winner, winner

Houston female-focused health tech pitch competition names big winners

Unlike past awards programs hosted by Ignite Healthcare Network, the Ignite Madness winners accepted their awards via video call. Photo courtesy of Ignite

From the comfort of their own homes, several female entrepreneurs accepted investment and pitch prizes at the finals of an inaugural awards program created by a Houston-based, woman-focused health organization.

Ahead of the Ignite Madness finals on Thursday, October 29, Houston-based Ignite Healthcare Network named nine finalists that then pitched for three investment prizes. The finalists included:

  • Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Abilitech Medical — medical device company that creates assistive devices to aid those with upper-limb neuromuscular conditions or injuries.
  • New Orleans, Louisiana-based Chosen Diagnostics — a biotech company focusing on custom treatment. First, Chosen is focused on creating two novel biomarker diagnostic kits — one for gastrointestinal disease in premature infants.
  • San Francisco, California-based Ejenta — which uses NASA tech and artificial intelligence to enhance connected care.
  • Highland, Maryland-based Emergency Medical Innovation — a company focused on emergency medicine like Bleed Freeze, a novel device for more efficiently treating nosebleeds.
  • Columbia, Missouri-based Healium — an app to quickly reduce burnout, self-manage anxiety, and stress.
  • Farmington, Connecticut-based Nest Collaborative — digital lactation solutions and support.
  • Palo Alto, California-based Nyquist Data — a smart search engine to enable medical device companies to get FDA approvals faster.
  • New Orleans-Louisiana based Obatala Sciences — a biotech startup working with research institutions across the globe to advance tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
  • Perth, Australia-based OncoRes — a company that's developing a technology to provide surgeons with real-time assessment of tissue microstructure.
The inaugural event that mixed health care and basketball — two vastly different industries with strong connections to women — attracted support from partners and sponsors, such as Intel, Accenture, Morgan Lewis, Houston Methodist, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and more, according to Ayse McCracken, founder and board chair of Ignite.

"Our partners and sponsors are an integral part of our organization" says McCracken. "Without each and every one of them, the networks, resources, and commitment to advancing women leaders, we would not have grown so rapidly in just four years and our IGNITE Madness event would not enjoy this vibrant ecosystem that now surrounds female entrepreneurs."

First up in selecting their winner for their investment was Texas Halo Fund. Chosen Diagnostics took home the $50,000 investment.

"While we were impressed by everyone who pitched tonight, one company stood out to us," says Kyra Doolan, managing partner. "[Chosen Diagnostics] exemplifies what we are looking for: an innovative solution, a strong CEO, and a real addressable market."

The second monetary award was presented by Tom Luby, director of TMC Innovation. The award was an $100,000 investment from the TMC Venture Fund, as well as admission to TMCx. The recipient of the investment was OncoRes.

"We are absolutely blown away," says Katharine Giles, founder of Onco. "We've already got a great link to Texas and looking forward to more."

The largest monetary award that was on the table was presented by Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health, a leading Southern-California based, early stage venture capital firm, for $150,000. However, at the time of the announcement, Managing Partner Jay Goss decided to award four startups an undisclosed amount of investment. Goss says he and his team will meet with each company to establish an investment.
The companies that were recognized by Wavemaker were: Healium, Ejenta, Emergency Medical Innovation, and Nest Collaborative.
Lastly, Ignite itself had $27,500 cash awards to give out to the pitch competition winners. The funds will be distributed between the winners. OncoRes took first place, Abilitech came in second place, and ObatalaSciences took third place.

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Building Houston

 
 

This week's roundup of Houston innovators includes Michael Suffredini of Axiom Space, Julie King of NB Realty Partners, and Owen Goode of Zaelot. Photos courtesy

Editor's note: In this week's roundup of Houston innovators to know, I'm introducing you to three local innovators across industries — from space tech to software development — recently making headlines in Houston innovation.


Michael Suffredini, CEO and president of Axiom Space

Axiom's CEO announced a new mission and space suit design. Photo courtesy of Axiom Space

It was a big news week for Axiom Space. The Houston company announced its next commercial space mission with NASA to the International Space Station a day before it unveiled its newly design space suit that will be donned by the astronauts headed to the moon.

“We’re carrying on NASA’s legacy by designing an advanced spacesuit that will allow astronauts to operate safely and effectively on the Moon,” says Micahel Suffredini, CEO of Axiom, in a statement. “Axiom Space’s Artemis III spacesuit will be ready to meet the complex challenges of the lunar south pole and help grow our understanding of the Moon in order to enable a long-term presence there.”

Called the Axiom Extravehicular Mobility Unit, or AxEMU, the prototype was revealed at Space Center Houston’s Moon 2 Mars Festival on March 15. According to Axiom, a full fleet of training spacesuits will be delivered to NASA by late this summer. Read more.

Julie King, president of NB Realty Partners

Houston's access to lab space continues to be a challenge for biotech companies. Photo via Getty Images

In terms of Houston developing as an attractive hub for biotech companies, Julie King says the city still has one major obstacle: Available lab space.

She writes in a guest column for InnovationMap that biotech startups need specialized space that can hold the right equipment. That's not cheap, and it's usually a challenge for newer companies to incur that cost.

"However, with realistic expectations about these challenges, the good news is that once settled into a facility that is a fit, Houston’s emerging biotech companies can thrive and grow," she writes. Read more.

Owen Goode, executive vice president at Zaelot

Houston software development firm Axon is planning its Texas expansion thanks to its recent acquisition. Photo via LinkedIn

Owen Goode is a huge fan of Houston. That's why when his software design firm, Axon, got acquired by Zaelot, led by CEO Jeff Lombard, in January, he made sure the deal would mean growth in the region.

Zaelot is a global, software firm with a presence in 14 countries, mostly focused in the United States, Uruguay, and Iceland. With the acquisition of Axon, the combined company is poised to expand in Texas, beginning in Houston, Goode says.

“Together we have a strong suite of offerings across a wide variety of domains including full-stack development, cloud/data engineering, design, staff augmentation, project management, and software architecture. We also have experience in multiple domains, including health care, aviation, defense, finance, and startups,” says Goode. Read more.

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