Archive for December, 2015

Louisville Knocks Manufacturing out of the Park

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

In mid-November, I had the pleasure of touring manufacturing plants in the Louisville, Kentucky region as the guest of the marketing consortium of the Greater Louisville Inc. Initiative. Well-known as the home of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat and the start of the “Bourbon Road” tours of bourbon and rye whiskey distilleries, Louisville has a much more diverse manufacturing base than I expected. My hostesses for the plant visits were Eileen Pickett and Ceci Conway, members of the marketing consortium.

Our first visit was FirstBuild, which is a partnership between GE Appliances and Local Motors. We met with Director Venkat (Natarajan Venkatatakrishman) and Randy Reeves of Operations. Venkat said that they are creating “a new model for the appliance industry, engaging a community of industrial designers, scientists, engineers, makers and early adopters to address some of the toughest engineering challenges and innovations.” He explained that “Firstbuild’s mission is to invent a new world of home appliances by creating a socially engaged community of home enthusiasts, designers, engineers, and makers who will share ideas, try them out, and build real products to improve your life.”

The Microfactory is divided into four sections: an interactive space for brainstorming, focus groups and product demonstration, a lab for prototyping, a fabrication shop, and assembly area. In the interactive space, there were some current projects on display: a smart chillhub refrigerator with two integrated USB hubs, an easy-load double oven with a sliding drawer, a wall-mounted pizza oven for home use, and a micro kitchen. Randy Reeves gave us a tour of the fab shop, and besides the expected 3D printers, they have a CMC mill and lathe, a small turret press, a press brake, a small stamping press, and a laser-cutting machine. The shop is capable of producing up to 2,000 units per year of a new product.

Venkat said, “We test the market for a new product using innovative techniques including Indigogo for crowd funding and preordering of the products. If there is sufficient interest in a new product, we can then manufacture those designs in our Microfactory for rapid product introduction and iteration. We are pioneering the future of work with a new model for inventing, building, and bringing the next generation of major appliances to the market. Since we opened on July 23rd, 2014, we have launched 10 products, and one has been scaled up to mass production.”

After lunch, we visited D. D. Williamson (DDW), the world leader in caramel color and a leading provider of natural colors for major food and beverage companies. DDW’s natural colorings are used in everything from beer, malt ale, soft drinks, sauces, baked goods, cheese, ice cream, and confectionery products.

I was frankly astonished when Chairman and CEO Ted Nixon told me that the company had been founded in 1865 by Dutch immigrant Douw Ditmars Williamson in New York to manufacture burnt sugars for the brewing industry. He said that the company was well positioned to provide caramel color when the cola soft drink industry started and then expanded into colors for other products in the latter part of the 1900s. The company set up a plant in Louisville in 1948, and then moved its headquarters to Louisville in 1970.

Nixon said, “We set up our first plant outside of the U. S. in Ireland in 1978 to produce caramel for the European cola industry. Then, we set up a plant in Shanghai to manufacture caramel color for customers in Asia. In 1999, we began producing in Swaziland to supply customers in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. In 2001, we opened a plant in Manaus, Brazil to service the South American market and acquired a company in Manchester, England in UK in 2004. Now we have nine plants on five continents.”

He added, “About ten years ago, we launched the first certified organic caramel colors in North America and added annatto extract, turmeric, paprika, and red beet to our natural color portfolio. Our lab is continually working on new natural flavors to keep us as the leading producer of natural colors.”

Our last visit of the day was to Peerless Distillery in downtown Louisville. Chairman Corky Taylor gave us a brief history of the company. He said, “The company was originally founded in 1881 by Elijah Worsham and Capt. J. B. Johnston as Worsham Distillery Company in Henderson, Kentucky. My great grandfather, Henry Kramer, purchased the company in 1889 after Mr. Worsham died and reincorporated as Kentucky Peerless Distilling Company in 1907. My great grandfather invested in new equipment and built the company up from 300 barrels of bourbon a year to a peak of 23,000 barrels in 1917. He stopped production when America entered WWI that year to aid in the conservation of corn for the war. Production did not resume after the war because prohibition went into effect. The 63,000 barrels in the warehouse were sold for medicinal use during prohibition. My great grandfather invested in and became president of First National Bank of Henderson. My dad went to military school and went in an army. During WWII, he was one of the aides to General Patton.”

