Strong Women Creating Value 2019: Danielle Teal, Founder of Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere

Christine Beech.png

Rochester woman Danielle Teal says kindness has changed her life and impacts her every decision. She believes that kindness is an underrated tool to motivate community change. Fueled by this passion, Teal founded the initiative Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere (CAKE) to publicly share local acts of kindness to normalize the behavior and to inspire acts of kindness on a larger level. 

CAKE is a volunteer group in the community that utilizes social media “to motivate change and influence people to carry out acts of kindness,” Teal explained. 

Some individuals strongly believe that acts of kindness should remain anonymous, which Teal says, CAKE supports. She hopes, however, that CAKE is changing any negative connotations associated with sharing acts of kindness publicly. Teal says studies demonstrate that both recipients and witnesses of public acts of kindness are inspired by that act, enough to often perform an act of kindness themselves.

“Our goal is to share public acts of kindness to create opportunities for people to do it collectively as a group in mass quantities and to really motivate and inspire change in the community to normalize kindness,” she said. 

Acts of kindness don’t necessarily have to be big. They can be as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee, volunteering, or just offering a stranger a genuine smile. 

Kindness, Teal explained, also involves giving people grace and the space and forgiveness they need to navigate their feelings and experiences. This doesn’t excuse abusive behavior, she explained. However, Teal says we are all human and perfection does not exist. 

While operating CAKE takes a large amount of effort, Teal’s driven by “the impact and the results from the recipients and watching a kindness initiative continue. It truly is a ripple effect and you can see it.” As a mom of two, she wants her daughters to be positive individuals who promote kindness. 

“[Kindness] has changed the way I parent. It has changed the way I interact in a work environment. It’s changed me in the community. I am not perfect by any means,” Teal said. “I am absolutely not perfect. But I try to do my best every single day.”

Join us for this new workshop event to bring forth our best selves. Ticket prices will increase on March 25th. Click image for more information and to register.

Join us for this new workshop event to bring forth our best selves. Ticket prices will increase on March 25th. Click image for more information and to register.

Inspiring acts of kindness in others, however, does sometimes have hurdles. At times, when a call to action for a kindness initiative is shared there’s a large outpouring of support. Such is the case in the fall when seeking volunteers to pack Thanksgiving meals. However, Teal said, sometimes kindness is not seen as a viable option to resolve an issue or bring about change. She sees this gap particularly in leadership and teamwork.

Kindness and compassion, Teal said, are surprisingly effective tools to increase productivity and to influence team dynamics.

Kindness, she explained, promotes long term change. 

“It makes people feel valued and it increases the bridge of connection to understanding. It cultivates a culture that makes people want to be a part of and that’s what makes things continue to be enhanced, to get better,” Teal explained. 

Kindness, she said, matters.

“It’s not that [CAKE] is looking for the gratitude and it’s not that we are looking for the ‘thank you’s. It truly is the group and myself. We are not looking for anything in return,” Teal explained. “But when you see the impact that [kindness] really changes someone else’s day and it impacts them in a positive way and you know that it’s an enhancement in their life, that’s why it matters.”

Strong Women Creating Value Season 1 Episode 2: Danielle Teal

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we continue our “Strong Women Creating Value” conversation by chatting with Danielle Teal, Founder of CAKE - Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere. CAKE is a community initiative that “utilize[s] social contagion through public Random Acts of Kindness in mass efforts to help cultivate positive inspiring change”.

"I would say if you have a dream, if you have a goal, the first thing to do is to act on it." -Danielle Teal

Strong Women Creating Value 2019: Christine Beech, Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies

Christine Beech.png

To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re bringing back our popular “Strong Women Creating Value” series, telling the stories of four innovative women in Rochester. This year all four women were selected based on nominations from the community

To launch this series for 2019, today we chat with the amazing Christine Beech, Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

In her role at the Kabara Institute, Christine fosters a spirit of entrepreneurship among her students and connects them to the surrounding entrepreneurial communities in both Winona and Rochester.

Christine’s nominator explained that she “goes very unrecognized for all of her efforts. As a newer member of the Rochester community, she put in a large amount of time and effort to meet with people in the community to understand the culture, understand what was needed, and understand where she could plug in. She always listens and asks advice of others. She does all these things without expectation of anything in return.”

Christine recently developed and launched a series of women-focused events, called WE (Women Entrepreneurs) forums, in partnership with Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. and others in the community. She held her first packed house event in January during a snowstorm. Her second event, a business development workshop, will be held in late March.

“What I think we are creating now is a platform for women-focused and women entrepreneurial community development with conversations around the issues that are facing them,” she explained.

Christine hopes to hold forums, which utilize a panel format, quarterly, and workshop events, where women focus on and work ona specific business skill sets, in between the forums. 

“One of my hopes is that one of the things that we’ll do with this forum is to create a place where women can come together and collaborate and work together,” she said.

Christine sees many talented women in the community who can speak at these forums and lead the workshops.

“We would like to create a venue where we are tapping into that talent for the benefit of the growing ecosystem,” she explained.

She sees new businesses as the “lifeblood of the economy.” However, many entrepreneurs starting new ventures lack focused business training and don’t know where to go for support. 

“I think there’s a need in the community for imparting those skills,” she explained. “We are starting with the female-focused group because I think that group specifically seems to be craving that kind of support for their business efforts.” 

This event takes place on Sunday March 31st from 10:30-12PM. Click the image for more information and to snag your ticket!

This event takes place on Sunday March 31st from 10:30-12PM. Click the image for more information and to snag your ticket!

This initiative is partly driven by her own experience. Christine spent fourteen years in business development before joining Kabara and recognized a lack of support for these efforts in her community. After joining academia, she saw a chance to give back to people who were in the early stages of building a business or had reached a plateau in business growth.

Christine additionally sees an immense need for evidence-based information on business development- putting numbers behind what works and what doesn’t work- instead of the typical personal anecdotes supplied by most mentors. She hopes to gather this type of informative data through the WE Forum events. 

While Christine knew these women-focused events were needed, there were several challenges she faced to get women to actually attend them. The first was brand recognition. Most people in Rochester associate the name “Saint Mary’s” with a hospital, not an academic institution. Many people are also unaware that Saint Mary’s even has a presence in Rochester, which is located in the northwest region of the city at the beautiful Cascade Meadow Wetlands. Her second challenge was connecting these events to the women most in need. To do this, Christine utilized her network, partnering with over twelve different institutions to help spread the word to diverse groups and get buy in from the community.

As a whole, Christine thinks it’s a good time to be part of the female entrepreneurial community in Rochester.

