A new University of Louisville event, The Founder Hunt, aims to pair research-backed inventions born at Kentucky universities with entrepreneurs who want to build companies around them.
“The goal is to make connections between these founders, looking for their next big play, and our startup-ready technologies,” said Will Metcalf, executive director of research development and strategic initiatives in the UofL Office of Research and Innovation.
The inaugural Founder Hunt, held in mid-November at Churchill Downs, was a partnership with the University of Kentucky and the Commonwealth Commercialization Center (C3).
The event’s format was something like a startup pitch competition, but flipped. Rather than have the entrepreneurs pitch their companies to investors, university researchers pitched their technologies to the entrepreneurs.
There were four pitches each from UofL and UK, along with one from C3/Eastern Kentucky University. Each presenter had five minutes to sell the packed house on their technology and its market opportunity.
“Working with academic universities and research, that’s a wide-open space for all of us,” said Signature HealthCARE CEO, Joe Steier, who keynoted the event. “And if the Commonwealth’s going to win, it’s going to be with all these partners coming together.”
For the first event, the focus was on healthcare-related technologies, though future events may focus on engineering, robotics or any number of disciplines.
The UofL technologies this year included flexible sensors with medical and fitness applications, an inhibitor that could stop the spread of cancer, an artificial intelligence diagnostic tool for diabetic retinopathy and respiratory training device for people with COPD.
“What a fabulous opportunity to promote our technology in front of a room full of experienced investors, marketing representatives, and founders of local startups,” said UofL researcher and inventor, Tommy Roussell, who pitched the latter device. “We made several meaningful connections, and just had a ton of fun.”
The goal of the event is to find a founder who wants to license one of these technologies and build a company.
To help set them up for success, the first founder to license one of the pitched technologies will also receive a package of services: up to $10,000 in product design services from MED Institute, up to $2,000 in legal services from Frost Brown Todd and up to $1,500 in accounting services from DMLO CPAs.
“We want to build strong teams, strong partnerships, that can build high-growth businesses and draw significant investment to Louisville,” Metcalf said. “We’re shooting for $200 million over the next several years.”
Other sponsors for the event included PNC Bank, the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council, Technstars, RoundTower, Switcher Studio and LEAP.
Check out video from the event below: