IntuiTap Medical, a Houston-based medical device company was awarded $50,000 as the winner of the 2017 Texas A&M New Ventures Competition (TNVC) hosted by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) Thursday on the Texas A&M University campus.
Intuitap is developing a medical device that helps physicians more accurately and efficiently place spinal needles for epidurals and spinal taps. They provide physicians with real-time imaging of the vertebrae along with needle guidance to help them successfully place the needle on the first try.
“The competition this year was extremely hard. Coming into it I was saying that it was probably the hardest competition that I’ve been in,” Jessica Traver, CEO and co-founder of IntuiTap said. “But our product is very relatable. Every woman in the audience who’s ever had a child knows how terrible epidurals are, every husband who’s ever watched their wife have a child knows how terrible they are, so it’s a very relatable device.”
According to the judges, three teams stood out from the rest, but separating the three from each other was a difficult task.
“This was tough,” said judge Mike Wilkinson of Paragon Innovations. “We rotated them a lot, and if we were here another hour we might have had a different winner, but Intuitap had a really cool medical device, they have a clear path to market and their presentation today was really good.”
As proof of how close the top group of teams were, there was actually a tie for second place between Houston-based Otricath, which is developing a novel catheter, and Austin-based Shower Stream, an internet of things smart shower aimed at saving hotels money.
According to M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering and director of TEES, the event was another good example of the emphasis on entrepreneurship at Texas A&M.
“Entrepreneurism is the cornerstone of the Texas A&M Engineering program,” said Banks. “We support this competition to help our faculty, students and researchers take great ideas and move them into the marketplace.”
The competition was open to Texas-based companies seeking to bring new or enhanced technology to the marketplace, and required the companies in the pre-seed/seed, start-up or early growth stages to pitch their ideas to judges that included angel investors and venture capitalists, experienced entrepreneurs, non-profit founders, legal professionals, patent experts and banking/investment professionals.
The companies were previously selected from a larger pool of applicants prior to the event. As part of the competition, participants received personal coaching and access to mentor strategists as they developed their competition business plans and presentation pitches.
“This year’s group of finalists are our most diverse and complex group of technologies to date,” said Dimitris Lagoudas, deputy director of TEES. “The fact that this competition continues to grow and have real impact is a testament to the innovative and entrepreneurial ecosystem we are building at Texas A&M for the benefit of the state of Texas.”
Mays Business School was also instrumental is putting together the competition.
“Mays Business School takes very seriously its sustained commitment to support entrepreneurial excellence fueling innovation and collaboration across local, state, national and global economies,” said Blake Petty, director of the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship at the Mays Business School. “In that respect, we are proud to partner in and support the Texas A&M New Ventures Competition, the distinction this program bestows on its participants and its celebration of entrepreneurial success for societal benefit.”
With more than $250,000 in total prizes, the pool for the competition was the largest in the three-year history of the TNVC. In the first two years, the TNVC awarded more than $400,000 combined. In 2016, a $50,000 top prize went to REEcycle, a Houston-based company reclaiming rare earth elements from recycled electronics. In 2015, $50,000 cash and $50,000 in investment from the Texas Emerging Technologies Fund went to Noninvasix, which is using patented optoacoustic technology to develop a solution for the safe, accurate and noninvasive monitoring of fetal welfare during labor and delivery.
“The Division of Research is extremely proud to be a sponsor of this year’s Texas A&M New Ventures Competition,” said Vice President for Research Glen A. Laine. “Emerging technologies and innovations enhance the quality of life for the state of Texas and its citizens, as well as for people across the nation and around the world.”
The 2017 TNVC was made possible by Texas A&M University, TEES, the Texas A&M Division of Research, Mays Business School, the Texas A&M Health Science Center, Texas A&M Technology Commercialization, the TEES Clean Energy Incubator and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Sponsors for the event included the 80/20 Foundation, Fluor, Pioneer Natural Resources, Winstead Attorneys, Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator and Fujifilm Diosynth Technologies. In-kind sponsors included TMC Innovation, Innovate CXO Services, BioTex, Aggie Angel Network, Pioneer Natural Resources and Winstead Attorneys, AM Innovation Center and Ramey & Schwaller.
Full list of winners:
1st – $50,000 – IntuiTap Medical
2nd – $35,000 – NHC, Inc. (Otricath)
2nd – $35,000 – Shower Stream
4th – $15,000 – Clear River Enviro, Inc.
5th – $10,000 – Thermascape Technologies
6th – $5,000 – Fortis Biosciences
Elevator pitch competition:
1st – $5,000 – GuidaBot, LLC
2nd – $3,000 – Sensytec
3rd – $2,000 – Resthetics
TMCX investment prize + accelerator admission – Resthetics
TMCX Accelerator admission – GuidaBot
InnovateX/RVF Prize – Shower Stream
Cleantech Prize – Wells Fargo/TEES Clean Energy Incubator – Claridge-Culp
Ramey & Schwaller IP Legal Services Prize – Fortis Bioscience
Biotex Investment Prize – IntuiTap Medical
Amerra Visualization Services Prize – Thermascape
AM Innovation Center Prize – Thermascape