I asked him what his prior career had been and why he chose to recreate Peerless, and he said, “I owned successful financial services that focused on designing pension systems for government agencies. About five years ago, I sold my business and retired to Sarasota, Florida. Walking the beach one day, I realized that being retired and boring was depressing and boring, so I moved back to Louisville to resurrect my great grandfather’s business and leave a legacy. I needed something to make life worth living.”

Corky’s son Carson was a building contractor and they hired an associate of his, Michael Vaughn, to rehab the building they selected in the historic downtown area being redeveloped. It took over a year to rehab the building, and they began production last February. Michael Vaughn stayed on as Operations Mgr. and is working to become a Master Distiller. Michael gave us the tour of the distillery and told us that it takes four years to age bourbon and two years to age rye whiskey, so they are producing moonshine in the meantime. They have developed unique flavors, and we were each allowed to have a half ounce of two flavors. As a virtual non-drinker, I liked the Green Apple and Chocolate the best. The moonshine is only 44 proof, about the same as wine, and it was a nice way to end our busy day.

The next day, we visited Amatrol, located across the river from Louisville in a 120,000 sq ft. headquarters plant in Jeffersonville, Indiana. President Paul Perkins said that his parents, Don and Roberta Perkins, founded the original parent company, Dynafluid, Inc. in 1964. He said the company started as a manufacturer of industrial automation systems for many Fortune 500 companies including Coca Cola, General Electric, Alcoa, Ford, Chrysler, and others.

Perkins said, “Many of our customers wanted help in training their employees to use and maintain the automation systems and other equipment we built, so Amatrol was created as the educational division of Dynafluid in 1978 and was formally incorporated as a separate company in 1981.” Amatrol, short for Automated Machine Controls, first provided training equipment to industrial and educational clients for new technologies like those being implemented in Dynafluid’s systems.”

Perkins said, “Amatrol was in a unique position to effectively develop training programs for these technologies because its engineers and technicians were thoroughly familiar with the design, application and maintenance of them. Since that time, Amatrol has grown significantly, becoming the leading company in our primary market segments.”

Over the years, Amatrol focused its business model by providing training equipment and highly engaging interactive multimedia online training software in the following areas for high schools, colleges, and private industry: Advanced Manufacturing, Biotech, Certified Production Technician, CNC Machine Operator, Construction Technology, Engineering Technology, Green Energy Technology, HVAC, Industrial Maintenance, Iron and Steel, Mechanical Maintenance, Mechatronics, Mining, Oil and Gas, Packaging, Power and Energy, Solar Technology, and Wind turbine technology.

Perkins said, “A key factor to our success is that we have a group of people who have developed a very close connection and understanding of the needs of our customers and a realization that satisfying the needs of our customers to make them successful makes our company successful.”

Our next visit was to Rev-A-Shelf, back in Louisville. Rev-A-Shelf was originally a division of Ajax Hardware in California. In 1978, it was established as a division of Jones Plastics and Engineering, a family owned injection molder of appliances parts, and other custom polymer components that now has five manufacturing facilities in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Monterrey, Mexico.

General Manager David Noe said, “We began making metal and polymer Lazy Susan components for some of the largest U.S. cabinet manufacturers. We are a family owned business with a national scope and a passion for innovation. We have grown our product line from Lazy Susans to Kitchen Drawer Organizers, Base Cabinet and Pantry Pull-Outs, functional Waste Containers, LED lighting systems and Childproof Locking System to become a market-leading innovator of quality, functional residential cabinet storage and organizational products. We have factories, warehouses and satellite offices strategically located to serve our expanding customer base of kitchen dealers, architects, furniture manufactures, cabinet industry distributors and retail home centers worldwide.”

