Atlanta Entrepreneur Paul Freet Joins VentureLab Team at Georgia Tech

Paul Freet, who recently joined Georgia Tech’s VentureLab as a commercialization catalyst, admits he’s overqualified for his job.

But that’s a good thing, says Freet, a successful entrepreneur with three startup companies to his credit — almost a requirement for a job that demands both broad business judgment and sustained entrepreneurial enthusiasm.

“I think that in general VentureLab tends to bring in people who are overqualified — people who have done this before, who have created multiple startup companies,” he said.  “They’re here because they have some higher mission, a higher vision.”

VentureLab is a unit of the Enterprise Innovation Institute’s Commercialization Services, which evaluates and helps to commercialize Georgia Tech intellectual property. About 10 percent of the more than 300 inventions disclosed by Tech researchers each year are judged to have the right stuff for forming a VentureLab startup.

Working with other VentureLab commercialization catalysts, Freet is responsible for aiding and advising numerous fledgling technology ventures, most of which are still in a pre-incorporation, proof-of-concept phase.  VentureLab catalysts help these aspiring companies sharpen their product concept, find office/lab space and also obtain seed funding, which generally comes from the Georgia Research Alliance.

“We’re delighted to have recruited an entrepreneur of Paul’s experience and stature,” said Stephen Fleming, director of Commercialization Services. “His combination of entrepreneurial experience, technical acumen and plain old business enthusiasm are ideal qualities in a commercialization catalyst.”

Freet graduated from Georgia Tech in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a computer engineering certificate.  He spent his initial career years with semiconductor giant Hitachi in both marketing and application engineering roles.

His entrepreneurial calling began in 1996, when as chief technology officer he helped found a San Diego startup called TruSOLUTIONS, a maker of Linux servers for Internet use. That company was sold to VA Linux Systems in 2000 for $200 million.

Freet then moved with his family back to Atlanta and founded Racemi, a venture-funded maker of modular blade-server computers.  Racemi evolved into a software company that has pioneered a new approach to data-center recovery and migration tasks.

Freet first became familiar with Georgia Tech’s programs for startup companies in 2002 when Racemi became a member of the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), a Georgia Tech unit that incubates young companies that have moved beyond the VentureLab stage.  Racemi graduated from ATDC in 2007 and is now an independent company.

But Freet already knew Stephen Fleming. They met when Fleming was working for a venture capital fund, and they stayed in touch over the years.

“When Stephen announced he wanted to fill a VentureLab slot and was looking for suggestions, I started thinking about who I would refer him to,” Freet recalled.  “Then it dawned on me that, my goodness, that would be a perfect role for me.”

As a VentureLab catalyst, Freet is already using his computer, software and electronics experience to shepherd a number of Georgia Tech researchers and their discoveries through a process that could lead to a viable startup company.

The biggest stumbling block for new companies isn’t material, he says; seed money and office space can usually be found for a promising technology.

Instead, the greatest challenges are intellectual. Distilling a technological idea into a commercial product is difficult, and often the researchers who made the discovery can’t make that leap because they lack business experience and are too close to the technology.

“If all you’ve got is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail,” Freet said.

To commercialize any technology, he explains, it’s critical to boil the concept down to something simple and come up with an instructive “story” that can be shared.

“That’s something I try to do very quickly with a young company — find the real germ of the idea and a way to explain it simply,” he said. “If you’re trying to raise money, you need to present an investment in a way that a venture capitalist can explain to his or her partners.”

Finding that story can also help identify a technology’s first commercial application.  Freet recalls a recent example in which Georgia Tech researchers had devised a powerful technology to track computer and other expensive equipment. Further discussion indicated the technology was best viewed as a way to keep companies from losing things.

Freet believes that much of VentureLab’s capability hinges on its interdisciplinary nature and the broad experience of its staff.

“We can really bounce things off one another,” he said. “And while I might think that a discovery applies to the computer hardware business, we might find out that it’s actually a very good fit as, say, a biomedical application.”

Freet says the most attractive part of his VentureLab job consists of two benefits that are of great importance to him – giving back to his alma mater and home state, and improving his already strong connections to the state’s technology community.

“And then,” he added, “there’s the fun stuff – learning about all this great technology and getting to know some pretty amazing people here at Tech.”

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: Rick Robinson

SoloHealth: New ATDC Company Addresses Gap in Eye Care Market

Because of risk factors such as race, age and family history, nearly 30 million Americans were at high risk for vision loss last year, but did not have their eyes examined by an eye care professional. Bart Foster, CEO of new ATDC member company SoloHealth, wants to change that statistic.

