Two Rome, NY Startups Win Big at Spring 2018 AFRL Commercialization Academy Demo Day; $20,000 Awarded (Guest Blogger)

04.06.18 06:30 PM By Jennie Hempstead

(Photo, left to right: Gabriel Pendleton, AudioStaq co-founder; Audience Vote winner, Emily Call, idoolocal co-founder; Judges’ Panel Winners, Go Figure CEO, Justin Call and Michael Leonard, Head of Customer Care at Go Figure; Terren Klein, Pulse co-founder; and Chris Martin, Off the Cuff founder)

Photo by Simon Eisenbach Productions

Go Figure wins Judges’ Vote and $15,000;

idoolocal wins Audience Vote and $5,000

ROME, NY — The AFRL Information Directorate’s (AFRL/RI) Commercialization Academy held its Spring 2018 Demo Day on May 31st, at Griffiss Institute, in Rome, New York. Investors, entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, and the local business community, came to watch five innovative, tech startups take the stage to pitch to judges, and an audience of 85, on how they have been, or plan to, disrupt the market with Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate technologies as a pivotal part of their business model.

$20,000 from program funders was up for grabs as teams took the stage for three and a half minutes each, pitching audience members and a panel of judges, to see which startup company and AFRL/RI technology-based products and services were most deserving of the money.

The five startup teams who took the stage on Thursday evening were:

AudioStaq – Baltimore, MD – AudioStaq is a publishing and monetization platform that allows podcasters to host, distribute, and monetize content by connecting them with relevant advertisers through their programmatic marketplace.

Go Figure – Utica, NY – The Contractor’s Mobile Office. Tape measures, ladders, and note pads. This is how contractors get measurements, build estimates, and create proposals for remodeling jobs – inaccurate and inefficient. A 3+ hour process. Go Figure knows this because they, themselves, are contractors. Also, over-ordering materials cuts into margins and creates other hidden costs. Go Figure wanted technology for their residential contracting business that would dramatically reduce the time to provide a proposal to a customer, from 3+ hours to just minutes, and to accurately order materials for a job. They couldn’t find that technology, so they built Go Figure.

idoolocal – Clinton, NY – idoolocal, the local adventure company, wants you to do local! idoolocal works with local businesses only, (no chains!), to create out-of-the-ordinary experiences, like learning how to make sushi from the chefs at The Lotus Garden, or gourmet chocolates alongside the chocolatiers at Sweet Escape, to learning the art of making fresh pasta at The Savoy. idoolocal creates these unique experiences for you and your friends and family, so you can create a local adventure and memories that will last forever.

Off the Cuff – Baltimore, MD – Off the Cuff is a refreshing look at many of the financial issues facing this country. The United States of America will face major financial implications in the coming years, and many people only look to major news outlets for the interpretation of these financial issues. Oftentimes these outlets become boring and unwatchable; Off the Cuff aims to change that! Their channel’s goal and intent is to simplify and communicate in a truthful, and semi-funny way, many of these issues. Off the Cuff will cover finance, current events, and much more on this channel.

Pulse – Hanover, NH – Pulse is a survey platform on a mission to provide a reliable source of student opinion on college campuses. Launched at Dartmouth College in the October of 2016, Pulse has an active user base of 92% of the student body and regularly achieves response rates 10-15X higher than competitor survey platforms. Since expanding into the rest of the Ivy League in January of 2018, 12K students have signed up and nine universities have requested to use the platform, including Stanford and MIT. After cornering the college market, Pulse plans to welcome all types of communities onto the platform, including high school, geographic, and even interest-based communities.

The judges’ panel evaluated each startup based on such factors as: the ability of the business to affect Upstate New York's start-up ecosystem and high-tech economy, the culture of innovation that has been created within the startup due to incorporating AFRL technology, the sustainability of the solution beyond the initial startup period, and marketing strategy.

The startups were incubated by early-stage venture capital firm Wasabi Ventures, while embarking on an acceleration process to either build a sustainable startup, or enhance technology from an already existing startup, with Department of Defense Intellectual Property from the Information Directorate.

Justin Call, CEO of Go Figure, located in Utica, NY, walked away with the judges’ vote and $15,000, while Emily Call, co-founder of idoolocal, from Clinton, NY, won the audience vote and $5,000 for her startup.

“This win for us means that we can invest more into our platform,” said Justin Call of Go Figure, “We are developing the second-generation app, and so every dollar that we can throw to that, means that we’re going to grow.”

"The win was very unexpected," said founder of idoolocal, Emily Call, “It gave me the forefront to work so hard, and continue this business, and to grow, and we are looking to utilize the proceeds to get an actual TV commercial in the local community out there, and to expand our customer base and our partnerships in the Oneida County area.”

The AFRL Commercialization Academy is a Griffiss Institute entrepreneurial education program. Griffiss Institute has partnered with Wasabi Ventures, a successful venture capital firm, to run the academy since 2015. The program is designed to develop entrepreneurial leaders through the commercialization of federal intellectual property to facilitate the growth of Upstate New York’s economy through tech startups, and potentially speed technology products back into the hands of the Department of Defense.

“The AFRL Commercialization Academy continues to raise the bar for the Department of Defense in creating startups using taxpayer-funded research and development as the foundation for these new businesses. More and more, our emphasis is in creating jobs in the local area to bump up the technical capabilities that forge collaborations with the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate, as well as enabling the promotion of commercial products developed and sold from Central NY,” says Frank Hoke, Technical Director at Griffiss Institute.

The Spring 2018 AFRL Commercialization Academy Cohort began in January, led by Program Director of Wasabi Ventures Academy, Michele Pesula Kuegler, and began with five startup teams commencing a 4-month commercial viability process. Each entrepreneur sought to develop and test strategies to build sustainable startups eligible for licensing, investing, and partnership opportunities.

The 2018 Spring AFRL Commercialization Academy Cohort and Demo Day were made possible by the following generous supporters: Oneida County Industrial Development Agency, NYSTEC,The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties,Rome Industrial Development Corporation, M&T Bank, Wasabi Ventures, InfluenceLogic, Community Bank, and Mohawk Valley EDGE.

Be sure to follow Griffiss Institute on twitter @GriffissInst!