“We have incredible, brilliant physicians. We have women leading regional initiatives. We have women in a lot of very key points. So that, I think, is going to make a more attractive environment for female business startups,” she explained.

To accomplish this, Christine thinks women need to have their own network that’s collaborative, not competitive.

“And they need to plug in and start leveraging each other. I feel like that’s just building. It’s not quite there yet,” she said.

Strong Women Creating Value Season 1, Episode 1: Christine Beech

In celebration of Women's History Month we chat with Christine Beech, an example of just one strong woman creating value in the Rochester community. Christine is currently the Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. Christine is also a mom, veteran, entrepreneur, business owner, consultant and a strong female leader in this city.

Local Young Professionals Group Celebrates Five Year Anniversary

Untitled design.png

Last week The Commission, a Rochester-based young professionals’ group, celebrated their five-year anniversary. Launched around a table in 2013, The Commission has undergone many transformations since that point. This nonprofit organization serves as a vital connector for young professionals in Rochester to facilitate community involvement, networking, and collaboration.  

As part of this celebration last week at Pure Rock Studios, The Commission honored four individuals in the community.

Collider Coworking Community Manager Jamie Sundsbak won the “Connector of the Year” award. Jamie has brought knowledge and experience from other entrepreneurial communities to Rochester. He always finds time to meet with individuals to assess their needs and help to connect them to vital resources in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Leah Joy Bee, Owner at Canvas and Chardonnay, received the “Giver of the Year” Award. Leah hosts weekly events at her downtown business to highlight local talent and frequently donates her studio space for community causes. Leah plays a significant role in the local arts and culture scene and helps to make “dreams become reality for creative souls in our community.”

Kady Olson, owner of Wholistic Family Chiropractic, won the “Startup of the Year” award. As a newcomer to the Rochester community, Kady has built her practice patient by patient. She also invests much of her time to community outreach, education, and networking to grow her business.

Julie Brock, Executive Director at Cradle to Career, received the “I.M.P.A.C.T. Award.” As a workforce development professional and educator, Julie “inspires her students to think critically, write deeply, and give kindness out freely.” Julie is currently leading a brand-new initiative with Cradle to Career to improve educational outcomes in Rochester.

Congrats to The Commission (and all the Awardees) on reaching this milestone. Here’s to year number six!

Rochester Rising Seeking Your Nominations of Visionary Women in the Community for Return of "Strong Women Creating Value" Series

Untitled design.png

This March marks the 41st anniversary of Women’s History Month, a celebration of female contributions to history and society. This festivity is also, historically, associated with a theme. This year, Women’s History Month is focused on “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence.” 

To celebrate this month and to showcase local visionary women making lasting contributions to our community, we’re continuing our “Strong Women Creating Value” series that we began on Rochester Rising last year.

This year we’re asking for nominations for this series.

What visionary Rochester women do you know who have identified a real need in the community and launched a business or non-profit, created an initiative, or brought about needed change in this city to address that need?

Please use this form to send your nominations by Friday February 22nd.

Your name
Your name
Who are you nominating for the "Strong Women Creating Value" series? *
Who are you nominating for the "Strong Women Creating Value" series?

Here’s to all the strong women creating value in our community.

Is your business interested in sponsoring this series? Send us an email for pricing inquiries.

Rochester Rising Creates Online Communication Group to Support Entrepreneurial Mental Health in Rochester

51791264_10102136620976279_8705151062559948800_o.jpg

­After three attempts to hold our listening session on mental health needs in the Rochester entrepreneurial community, we have decided not to reschedule this event. ­However, we­ would still greatly appreciate your help and input on this important subject. If the mental health needs of our entrepreneurial ecosystem and creating solutions to support these needs is of value to you, please take a few moments today to fill out this brief survey.

The goal of this survey, and of the weather-thwarted listening session, has two purposes. The first is to better understand current mental health issues facing Rochester’s entrepreneurs. The second purpose is to brainstorm possible events or programming that may solve these pain points. Perhaps some of these events or programs could be provided by Rochester Rising

If this is something of importance to you, please take five minutes to complete the survey so we can create things of user-driven value in the community. 

While we collect these responses and have additional conversations in the community, we’ve created an online communication group to facilitate some of these needs. This group is not meant to be a place to offer medical advice or to provide professional mental health guidance. It is meant to be a platform for community-based communication to connect and share best practices, information, and resources related to mental health.

To request permission to join this closed group, search for “RochMN Entrepreneurial Communication Group: Mental Health” on Facebook.

Redefining Entrepreneurship: A Look At The Current Model

IMG_2620.JPG

“It’s your right to be uncommon if you can. You seek opportunity to compete. You desire to take the calculated risk, to dream, to build, yes, even to fail, and to succeed.” -Ewing Marion Kauffman

What is an entrepreneur? Why does entrepreneurship matter? 

According to Investopedia an entrepreneur is “an individual who, rather than working as an employee, founds and runs a small business, assuming all the risks and rewards of the venture.” A simple web search indicates that an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” Finally, the Kauffman Foundation defines entrepreneurs as “people who turn ideas into reality, charging directly into the headwinds to create something of value where there was no value before.” 

These definitions have several common threads, with room for additional thoughts to be added to the concept.

Consider these thoughts. 

An entrepreneur is someone who: 

1.     Takes some sort of calculated risk. Entrepreneurs are not pursuing an idea that is a “sure thing”; failure of some sort is on the table. The risks involved can include a novel product or service or an aggressive business model. Entrepreneurs face financial risks and have their own money as some of the first invested to launch their businesses. Entrepreneurs may also face job insecurity. Exploring entrepreneurship often involves leaving long and stable careers behind to pursue the uncertain.

2.     Has expertise that gives them a competitive advantage in their target market. This knowledge, experience, and insight allows only this particular entrepreneur to bring forth this business in a specific market.

3.     Has created a product or service that a business can be built around. An entrepreneur develops a product or service that’s driven by market demand and customer need. Even if no sales have been made, an entrepreneur has identified a customer base that will pay for their product or service.

4.     Is driven by passion to bring forth a solution that no one else is currently providing.

We often think of entrepreneurs as individuals operating in the tech space, creating high growth potential businesses that can reach multiple markets with expansive revenue streams. However, anyone with a solid business idea bringing something of value to the market is an entrepreneur. This includes people building highly scalable startups. But it also includes small business owners, including people with zero or few employees. This definition also includes franchise owners. These individuals are creating a business in a specific geographic market in which the business did not exist. This still involves risk, market research, and financial investment.

Why is entrepreneurship important?