“On average, Americans get their teeth cleaned once or twice a year, but only get a regular eye exam once every three to four years.  According to a recent study by Prevent Blindness America, the cost of vision loss in the United States is $51 billion a year,” Foster said. “We have developed a self-service vision test that will educate people on the importance of eye health and motivate them to see their eye care professional on a more frequent basis. It is not, however, a substitute for an eye examination with an eye care professional.”

SoloHealth’s inaugural product, dubbed EyeSite™, is powered by sophisticated software and an interactive video interface. After entering demographic information into the machine, users are asked a series of questions to measure both their near and distance vision. SoloHealth, a spinoff company of CIBA VISION, plans to install EyeSite kiosks in high-traffic locations including malls, drugstores and department stores.

“EyeSite provides a customized report of a person’s test results and directs them to see an eye care professional in their area,” said Foster, noting that the high-tech concept is similar to blood pressure machines found in drugstores. In addition to the test results, the report provides maps to a nearby doctor’s office and offers coupons in an effort to increase traffic for eye care practitioners.

EyeSite has a number of benefits for consumers, who on average spend $296 per visit at the eye doctor. The free test can potentially save sight and improve vision by alerting individuals to eyesight problems it detects. Consumers are also educated about various ocular diseases and conditions, and are directed to schedule a complete eye examination with an eye care professional.

According to Foster, SoloHealth is capitalizing on three major growth trends:  Consumer-driven health care, digital signage and retail kiosks. Currently, an EyeSite prototype is being tested in a Super Wal-Mart north of Atlanta.

SoloHealth’s revenue will come from those who benefit most: the eye care professionals who see more patients and the manufacturers who sell more products. Foster first conceived the idea for EyeSite and SoloHealth while at Duluth-based CIBA VISION, the eye care unit of Novartis AG. He received the company’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for his efforts.

Foster became involved with ATDC when SoloHealth was selected as one of 15 technology companies to participate in the CapVenture Program, a comprehensive fundraising boot camp designed to equip CEOs with business and funding strategy. Only 15 of 100 companies that applied were chosen to participate.

“The CapVenture course was phenomenal for me and my company, and a catalyst to get us to where we are now,” he said. “We are delighted that ATDC has welcomed SoloHealth into its prestigious ranks. Being affiliated with this program offers SoloHealth a treasure of collective experience and leadership that we can draw from as we take our business to the next level.”

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

WorthPoint: New ATDC Company Creates One-Stop Shop for Collectors and Auction Houses

Will Seippel, CEO and founder of WorthPoint, describes his startup as “Antiques Roadshow on steroids.” The company, which recently moved its headquarters to Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), creates an online environment where people can find the value and history of antiques and collectibles.

“Provenance – or the origin of a particular item – can create a worth that’s twice as much as the object itself is worth,” noted Seippel. “This is a huge market, but it’s fragmented. There’s no reporting system or NASDAQ for collectibles, but WorthPoint can help people understand what it is they are buying and selling and allow collectors to share information and knowledge.”

WorthPoint, a multimedia and database company, wants to be the only complete taxonomy on the Web for antiques and collectibles. Taxonomy is the practice and science of classifying items, usually in a hierarchical structure. Already, WorthPoint has created a database of nearly two million such items; Seippel’s ultimate data goal is hundreds of millions of items.

“If you look at ancestry.com, their objective is to make the birth records of every person ever born available. We’re trying to do something similar with all the stuff man made,” he said.

The process for WorthPoint’s taxonomy is a laborious and technology-intensive one. Beginning with purchased reference material, WorthPoint has the information tagged for data attributes and then catalogued. For example, the company has catalogued every known shape and form of Rookwood pottery, popularized in the 1920s and 1930s, and assigned digital barcodes to each piece.

Then, WorthPoint’s in-house experts – deemed Worthologists – put the catalogued and bar coded information into a semi-wiki environment in which users can make suggested changes to the Webmasters. Seippel eventually plans on incorporating visual recognition into WorthPoint’s database that would allow auctioneers and collectors to search via common words and photographs.

“If you look at the antiques market today, there are all these players and they’re in no way connected to each other. You have everything from grandma’s attic to insurance companies trying to figure out how to value goods to experts who try to withhold their knowledge from everyone else,” Seippel said. “We’re trying to create a common language and network between all those people, thereby creating a much more efficient market.”

According to Seippel, everyone collects something, and the numbers prove it. In 2006, there were 84 million active eBay users, more than 100 million worldwide collectors, 30,000 U.S. appraisers and 16,000 auctioneers worldwide. More than 500 million collectibles are sold on eBay and an estimated 100 million collectibles are sold by auctioneers annually.