We toured the assembly plant and didn’t visit their plastic injection molding facility down the street. The two buildings total 315,000 sq. ft. of space, and the company has about 250 employees. When I asked about Lean, Noe said, “We are currently implementing a comprehensive “Lean Manufacturing” initiative throughout the company. Our goals are to add value to our customers with quality, service, and innovation in everything we do. We are committed to a more functional and organized life for our consumers. Our Marketing Slogan is “We Are Going to Change the Way You Think about Cabinet Organization!”

The last company I visited on my trip was Dant Clayton that manufacturers bleachers and stadium grandstand structures. Founded in 1979 by Bruce Merrick, the company started out making bleachers for Little League ball fields and has grown to providing everything needed for up to 60,000 seat stadiums.

We toured the two production plants built next to the corporate headquarters of the Dant Clayton campus, consisting of 350,000 sq. ft. of production space, spanning 25 acres. The company has a full range of material finish capabilities in-house, including powder coating of steel and aluminum and blasted slip-resistant deck. It was astonishing to see 3 ft. X 12 ft. steel beams attached to hooks moving down the 600 ft. robotic powder coating line before entering the oven to cure. I have never seen such a large supply of aluminum extrusions anywhere. I am sure that having these capabilities and equipment internally allows for greater quality control and continuous improvement.

Merrick said, “For the first few years, we experienced 20% growth before flattening for awhile. Thereafter, we would experience growth spurts for two or three years, and during the growth spurts, we doubled the seating capacity of our bleachers from 500 to 1,000, to 2,000, to 5,000, to 10,000, to 25,000 and then 50,000.” Merrick explained that they “are the most competitive when they get involved at the design stage and provide engineering, construction management, and installation services.”

When I asked what are the key factors are that have led to his company’s success, he said, “A culture of continuous improvement that goes beyond lean manufacturing to include product development, R&D efforts, and discovering latent customer needs, as well as rigorous hiring practices, and a culture of personal development and accountability by all employees.”

The examples of commitment to excellence and continuous improvement displayed by the companies I visited in Louisville are what make America great. And, yes I did get to visit the home of the Louisville slugger between appointments. The company was wooed back from Indiana to set up their manufacturing plant right on the main street of downtown Louisville, and you can watch the bats being made through windows on two sides of the building and visit the museum that houses the model bats for all of the famous baseball sluggers.


CONNECT’s Most Innovative New Product Awards Feature Cutting Edge Technology

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

On December 1, 2015, CONNECT presented its Most Innovative New Product awards to winners in eight categories at its 28th annual event at the Hyatt Regency Aventine. CONNECT is a premier innovation company accelerator in San Diego that helps startup entrepreneurial teams become great companies in the technology and life sciences sectors by providing access to the people capital, and technology resources they need to succeed. CONNECT has assisted in the formation and development of more than 3,000 companies since 1985. Lead sponsors for the event were Ardea Biosciences, Cubic Corporation, and JP Morgan Chase & Company.

Under the new leadership of CEO, Greg McKee, CONNECT has refocused its vision for the future. In his opening comments, McKee said, “We enable and empower scientists and entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into products and services that change lives. We create and activate a powerful network of the world’s leading researchers, entrepreneurs and investors that have an innate drive to be purposeful in making the world a better place. The CONNECT experience elevates the value of this network to make San Diego the center of extraordinary and highly convergent technology. The people of CONNECT are dedicated, authentic, and passionately committed to making a difference in our region and the world. CONNECT’s community ignites San Diego’s position as a leader in the global innovation economy.”
He announced a new big goal to “build the next ten ONE BILLION DOLLAR COMPANIES” by 2025 to help grow the San Diego 200 billion dollar ecosystem to 300 billion dollars.” While admitting the goal is ambitious, he said it is important “Because companies of this size are the life blood of our community – they bring jobs, tax revenues, international recognition, sophistication, and most importantly, they are a magnet to the next generation of leaders. The more successful companies we can create, the stronger the gravitational pull to San Diego becomes.”

