Networking Night Celebrates Hardware Innovation
On Thursday, February 16, nearly 100 members of the Ithaca entrepreneurial ecosystem convened at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works for [email protected]: Hardware Happenings. Rev’s first networking event of 2023, the event celebrated the power of physical product innovators within the local community.
As the event began, attendees mixed and mingled as they gathered around the different hardware startups and programs that had come to table. In addition to the startups pitching at the event, groups like Combat Robotics at Cornell University and Prototyping Hardware Accelerator alumni ReVert Technologies came out to demonstrate their tech.
Ken Rother, director of Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, opened the programming by sharing a few remarks on Rev’s dedication to supporting hardware startups through programs like the Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator and Prototyping Hardware Accelerator.
“We really have a particular interest in hardware here at Rev. And if my colleagues didn’t already think I was a total nerd, I brought my credentials with me today,” said Rother, who had a table showing off a computer he’d built from scratch.
Rob Shepherd, assistant professor at the Cornell University College of Engineering and expert on innovative product design and manufacturing, was first to take the floor. As co-founder of wearable healthtech startup Organic Robotics Corporation, Shepherd is no stranger to the challenges and triumphs that come with hardware innovation. The company has developed Light Lace, a wearable sensor that measures muscle fatigue, respiration and motion.
Organic Robotics Corporation got its start right at Rev during the 2019 Prototyping Hardware Accelerator. Over the past three years, the company has grown to raise over $3 million dollars and now employs a team of 12.
“We use the hardware accelerator to push our technology out of the research stage into something demonstrable that helped us raise SBIR/STTR money, which has been able to accelerate us to the point where we can get angel investments and venture funding,” said Shepherd. “If we hadn’t come here to do that, we wouldn’t have had the data and validation of Light Lace to get us the next round of funding, which kept us alive.”
Next, three other startups each shared a brief pitch of their business concept and progress thus far.
- Rheo Hero: Founded by Cornell Engineering PhD candidates Ludovico Cestarollo and Karan Vishwanath, RheoHero merges flexibility with stability. Rheopro, their innovative ankle brace, is designed for athletes in sports with a high risk of ankle-related injury and eliminates the bulk and burden of a traditional ankle brace, while providing more support than taping alone. The startup, a member of Rev’s current Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator cohort, is on a mission to make professional-level ankle support accessible to all athletes.
“We have tested our product with the men’s club basketball team at Cornell, our trials have been a success, and the players have recognized the merits of our product,” said Vishwanath. “Our stellar team of engineers, athletes, designers and marketing specialists are working to put the athlete first and come up with a solution that is athlete-focused.”
- Ithaca Toys: Rev member startup Ithaca Toys is creating sustainable toys for tactile STEAM learning, all while having a social impact on the local community. Their primary product NumberBLOX is a set of engraved dominoes that allow children to have fun while learning about math. Founded by Ithaca educator Lee Kaltman, Ithaca Toys’ digital marketing director Tracy Zeng shared a pitch with the audience.
“We also make our products from sustainably sourced materials, and they’re all handcrafted by talented individuals with disabilities,” said Zeng. “We aren’t just making a product, we’re creating a community that centers around education and social impact.”
- Atlas Urban Farms: A current member of the AgTech Manufacturing Hardware Accelerator, Connor Harbison’s Atlas Urban Farms is bringing vertical farming solutions to chefs. These innovative systems use 95% less water than traditional farming and revolutionize the idea of farm-to-table cooking.
“We are asking you to imagine the inevitable green future where cities feed people, where our buildings nourish us, and the green space helps our mental health,” said Harbison. “Just imagine walking home and picking the salad that you’re going to eat for dinner from the wall. This is the future that we see, and the future that Atlas Urban Farms is building.”
The event continued with more networking over a spread of local bites and beverages from Word of Mouth Catering of Trumansburg, New York. The energy in the space was high as people excitedly reconnected with familiar faces and forged new relationships with other innovators and entrepreneurs.
Don’t miss out on the next Networking Night on April 12! [email protected]: Building Bridges for Ithaca Startups will celebrate the support and energy within Ithaca’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Space is limited, so reserve your spot now.