Pair of startup firms win cash to utilize Rome Lab’s technology

ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT— The latest Commercialization Academy winners are Patrick Harris, Xompass FaaS vice president, and Crystal Taggart, OneTouchTrust founder and CEO. Their companies both won $25,000 prizes. The academy pairs people with an interest in business with high-potential Air Force Research Laboratory technologies with the goals of developing entrepreneurial leaders and launching commercial products. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Published May 26, 2016 at 4:00pm

Two startup companies that hope to take off with technology developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Rome facility are sharing $50,000 in prize money to incentivize their efforts.

Xompass FaaS and OneTouchTrust were each awarded $25,000 at the conclusion of the 2016 Spring Commercialization Academy, which is the vehicle that seeks to transfer technology created at Rome lab to the private sector. Eight teams took to the stage at the thINCubator Tuesday to pitch audience members and a panel of judges in order to see which startup company and AFRL technology-based products and services were most deserving of the money.

Xompass FaaS, a service platform that provides intelligence to assets in the energy industries, walked away with the judges’ vote and $25,000, while a company that combats online identity fraud, OneTouchTrust, captured the audience vote and $25,000.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this group, and the Air Force Research Lab has done great things for our technology,” said Patrick Harris, Xompass vice president. “Hopefully we can continue to develop the product to incorporate some more of the research lab’s patents and make the world a better place.”

The judges looked at how each team is using Air Force Research Laboratory technologies, and the ways each entrant is currently bringing, or will bring, these technologies to the public market.

“I am very excited to win! I have been so grateful to be a part of this program,” said Crystal Taggart, OneTouchTrust founder and CEO. “It’s made a huge difference in my business, and helped me to make connections that I wouldn’t have been able to make outside this organization, so I’m really, really, excited to be a part of it.”

Others vying for the prize money were CFO Technology Corp., Covrt Security, GeoPixi, Inara, Sravel and SwitchNote.

The Commercialization Academy is part of the Department of Defense’s effort to thrust more of its technology into the mainstream by pairing entrepreneurs with technologies. The push started about two years ago when Rome lab officials, in partnership with the Griffiss Institute, opened the academy.

Over the last six months, the Commercialization Academy, run by Wasabi Ventures, has seen teams setting out to transform Air Force Research Laboratory technologies into new startups, with eight developed. Teams invited to the academy are formed by businesspeople who fit one of two categories:

They expect a Rome lab-developed technology can be combined with their own invention to make it better, or they envision a product that can be built around intellectual property licensed from the AFRL.

With the support of Wasabi’s’ mentoring and education, the teams were able to create legal entities, license their piece of intellectual property, spec up product designs, learn the proper way to pitch their their product or service, develop a go-to-market, and define their growth strategies — it all led up to this week’s Demo Day.

“The Commercialization Academy represents a transformative approach to doing tech transfer at a research lab,” said TK Kuegler, Wasabi general partner. “The combining of hands-on mentoring, local funding, founders with domain expertise, and world-class intellectual property from the labs has created the ability to create scalable companies that impact the entire ecosystem.”