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Rochester accelerator seeks optics startups

12 Jul 2017

'Luminate' initiative guarantees $100k minimum investment for successful applicants, as part of a $5 million-per-year effort.

A photonics-focused accelerator program based in Rochester and with close links to the AIM Photonics effort is about to begin offering support to startup companies.

The “Luminate” initiative, first announced in January by New York governor Andrew Cuomo as the “Photonics Venture Challenge”, is to offer an aggregate $5 million per year to young companies working in the fields of optics, photonics and imaging.

Now accepting expressions of interest from startup companies, mentors, venture capital firms and corporate partners, Luminate is also looking to hire a managing director and appoint a national advisory board.

Startup firms should be able to start applying for support by the end of this month, with ten slots available in the first cohort. Successful applicants will be guaranteed a minimum investment of $100,000, and could bag as much as $1 million, say organizers.

James Senall, president of High Tech Rochester (HTR), officially launched Luminate last week, with more information available via a new web site at luminate.org.

It states: “Focused on growing the most promising OPI [i.e. optics, photonics and imaging] enabled companies in the world, Luminate seeks visionary entrepreneurs solving challenging problems including but not limited to: machine vision, inspection, biophotonics, security, surveillance, augmented & virtual reality, and autonomous vehicles.”

Fragmented industry
Luminate points out that, while ubiquitous, optical technologies and the associated industry are highly specialized and fragmented. “Consequently, most accelerator programs simply do not have the focus or domain expertise to optimally support OPI startups,” it says.

The expertise around the local region includes the Rochester Institute of Optics, the Rochester Institute of Technology, AIM Photonics, and over 100 local companies involved in the optics and photonics sector, alongside the history that spawned household names like Eastman Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, and Xerox.

“Rochester has the workforce, technology base, and support resources to optimally launch and grow OPI startups,” says Luminate.

Any applicants to the accelerator scheme must be incorporated, have a full-time team, have proven their core technology, and - preferably - developed a working prototype.

Once admitted, companies will receive assistance with capital and a "community of resources", plus a $100,000 initial convertible note investment. There will also be a chance to receive part of a total $2 million in funding that will be invested at a “demo day” after six months - with the top investment expected to be $1 million.

Senall said of the program: “High Tech Rochester has been in the business of growing startup companies for 30 years, and our programs and facilities have evolved over time to rival the top accelerator programs in the country.

“The timing of the launch of the Luminate accelerator couldn’t be better, as we will be opening our brand new downtown location at the Sibley building just as our first Luminate cohort kicks off.”

Although it is about to begin operations, Luminate is still looking to appoint a managing director and a nationwide advisory board. Anybody interested in those roles, or in getting involved with Luminate as a startup, mentor, corporate or venture partner, is urged to visit the www.luminate.org web site for more information.

ABTechBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationMad City Labs, Inc.Iridian Spectral TechnologiesECOPTIKHÜBNER PhotonicsTRIOPTICS GmbH
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