Currently, WorthPoint’s primary competitors are paper price guides and magazines, traditional Internet auctions and first-generation Internet pricing sites. While those companies are limited by outdated technology and search capabilities, WorthPoint’s advantages lie in its taxonomy, its combination of collector, technology and domain expertise and its patent strategy.

“A host of small Internet sites exist due to their poor products. The user needs to go from site to site gathering information, and the same traffic sustains them all,” Seippel said. “WorthPoint’s strategy is to be the first in adopting new technologies, market directly to the consumer and build value for the auction house.”

The company’s revenue model is based on advertising, traffic to the Web site, subscriptions, brokering and fees for service offerings such as evaluations, appraisals. Indeed, user demographics are an advertiser’s dream: the average income of WorthPoint users is $80,000, average home value is $427,000 and the age range is 32 to 77. More than half of the site’s traffic comes from outside the United States.

In the future, WorthPoint will offer WorthPoint seals of approval and a Worth button (both patented technologies) accessible on different Web sites or via a personal digital assistant that will let consumers determine the value of an item they might be considering purchasing. In addition, consumers will be notified about the values of comparable items.

In March 2008, WorthPoint moved its corporate headquarters staff, media content and sales operations from northern Virginia to Atlanta. Seippel is excited about the opportunities Georgia Tech and ATDC will provide.

“Georgia Tech and ATDC have helped make Atlanta the technology capital of the Southeast,” he said. “The metropolitan area is progressive, affluent, home to a young, educated, tech-savvy workforce and is an active player in the global economy.”

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

Suniva: Solar 2.0 Company Launches with Innovative Technology

Suniva, the newest member company in Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), has actually been in the making for more than 30 years. The company, which will design, manufacture and market advanced solar energy cells, is the brainchild of Ajeet Rohatgi, director of the University Center of Excellence for Photovoltaic Research and Education at Georgia Tech.

Rohatgi, who also serves as founder and chief technology officer for Suniva, has been at Georgia Tech since 1985, when he started the Institute’s photovoltaic program. He has published nearly 300 papers on solar technology and been awarded 11 patents. Photovoltaics refer to a solar power technology that converts light from the sun directly into electricity.

“We’re not attempting to go into the lab and hoping in three years we’re going to come out with something that’s going to be radical and maybe will work. We already have something that works,” said John Baumstark, CEO of Suniva. “Ajeet has been creating and working on cells for a long time in his lab; he’s got 15 world record cells already. Today we are producing a product that is the best in the world.”

In September 2005, Rohatgi won a patent that allows solar cells to be manufactured in a new way. Compared with other solar technologies, this new process results in a superior solar-cell performance and efficiency with reduced production time and cost. The next step for Suniva will be creating these solar cells in a manufacturing line in high volume; Baumstark estimates the first ones will be rolling off the line by the end of 2008.

The solar cells that Suniva will manufacture begin with silicon, which is then highly purified and made into ingot, a metal molded into a simple shape. After a series of chemical processes, the ingot are sliced into wafers, which are processed into the solar cells. Solar cell manufacturers sell the completed cells to panel manufacturers and distributors who add electrical components, and then the panels go to installers, who put the solar panels on the roofs of residential and commercial buildings or other appropriate applications.

The core of Suniva’s strategy is to develop and maintain ultra high cell efficiency while using cheaper manufacturing technology and using much less silicon ingot, thereby reducing cost per kilowatt hour of electricity produced by the cells. Solar cell efficiency in the industry is currently at 16 percent (out of a 25 percent ceiling), but Rohatgi has already demonstrated a 19 percent efficiency in production cells without using exotic or hazardous materials in the process.

“Creating an extra one percent of efficiency actually creates 10 percent extra power,” explained Rohatgi. “That translates to millions of extra dollars in revenue without having to put any additional money into it. If you can do something clever without adding cost or even while reducing cost at the same time, that’s where we come in.”

The ultimate goal – for every solar-based company – is to achieve average peak-load grid level parity. Grid parity refers to the point at which photovoltaic electricity is equal to or cheaper than grid power (from electric utilities), the general purpose alternating current electricity during peak usage times. It has already been reached or surpassed in some locations around the world. Examples are Hawaii and other islands that use diesel fuel to produce electricity as well as in Italy, where photovoltaic power has been cheaper than retail grid electricity since 2006. Suniva’s goal goes one step further: to achieve average base-load grid parity that will make the cost to use its cells much more attractive to everyone.

“We are using less silicon, so we are looking for ways to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency,” noted Baumstark. “The cell is really key for reducing the overall cost of solar and getting it towards the grid parity you hear everybody talking about.”

