Summer has not yet arrived and already it has been a big year for the Portland State University Business Accelerator (PSBA). In March, the PSBA celebrated its tenth anniversary. Recent partnerships with RelianceCM and Blue Mountain Community College mean PSBA companies have new opportunities for the development and manufacturing of hardware (e.g., medical devices) and for moving into the civilian unmanned aerial vehicle industry. And on April 16th, PSBA company-in-residence Nouvola took home the $256,000 prize at the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network’s (OEN) 2014 Angel Oregon competition in which the other two finalists, Energy Storage Systems Inc., and HoneyComb Corporation also hailed from the PSBA.
Founded in 2012 by Paola Moretto (CEO) and Paola Rossaro (CTO), Nouvola, winner of this year’s Angel Oregon competition, offers systems testing and performance analytics for the cloud. With Nouvola, companies can prove the stability of their applications and web pages before they go live, measure user experience, set and monitor product benchmarks and much more. With such services, businesses can rest easy knowing that come launch day, they won’t see their applications fail when met with the immense volume of traffic traveling through the cloud.
“You wouldn’t build a bridge and let 100,000 vehicles drive over it without first testing for structural problems and load-bearing,” Paola Moretto noted. “What we offer our customers is the ability to proactively test real-life scenarios so they can see how their applications or sites perform.”
According to Moretto, participating in the Angel Oregon competition benefitted Nouvola in a number of ways. Exposure to investors and a rush of press coverage from The Portland Business Journal, The Oregonian, and the nationally distributed GeekWire increased the company’s visibility. Investor feedback helped Moretto and Rossaro sharpen Nouvola’s story and hone their pitch. And Moretto believes the infusion of capital, $256K, will help the company and its 14 employees gain traction and attract Silicon Valley investors.
When asked about the experience of being a PSBA company-in-residence, Moretto replied: “We moved into the Business Accelerator in 2013 and being there has been fantastic. Aside from all the resources there that we’ve found useful, the connections we’ve make with other companies have really helped Nouvola along. Being a resident there alongside the other 30 companies has made me feel like I’m a part of something big and exciting.”
Angel Oregon 2014 finalists Energy Storage Systems Inc. (ESS) was founded in 2011 and has created a battery technology called the All-Iron Redox Flow Battery that can help integrate more renewable energy sources to the power grid. This low cost, long lasting, and environmentally friendly battery uses naturally occurring, abundant iron salts and water to store energy rather than the corrosive and toxic materials commonly used in most batteries. Their proprietary design is compatible with current energy infrastructure, making ESS’s All-Iron Redox Flow Battery ideal for integrating solar and wind generated electricity onto the grid or micro-grid. ESS’s technology helps their customers reduced their energy costs through time and use management and improve overall grid stabilities.
As noted by Julia Song, CTO of ESS, participating in Angel Oregon helped the company better understand what investors are looking for from companies with regard to due diligence, presentations, and business pitches.
According to Song, ESS’s residence at the PSBA has been an extremely positive one. “Besides the obvious benefits of reasonable rent, wet labs and infrastructure, and great locations, we have benefitted from the great contacts, mentors, client referrals, teamwork, legitimacy, and access to resources from PSU.”
In 2013 HoneyComb Corporation presented at Angel Oregon as a seed company, and this year they returned nudging out 11 other companies to make it into the finals. Founded in 2012, Portland-based HoneyComb combines unmanned aircraft systems (drones), information, and imaging technology to improve outcomes in precision agriculture. Equipped with high-resolution, hyperspectral, and thermal imaging sensors, HoneyComb’s drone aircraft can fly over farms and gather important data about crop growth and health.
“HoneyComb wants to provide farmers with tools to help them significantly enhance their operations,” said Ryan Jenson, HoneyComb’s Senior Engineer. The numbers vary, but precision agriculture can allow farmers to increase productivity by as much as 50 percent. Right now access to the technology is the farmer’s main obstacle.”
Authored by Shaun McGillis
Posted May 12, 2014