Continuing, he said, “But, San Diego’s entrepreneurs are no strangers to creating billion dollar companies. Just off the top of my head, there’s Illumina, Dexcom, Cubic, Care Fusion, Amylin, Idec, Life Technologies, Nuvasive, Callaway, Auspex, Viasat, Resmed, Cymer, Ardea, and I almost forgot that little startup  Qualcomm, just to name a few.” He concluded by saying, “This is the next generation of CONNECT, and if you are with me, if you believe that San Diego’s future depends on being a leader in the global innovation economy, then JOIN US!”

Over 100 companies applied for the Most Innovative Product Award this year. To be eligible, a company must have developed the product in the San Diego or Baja California region, introduced the product and generated revenue from sales between March 2014 and August 2015, and not have been nominated previously. A more than 60 member selection committee pre-screened the applicants and narrowed them down to 24 finalists, three in each of the following eight categories.

Aerospace, Security and Cyber Technologies

Ocean Aero won for its Submaran, which is a wind and solar-powered surface and subsurface vessel, designed for extended autonomous ocean observation and data collection. This unmanned vessel is changing how we observe our oceans because of its survivable and undetected ability to perform long-term data-gathering missions without the need to refuel or recharge.

CEO and President, Eric Patten said, “Ocean Aero is incredibly honored to receive this award, especially considering the competitive field of finalists.” He added, “This award validates the massive potential of the Submaran for the Ocean Aero team.”

The other finalists were Cubic Global Defense for its Javelin missile simulator and Tortuga Logic for its security software suite.


Q Factory 33 won for its B3 Bypass Device that facilitates 625% increases in energy potential of solar, wind, stationary battery backup systems and electrical generators and enables 30% increases in conductivity, five?fold reductions in soft costs and elimination of expensive electrical upgrades.

President and CEO Randy Hughes said, “CONNECT’s recognition of the potential of the B3 Bypass to overcome one of the solar industry’s most perplexing challenges — the bus bar limitations imposed on energy backfeed potential of solar, storage and wind systems across the board — lends another valuable validation to the relevance of our work to drive widespread adoption of clean tech solutions.”

The other finalists were Flux Power for its lithium-ion battery pack and Yulex for its plant-based, natural rubber wetsuit.

Communications and IT

Mushroom Networks won for its VOIP Armor, which if a “Voice over IP” gateway device that automatically heals and works around any network problems that otherwise negatively impact phone calls. You set and forget it for crystal clean phone calls with unbreakable reliability for your business.

“MIP Awards are the Oscar’s of the IT industry and is very important for our company as it confirms our innovative approach to bringing solutions to the market”, said Cahit Akin, Mushroom Networks CEO.

The other finalists were Field Logix for its innovative dispatching solution and the Lytx DriveCamTMVideo-based safety solution for commercial fleets.

Life Science Diagnostics and Research Tools

CureMetrix won for its CureMetrix image analysis platform that quantifies the qualities of anomalies in images. As a first target, CureMetrix is focused on doing early and accurate detection of breast cancer in mammograms along with reducing unnecessary biopsies.

CEO Kevin Harris said, “Winning the CONNECT Most Innovative Product Award in Life Sciences was no small feat since the companies in this category all have amazing teams and products. For us, this is one more bit of validation and recognition that were are working on something that is incredibly important and has the opportunity to change lives.”

The other two finalists were DermTech for its non-invasive adhesive skin biopsy kit and Gattaco for its CENTREPON Centrifuge Replacement Tool.

Mobile Apps

Chalk Digital won for its Instant Mobile Ad Platform that is a Do-it-Yourself advertising solution (portal and app) that builds locally target, affordable campaigns with mobile optimized landing pages within minutes. It offers businesses and consumers the ability to build, target, and launch their own personal advertisement in minutes that is displayed in thousands of mobile apps based on your location.