Although solar energy currently accounts for less than two percent of the world’s energy needs, it is expected to grow to nine percent by 2030. Last year, the solar energy market posted $20 billion in revenue. By 2030, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association predicts that number will explode to $425 billion.

In October, Baumstark announced that Suniva had raised $5 million to ramp up the company and expand its technology. Venture firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA), located in Menlo Park, Calif. and Reston, Va., invested in Suniva.

“Using the Web analogy, we like to think of ourselves as a solar 2.0 company. In the first generation, there was a lot of money poured down the rabbit hole,” said Baumstark. “The reality is that investors now want something that is going to be commercially viable. That’s what NEA saw in this investment and why they got behind this.”

Already, Suniva has licensed the intellectual property from Georgia Tech and has hired both the head of research and development and manufacturing as well as marketing . Baumstark is also in the process of identifying potential manufacturing facilities and incentives and will soon sign a letter of intent to purchase a one-year supply of silicon.

“We’re putting together a world-class team, and we have the patents that we’ve licensed from Georgia Tech that have been created over the last 20 years,” Baumstark said. “The initial line will produce between $75 and $100 million in revenue, so we’ll scale very quickly. We’ll be profitable by year two.”

Suniva currently has seven employees but expects that number to grow exponentially to 1,000 in five years. Baumstark is banking on ATDC to help catapult Suniva to the next level.

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

Innovolt: The Next Generation of Power Protection

To date, Americans have bought more than $2 billion worth of surge protectors, a commonly available consumer product designed to protect electronic devices from voltage spikes. But state-of-the-art research done by Deepak Divan – co-founder and chief innovation officer of Innovolt, Inc, a new member of Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) family – says that the level of protection provided by the existing products is just not enough in today’s digital world.

Divan discovered that traditional surge protectors only protect consumers from only one percent of the damage-causing voltage spikes. The other 99 percent of damage-causing events relate to voltage sags, the very small fluctuations that occur over the grid all the time.

“I had worked in the power protection area for decades, and I was puzzled that electronics equipment still kept failing in the field despite the application of transient voltage surge suppression or TVSS devices,” explained Divan, also a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Intelligent Power Infrastructure Consortium (IPIC) at Georgia Tech. “I started digging and found that although lightning strikes are routinely blamed for damage, there is very little data that supports that.”

Divan’s research revealed that the culprit was not voltage surges but current-inrush surges – electrical current spikes that follow the small voltage sags. Such sags typically show up as a momentary flickering of lights. Many times our eyes don’t see it but the electronics does. Then, as electrical flow recovers, current surges can damage every type of electronics equipment from consumer to industrial.

Innovolt’s patented device, a current-inrush voltage surge suppressor (CVSS), was invented by Divan. This “next generation” surge protection technology combines current-in-rush suppression in addition to the traditional TVSS found in existing surge protectors. Whereas TVSS devices protect against voltage surges, CVSS devices additionally protect against over-voltage and current surges, as well as allowing for micro-processor enabled diagnostics.

“Last year alone, 45 million surge protectors were sold in the U.S. market at a median price of $20 each. Those customers have already bought into the concept that they need some kind of protection,” said Divan. “Our idea is to come out with a product that is demonstrated to be superior and already includes the level of protection they are buying today. Getting people to purchase something that costs a comparable amount but protects more is a low hurdle to cross.”

Innovolt’s addressable market is comprised of residential, commercial, industrial, manufacturing and utility customers. Suresh Sharma, president and CEO of Innovolt, says that the company is developing a line of products that will help protect anything containing electronics, from televisions and computers to industrial equipment, and even the utilities grid.

“We looked at the market and this is a snapshot of where our products will immediately fit – retail consumers, offices, home theaters and industrial. You can see the potential for growth,” said Sharma, who previously served as global technology leader for GE Energy in Atlanta. “When there is enough consumer awareness, then there will be market pull. Our global team is innovating across all business functions – technology, marketing, supply chain and product development.”

Already, Innovolt has developed three types of surge protection devices, including a plug-in unit for consumers and a DIN rail-mounted unit for industrial equipment in equipment racks. The plug-in device was recently certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and has been launched for sale. The DIN rail device would be marketed to industrial customers. Later business plans call for rolling out products and services to the commercial and utility sectors.

“Our sales and marketing strategy is two-pronged – top down and bottom up,” explained Sharma. “We will work from the customers’ end and address their needs, but we are also taking a different approach by creating awareness via ‘viral’ marketing – leveraging Web 2.0 technologies including Facebook, MySpace, Wikipedia, and others.”