Entrepreneurs are economic drivers. They create new businesses, jobs, and opportunity for themselves and for others. Entrepreneurs are driven by a need to solve real problems facing our society. They often encourage a different way of thinking and doing. The entrepreneurial mindset and problem solving based on a defined need and customer feedback is of value in small and large organizations alike.

 Entrepreneurship matters. It’s time to start rethinking our definition of an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur Launches MedCity Studio to Serve as Resource for Local Photography Community

IMG_2100.JPG

Entrepreneur and Baltimore native Brendan Bush looks to change up the photography scene in Rochester with his business MedCity Studio. Located right next to Silver Lake, Bush aims to use the business to build and connect the local photography community and to serve as a resource for those just getting started in the business.

Bush himself comes from strong photography roots. His father was the Director of Photography at The Baltimore Sun and Bush always grew up with a dark room in their family home. Later he attended the University of Western Kentucky University for photojournalism; Bush worked in the newspaper business for several years before moving to Minnesota in 2014 with his wife and children. 

IMG_2098.JPG

After relocating to Rochester, this creative decided it was time to try something different. Digital photography had opened up the market to a variety of people including new professionals, amateur photographers, and people who just wanted to take better photos in their everyday lives.  

Bush launched MedCity Studios in May 2018 as, at the surface level, a rental studio for those seeking an affordable indoor location to shoot photos and meet with clients. However, the value add of the business runs much deeper. Bush himself serves as a resource for people as they are using the space, offering assistance for things like lighting set up to adjustment of poorly taken photos. 

“This is an opportunity for [new photographers] to have a place to learn from and experiment and practice,” Bush explained.

He hopes the business also creates a connection point for the local photography ecosystem to host events and serve as “an exchange center for photography information in the community.” 

Bush began running photography classes from the studio to help support and provide education for local photographers. He ended up landing on a huge value add for the community. 

“I never thought that photography classes were going to be that big of a deal. But, yeah, they’re really selling like crazy,” he laughed.

IMG_2105.JPG

MedCity Studio’s first DSLR basics class wrapped up at the end of January. Bush aims to run the class again in February as well as host photo walks in the springtime. He hopes to create a real experience with MedCity Studio through the classes, support for the photography community, and with the rental space itself. 

“The market is changing, and they say millennials are more about experience than they are about product. And I think that lends itself well to here,” he explained. 

Bush said his studio space has been gaining a steady following of repeat customers, including those that don’t fall into the traditional photography space. He’s had people use the studio for product photo shoots as well as to record video commercials.

“Photography is an art that has a strong technical side that attracts some people just for the technical aspect,” he said. “Some people just like the creative aspects and then there are all those shades in-between. But I think, in this town, photography could work because it has technical aspects that would attract technically minded people.”

Women Entrepreneurial Panel Says the Money Is Out There To Fund Local Women-Led Businesses

Photo courtesy of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.

Last week over fifty intrepid women braved a winter storm to attend a Women Entrepreneurs Forum on funding sources. The event, led by Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. and Saint Mary’s Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, provided a connection point for business women in the local ecosystem and brought to the surface funding pain points experienced by these innovators. 

The forum included a panel discussion featuring Jennifer Gowin, a Commercial Local Officer with Premier Banks Rochester, Cathy Connett, CEO and Managing Partner of the Sofia Fund, an angel investment fund for high growth potential women-led businesses, and Laura Hart, Loan Officer with the 504 Corporation

Although at the national level, women-led businesses receive less investments and less capital via bank loans than male-led companies, Gowin and Hart aren’t necessarily seeing this phenomenon at the local level. Though Gowin sees the same size of business loans being awarded to men and women, she’s observed more men than woman applying for loans to fund their company. Hart explained that the funding is out there. But it’s unclear to her if women are not aware of these opportunities or choose to not pursue them. In the venture capital and angel funding world, where there are more male than female investors, the picture is a little more lop-sided.

“Typically, unfortunately, like invests in like,” Connett explained.

Although there are less women investors in general, female business owners, Connett said, also typically wait too long to seek equity investment than their male counterparts.

“Women often want to have everything lined up before they [seek funding]. Whether it’s a bank loan, or whether it’s equity, or anything else,” she explained. 

Women, Connett said, are just as likely to be risk takers as men.

“But I think we don’t want to expose ourselves to risk sometimes,” she explained. 

When looking at loans and investments to any business, the panel said, several factors contribute to the final decision. As a bank, Gowan explained, her employer is fairly conservative when granting loans. Banks typically assess business collateral. If light, the bank will also look at personal assets and personal credit. They will also closely assess the business owner and her level of understanding of her business and the associated industry plus her ability as a founder to overcome any associated risks. 

The team’s capacity to overcome adversity, Connett explained, is a significant factor in angel and venture capital investment.

Excitement, passion, the ability to tell a compelling story, and a clear need for the business in the community are all vital pieces to secure funding, the panel explained.

Resources to fund female, and male, owned businesses are out there. As women, we just have to put ourselves out there and go after it. 

“Events like this are important as they allow entrepreneurs to come together and learn, develop community, and share resources. This event specifically created a venue for women entrepreneurs to increase their knowledge on the opportunities and barriers they face in funding their businesses,” said Christine Beech, Executive Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. “The speakers and roundtable discussions were designed to help these entrepreneurs develop new strategies to identify opportunities to fund and grow their businesses.”

Future events and workshops like this funding forum are in the planning stages to address additional unmet needs for local business women.

#Emerge Episode 24 w/ Dan Kingsley and Kyle Swanson

Today on #Emerge we sit down with local entrepreneurs and co-owners of the Realty Edge Team Dan Kingsley and Kyle Swanson. Realty Edge is a Rochester based residential real estate team licensed in Minnesota. On the show today we talk about how Dan and Kyle work to keep their clients on the leading edge of the real estate market, how they’ve grown the business over the past several years, how these innovators challenge themselves to learn and create, and the foundations of their team-based approach in trust and commitment. 

Check in with our podcast tomorrow for the full, unabridged interview.

 “You really get that team concept of it’s not about me, it’s about what I do for them and how they’re going to help us, together, as a team.” -Dan Kingsley, Co-Owner of the Realty Edge Team

Minnesota's Medical Alley Reports $2B in Exits, $731M Raised in HealthTech Sector in 2018

1.png

Minnesota’s Medical Alley reports strong and consistent growth in 2018, according to a recent investment report from Medical Alley Association.

In 2018, healthtech companies in Medical Alley raised $731M, a slight decrease from the $759M raised in 2017. This represents the second consecutive year Medical Alley companies have raised over $700M of funding. This included large investments in digital health, with nineteen companies raising $320M. This was followed by $260M raised by forty-eight companies in the medical device space. $144M was also raised by eighteen biotech companies in Medical Alley. 

