Startups demonstrated their dual-use technologies to defense and commercial industry partners at the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) Propel: MassChallenge Safety & Security Accelerator Demo Day last week.
The Demo Day began with a keynote address from Dr. Will Roper, former assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (SAF/AQ). After the keynote, the companies presented their applications for the commercial and military sectors that solve some of today’s most pressing national security and public safety challenges.
“Having people that are working faster, that are producing solutions that haven’t even been asked for yet is exactly what our men and women in uniform need,” said Dr. Roper in his keynote. “And for the founders who are here, who have created companies that could change the world commercially, that are willing to work with the military as a way to get there faster, you have a personal thank you from me.”
The event convened key MassChallenge partners, Department of Defense (DoD) stakeholders, and entrepreneurs who have supported and worked with these high-impact, high-potential startups and their technologies throughout the cohort.
“The NSIN partnership with MassChallenge generated important connections for future opportunities between the startups, the DoD, and industry partners,” said John Hrivnak, NSIN program manager. “Sponsoring the Safety & Security track allows us to identify and shepherd these ventures through the defense procurement process to respond to critical national security challenges effectively.”
Explore the startups and technology behind national security:
- Organic Robotics Company Organic Robotics Company creates a soft and stretchable fiber optic sensing technology, Light Lace™, which uses light to measure pressure and contact forces.
- vRotors vRotors uses its platform to connect users to 4G/5G robotic systems while empowering globally remote productivity.
- Centeye Centeye is a fabless semiconductor and microelectronics firm that develops image sensors and vision chips for nano drones and robotics.
- GhostWave GhostWave is commercializing radars for drones that are stealthy and immune from jamming and interference.
- Free Dynamics Free Dynamics develops battery-free systems driven by quantum dynamics to enable silicon sensing, recording, and authentication.
- Jaia Robotics Jaia Robotics creates affordable micro-sized autonomous robotic systems, which collect data from the ocean surface to depths of 100 meters.
- krtkl krtkl provides high-reliability edge-computing and ruggedized networking solutions for industrial control, sensing, and space applications.
- Arcascope Arcascope designs algorithms to track and steer the body’s circadian rhythms to improve the health and well-being of humans.
From June to September 2021, over 60 startups participated in the MassChallenge Safety & Security track during which they engaged with DoD end-users and subject matter experts to test and validate their solutions. Of those startups participating in the Safety & Security track, eight were selected to present their solutions at the NSIN Propel Demo Day.
For example, Jaia Robotics joined the cohort with a five-year business plan focused on selling hardware exclusively in the U.S. with already established connections in the DoD and government sectors. By working through the cohort’s curriculum and leveraging the cohort’s networks, Jaia Robotics discovered a new way to think about its market opportunity. The Jaia Robotics team looked inwards at its founder’s international business expertise. It became apparent that scaling its business to include the U.K., Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Korea would increase revenue targets more than double its original plan for only hardware sales.
Because of the tough mentor questions, Jaia Robotics expanded its services and created a new subscription model. Both are extremely viable and profitable, especially in the commercial environmental monitoring markets, further doubling its revenue forecast to $100 million by 2026.
“Our JaiaBot aquatic data collection system is unlike any other and can be used to collect data and deliver payloads in challenging environments and hard to reach areas,” said Ian Owen, co-founder and managing director of Jaia Robotics. “MassChallenge forced us to think broader and deeper about our go-to market approach and not constrain our thinking to the initial market sectors we were targeting, but [also to] leverage the experience and skills we had to address the international markets. MC [MassChallenge] forced us out of the comfort zone – which is what we needed.”
With support from NSIN, MassChallenge first launched its Safety & Security track in 2019. The inaugural cohort of 17 dual-use startups engaged potential customers and end-users while raising over $5 million in just three months. Today, the Safety & Security track has graduated 43 alumni startups that leveraged specialized access to the DoD through NSIN and its partners. Collectively, the alumni startups have raised more than $50 million in funding. In addition, 77% have transitioned to Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants.
The National Security Innovation Network is a program of the U.S. Department of Defense that collaborates with major universities and the venture community to develop solutions that drive national security innovation. We operate three portfolios of programs and services: National Service, Collaboration, and Acceleration. Together, these portfolios form a pipeline of activities and solutions that accelerate the pace of defense innovation.
MassChallenge is the global network for innovators. Headquartered in the United States with seven locations worldwide, MassChallenge equips bold entrepreneurs to disrupt the status quo and to create meaningful change. Since launching in 2009, more than 2,900 MassChallenge alumni have raised $8.6 billion in funding, generated $3.6 billion in revenue, and created more than 186,000 total jobs. Learn more about MassChallenge at masschallenge.org.