA-cleared oncology informatics platform for image-based cancer treatment planning and therapy response assessment which provides a complete picture of the patient over the entire timeline of their treatment; and
  • WorthPoint, an Internet centric information and media company with the world’s most comprehensive resource of value data on art, antiques and collectibles, helps people accurately assess the worth of their own items and how best to preserve, sell or buy.

In addition to celebrating the achievements of our graduate companies at the 2011 Startup Showcase, more than 50 technology startups will be exhibiting their technologies. To join the more than 750 people expected to participate in the Startup Showcase, please RVSP at http://atdc.org/services/2011-startup-showcase. For more information, contact Ivy Hughley at gro.cdtanull@yvi.

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.

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

 

ATDC Company SoloHealth Develops New Product, Grows Business

When Atlanta-based startup company SoloHealth joined Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) in October 2007, it had just launched its inaugural product, EyeSite™, a self-service vision test powered by sophisticated software and an interactive video interface. In three years, EyeSite has been placed in high-traffic retail environments in nine metro Atlanta supermarkets and more than 650,000 people have used the vision screening kiosks.

“Of the people that have used the kiosk, 25 percent said they’ve never had an eye exam, ever. And for 38 percent, it’s been more than two years,” said CEO Bart Foster, who previously worked for CIBA Vision developing innovative contact lenses. “SoloHealth is focused on self-service health care, and it’s about consumer empowerment and engagement. We feel that if we can give people the tools to take care of themselves, they will.”

Now considered a leader in self-service consumer health care, SoloHealth is looking to expand its presence with a next-generation health and wellness platform technology. The company is developing the SoloHealth Station – an interactive self-service health screening kiosk that allows consumers to screen their vision, blood pressure, weight and body mass index in seven minutes or less and track the information from store to store, as well as online and via mobile devices.

“What’s really changed for us is the platform we’re developing. We’re not a kiosk company; we’re a health care technology company. The kiosk is simply the entry point for health care for millions of people,” Foster explained. “We’ll connect consumers via a web site, social and mobile applications, as well as to the local insurance providers, hospitals and doctors. We’re also building the connections into the major electronic medical records and personal health records systems, so it’s an entire health and wellness ecosystem. We have coined the term ‘POI’ – Point of Interaction – to describe the multiple ways in which consumers can interact with the SoloHealth platform. And these multiple touch points provide unique and highly personalized avenues for advertisers to engage with consumers, as well.”

The SoloHealth Station, currently in development, will have a number of revenue streams – a retailer service fee, as well as content sponsorship and advertising from manufacturers of health-related products and local providers. Foster says the company will continue to maintain the EyeSite units, but will focus primarily on developing the SoloHealth Station to monitor health problem areas such as hypertension, obesity, eye health and vision, nutrition and pre?diabetes, based on risk factors such as weight, BMI, medical history and lifestyle habits.

SoloHealth was awarded a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, a federal research and development initiative that helps high-tech firms turn innovative ideas into commercial products. The grant, awarded in May 2010, brought SoloHealth recognition and credibility – and caught the attention of a number of major retailers, venture capital firms and advertisers.

Not only did ATDC assist SoloHealth with the federal grant application, but the company also received a significant portion of its initial seed round and ensuing funding the ATDC Seed Capital Fund and Atlanta Technology Angels. In 2007, SoloHealth was one of 15 technology companies selected to participate in ATDC’s CapVenture Program, a comprehensive fundraising boot camp designed to equip CEOs with business and funding strategies. Only 15 of 100 companies that applied were chosen to participate.

“The mentors and one-on-one meetings we had in CapVenture were great; a lot of our current advisors were part of that initial program,” Foster said. “ATDC was a great catalyst for us early on, and they continue to be supportive from a networking standpoint.”

Since joining ATDC, SoloHealth has received accolades within the industry. In 2008, the company was recognized at the largest trade show in the world for self-service devices with awards in best product innovation, best health care innovation, and best in show. Forbes.com named SoloHealth as one of top five innovative companies out of 1,500 applicants nationally, and technology trade associations TechAmerica and the Technology Association of Georgia recognized it as the best emerging company in 2010.

SoloHealth is also growing its management team.  It recently announced that Rebecca Barnett-Miesch, former director of strategic partnerships at WebMD, had joined the company as vice president of advertising sales, and Rick Voight, former national sales manager of retail publishing at Hewlett-Packard, was coming on board as vice president of channel development. Together they bring 45 years of experience to an already seasoned management team that includes a chief medical officer, senior director of research and development, vice president of sales and marketing, and senior vice president of operations and finance.

“We’ve expanded from the two or three folks we started with and we have nearly 15 people on staff. We’ll be adding another 12 to 15 jobs this year,” said Foster, who was named one of the top 25 up and coming entrepreneurs by Business to Business magazine last year. “We found Atlanta is a great spot to acquire high quality talent from both the IT and health care aspects. So from an economic development standpoint, we’re trying to do our share.”

About the ATDC:

The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is a startup accelerator that helps technology entrepreneurs in Georgia launch and build successful companies. Founded in 1980, ATDC has graduated more than 120 companies, which together have raised more than a billion dollars in outside financing. In 2010, ATDC was named to Forbes Magazine’s list of the “10 technology incubators that are changing the world.”ATDC is part of the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) at Georgia Tech, which helps Georgia enterprises improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. ATDC currently has three facilities; two at Georgia Tech’s main campus in Atlanta, and one at Georgia Tech’s satellite campus in Savannah.

Research News & Publications Office
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); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

 

Columbus Entrepreneur Utilizes State Resources to Launch New Business

Eight-month-old Justin, born five weeks premature, plays with the tulip rattle developed by Maddie's World.

Born weighing less than two pounds, little Maddie Lefcourt remained in the hospital for 105 days before her mother Donna could finally bring her home. But the homecoming marked the start of another struggle.

“When Maddie came home, she was already three and half months behind,” recalled Lefcourt, who works as a billing specialist for an obstetrician-gynecologist in Columbus, Ga. “Because of her birth weight, she qualified for a state-funded program called Babies Can’t Wait that guarantees eligible children access to services that enhance their development. The physical therapist assigned to Maddie worked with her every other week based on her needs.”

During one such session, the therapist wanted to teach Maddie how to grasp a toy for fine motor skill development. Lefcourt noticed that every time she put the toy in her daughter’s hand, she would drop it, either because of the toy’s size or the weight. After exhausting all local and online retail sources for toys suitable for her daughter, Lefcourt was seized by the entrepreneurial spirit and decided to make her own line of specialty toys.

“I was lying in bed one night and I popped up and said, ‘I’ve got it. We’re going to have a company and make toys for premature babies.’ I even thought of the name while I was lying there – Little Hands for Preemies,” Lefcourt said.

Lefcourt began researching the market for toys for premature babies and learned from the March of Dimes that more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely every year in the United States. She also researched baby toy companies both nationally and internationally. While she was researching online, she stumbled upon an inventors’ workshop being offered by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) to expand educational and professional networking opportunities for Georgia’s inventor community.

In 2007, Georgia Tech launched the first statewide survey of independent inventors through a pilot program sponsored by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. More than 300 inventors responded to the survey, and that feedback led to creation of workshops designed to help independent inventors improve their product development and business efforts, while connecting them with resources in intellectual property protection and licensing – two of the key building blocks for commercialization.

“I thought the workshop would be something fun and I could learn something,” said Lefcourt. “I was very skeptical about talking to people and telling them my business idea, but I also realized that was the only way I could get some help.”

After the workshop, Lefcourt introduced herself to Ed Murphy, a project manager with the Georgia Entrepreneur and Small Business Outreach program, a partnership between EI2 and the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center that delivers services to entrepreneurs and small businesses in rural Georgia. The program is funded by the OneGeorgia Authority.

Murphy assisted Lefcourt with researching manufacturers that could make her line of specialty baby toys and coached her on the kinds of questions she needed to ask. As a result, she selected Peliton Plastics, a plastic injection molding company in Valdosta, Ga., to make the first three toys – a rattle, a teether and dexterity/motor skill toy.

“I already had some prototypes that I shared with Peliton Plastics. The size and the weight are the biggest issues for preemie baby toys,” she said. “We needed to figure out how many toys we would go to market with because molds are very, very expensive. We decided to start with three different toys for three different functions.”

Lefcourt also hired a local marketing professional, Jason Bray, to help her design a company logo and revamp the name of the business. They settled on “Maddie’s World” – represented by a butterfly – with “Little Hands for Preemies” as a toy line. Murphy continued to assist Lefcourt with developing a business plan and her pricing structure.

“He was very encouraging and even the days I got down, he pushed me to press forward. Every time I’ve ever called him about anything, he’s been right there,” Lefcourt said.

In addition to utilizing EI2’s entrepreneur services, Lefcourt took advantage of FastTrac® NewVenture™, a 10-week program developed by the Kauffman Foundation and offered through the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) that helps startup entrepreneurs develop and evaluate their business model and develop a plan for success. Class participants learn how to write an actionable business plan, are given access to financial and business resources and are able to network with peers and professionals, lessons Lefcourt described as vital.

“In these difficult and challenging budget times, it is more important than ever for state agencies to work together to provide assistance to the citizens of Georgia,” said Lori Auten, SBDC Columbus area director. “Both Georgia Tech and UGA bring unique qualifications and areas of specialty to the table to assist Georgia businesses.”

Moving forward, Lefcort says she wants to also design toys for children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy and develop a clothing line for both premature infants and toddlers. A portion of Maddie’s World sales are currently donated to the local Children’s Miracle Network where the toys are purchased.

“Donna exemplifies the successful entrepreneur; she has passion, energy and exhibits a willingness to learn,” said Murphy. “Without any illusions about the challenges she faced, she employed lessons learned and direction given and just went to work to systematically execute her plan.”

Photo caption: Eight-month-old Justin, born five weeks premature, plays with the tulip rattle developed by Maddie’s World.

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office

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); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright

Improving Heart Surgery: Georgia Tech and Emory University Startup Receives $5.1 Million Investment

Apica Cardiovascular co-founders James Green, Vinod Thourani, Jorge Jimenez and Ajit Yoganathan (left to right) point to the location on a heart model where their heart surgery system attaches. (Credit: Gary Meek)

Apica Cardiovascular co-founders James Green, Vinod Thourani, Jorge Jimenez and Ajit Yoganathan (left to right) point to the location on a heart model where their heart surgery system attaches. (Credit: Gary Meek)

A Georgia Tech and Emory University medical device startup that has developed a system to simplify and standardize the technique for opening and closing the beating heart during cardiac surgery has received a $5.1 million investment.

Apica Cardiovascular has licensed the Georgia Tech/Emory technology and will further develop the system, which will make the transapical access and closure procedure required for delivering therapeutic devices to the heart more routine for all surgeons. The goal is to expand the use of surgery techniques that are less invasive and do not require stopping the heart.

“Our company has leveraged the expertise in cardiovascular technology at Georgia Tech and the clinical experience of surgeons at Emory University to develop a technology that has the potential to revolutionize the delivery of different types of medical devices to the heart, including aortic and mitral valves,” said the company’s CEO James Greene.

With research and development support from the Coulter Foundation Translational Research Program and the Georgia Research Alliance VentureLab program, the company has already completed a series of pre-clinical studies to test the functionality of their device and its biocompatibility.

The improved heart surgery system consists of a conduit with proprietary technology inside that allows the conduit to be securely attached to the beating heart. Surgeons can then deliver therapeutic devices, such as heart valves or left ventricular assist devices, into the beating heart without loss of blood or exposure to air. Once a therapeutic device has been delivered and surgery is complete, the company’s system closes and seals the access site with a biocompatible implant. The closure site can be reopened if necessary.

“By minimizing the incision size to gain access to the beating heart and eliminating the need for conventional sutures, our system improves safety, decreases procedure time and reduces the technical challenges associated with these new minimally invasive procedures,” explained Vinod Thourani, an associate professor of surgery and associate director of the Structural Heart Center in Emory University’s Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

With the new investment from Ireland-based Seroba Kernel Life Sciences and Israel-based TriVentures, the company will continue to conduct research and pre-clinical trials in Atlanta, ultimately leading up to regulatory approval. These efforts will be led by Jorge H. Jimenez, the chief technology officer of the company, which is in the VentureLab process at ATDC, Georgia Tech’s startup company accelerator.

“Our goal is to accelerate and expand the adoption of less-invasive therapeutic procedures to a greater number of surgeons and as a result, many underserved patients will receive needed treatment for valve disease and end-stage heart failure,” said Ajit Yoganathan, Regents professor and Wallace H. Coulter Distinguished Faculty Chair in Biomedical Engineering in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

The startup will also have an office in Ireland, which will benefit from the strong research collaborations between Georgia Tech, Georgia Tech Ireland and the National University of Ireland, Galway.

“We seek to contribute to and benefit from a global innovation ecosystem in ways that accelerate research results to the market while enhancing economic development opportunities here in Georgia,” said Stephen E. Cross, Georgia Tech’s executive vice president for research. “Apica Cardiovascular is a perfect example of the synergy between our leading edge work in Atlanta, our Irish translational unit GT Ireland, and our partnership with the National University of Ireland, Galway.”

Apica Cardiovascular was founded in 2009 based on technology invented by Jimenez, Thourani, Yoganathan and Thomas Vassiliades, who was an associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Emory University at the time. The company was named Emory University’s Startup Company of 2010.

About ATDC:

The Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) is a startup accelerator that helps technology entrepreneurs in Georgia launch and build successful companies. Founded in 1980, ATDC has graduated more than 120 companies, which together have raised more than a billion dollars in outside financing. In 2010, ATDC was named to Forbes Magazine’s list of the “10 technology incubators that are changing the world.”

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Research News & Publications Office

Georgia Institute of Technology

75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314

Atlanta, Georgia  30308  USA

 

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (ude.hcetagnull@nootj; 404-894-6986)

Writer: Abby Robinson

Newnan Manufacturer Competes by Improving On-time Performance, Cutting Set Up Time

Scott Bunn, Groov-Pin’s operations manager, discusses opportunities for implementing lean principles with EI<sup>2</sup>’s Sam Darwin.

Scott Bunn, Groov-Pin’s operations manager, discusses opportunities for implementing lean principles with Sam Darwin of the Enterprise Innovation Institute.

When the leaders of Groov-Pin, a manufacturer of engineered fasteners, were thinking of ways to improve the company’s business, they went all the way to China. Ironically, the 2007 trip was made to determine how Groov-Pin could remain competitive – against similar Chinese manufacturers.

“It’s tough to be profitable today when you’re up against the rising cost of metals and the availability of labor. When Asian manufacturers came onto the scene, they were able to make inserts like ours for less money,” said Scott Bunn, Groov-Pin’s operations manager. “Four of us took a trip to China, Taiwan and Hong Kong to see how they were doing business and the kind of equipment they were using. We came back and decided the way for us to be more competitive was to deliver faster.”

After returning from Asia, Groov-Pin President Scot Jones asked Bunn to attend a lean manufacturing seminar. Bunn discovered Georgia Tech’s lean boot camp, a four-day class led by the Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) that teaches participants how lean techniques impact profit, lead-time, inventory, quality and customer service. By the end of the course, he knew that he and others within the organization could map current and future value streams, identify appropriate techniques for improvement, develop a lean strategy and plan the application of specific lean techniques, a set of tools widely used in manufacturing to help identify and steadily eliminate waste from an organization’s operations.

