SPIE Startup Challenge semi-finalists named in annual business-pitch competition

Aspiring photonics entrepreneurs look for market success with ideas for diagnostic and surgical tools, a portable sensor, noninvasive brain research and blood monitoring devices, and many more

13 January 2015

SPIE Startup Challenge 2014 judges

SPIE Startup Challenge 2015 semi-finalists have been announced; next step is live pitches at SPIE Photonics West. Above, judges listen to a pitch during the 2014 event.


BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA -- Aspiring entrepreneurs who are out to change the world through photonics and build careers in the process have been named as semi-finalists in the 2015 SPIE Startup Challenge.

The semi-finalists will compete in a pitch contest before a panel of business development experts and venture capitalists hosted by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, during SPIE Photonics West at the Moscone Center in San Francisco next month. Live finals will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday 11 February. Registration to attend is free of charge.

Cash prizes for the winners, including $10,000 for first prize, $5,000 for second prize, and $2500 for third are funded by Founding Partner Jenoptik. Additional support for the training program and the competition comes from Lead Sponsor Hamamatsu, and Supporting Sponsors Trumpf, Open Photonics, Edmund Optics, Perkins Coie, and Knobbe Martens. Edmund Optics also will award the first-place winner $5,000 in products.

Chosen to participate as semi-finalists are:

  • Eletha Flores, for the 3D Ring by 3DeWitt, an inexpensive wearable 3D computer mouse and future user authentication device with potential commercial, industrial, medical and military applications.
  • Ferdinand Saint Julien-Wallsee, for the TriLite Tech autostereoscopic ("no-glasses") 3D multi-content laser display for outdoor digital signage, seen as the successor technology of current state-of-the- art LED screens.
  • Katherine Oliver, for BeamLine Diagnostics' software tool for use with a bedside device for scanning patient biopsies to determine whether they are normal, at-risk, or cancerous.
  • Jonathan Gunn, for Briteseed, LLC's technology platform for detection, visualization, and information about blood vessels in real-time, to be integrated into existing minimally invasive surgical tools to fit into the surgeon's existing workflow.
  • Geoffrey Metcalf, for Clearbridge Biophotonics' technology for risk assessment, disease prognosis, and treatment monitoring diagnostics in kidney disease and genitourinary cancers.
  • Lucio Carrara, for Fastree3D's low-cost complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) systems to enable vehicles and machines to recognize and locate fast-moving, 3D objects in real-time, enabling deliberate, intelligent driving assistance or autonomous navigation.
  • Anna Pyayt, for Hemolix's new device for prompt detection of a deadly pregnancy complication, providing enough time to save both the mother and the child
  • Manuel Ryser, for IONIGHT's shoebox-size Laser Mass Spectrometer (LMSTM) for high-precision measurements of the chemical composition of any solid material.
  • Andrew Yanders, for Laser Ablation Tomography (LATTM), a meso-scale volumetric visualization and analysis tool capable of rapidly acquiring structural and compositional data in three dimensions with micron resolution, using laser micro-sectioning and multispectral fluorescent imaging to obtain highly contrasted, colorful stacks of images in opaque specimens.
  • Balthasar Fischer, for the Membrane-free Optical Microphone by XARION Laser Acoustics requiring neither a membrane nor any other moving component to convert sound into electrical voltage, but exploiting the fact that sound can change the speed of light.
  • Sean Seah, for Optic2Connect's software providing accurate simulation results through both electrical and optical domains to significantly shorten product time-to-market and reduce development costs of silicon photonics devices.
  • Kieren Patel, for Opticent Health's noninvasive noncontact diagnostic instrument for the early detection of multiple chronic diseases, producing high-quality, affordable, patient-specific 3D printed medical implants.
  • Zeev Zalevsky, for OptoCare's noninvasive, continuous, remote optical glucose monitor to provide real-time information regarding glucose level in the blood stream.
  • Leonardo Sileo, for OptogeniX's devices to deliver light into the brain with new versatility and minimized invasiveness, allowing for uniform large-volume illumination and spatially addressable multi-point light delivery with extremely thin and sharp optical fibers.
  • Parsin Haji Reza of the University of Alberta, for a photoacoustic remote sensing (PARS) imaging system for in vivo imaging of microvasculature and blood oxygenation without requiring a bulky ultrasound transducer; suitable for integrating with other optical imaging systems including OCT and fluorescence-based systems.
  • Jeffrey Crosby, for Picoyune, a chemical sensing platform company whose plasmonic film can replace a lab-bench worth of equipment with a robust, portable detector.
  • Jerome Lapointe of Ecole Polytechnique Montreal, for transparent photonic devices in smartphone screens, fabricated using lasers.
  • Francesca Rossi, for Suturing With Light (SWeetLight), a robotic console for laser welding of corneal tissue in keratoplasty, pediatric cataract surgery, and closuring corneal incisions, providing a minimally invasive procedure to support or substitute standard suturing thereby reducing surgical times, improving the healing process, and enabling suturing of thin tissues in inaccessible sites.

Judges for the semi-final round were John Dexheimer, William Goodman, Thomas Dudley, Marc Himel, Henry Yaffe, Sergey Egorov, and William Parker.

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves nearly 235,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided $3.4 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2014.

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