CONNECT presented its Most Innovative New Product awards to winners in eight categories at its 28th annual event at the Hyatt Regency Aventine on December 1. CONNECT is a premier innovation company accelerator in San Diego that helps startup entrepreneurial teams become great companies in the technology and life sciences sectors by providing access to the people capital, and technology resources they need to succeed. CONNECT has assisted in the formation and development of more than 3,000 companies since 1985. Lead sponsors for the event were Ardea Biosciences, Cubic Corp., and JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Under the new leadership of CEO Greg McKee, CONNECT has refocused its vision for the future. In his opening comments, McKee said, "We enable and empower scientists and entrepreneurs to transform their ideas into products and services that change lives. We create and activate a powerful network of the world’s leading researchers, entrepreneurs and investors that have an innate drive to be purposeful in making the world a better place. The CONNECT experience elevates the value of this network to make San Diego the center of extraordinary and highly convergent technology. The people of CONNECT are dedicated, authentic, and passionately committed to making a difference in our region and the world. CONNECT’s community ignites San Diego’s position as a leader in the global innovation economy."
He announced a new big goal to "build the next 10 one billion dollar companies" by 2025 to help grow the San Diego $200 billion ecosystem to $300 billion." While admitting the goal is ambitious, he said it is important, noting "companies of this size are the life blood of our community – they bring jobs, tax revenues, international recognition, sophistication, and most importantly, they are a magnet to the next generation of leaders. The more successful companies we can create, the stronger the gravitational pull to San Diego becomes."
He continued: "But, San Diego’s entrepreneurs are no strangers to creating billion dollar companies. Just off the top of my head, there’s Illumina, Dexcom, Cubic, Care Fusion, Amylin, Idec, Life Technologies, Nuvasive, Callaway, Auspex, Viasat, Resmed, Cymer, Ardea, and I almost forgot that little startup Qualcomm, just to name a few." He concluded by saying, "This is the next generation of CONNECT, and if you are with me, if you believe that San Diego’s future depends on being a leader in the global innovation economy, then join us!"
Over 100 companies applied for the Most Innovative Product Award this year. To be eligible, a company must have developed the product in the San Diego or Baja California region, introduced the product and generated revenue from sales between March 2014 and August 2015, and not have been nominated previously. A more than 60 member selection committee pre-screened the applicants and narrowed them down to 24 finalists, three in each of the following eight categories.
Aerospace, Security and Cyber Technologies
Ocean Aero won for its Submaran, which is a wind and solar-powered surface and subsurface vessel, designed for extended autonomous ocean observation and data collection. This unmanned vessel is changing how we observe our oceans because of its survivable and undetected ability to perform long-term data-gathering missions without the need to refuel or recharge.
CEO and President, Eric Patten said, “Ocean Aero is incredibly honored to receive this award, especially considering the competitive field of finalists.” He added, “This award validates the massive potential of the Submaran for the Ocean Aero team.”
The other finalists were Cubic Global Defense for its Javelin missile simulator and Tortuga Logic for its security software suite.
Q Factory 33 won for its B3 Bypass Device that facilitates 625% increases in energy potential of solar, wind, stationary battery backup systems and electrical generators and enables 30% increases in conductivity, five‐fold reductions in soft costs and elimination of expensive electrical upgrades.
President and CEO Randy Hughes said, "CONNECT's recognition of the potential of the B3 Bypass to overcome one of the solar industry's most perplexing challenges -- the bus bar limitations imposed on energy backfeed potential of solar, storage and wind systems across the board -- lends another valuable validation to the relevance of our work to drive widespread adoption of clean tech solutions."
The other finalists were Flux Power for its lithium-ion battery pack and Yulex for its plant-based, natural rubber wetsuit.
Communications and IT
Mushroom Networks won for its VOIP Armor, which if a "Voice over IP" gateway device that automatically heals and works around any network problems that otherwise negatively impact phone calls. You set and forget it for crystal clean phone calls with unbreakable reliability for your business.
"MIP Awards are the Oscar's of the IT industry and is very important for our company as it confirms our innovative approach to bringing solutions to the market", said Cahit Akin, Mushroom Networks CEO.
The other finalists were Field Logix for its innovative dispatching solution and the Lytx DriveCam Video-based safety solution for commercial fleets.
Life Science Diagnostics and Research Tools
CureMetrix won for its CureMetrix image analysis platform that quantifies the qualities of anomalies in images. As a first target, CureMetrix is focused on doing early and accurate detection of breast cancer in mammograms along with reducing unnecessary biopsies.