Founded in October 2005, the company became fully operational during the first quarter of 2007, with more than $2.5 million in angel funding. The vision of the company is to make a start in the energy industry from the power protection segment, but then continue to grow in energy management and energy efficient products for eco-friendly homes and environments. The company invested in Integral Technologies, India, Innovolt’s global product development partner, to produce light-emitting diode (LED) lighting solutions among several other energy safety and efficiency products. Sharma estimates the long-term global target market for Innovolt is more than $270 billion.

“We see this as a next generation device, not as a completely different type of technology,” Divan said. “The users will not have to wonder if they need voltage or current protection – they will have both.”

Before joining the ATDC, the company received assistance from VentureLab, a Georgia Tech program that provides comprehensive assistance to faculty members, research staff and graduate students who want to form startup companies to commercialize the technology innovations they have developed. Sharma said he is excited about the potential of being associated with ATDC.

“I think this is one of the best business eco-systems I have ever seen. We like the ambience here, the access to the talent pool and the support,” he noted. “ATDC is creating a great legacy, and we would like to be a part of that.”

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

Damballa: Combating BotArmies to Secure the Internet

Imagine a sophisticated network of Web robots, known simply as “bots,” that can run automated tasks over the Internet and are the root cause for much of the fraud perpetrated online. These software applications secretly install themselves on thousands – even millions – of personal computers, banding them together into BotArmies that maliciously fetch, analyze and store information from PCs and Web servers and commit online crimes.

This scenario is not science fiction. Rather, it’s rather what The New York Times called a “growing threat” of “zombie computers” last January. This threat is exactly what startup company Damballa, a new member company in Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), will combat.

“The problem is that we as a community rely on the Internet for a lot of basic things, and our basic trust assumptions are now compromised,” observed CEO Steve Linowes. “There’s a fundamental change in the way compromises are happening. Traditionally, machines have been targets, meaning that the whole purpose of the attack was to go and conduct fraud or kill files on that particular machine. Now, they’re compromising the machine in order to commit fraud somewhere else.”

BotArmies are controlled by a BotMaster, who directs a vast number of bot-compromised computers via a command and control server. BotArmies are frequently used for distributed denial of service attacks; spamming; “sniffing” and “key logging,” which capture user information such as e-mails, home banking data, PayPal account information and passwords; identity theft; and hosting illegal software.

“These BotMasters are very smart and financially motivated. As a result, they are extremely stealthy,” noted Linowes. “They are renting and selling these armies online, and we’ve seen as many as four million machines under a single person’s control. We estimate that about 11 percent of the Internet is bot-compromised. Solving such a considerable problem has proven to be difficult because the BotMaster has a very real monetary incentive to stay ahead of traditional security countermeasures.”

The threat of bots is certainly a pervasive one. Approximately 90 percent of all spam originates from BotArmies, and 75 percent of enterprise organizations will be infected with bot malware in the next 12 months. The average cost to an organization is 50 to 100 times greater than a virus attack. And, according to Linowes, even the most prestigious enterprise organizations can become compromised without knowing it.

Damballa’s powerful and unique approach to identifying bots and their associated BotArmies uses a series of sensors embedded across the fabric of the Internet to monitor Internet traffic from key listening posts in order to identify fraudulent communications associated with BotArmies.

“We’ve built a platform that collects data from this range of sensors, brings it back into our analysis center, correlates the information, and then delivers it to our customers via structured data feeds that enable our customers to identify BotArmies and mitigate the threat,” said Linowes.

Damballa originated in VentureLab, a Georgia Tech program that provides comprehensive assistance to faculty members, research staff members and graduate students who want to form startup companies to commercialize the technology innovations they have developed.

“We are honored to be part of VentureLab and the ATDC family,” continued Linowes. “ATDC is known to produce high-growth companies, and we look forward to leveraging the resources offered to enhance Damballa’s presence in the market.”

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

ATDC Wins AeA Spirit of Endeavor Award

Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) won a Spirit of Endeavor Award from the Southeast Chapter of the AeA (American Electronics Association), the nation’s largest technology trade association. The award was presented in the category “Leadership in Education by a Technology Organization” for its FastTrac® Tech Venture™, a comprehensive business training program developed by the Kauffman Foundation. The Technology Association of Georgia served as the marketing partner with ATDC on presenting a customized version of this program locally.

Each year the Spirit of Endeavor Awards celebrate the success of individuals and organizations that have made a significant impact on the direction of the technology industry in the southeast.