In total, nineteen healthtech companies raised over $10M. Top raises included $200M from health insurance company Bright Health, $70M from Bind, also a health insurance company, and $58M by Relievant Medsystems, a company developing solutions for chronic back pain.

Medical Alley additionally experienced significant exits with a declared total value of $2B. This included the acquisition of ABILITY Network, a company providing solutions to reduce costs for healthcare providers and payers, by cloud company Inovalon. Inspire Medical, a company developing sleep apnea treatments, had an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $108M. Biomedical company NxThera was sold to Boston Scientific for $400M. And microbiome company Rebiotix was acquired by the Swiss based Ferring Pharmaceuticals.

Despite these acquisitions, many of these companies have remained in Medical Alley. ABILITY Network has expanded within Minnesota through the hiring of new employees. Francis Medical, a spinout of NxThera after its acquisition, was also kept in Minnesota.

For more detailed investment reports on healthtech in Minnesota, head to the Medical Alley Association website.


About Medical Alley Association

Founded in 1984, the Medical Alley Association supports and advances the global leadership of Medical Alley’s healthcare industry, and its connectivity around the world. MAA delivers the collective influence, intelligence and interactions that support Medical Alley.

"Poultry Patrol" Robot Wins Inaugural Ag Tech Challenge

Ag Tech Challenge.png

After three months of competition, the winner of Ignite Minnesota’s Ag Tech Challenge was announced last week in Red Wing. Rising above over fifty other innovators throughout the contest, engineer Jack Kilian walked away with the grand prize with his concept Poultry Patrol. 

The Ag Tech Challenge was officially launched in October during the Twin Cities’ inaugural Food Ag Ideas Week by Ignite Minnesota, a national network to accelerate next generation technologies. The contest aimed to uncover new hardware, software, or data solutions for agriculture.

During the first phase of the competition at the end of 2018, semi-finalists Poultry Patrol, Tile Drainage Monitoring and Control, and Robotic Sod Weed Farmer concepts were selected from the pool of applicants. Two of these ideas won $2,500 at this stage of the challenge. All three semi-finalists pitched last week in Red Wing during the final phase of the competition for the chance to win up to $10,000 for their projects.

Mark Swanson, a Minnesota State College Southeast computer programming instructor, pitched the concept Tile Drainage and Monitoring System. This idea targets farm sediment and nutrient runoff, a significant problem in the Minnesota River Valley. Currently, farmers may mitigate this issue through methods like protecting exposed soil, slowing down and storing water, or by implementing catchment systems. However, these techniques only serve as partial solutions. Swanson proposed the development of a low-cost monitoring device to help farmers measure runoff and the effects of runoff mitigation on their farms for targeted elimination efforts.

Robotic Sod Farm Weeder, pitched by Nick Fragale, enables non-chemical-based weed removal on an industrial scale with robotics. Fragale is also the co-founder of Rover Robotics, a Wayzata-based tech company that creates cost-effective, rugged robots for startups. Robots, Fragale explained, perform repetitive tasks like weeding very well. Other weed removing robots do exist on the market, such as a solar powered robot that Fragale estimated to cost between $50,000 to $100,000. Instead, he proposed to construct a robotic weeder on a much cheaper scale, primarily by eliminating the use of a robotic arm on the machine, a part that can dramatically drive up costs. Without an arm, Fragale must test the efficacy of other methods, such as drilling and zapping, to kill weeds with his more economical robotic prototype. 

Jack Kilian, University of Minnesota Twin Cities electrical engineering master’s student, pitched the winning concept Poultry Patrol. This idea addresses problems in industrial poultry housing. Poultry growers, Kilian explained, need to walk through these large housing units several times a day to check for and remove dead and diseased birds and to assess the overall functionality of equipment in the houses. These areas are also bio secure, requiring growers to change their clothes and shoes each time they enter or exit the facility. To make this process more efficient, Kilian aims to develop a robot that would identify sick birds and alert the growers of the exact location of the animal using digital mapping. The robot could also check the status of vital equipment in the facility as well, eliminating the need for growers to perform multiple daily surveillance walks through the poultry houses. Much of the hardware for this concept is already created, Kilian explained. He proposed targeting turkey growers for initial use of his robot to stick to the Minnesota ties of the concept. Minnesota remains the largest turkey producing state in the US.

Congrats to all of the contestants in Ignite Minnesota’s Ag Tech Challenge. Head to the Red Wing Ignite Facebook page to view all of the final pitches.

State of the Art Cancer Therapeutics Manufacturing Headquarters Celebrates Grand Opening in Rochester Next Week

IMG_9611.jpeg

This month Rochester clinical stage biopharmaceutical company Vyriad is set to open the doors at their brand new 25,000 square foot facility. This custom build-out, constructed on leased space at the IBM Campus, will be the new Vyriad headquarters and manufacturing site. The facility is expected to increase the capacity of the company to produce and develop viral oncolytic cancer therapies and to potentially add new biotech jobs in Rochester.

Vyriad is developing viral therapies, based on Vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) or measles platforms, to treat a variety of cancers. Spread and localization of Vyriad’s oncolytic therapies can be monitored non-invasively to ensure viral targeting to the cancer site. The company currently is running several Phase I and Phase II clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of their viral therapies in patients.

Custom build-out of the Vyriad facility in northwest Rochester began this May, propelled by $9M of convertible debt financing. This funding included participation from Mayo Clinic, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., and the Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund.  

Photo courtesy of Vyriad.

Photo courtesy of Vyriad.

The new facility includes two clean room suites where the viral manufacturing process is initiated and product is purified. Virus will be packaged and labeled in a separate room for compliance with new FDA regulations for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) investigational drugs. These rooms are also modular so they can be taken apart and re-organized as needed for future growth within the facility.

The buildout also includes an entire corridor dedicated to quality testing of both Vyriad’s end viral oncolytic products and of patient samples collected through sister company Imanis Life Sciences for sponsored clinical trials.

Vyriad’s leased space on the IBM Campus includes an additional 18,000 square feet for any future expansions of the biotech company at this location.  

Design and buildout of the Vyriad facility was very intentional and forward thinking, with cleanliness being of utmost importance. The manufacturing, purification, packaging, and testing processes will all be uni-directional, with no backward flow of products or personnel within the isolated clean rooms to eliminate contamination. The rooms are additionally airlocked to restrict air and particle flow. Any breach or contamination in the system would shut down all production for about one month.

