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2015 SPIE Startup Challenge Results

SPIE hosted and JENOPTIK was the Founding Partner for the 5th Annual Startup Challenge for photonics technology at Photonics West 2015

.Winners and judges from the 2015 Startup Challenge

Winners, judges, and volunteers take the stage with the giant checks. (l-r) 2015 SPIE President Toyohiko Yatagai (Utsunomiya University), 3rd place winner Jeffrey Crosby (Picoyune), Mike Mielke (Trumpf, Inc.), 2nd place winner Balthasar Fisher (XARION), Jason Eichenholz (Open Photonics), Supriya Jaiswal (Hamamatsu), Marc Himel (JENOPTIK), 1st place winner Jonathan Gunn (Briteseed), Jason Mulliner (Edmund Optics), Bruce Itchkawitz (Knobbe Martens)


Winners Announced!

1st place

SafeSnips: Light-based, intelligent surgical tools 
Jonathan Gunn
Briteseed, LLC
$10,000 prize + $5,000 in equipment from Edmund Optics

Jonathan Gunn - Briteseed SafeSnips is a novel tissue-detecting technology that gives surgeons critical information to make more confident decisions in the operating room.

Problem: Inadvertent cuts during surgery are among the costliest hospital-based injuries. Due to inadvertent cuts to the vasculature, every year thousands of patients face adverse events, an average increased hospitalization time of nine days, and a higher mortality rate of up to 32%. In addition, these events cause U.S. hospitals to lose billions of dollars annually in unreimbursed costs and trigger reimbursement penalties.

2nd place

Membrane-free Optical Microphone 
Balthasar Fisher
XARION Laser Acoustics
$5,000 Prize

Balthasar Fisher Pitch VideoMoving sounds without moving parts

Problem:Today's microphones are based on mechanically moving parts, such as membranes or deformable piezos. As a consequence, these systems are susceptible to mechanical disturbances and exhibit, to a certain degree, a non-linear frequency response which is defined by the mechanical properties of the mass-spring system. XARION's proprietary membrane-free Optical Microphone uses an all-optical rather than a mechanical principle of operation.

As it relies on the modulation of a laser beam instead of mechanical/moving parts, the Optical Microphone is to exhibit several key advantages which have been long sought for in the microphone industry.

3rd place

Plasmonic Chemical Sensor
Jeffrey Crosby 
$2,500 Prize

Jeffrey Crosby Pitch Video

Picoyune's patented plasmonic film can replace a lab bench worth of equipment with a robust, portable detector that anyone can operate.

Problem: We conducted over 200 interviews as part of the NSF iCorps program, and found that customers are struggling with existing instruments. These instruments are too complicated, are down for maintenance too often, and are not selective enough for dirty environments, all values we can deliver. Regulations require many industries to monitor for mercury; new regulations are coming into effect in the utility industry; and further regulations are expected internationally in power production and mining. Additional customers in natural gas processing need to remove mercury to protect workers and equipment. Our sensors offer a robust and easy to use product to meet these needs.



Functional OCT
Kieren Patel
Opticent Health

Kieren Patel Pitch Video

Next generation functional OCT method that will radically expand current clinical OCT diagnostic capabilities. We plan to make fOCT the next fMRI.

Problem: Provide a non-invasive non-contact affordable OCT based imaging modality that can affordably, reliably and accurately detect a host of diseases ranging from diabetes, Alzheimer's, and dementia to traditional ocular pathologies such as AMD and glaucoma. Rather than relying on current methods that often require an injectable tracer (fundus imaging), our imaging modality provides better clinical data, non-invasively, and at a fraction of the cost of current methods.


Laser Ablation Tomography
Benjamin Hall
Lasers for Innovative Solutions

Benjamin Hall Pitch Video

LAT rapidly acquires structural and compositional data in three dimensions using laser ablation micro-sectioning and hyperspectral imaging.

Problem: Today's imaging technologies are either limited in their capacity to image in three dimensions or are adept at creating 3 dimensional models of varying material types but are highly time consuming and only achieve modest throughput volumes. Our product, Laser Ablation Tomography, achieves the ability to rapidly render tissues and inorganic materials into high-resolution cross-sectional images, which can be analyzed individually for 2 dimensional features or combined to access 3 dimensional parameters. By acquiring data at an unprecedented rate with virtually no sample preparation requirements, LAT can characterize specimens in minutes rather than hours or days, facilitating more rapid scientific discovery.


Continuous glucose monitoring sensor
Hand held, non-invasive & non-contact

Yoav Sintov 

Yoav Sintov Pitch Video

We developed a revolutionary compact & low-cost photonic sensor preliminary in-vivo validated, for non-invasive, non-contact & continuous glucose monitoring.

Problem:We wish to address the medical diagnostics (diabetic patients) as well as the wellness markets and to allow the user with a low cost photonic sensor (BOM of 1 USD) that can be incorporated into a watch or a bracelet and yielding non-invasive, non-contact and continues capability to estimate the glucose concentration in the blood stream (with accuracy of up to 15% as applied for the invasive blood testing based devices such as the glucometer that is common in the market)

We received news coverage from Optics.org and our press release detailed the event. Please check out the complete event program for recognition of all the judges, sponsors, volunteers, and 18 semi-finalists who pitched their products in the first stage of the competition.

To see a collection of photos from the event, please visit our Flickr album. 

Created with flickr slideshow.

Founding Partner


Lead Sponsor

Edmund Optics

Supporting Sponsors

Luminar Technologies