“In our 20 years in Atlanta, the AeA Southeast Council has fostered and cultivated the spirit of endeavor, which drives the technology industry through the creation and execution of ideas,” said Mike Levin, executive director of the AeA Southeast Council. “Our nominees and winners this year reflect the high quality of technology professionals and organizations that continue to bring attention to the southeast as a haven for the advancement of technology. We salute those that embody and display that spirit for their hard work and accomplishments that help advance the spirit of technology.”

ATDC presented the comprehensive 12-week business program last fall to address the needs of startup technology entrepreneurs. Participants worked intensively with mentors and learned from entrepreneurial experts on subjects such as defining target markets, conducting market research and analysis, planning for financial success, protecting intellectual property, identifying funding and managing cash, among others.

“Overall the program was a great success for the companies and the community,” said Cindy Cheatham, director of business development for ATDC. “Companies sharpened their plans and impressed investors, which led to more than a dozen in-person meetings.  Through this program, we built a community of mentors and entrepreneur peers that will continue to be an asset in Georgia’s technology community for years to come.”

The 2007 recipients of the Spirit of Endeavor Awards were selected from 50 nominees by a panel of 35 respected community leaders from all segments of the southeast technology community. Mark Allen, Georgia Tech’s senior vice provost for research and innovation and co-founder and chief technology officer of CardioMEMS, an ATDC graduate company that has developed and is commercializing a proprietary wireless sensing and communication for the human body, was also recognized in the “Technology Innovator” category.

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

Velocity Medical: Revolutionizing the Oncology Imaging Market

Tim Fox, one of the founders of Velocity Medical Solutions, LLC, tells people that radiation oncology is akin to designing a war plan on a map – there are areas that are meant to be targeted and areas that need to be avoided. Velocity, a developer of post-diagnostic medical imaging software, was recently accepted into the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Georgia Tech’s nationally-recognized science and technology incubator that helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful companies.

“The goal in radiation oncology is to maximize the dose to the tumor volume and minimize the dose to surrounding normal tissue,” he explained. “Physicians need better tools for multi-modality medical imaging and quantitative assessment, and we’ve built a very sophisticated software system that does just that.”

Velocity was founded in 2004 by a group of Emory University School of Medicine colleagues: Fox, Ph.D., board-certified in medical physics and an associate professor of radiation oncology; Ian Crocker, M.D., a board-certified oncologist and professor of radiation oncology; and Paul Pantalone, M.S., a senior computational imaging scientist. According to Fox, the company was born out of their own needs in radiation oncology for better imaging tools.

“We’ve looked at our competitors and focused on what we think are strengths and weaknesses. At Emory, we use other software tools side-by-side with our product, and clinicians are migrating over to our system,” said Fox, who received his Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from Georgia Tech. “Our strength lies in our ability to incorporate leading-edge molecular imaging techniques while adhering to a physician-based user design.”

The technology – Velocity Advanced Imaging (VelocityAI™) – uses proprietary, scientific algorithms and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last March. Version 1.0, which holds copyright IP protection for the software code, is already in use and features multi-modality image registration and automated tumor contouring technology. This allows various scans such as positron emission tomography (PET), computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance (MR) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) to be overlaid, used and assessed together.

According to Pantalone, who oversees software development, Velocity has incorporated a unique user interface with sophisticated visualization that allows physicians to easily delineate tumor extent, manage workflow and integrate the results into conventional treatment planning systems.

“More and more medical images are being acquired for cancer patients, and VelocityAI™ has the ability to fuse and blend all of these images together,” he noted. “Another simple way of looking at our product is comparing the value contained in weather maps. Combining satellite imagery with Doppler radar provides valuable information to everyone on planning their daily lives. With this product, physicians have a more objective way to plan the ultimate tumor border by viewing many different types of images. When we show this product to them, they immediately see the value.”

Future versions of the software will feature deformable image registration, a means of warping a set of images to match the patient’s planning image with disease sites where the body may morph due to positional changes or changes in the patient’s anatomy. New software will also include atlas-based auto-segmentation, which transposes atlases of normal tissue anatomy onto a patient’s treatment plan. According to Crocker, current systems have very limited anatomical auto-segmentation, so Velocity’s developments in this area will be appreciated by the radiation oncology community.

“Today a physician may spend hours outlining normal tissues on CT and MRI images for an individual patient and this problem is becoming more acute because of the quantity of image information that we have to handle,” commented Crocker.  “Like the atlas-based tool, there are no good tools available commercially to meet this important clinical need.”

Other key differences between Velocity and its competitors include the system’s competitive pricing, the ability to increase physicians’ productivity and its simplicity and mobility. For physicians who move between centers, having a software program that can be installed on a laptop is a big plus.