“I really liked the hands-on aspect of the Georgia Tech training. We sat in a classroom and went over the literature, but then we actually did a factory simulation,” Bunn recalled. “It demonstrated how, if you made some simple changes, you could become more efficient at doing things.”

The Georgia Tech class generated enthusiasm among the Groov-Pin leaders, and at corporate headquarters in Smithfield, RI, they decided to initiate the company’s lean journey. Groov-Pin worked with Rhode Island Manufacturing Extension Services (RIMES), a nonprofit organization funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that works with small- and medium-sized manufacturers to improve operations, increase efficiency and raise profits. When it came time to implement lean solutions in the Newnan facility, Bunn contacted EI2, which operates the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, similar to RIMES.

Sam Darwin and Bill Ritsch, EI2 lean specialists, visited Groov-Pin in March 2010 to assess the company’s needs, and they proposed a series of kaizen events. Kaizen, or rapid improvement, is a focused activity on a particular process or activity that identifies and quickly removes waste. The first event was held in April around Groov-Pin’s scheduling process.

“The first day you tear apart the whole process and ask yourself what things aren’t working. The second day you take those ideas and brainstorm ways of doing new things,” Bunn noted. “It was so simple what we did with scheduling that it blew everyone’s minds.”

Prior to the scheduling kaizen event, Groov-Pin was scheduling the production of orders based on when they were required by customers and by putting a priority on orders with the highest dollar value.  Now, the shop floor workers use visual scheduling boards that provide visibility of all orders and machine capacity over rolling five-week blocks of time. The scheduling boards allow everyone to see when every order in the plant should run, not just those within a two-week timeframe.

“We started to see results in just a couple of weeks. Before, we just looked at the due date, but we were also focused on how many dollars we could get out the door for the month. It was all about sales,” explained Bunn. “Georgia Tech helped us realize that if you’re producing on time, the sales are going to come.”

As a result of the scheduling kaizen event, Groov-Pin’s Newnan facility improved its on-time performance by nearly one-third, to 94 percent. Bunn also notes that staff mindset has changed considerably as a result of the project.

“Some of these guys have been working here a very long time, more than 20 years. When they see something grinding away at the same pace and not improving, that’s tough to do every day. But when they come in and see that some change has been made that makes their lives easier, those are improvements that people really think are fantastic,” Bunn observed. “It’s still a push to get people to do things above and beyond what their regular job is, but when they see progress, they are more apt to do it. That’s part of what we see as Groov-Pin’s culture change.”

In addition to the scheduling kaizen event, Groov-Pin conducted additional events in setup reduction, outside services and parts flow – all with impressive results. Setups that were taking eight hours and four hours have been slashed to 50 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively. Bunn also projects production and sales increases, and says that as the economy rebounds, Groov-Pin will add jobs.

The team also applied 5S (sorting, straightening, shining, standardizing, and sustaining), a method for organizing the workplace. After the company’s last business meeting, managers and sales staff from across Groov-Pin’s two locations toured the Newnan facility and were impressed with what they saw.

“We have a 25-year-old building with a machine shop and it can be a dirty, oily environment. We really cleaned the place up, made it brighter, and made a lot of improvements and we showed people the improvements we made,” Bunn said. “Georgia Tech has helped us do in less than a year the things that we tried to do for years and couldn’t get done. The proof is in the pudding. On-time performance is up, lead times are beginning to go down and setups are now being done in a fraction of the time. That’s measurable.”

Groov-Pin Corporation was founded in 1926 to address a growing market for patented press fit fasteners used in a wide variety of industries, including food processing, irrigation, automotive, aerospace and military, among others. Over the years, the company has played a leading role in establishing commercial and military standards for engineered fasteners.

About Enterprise Innovation Institute:

The Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute helps companies, entrepreneurs, economic developers and communities improve their competitiveness through the application of science, technology and innovation. It is one of the most comprehensive university-based programs of business and industry assistance, technology commercialization and economic development in the nation.

Research News & Publications Office

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); E-mail (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: Nancy Fullbright