After an eight-month construction process, Vyriad will host an invitation only grand opening of its new manufacturing facility and headquarters on Wednesday January 30th. Buildout of the project was led by Benike Construction. RSP Architects served as lead design, with Madison-based Flad Architects crafting the Good Manufacturing Practice areas of the facility.

The new facility is expected to vastly increase the product run capacity of the company; currently Vyriad utilizes Mayo Clinic as a Contract Manufacturing Organization (CMO) for their viral therapies. The increased square footage also allows Vyriad to develop and create new viral products to add to their pipeline, increasing the capabilities of the company and allowing for potential expansion of their preclinical team. 

Photo courtesy of Vyriad.

Photo courtesy of Vyriad.

Vyriad was founded by Mayo Clinic virologist Dr. Stephen Russell, Mayo Clinic oncologist Dr. Kah Whye Peng, and University of Miami cell biologist Dr. Glen Barber in 2012. Dr. Russell has served as CEO since 2016.

Learn more and follow the progress of this emerging local biopharmaceutical company on their website http://www.vyriad.com/.

State of the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community- January 2019

IMG_2482 2.JPG

2018 was a significant year of growth and change for the Rochester entrepreneurial community. Here are some of the highlights.

 

Events and Competitions 

This year saw record interest in existing competitions, development of brand-new pitch events, and continued elevation of ongoing initiatives in the community. 2018 saw continued growth of 1 Million Cups Rochester, a monthly educational event for entrepreneurs, providing a platform for seven different Rochester startups to tell their story and leverage the help of the community. This year the community hosted its second Techstars Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event to go from idea to minimal viable product. The sixth Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week also took place this November, with over six hundred people attending twenty-two different events.

Walleye Tank, a Minnesota based life science business pitch competition, hit record numbers this year with a standing room-only event at Mayo Clinic’s Mann Hall with twenty-two different companies pitching their life saving technologies.

This year also saw the development of a brand-new pitch competition in Rochester, the Assistive Tech Challenge. This event was organized by Destination Medical Center’s Discovery Square team to prototype and seek solutions for persons with disabilities. Twenty-eight different teams applied to compete in this inaugural event.

 

Investment

2018 was also a strong year of regional investment, forecasting opportunities for growth. $725M was raised by eight-six companies in Minnesota’s Medical Alley, including $319M in digital health, $259M in medical device, and $144M in biotech sectors. The Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund closed in June with $2M raised from fifty-six different investors. To date, the fund has invested over $500,000 in seven different healthcare companies including Rochester based Sonex Health, Vyriad, Geneticure, Marblehead Medical, and Ambient Clinical Analytics.  

Vyriad, a Rochester biotech company developing cancer therapeutics, also secured $9M of convertible debt note funding this year, facilitating the buildout of a 25,000 square foot Good Manufacturing Process facility for the company on the IBM campus in northwest Rochester. This financing included participation from Mayo Clinic, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., and the Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund. Vyriad also secured a $370,000 commitment from the state of Minnesota and the City of Rochester for equipment funding.

 

Opportunities 

This past year saw much opportunity for space in downtown Rochester for entrepreneurs and established businesses. This included the opening of two new co-working spaces, the Offices at China Hall and Collider 424. Construction on Destination Medical Center’s One Discovery Square Building also saw significant progress over the past year, with space commitments from Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota Rochester, and Epic. 

Teams from Rochester showed a strong performance in the 2018 Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide business pitch competition. Five Olmsted County teams advanced to the semifinal round including Mill Creek Life Sciences, Thaddeus Medical Systems, B.A.S.I.C. BALSA, Busy Baby LLC, and LipiQuester, LLC. Two of these teams, Mill Creek and Thaddeus Medical Systems, advanced to the semi-final round in the Life Sciences/Health IT Division. 

Team B.A.S.I.C. BALSA, composed of five Rochester Public Schools girls, entered Minnesota Cup through Technovation, a global competition to teach girls coding to solve real-world problems. The team was the top-ranking high school group at the state’s Technovation competition, called Appaplooza, and also won $10,000 at Minnesota Cup. 

This year, Rochester artificial intelligence startup Spark DJ was admitted to the Techstars Music Accelerator program in Los Angeles. The Hatchery, a wet lab space for life science entrepreneurs, also opened early this year within Mayo Clinic. In 2018 the Ignite Minnesota regional partnership was also launched to convene, elevate, and promote the work of innovative businesses and entrepreneurs in Minnesota to keep the region globally competitive.  

Rochester also had an entrepreneurial presence at several national events in 2018 including the NFL’s 1st & Future startup competition in Minneapolis early in the year. A contingent from Rochester also attended the Kauffman ESHIP Summit in Kansas City this summer to create regional and national partnerships to build and strengthen our entrepreneurial ecosystems.

 

Notable visits 

Several distinguished guests also visited the Rochester entrepreneurial community this year. This included serial entrepreneur, author, and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk who headlined the Stationary Astronauts inaugural Meeting of the Minds event in July. The community was also visited by Kira Blackwell, Program Executive for NASA iTech, an initiative that searches for solutions to NASA’s most pressing issues. In December, Rochester was also visited by Jun Axup, Scientific Director and Partner at the San Francisco life science accelerator IndieBio


Losses

The community saw several businesses shut their doors in the downtown area including The Doggery, Soul Purpose Boutique, and Firefly Barre Fitness. This year also ended with the closing of EDGE Fitness in the southwest portion of the city.

 

Threats

Rising downtown rental costs threaten to push small and emerging businesses and entrepreneurs out of downtown Rochester. However, this creates an opportunity for clustering of businesses in other portions of Rochester, such as the IBM campus.

New Brewery Aims to Open Doors in Rochester in 2019

From left to right: Brian Miller and Steve Patterson of Prime Stein Brewery. Photo courtesy of Prime Stein Brewery.

From left to right: Brian Miller and Steve Patterson of Prime Stein Brewery. Photo courtesy of Prime Stein Brewery.

Entrepreneurs Brian Miller and Steve Patterson are seeking to make their mark on the Rochester craft beer scene. The pair aim to open their business, Prime Stein Brewery, in this city by the end of 2019 adding their fresh, approachable style of beers to the Rochester palate. 

“I’ve been thinking of a way to be my own boss and own my own business for a long time,” explained Miller.

He began searching for something he was passionate about that could also create value for others, eventually landing on brewing.

Since then, Miller’s developed fifteen different craft beer recipes, including a “solid amber beer.” Patterson came onto Prime Stein about eighteen months ago to assist in marketing efforts for the business. The pair aim to create beers for everyone through Prime Stein, not just products for the craft beer enthusiast. Instead, they say their beers are not the darkest or the hoppiest and contain less intrusive flavors.

“It’s just really welcoming, local craft beer,” explained Miller.

Although relatively new to the brewing scene, these innovators are putting in the work, brewing up to five to six times a month out of Patterson’s basement.

“We’re basically trying to shove ten years of knowledge into two,” Patterson laughed. 

Right now, Prime Stein is more of a brand than a brewery. Currently, Miller and Patterson cannot sell beer, but they can donate it. Last year they were involved in several events in the community where locals could sample their brews including the Soaked in the Sun Followed by a Night of Fun event this summer at the History Center of Olmsted County and Stationary Astronaut’s Meeting of the Minds this fall.

Currently the men brew using a one-barrel system, which can create thirty-one gallons of beer.

Miller and Patterson look forward to contributing to the rapidly growing craft beer culture in Rochester, where they say so much work has already been done. 

“But the whole process is so long because you can’t sell until you have a license and you can’t get a license until you have commercially zoned property,” explained Patterson. “So basically, you run in circles until you get a break through. And we actually hit one now so we can make some progress on that now.”

Miller and Patterson are currently working on a letter of intent to lease property in Rochester for the brewery.

“We aim to be serving our very first beer by December 31st of 2019,” Miller said. 

Although neither entrepreneur has ever opened a brewery before, they’ve entered into the process prepared and head-on. Miller wrote a forty-page business plan, which the pair took to business consultant Rick Indrelie at the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for assistance. SBDC, explained Patterson, was a wonderful resource for business growth and provided valuable reality checks.   

Patterson has had several side hustles to date and understood how to obtain things like federal and state tax identification numbers. But the process of seeking commercial space, filing the right paperwork, and seeking bank loans was all quite new.

Both men eventually hope to work full time in the brewery. But for now, they’re dedicated to doing whatever it takes to get this first location open in Rochester.

“The ten-year plan is to have several breweries opened under the Prime Stein name. We are hoping we can make that work,” said Patterson.

You can learn more about Prime Stein Brewery and keep up to date on their progress by following them on Facebook (@PrimeSteinBrewery), Instagram (@primesteinbrewing), and Twitter (@PrimeSteinBrew).

Where Are They Now?: Penz Dental Care

Photo courtesy of Penz Dental Care.

Photo courtesy of Penz Dental Care.

Fifteen months ago, we first shared the story of Penz Dental Care, a brand-new dental practice run by Rochester native Dr. Matt Penz, DDS and wife Kate. The business opened in September 2016 along 2nd Street Southwest. A year and a half later, the office has added extended hours to their schedule and increased their staff to continue their efforts as an open, community-focused practice.

When we first spoke in May 2017, the dental practice consisted of Matt and Kate Penz, an assistant, and a part time staff member at the front desk. The office was open two and a half days a week. Now, Penz Dental Care is full time, open Monday through Thursday with some extended evening hours. The staff has also doubled, operating now with two part time dental hygienists, a full-time assistant, and a full-time person at the front desk. Penz Dental Care has also added a third operatory, increasing their ability to provide care to patients. 

“It’s been exciting to see all the efforts come to reality,” said Dr. Penz.

The office, Dr. Penz explained, functions as one big team, completing tasks regardless of job title. Dr. Penz himself often sweeps the floor and takes out the trash. 

“That has been the really fun part to see, how our staff has come together and just share the common values,” he said. “It took a bit of navigating to get there, but I feel like we have a cohesive staff and everybody’s on the same page and believes in our mission and our vision. Hopefully that radiates to patients who tell other patients who are looking for a dentist.” 

Dr. Penz has learned to hire smarter and more efficiently over the last year, understanding how essential the right staff is for an emerging business. Change and improvements, he explained, can be implemented quickly within a small team. He looks to hire people who are able to buy into the office mission and have pride in what the practice represents. 

Dr. Penz has also learned lessons in marketing and patient growth since the launch of the dental practice. He originally aimed to grow the practice slowly and intentionally, re-investing much of the first profits back into the business. Word of mouth has been the most effective way to grow their patient base since the business opened. However, Penz Dental Care has been very intentional with their social media marketing, using it as a tool to offer glimpses into their personal lives to build relationships with their patients and with the community.

“We wanted to make connections with our patients and wanted to make them feel like this is home,” Dr. Penz said. “Now a days, especially as a startup, if you’re not utilizing [social media], you’re going to be left behind. You can have a great offering and a great story, a great staff, but if nobody knows about you, it doesn’t do you any good.”

The Penz family itself has also grown over the past year. When the business first launched in 2016, Matt and Kate had one child, a daughter named Sophie. Lucy was born shortly after the practice opened. This year, the Penz family welcomed their third daughter, named Ella.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the business’s dedication to the community. As a Rochester native, Dr. Penz loves being in this city and wants to give back to his community. A former Mayo High School quarterback, he’s formed partnerships with several high school teams as well as the Med City Freeze and Med City Mafia roller derby team to provide protective mouthguards. The office has also worked with Rochester MN Moms Blog to co-host events like Donuts with Santa this past December.

Now, Penz Dental Care aims to continue to grow their patient base intentionally, hoping to add more staff as needed. Dr. Penz also looks to bring more technology to the office to help the practice increase their efficiency to provide patient care. 

You can learn more about Penz Dental Care by visiting their website or by catching up on Facebook (@penzdental), Instagram (@penzdentalcare), or Twitter (@PenzDentalCare).

Local Innovators Developing Board Game to Teach Empathy and Understanding

From left to right: James Perreault, Grace Pesch, and Jay Franson. Photo courtesy of Grace Pesch.

From left to right: James Perreault, Grace Pesch, and Jay Franson. Photo courtesy of Grace Pesch.

A trio of strangers spent a single weekend this October innovating and stepping outside of their comfort zones. Now, entrepreneurs Grace Pesch, Jay Franson, and James Perreault are seeking ways to further develop their board game to teach empathy and understanding.

Their product, called ‘What Were You Thinking?’, breaks down the nine Enneagram personality types to better inform players’ professional and personal relationships. The Enneagram is, an arguably, complicated model of the human psyche conveying basic fears, desires, and motivations.

At the surface, the ‘What Were You Thinking?’ game is simple. It’s composed of character cards and scenario cards. Each character card describes a person with one of the nine Enneagram personality types. The scenario cards describe a real-life situation, the funnier the better, plus reactions to that scenario. Each participant plays a character card they think best describes the reaction to the scenario. Whoever convinces the judge that their character card matches the scenario behavior the best, wins. 

On one level it’s just a matching game. But on a deeper note, the game involves rationalizing why your character, with the indicated personality type and tendencies, would react to a situation in a certain manner.  