Velocity capitalizes on three market forces: continually rising cancer incidence rates, profitable reimbursement for radiation treatment and the increasing use of functional imaging, which is expected to grow 189 percent over the next 10 years. According to Fox, the product provides a better visualization and localization of the actual disease, thereby increasing treatment success rates.

“Our soon-to-be released therapy response assessment module capitalizes on an unmet need for a product to provide information on the efficacy of cancer therapies,” he stated. “If you can determine at a certain stage that a particular medication is not working, you can switch to another drug. Response assessment during treatment using molecular imaging will certainly be valuable to drug companies.”

Hospital-based treatment sites and freestanding clinics will serve as Velocity’s two primary customer targets; already there have been five site installations. Eventually, the company will perform installations remotely and will offer training sessions in Atlanta.

“In total, we expect to canvas at least 75 to 80 percent of the potential market through a multi-pronged approach,” said Fox. “As a startup, the key is to convince customers that we will be here next year and will be available for product support. We want to selectively target the first 10 to 20 customers, because we understand that having buy-in from certain institutions will make it easier for us to sell to others.”

Currently, the Velocity team includes three employees, not including the three founders. Future growth plans include expanding the engineering group and establishing a service organization for product support as well as a sales and marketing team. Fox said that in five years he expects Velocity to have 30 employees with annual revenues in excess of $10 million.

“As a new company with an FDA-approved medical device on the market, we hope to tap into ATDC’s expertise in developing our sales and service organizations for Velocity. Using the fundraising connections within ATDC, we plan to explore the options for an infusion of outside capital over the next year,” he said. “Our expertise in medical software development combined with FDA regulatory knowledge will complement ATDC’s strengths in marketing, finance and service development.”

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

Intelligent Power Amplifiers: Atlanta IC Developer VT Silicon Receives $3.3 Million to Develop WiMax Chips

Atlanta radio-frequency integrated circuit developer VT Silicon has received a $3.3 million round of financing from California-based Menlo Ventures. The Series A funding will help the company design and produce prototypes of its new “intelligent power amplifier” chips for the next-generation of WiMax mobile devices.

Based on silicon-germanium (SiGe) semiconductor materials, the VT Silicon chips will include patent-pending distortion-prevention techniques – known as linearization enhancement – that are designed to support the complex signals used by WiMax devices. To reduce chip costs to justify high-volume consumer applications, the company is building its amplifiers on low-cost SiGe instead of the more exotic – and costly – gallium arsenide (GaAs) materials used in most existing WiMax power amplifiers.

“This funding will allow us to take the linearization techniques we have already proven in a test chip and apply them to commercial chips within the next 9 to 12 months,” said Mike Hooper, VT Silicon’s CEO. “Our plan is to be shipping samples to customers early next year and to begin ramping to production by the middle of next year.”

VT Silicon is a member company of Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC).

WiMax is intended to provide significantly higher bandwidth and broader coverage for the next generation of mobile devices that will support such applications as streaming video. Sprint Nextel Corp. has already announced plans to roll out WiMax service in large metropolitan areas during 2008, and as a result, manufacturers are rushing to provide the special chipsets the devices need.

That will require some engineering innovation, as the new WiMax mobile devices will demand more power – but be less forgiving of the distortion caused by nonlinear effects that occur at higher power levels, Hooper noted. “They are going up on the complexity curve because they are trying to get more and more information into the same bandwidth.”

Meeting the technical demands in potentially high-volume devices will require new levels of optimization — in addition to new techniques for controlling distortion. VT Silicon has already developed one linearization technique, and is working on others.

“What you want to do is build a power amplifier that is more linear for higher power levels,” Hooper said. “That can give you more range, better battery life and compensate for other issues that you associate with higher performance. Since power amplifiers require a balance of power, linearization, efficiency and other factors, you have to optimize each of these for the specific application where they will be used.”

For its chips, VT Silicon has developed proprietary Linear Enhancement Technology (LET) that will permit the higher power levels. Because SiGe can support both conventional bipolar transistors as well as CMOS, the LET can be implemented on the same chip as the power amplifier, providing cost and design simplicity advantages.

“SiGe affords us the ability to put very sophisticated control and intelligence within the power amplifier because SiGe can combine both CMOS – which is low power control circuitry – and bipolar transistors in one fabrication process,” Hooper noted. “It gives us the ability to get fairly complex, allowing us to make intelligent power amplifiers.”

However, the designers will have to compensate for the relatively lower RF power levels currently produced by most SiGe power ICs. “We have some proprietary technologies to get the power we need,” said Hooper. “We can be competitive with gallium arsenide on power levels.”