The other two finalists were Boost Academy for its one-on-one math tutoring and Cubic Transportation Systems’ mobile payment app for trains and buses.

Pharmaceutical Drugs and Medical Devices

PureWick won for its PureWick device that empowers women with safe and simple incontinence management in hospitals, nursing facilities and at home. A non-invasive, disposable wick comfortably moves urine away from the body providing a new standard of care without the need for catheters or specialized nurses.

PureWick President, Camille Newton, M.D. thanked the judges for “recognizing the disruptive elegance in something so simple and intuitive.” She also said that she hoped that the “award will help them get their product to market faster to help women to be dry, comfortable, and safe.”

The other two finalists were RxSafe’s robotic production of strip packaged medications and Tandem Diabetes Care for its t-flex® Insulin Pump.

Software and Digital Media

Comhear‘s MyBeam won for its MyBeam single, portable, wireless 12-18″ sound bar device that produces spatialized, localized, and binaural virtual surround sound. MyBeam delivers a fully immersive audio experience through a portable personal device that replaces headphones. The device commercializes a patent-pending algorithm that sends sound directly to your ears precisely the way your body was designed to receive it.

CEO Perry Teevens said, “CONNECT is an excellent organization and a great platform for innovative companies to gain recognition for their products. We are looking forward continuing our relationship with SD CONNECT and associated members of the organization. Making it to the finals and eventually winning this category has been a thrilling experience. I’m grateful to our employees and partners who made winning this award possible.”

The other two finalists were AristaMD’s Referral intelligence Platform and the SOCI for scoring the social web.

Sport and Active Lifestyle Technologies

Hush won for its Hush Smart Earplugs, which are the world’s first smart earplugs that help people sleep better in noisy environments. Combining a sound machine, earplug, and Smartphone connectivity, Hush allows you to drown out noises that keep you up at night, while simultaneously allowing you to hear the alerts and notifications you need.

Co-founder/CEO, Daniel Lee said, “Winning the MIP award has been a pretty incredible milestone for Hush. As we gear up to finally launch and ship out our long-awaited Hush product, winning such a prestigious award couldn’t have been more timely. As each week passes by, we become less of the college students with lofty dreams and more of a legitimate company with a legitimate product. The MIP award was a landmark milestone defining this maturation.”

The other finalists were the FORECAST new film system by Ride100% and the hookit scoring engine for athletes.

The final award of the evening was the William W. Otterson Award, CONNECT’s highest honor given to technology or a product that has demonstrated a significant impact on society and our quality of life. This year the award was given to the RQ-4 Global Hawk, developed by Northrop Grumman. “The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed to provide military field commanders with comprehensive, near-real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), plus detection of moving targets over a large geographical area for battle management, targeting, and situation awareness of enemy actions. The superior performance of the Global Hawk’s system significantly enhances the U. S. military’s ability to prevail in all types of operations from sensitive peacekeeping missions to full-scale combat.”

The event concluded after “Brennon Crist, Managing Director at JP Morgan Chase & Company, presented a $230,000 check to CEO Greg McKee to support CONNECT in the development of small business clusters in San Diego…Crist stated, We understand that many entrepreneurs are tackling some of the world’s biggest problems, which is why we support start-up accelerators like CONNECT who are making a dramatic difference in the way small businesses work and how they succeed.”

CONNECT is the oldest of the over 40 different accelerators or incubators in the San Diego region, which is one reason why San Diego ranks #2 in the world for the most patents issued. After 30 years leading San Diego’s innovation economy, CONNECT has a built an unbeatable roster of over 500 highly-qualified individuals to serve as Springboard Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and Mentors who volunteer their time as mentors to help entrepreneurs develop successful companies. I am honored to be a new member of the Mentor group after working with inventors for the last six years as part of the San Diego Inventors Forum, which is a “feeder” organization for CONNECT’s Springboard program for entrepreneurs.

Vogt Awards Make Entrepreneurs’ Dreams Come True

Sunday, December 13th, 2015

I had the pleasure of witnessing the dreams of entrepreneurs come true when I attended the Vogt Invention and Innovation Awards Demo Day in Louisville, Kentucky on November 17thand watched Inscope Medical Solutions LLC, a Louisville-based startup, win $100,000 in grant funding.

Inscope Medical has developed an innovative laryngoscope, the OneScope, which integrates controllable suction and wireless video to provide a clear view of the vocal cords, improving the efficiency, speed, and safety of airway intubation.

The entrepreneurial team consists of CEO Maggie Galloway, chief scientific officer Dr. Mary Nan Mallory, and Chief Operating Officer Adam Casson, all of which are graduates of the Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship in University of Louisville’s College of Business.

Four other companies competed for the $100,000 grant during the Vogt Awards Demo Day. Each company had been awarded $20,000 in seed funding in August, which is non-dilutive, meaning no equity was taken. The $20,000 is designed to help the selected companies gothrough the program and maximize the value of the connections they are provided.It enables them to be able to create their first working prototypes via access to world-class resources.

Each company also received ten weeks of intense entrepreneurial training by the EnterpriseCorp staff and mentors, participated in a 10-week Lean Start-Up course by Nucleus and prototype development resources through the University of Louisville’s Rapid Prototyping, GE’s FirstBuild and LVL1 Hackerspace.

Winners also participated in Louisville Mini Maker Faire and were encouraged to network within the entrepreneurial community through Venture Connectors.

Upon completion of the program, companies then pitch their products at Vogt Demo Day. To have a chance to win an additional award up to $100,000 and meet with interested investors who can help take their business to the next level.

Lisa Bajorinas, Director of the Kentucky Innovation Network told me that the Vogt Awards are made possible by the Community Foundation’s Vogt Invention and Innovation Fund. During the 16 years of the program, nearly $2.5 million has been awarded to 50 companies. The program is administered by the entrepreneurial arm of Greater Louisville Inc., EnterpriseCorp, which is focused on assistance for entrepreneurs.

Lisa said, “The late Henry V. Heuser Sr., a native Louisvillian and founder of the Henry Vogt Machine Company, created a $5 million endowment at the Community Foundation to support local entrepreneurship shortly before his death in 1999. Henry had been able to use the equipment on his shop floor to assess the viability and commercial potential when he had an idea about how to make something better, quicker, or easier. He wanted to establish an award that would allow engineers and entrepreneurs access to the same kinds of resources.”

The four runners-up included:

Hue Innovations LLC – developed MiColor, a machine that includes a scanner, polish shaker, and ink that customizes creation of any non-toxic regular or gel nail polish color on demand for nail salons to reduce wasted polish, lower toxicity levels for salon workers, and enhance customer satisfaction by providing more color choices.

Stinger Equipment – created a concrete saw with its own engine and dust collection that safely cuts large blocks in a single pass eliminating fatigue, dangerous cuts, and exposure to lung cancer caused from silica dust inhalation.

Sunstrand – supplier and processor of value-added bio-material for domestic polymer composites using a proprietary line of bamboo and applied to hemp, kenaf, flax and jute offering increased potential to decrease weight and green-up plastics.

TriBlue Engineering Corporation – created a gas sweetening unit that allows natural gas processing plants to remove unwanted CO2 and H2S from their lines to make processing sour gas more economical and allows additional revenue streams to be made available because of the improved quality of the by-products.

The day after the Vogt Demo Day, I had lunch with Maggie Galloway and Adam Casson of Inscope Medical. Maggie explained that she and Adam had been MBA students at the University of Louisville and met Dr. Mary Nan Mallory, also studying for her MBA. They were assigned to form a team to find a problem and solve it. Dr. Mallory and her colleague, Dr. Thomas Cunningham, had experienced a failed intubation in the past and wanted to develop a better laryngoscope.