“It causes the person that drew the card to really think outside of themselves and relate more to the card in hand, to the persona that’s on that card,” Franson explained. “The goal is to bring more awareness to the Enneagram as well as give language to different people’s personality types.”

The team believes this card game could be a unique way to teach empathy, improve relationships, and enhance team building. 

Pesch, Franson, and Perreault developed a prototype for the game during Techstars’ Startup Weekend Rochester. This fifty-four-hour event, held over Halloween weekend, helped participants explore their entrepreneurial tendencies, ideate, perform customer validation, and develop simple prototypes all in a single weekend. 

“I like to do things I’ve never done before. I like to try and expand my horizons and push myself,” Pesch explained. “I knew I was kind of scared and uncomfortable with the idea of doing Startup Weekend and I said, well I have to do it!” 

While Franson entered the weekend with the original idea for the game, Pesch and Perreault quickly joined on to further develop and test the concept.

By the end of Startup Weekend, the team developed a prototype with a minimal set of cards, built a website, and had pre-orders of the product. They also identified a potential game creation company to construct the product, set a price point, and researched drop shipping for product distribution.

All complete strangers at the beginning of the weekend, the team believes their flexibility, open mindedness, and unique skill sets helped them to succeed.  

“I think that personality is more important than actual knowledge. You don’t need an expert as much as you need someone that you can communicate with,” Franson said.

This was the first time that both Franson and Pesch ever participated in a Startup Weekend. Pesch, a person who prefers pacing herself and working well in advance on large projects, appreciated being forced to change her workstyle to deliver in such a limited time span. 

“I think I was most inspired by the lack of instruction [at Startup Weekend] because that’s real life. Really for the most part you go and figure it out. You can find a mentor or take a class, but it’s still up to you,” Franson said. “I thought that was immensely valuable because you learned so much more by doing it yourself.”

Now, the team is looking for help from the community to write more cards to complete their game. You can learn more and follow their progress by visiting their website https://wwyt.squarespace.com

Three Healthtech Teams Win Big at Sixth Walleye Tank

IMG_9073.JPG

This Friday, twenty-three different biotech teams traveled to Rochester to compete in the sixth Walleye Tank business pitch competition. This packed house event, organized by the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship and the Collider Foundation, not only served as a pitch contest. The event additionally brought together multiple pieces of the entrepreneurial ecosystem including venture capitalists, accelerator programs, medical experts, serial entrepreneurs, and business supportive services. In the end, Twin Cities companies NovoClade and ClinicianNexus and Mayo Clinic Florida team The QT Grid walked away as divisional winners. 

Teams competed in three different divisions at Walleye Tank based on stage of business development.

 

Junior Anglers

The first division, the Junior Anglers, included teams in the ideation phase of development who did not yet have a prototype. Nine different teams participated as Junior Anglers at the winter Walleye Tank, the largest group in the competition. 

Adjustable Fracture Nail team from Mayo Clinic Florida won second place in this division. Presented by Mayo Clinic Graduate School student Chris Mehner, Adjustable Fracture Nail targets the 15M patients suffering from long bone fractures in the US each year. These patients are typically treated by insertion of a single, non-adjustable nail into the bone to stabilize the fracture. This process, Mehner explained, it highly dependent on the surgeon’s expertise, resulting in 40% of fracture patients receiving a rotational error of the long bone. This additionally affects bone healing and may lead to joint issues. To solve this problem, the team is creating an adjustable nail containing an internal mechanism to extend the fracture line in the long bone. The nail would also utilize a laser-guided mechanism to finely adjust long bone rotation to the perfect angle. The team believes this product will produce reduced errors, lower surgical time, and decreased medical costs. They currently have a provisional patent on their design. 

Winning the Junior Angler division was the Twin Cities genome editing startup NovoClade. Presented by University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Senior Research Scientist Siba Das, NovoClade is developing SMART technology to control mosquito populations. Current insect management solutions, Das explained, are toxic and not species specific. NovoClade aims to genetically edit mosquito eggs to remove disease carrying insects from the population. The team of four leading the startup include University of Minnesota researchers with over eighty years of combined expertise in genome editing.

 

Mid-Level Reelers 

The second category, the Mid-Level Reelers division, included startups with a prototype or minimally viable product. These companies may or may not have product sales. Eight different teams competed in this division. 

Taking home second place in the Mid-Level category was Twin Cities startup Morari Medical. This startup, presented by healthcare marketing expert Jeff Bennett, addresses the number one male sexual dysfunction, premature ejaculation. Premature ejaculation affects one in three men and can negatively impact quality of life. The Morari Medical team seeks to treat this condition using neuro-modulation based devices to block or delay ejaculation. Neuromodulation is an evolving therapy that alters nerve activity, through chemical or electrical stimuli, at specific nerve sites in the body. With an estimated market size of $15M, Morari Medical is in the early feasibility prototyping stage of development.

Winning the Mid-Level Reeler division was Mayo Clinic Florida innovation The QT Grid. Presented by Postdoctoral Fellow Karim ReFaey, The QT Grid targets the 50M people across the world suffering from epilepsy. Epilepsy, a condition leading to changed electrical activity in the brain, can be caused by stroke, injury, or tumors on the brain or spinal cord, called gliomas. During surgery to remove these gliomas, surgeons also need to monitor electrical activity of the brain through recording electrodes. However, the monitoring devices currently on the market are either too expensive, too cumbersome, or lack complete functionality to perform these tasks. To solve this problem, this team has developed The QT Grid, a ring shaped, patented, and FDA cleared device that allows for 360-degree electrode recordings and readings from all desired areas of the brain simultaneously. The grid is additionally cheaper and more effective than other devices on the market, ReFaey explained.

 

Professional Division 

The final division, the Professionals, were established companies making sales and may be in fundraising mode. This division had six total participants.

Earning second place in the Professional division was Rochester company Ambient Clinical Analytics. Presented by CEO Al Berning, Ambient Clinical has developed a suite of clinical support tools. These solutions address information overload and physician burnout in healthcare settings by taking digital health data, sorting the data, and providing healthcare staff with the 1-5% of the data needed to make an informed decision. These SaaS products received Class II FDA clearance from the FDA. The products are sold on a subscription basis and are in worldwide use. Since launch of the company, Ambient has raised ~$8M to fuel business growth.

Taking home the win in the Professional division was Twin Cities company ClinicianNexus. Presented by CEO Katrina Anderson, this company is targeting the >1M medical students, daily, seeking a clinical rotation experience in over 500K clinical sites in the US alone. Traditionally this matching process is driven by the medical schools using technology as simple as a crowded excel sheet. The ClinicianNexus solution, a collaborative clinical education management tool, assists healthcare sites to proactively address their capacity to teach students; this information can then be shared with medical schools and students seeking to rotate at that particular medical location.