CEO Kevin Harris said, "Winning the CONNECT Most Innovative Product Award in Life Sciences was no small feat since the companies in this category all have amazing teams and products. For us, this is one more bit of validation and recognition that were are working on something that is incredibly important and has the opportunity to change lives."
The other two finalists were DermTech for its non-invasive adhesive skin biopsy kit and Gattaco for its CENTREPON Centrifuge Replacement Tool.
Chalk Digital won for its Instant Mobile Ad Platform that is a Do-it-Yourself advertising solution (portal and app) that builds locally target, affordable campaigns with mobile optimized landing pages within minutes. It offers businesses and consumers the ability to build, target, and launch their own personal advertisement in minutes that is displayed in thousands of mobile apps based on your location.
The other two finalists were Boost Academy for its one-on-one math tutoring and Cubic Transportation Systems' mobile payment app for trains and buses.
Pharmaceutical Drugs and Medical Devices
PureWick won for its PureWick device that empowers women with safe and simple incontinence management in hospitals, nursing facilities and at home. A non-invasive, disposable wick comfortably moves urine away from the body providing a new standard of care without the need for catheters or specialized nurses.
PureWick President, Camille Newton, M.D. thanked the judges for “recognizing the disruptive elegance in something so simple and intuitive.” She also said that she hoped that the "award will help them get their product to market faster to help women to be dry, comfortable, and safe."
The other two finalists were RxSafe's robotic production of strip packaged medications and Tandem Diabetes Care for its t-flex Insulin Pump.
Software and Digital Media
Comhear's MyBeam won for its MyBeam single, portable, wireless 12-18" sound bar device that produces spatialized, localized, and binaural virtual surround sound. MyBeam delivers a fully immersive audio experience through a portable personal device that replaces headphones. The device commercializes a patent-pending algorithm that sends sound directly to your ears precisely the way your body was designed to receive it.
CEO Perry Teevens said, "CONNECT is an excellent organization and a great platform for innovative companies to gain recognition for their products. We are looking forward continuing our relationship with SD CONNECT and associated members of the organization. Making it to the finals and eventually winning this category has been a thrilling experience. I’m grateful to our employees and partners who made winning this award possible."
The other two finalists were AristaMD's Referral intelligence Platform and the SOCI for scoring the social web.
Sport and Active Lifestyle Technologies
Hush won for its Hush Smart Earplugs, which are the world's first smart earplugs that help people sleep better in noisy environments. Combining a sound machine, earplug, and Smartphone connectivity, Hush allows you to drown out noises that keep you up at night, while simultaneously allowing you to hear the alerts and notifications you need.
Co-founder/CEO, Daniel Lee said, "Winning the MIP award has been a pretty incredible milestone for Hush. As we gear up to finally launch and ship out our long-awaited Hush product, winning such a prestigious award couldn't have been more timely. As each week passes by, we become less of the college students with lofty dreams and more of a legitimate company with a legitimate product. The MIP award was a landmark milestone defining this maturation."
The other finalists were the FORECAST new film system by Ride100% and the hookit scoring engine for athletes.
The final award of the evening was the William W. Otterson Award, CONNECT's highest honor given to technology or a product that has demonstrated a significant impact on society and our quality of life. This year the award was given to the RQ-4 Global Hawk, developed by Northrop Grumman. "The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft system (UAS) designed to provide military field commanders with comprehensive, near-real-time intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), plus detection of moving targets over a large geographical area for battle management, targeting, and situation awareness of enemy actions. The superior performance of the Global Hawk's system significantly enhances the U. S. military's ability to prevail in all types of operations from sensitive peacekeeping missions to full-scale combat."
The event concluded after Brennon Crist, managing director at JP Morgan Chase & Co., presented a $230,000 check to CEO Greg McKee to support CONNECT in the development of small business clusters in San Diego. Crist stated, “We understand that many entrepreneurs are tackling some of the world's biggest problems, which is why we support start-up accelerators like CONNECT who are making a dramatic difference in the way small businesses work and how they succeed."
CONNECT is the oldest of the over 40 different accelerators or incubators in the San Diego region, which is one reason why San Diego ranks #2 in the world for the most patents issued. After 30 years leading San Diego’s innovation economy, CONNECT has a built an unbeatable roster of over 500 highly-qualified individuals to serve as Springboard Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and Mentors who volunteer their time as mentors to help entrepreneurs develop successful companies. I am honored to be a new member of the mentor group after working with inventors for the last six years as part of the San Diego Inventors Forum, which is a "feeder" organization for CONNECT's Springboard program for entrepreneurs.