The company initially plans to produce two power amplifiers for the WiMax market, operating at 2.5 GHz or 3.5 GHz. As a step toward volume manufacturing, it will work with customers to create a reference design for each prototype chip. Jazz Semiconductor Inc. of Newport Beach, Calif. will produce the chips.

Hal Calhoun, managing director at Menlo Ventures, is bullish on the future of the WiMax market – and VT Silicon’s solutions. “We believe that the leading-edge technology from VT Silicon will be very competitive in this fast-moving market,” he said. “The combination of silicon germanium and unique linearization techniques makes the company’s technology attractive to the key players in this new market.”

Hardware costs will be a significant issue in the success of WiMax, which is just one of the technologies vying for dominance in the next generation of mobile devices. “If the chipsets can be produced inexpensively compared to current WiFi devices, WiMax can supplant WiFi and become the leading technology for mobile broadband applications,” Hooper said.

The company’s most significant challenge, he added, is hiring enough RFIC engineers to meet its growth needs. VT Silicon is trying to hire four engineers in a very tight market for top professionals.

“The industry is rebounding, and RFIC engineers are hard to get,” Hooper said. “Atlanta is becoming a new growth center for semiconductor technology. We hope to create a bigger synergy in semiconductor development in the Atlanta area. We’ve got some very exciting new technologies and need smart people to help bring them to market.”

About VT Silicon: VT Silicon designs and manufactures multi-band radio frequency integrated circuit (RFIC) solutions for the mobile wireless broadband market. The company’s products leverage novel linearization and efficiency enhancement technologies that enable original equipment manufacturers, original design manufacturers and reference design houses to manufacture broadband, highly-efficient, low-cost and small-footprint modules and transceivers. For more information, please visit (www.vtsilicon.com).

About Menlo Ventures: Menlo Ventures provides long-term capital and management support to early-stage and emerging-growth companies. It is one of Silicon Valley’s oldest venture capital partnerships, and has organized and managed nine venture funds since its inception in 1976. The firm has more than $4 billion under management, and a team with more than 100 years of collective experience in technology, marketing, sales and general management. For more information, please visit (www.menloventures.com).

Research News & Publications Office
Enterprise Innovation Institute
Georgia Institute of Technology
75 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 314
Atlanta, GA 30308 USA

Media Relations Contact: John Toon (404-894-6986); E-mail: (gro.cdtanull@noot.nhoj).

Writer: John Toon

Georgia Tech Announces Minority Companies of the Year

As part of its annual Financial Roundtable Forum held on Aug. 22, the Georgia Minority Business Enterprise Center (GMBEC) recognized the winners of minority firms of the year in manufacturing, construction, service and technology. The winners were TechnoChem, LLC of Atlanta (manufacturer), ARS Mechanical, LLC of Conyers (construction), Caduceus Occupational Medicine of Atlanta (service) and Syntellus Dataworks of Atlanta (technology). ARS Mechanical also won regional minority construction firm of the year, beating out nominees in eight southeastern states.

TechnoChem provides electro deposition and powder coating for the automotive, industrial and aerospace industries; ARS Mechanical is a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) services firm; Caduceus Occupational Medicine provides medical management services related to occupational health; and Syntellus Dataworks is a technology solutions provider.

Lord and Dominion, a corporate housing and relocation company that landed a $3 million contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shortly after becoming a GMBEC client, was also recognized at the Aug. 22 event with the Minority Business Development Agency Regional Director’s Award.

“This is a tremendous honor for not just the winning companies, but for all Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs),” said Donna Ennis, GMBEC project director. “These companies have worked hard to be successful and are leaders in their industries. I hope this award stands as a symbol of encouragement to all minority business owners to embrace the challenge and help mentor and encourage smaller MBEs.”

The recognition was part of the 25th anniversary of Minority Enterprise Development (MED) activities. MED Week celebrates the achievements of the minority business community and honors outstanding minority business leaders every year who excel in their field of business and demonstrate excellent leadership at the local, regional or national level. Winning firms were chosen based on economic impact, job creation and community leadership.

Approximately 150 participants at GMBEC’s third annual Financial Roundtable Forum learned how to develop successful growth strategies and had the opportunity to hear from CEOs of high-revenue firms such as Steve Ewing of Wade Ford, Woodrow Hall of Diversapack, Rory Sanderson of Sanderson Industries, and Mark Wilson of Ryla Teleservices.

GMBEC’s mission is to provide business and technical assistance that helps emerging and existing minority businesses experience significant growth and sustainability and have a long-term economic impact through the creation of jobs and revenue.

For more information on MBE services offered by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, contact Donna Ennis (404-894-2096); E-mail: (ude.hcetag.etavonninull@sinne.annod).

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