Competing Walleye Tank teams were judged by seasoned entrepreneurs, or “Walleyes,” including: Carla Pavone, Associate Director of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship; Perry Hackett, CEO at Recombinetics; Julie Henry, Enterprise IP Manager at Mayo Clinic; Mark Laisure, CEO at Vortex Media; Pam York, General Partner at Capita3; Bryan Clark, Fellow, Corporate Research at Boston Scientific; Dan Cunagin, Managing Partner at Invenshure; and Fernando Bazan, biotech expert. 

Rochester startup Nanodropper won the first ever Audience Favorite Award. This company, led by Mayo Clinic Medical Student Allisa Song, is developing a universal eye dropper adapter that administers the correct size of medical eye drops to reduce prescription waste.  

Teams fed into Walleye Tank from four different funnels including an open application, a Mayo Clinic Florida Alligator Tank, DMC’s Assistive Tech Challenge, and a Student Entrepreneurial Showcase. 

The next Walleye Tank will be held on May 3rd at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Five Local Biotech Student-Led Teams Advance to Walleye Tank

IMG_2055.JPG
Allisa Song, Nanodropper.

Allisa Song, Nanodropper.

Last Thursday local student-led innovation stole the limelight at the Entrepreneurial Student Showcase + Walleye Tank Student Qualifying Round, a collaboration between Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, Collider Coworking, and the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship. Seventeen different student teams from around the region competed in the event. Twelve of these teams pitched with the hope to enter Walleye Tank, a Minnesota-based biotech business pitch competition. From this student qualifying round, five teams were deemed ready to compete in Walleye Tank, which will take place tomorrow in Rochester. Advancing teams included Nanodropper, NeuroCog, Malleus, UVCanopy, and Intelligent Parking Solutions.

Nanodropper, presented by Mayo Clinic Medical Student Allisa Song, is addressing wasted eyedrop medications from unnecessary overflow during application of meds; the normal amount of liquid dispensed from eye drop bottles is five times that which can be absorbed by the human eye, according the Nanodropper team. In glaucoma treatment alone, excessive waste from eye drops can cost up to $500 per bottle. This waste is a large problem for low income patients or patients that run out of medication before their prescription can be refilled. To solve this problem, the Nanodropper team has developed a medical grade, single-use silicone eye drop adapter that reduces the size of dispensed eye drops to a volume that can be absorbed by the human eye to reduce medical eye drop waste. This adapter has a universal fit and is patent-pending. The team plans to deliver the product to customers through eye care clinics at a cost of $12.99, resulting in an 86% profit margin. By 2020, ~80M patients will be diagnosed with glaucoma, resulting in an estimated market size of $90M in revenue in the US market alone. Nanodropper qualified for the Mid-Level Reeler division of Walleye Tank.

Logan Grado and Ian Kitchen, Malleus.

Logan Grado and Ian Kitchen, Malleus.

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities students Logan Grado and Ian Kitchen won first place in the Junior Angler Division with Malleus, a hearing aid technology startup. By 2020 an estimated 45M people will be diagnosed with mild to moderate hearing deficiencies, requiring the use of a hearing aid. However, hearing aids are normally tuned by audiologists in a controlled clinical setting, which can be non-functional in a real-world environment. Consequently, when patients need to have their hearing aid adjusted, they have to return to the audiologist, resulting in a costly and inefficient process. Malleus aims to pair artificial intelligence with Bluetooth capable devices to create more personalized, self-directed hearing fits for patients to reduce the need for excessive hearing aid tuning in a clinical setting.  

James Perreault, UVCanopy.

James Perreault, UVCanopy.

Mayo Clinic Florida researcher and physician team of David Restrepo, Daniel Boczar, Toni Turnbull, and Karim ReFaey won second place in the Junior Angler division with their concept, NeuroCog. Brain surgery patients, the team explained, require frequent pre- and postoperative evaluations of cognitive function, which can be very time and resource consuming. To address this issue, they propose the development of a tablet-based application providing standardized, automatized cognitive testing to complement routine postoperative monitoring of neurosurgery patients. This app would incorporate artificial intelligence-based voice, facial, and text recognition to perform cognitive assessments, targeting the 13.8M neurosurgeries occurring globally each year. 

Also qualifying for the Junior Angler Division of Walleye Tank, and winning the Audience Favorite Award, was Saint Mary’s University Finance Student James Perreault with his concept UVCanopy. UVCanopy is addressing the lack of sanitation on items like wheel chairs and other hospital equipment, primarily targeting nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. The UVCanopy uses germicidal UV-C light to kill bacteria in a tunnel-shaped device. Medical equipment could be pushed through the tunnel for sterilization purposes, additionally eliminating human error involved in the sanitation process and reducing dependency on hazardous sterilization chemicals. UVCanopy proposes to make profits through subscription sales and purchases of replacement parts. The team is currently working with the Saint Mary’s University Science Department to test different light volatility in the disinfection process.  

Sinibaldo Romero, Intelligent Parking Solutions.

Sinibaldo Romero, Intelligent Parking Solutions.

The final team to qualify for the Junior Angler Division of Walleye Tank was the Intelligent Parking Solutions concept, led by Mayo Clinic Post Baccalaureate Fellow Sinibaldo Romero. This concept aims to utilize data analytics to increase parking efficiencies in healthcare organizations. The team proposed using cameras in parking spaces to identify unused spots. The product would leverage machine learning to understand parking patterns for patients and staff to determine more efficient mechanisms for healthcare parking. Parking is a multi-million-dollar industry for healthcare institutions. Missed medical appointments due to lack of parking in the US is documented to cost $150B to healthcare institutions each year.

Student showcase teams were judged by Heather Holmes, Vice President of Marketing at Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.; Chris Lukenbill, Founder at Fresh Edge; Sunny Prabhakar, Account Strategist at Corporate Web Services, Inc., Jon Ninas, Career Awareness Specialist at Mayo Clinic; Sam Gill, Workforce Development Manager at the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce; and Brady Olson, Human Resources Administrative Assistant at Mayo Clinic. The Walleye Tank Student Qualifying Round was judged by Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for Discovery Square; Joselyn Raymundo, Founder of Rochester Home Infusion; Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship at Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.; and Shuai Li, Lab Manager at Mayo Clinic.

Watch all the Walleye Tank student qualifying round pitches on the YouTube channel. Catch these teams live as they pitch in Walleye Tank tomorrow starting at noon in Rochester. Walleye Tank is a free event that is open to the public.