Maggie said, “Dr. Mallory and Dr. Thomas Cunningham, who was a resident physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at University of Louisville, had the idea for the technology, so the University of Louisville filed the first patent on the device which they are licensing to Inscope Medical.” She said, “The OneScope streamlines the intubation process for physicians and emergency medical practitioners by combining the laryngoscope and the suction catheter so that physicians don’t have to juggle multiple tools.”

Maggie said, “The FDA just issued a recall of some of the equipment used to clean reusable scopes in hospitals, so there will be a big incentive to use disposable devices. Our OneScope is disposable. Maggie added, “About 25 million intubations occur in the U.S. each year and 50 million globally.”

Adam Casson said, “We’ve done more than 650 customer discovery interviews and more than 300 interviews with clinicians, including design feedback from more than 50 paramedics and Emergency Physicians. Our second generation device will also integrate a wireless video camera which will allow physicians to view the placement on a nearby screen.”

After returning home, I found out that the Vogt Award wasn’t the first award that Inscope Medical won. In February 2015, they won the Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge and “received a ‘launch in Louisville’ package that is valued at $100,000. The package, provided by EnterpriseCorp includes services from various Louisville businesses as well as $15,000.”

“The Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge brings top teams of graduate students to Louisville, where they compete for the prize and an invitation to the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition in Austin, Texas, in May,” said Van Clouse, the Cobb Family professor of entrepreneurship at U of L.

According to an article in the Louisville Business Journal, Inscope Medical participated in the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition and won another competition, on Saturday, May 9, 2015. “Among the prizes, Inscope Medical won $75,000, an invitation to close the NASDAQ OMX Stock Market, and a $25,000 incubator package….” The same article mentioned that Inscope Medical’s entrepreneurial “team had a second-place victory at the Rice Business Plan Competition in Houstonin April 2015, where it won $133,000. Prior to that, Inscope Medical took home third place and $4,000 at the Oregon New Venture Championshipin Portland, Ore.”

The number of awards won by Inscope Medical’s entrepreneurial team is impressive. As a director of the San Diego Inventors Forum (SDIF), I know of many startup companies in San Diego that would be very envious of Inscope Medical’s success in obtaining this amount of funding without having to dilute their ownership. Our 2015 SDIF Invention contest awarded cash prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250 to the top three winners in August. How nice it would be to have a multi-million dollar endowment to award ten times the amount we awarded!

As an alumnus of San Diego State University, I have attended the annual Venture Challenge Competition conducted by the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at SDSU, which is the only other formal entrepreneurial contest of which I am aware in the San Diego region. The SDSU competition has showcased next generation companies for more than 20 years and provided students from around the world an opportunity to seek investment for their business ideas. Four years ago, the Venture Challenge transformed into the LeanModel™ Competition. “This new “business model” based competition focuses much more attention to testing a company’s assumptions and getting customer feedback in the early days of the startup.”

The 2016 LeanModel™ Competition will be on Friday, March 4th, and Saturday, March 5th, 2016 on the SDSU campus.” The LeanModel™ Competition is not a traditional business plan competition, it is designed to assist and reward student based start-ups that utilize both a solid business model and customer testing mentality.

“Teams will be competing for prizes totaling $20,000 in cash and inkind services. The top three teams in the competition will be awarded prize money. In addition, the small pitch event winners will also be awarded prize money. In the 2015 Competition, the top three teams won $7500, $4500, and $2500 in cash prizes respectively. The top three small pitch event winners took home cash prizes ranging from $500 to $1500.”

The companies competing in the Demo Day are examples of American inventiveness, but the most difficult challenge for any startup company is to raise enough money to get their product to market. The Vogt Invention and Innovation Awards set a standard that should be emulated by other regions of our country to enable more companies to succeed, grow, and create more manufacturing jobs in the United States.