The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Start me up

Instructions: Take great ideas, place them in the fertile environment of a world-class university, add innovation, support and entrepreneurial spirit. Crank them up. Let them run.

From a radio frequency generator that’s making our highways safer to a sustainable microbe inoculant system that helps farmers increase crop yields, the innovations of Ohio State researchers, students and alumni are a pivotal part of the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

A record 19 startups spun out of university technology in fiscal 2018 — a boost rooted in the university’s expanded focus on commercialization and corporate engagement and a funding continuum that supports innovation from the idea stage all the way to major expansions.

The continuum starts with Accelerator Awards, jointly funded by the university and Ohio Development Services Agency to provide Ohio State researchers up to $100,000 to advance breakthrough technologies. At the other end of this spectrum, the university has invested in venture capital endeavors such as the Ohio Innovation Fund, which supports companies and provides expertise to help them grow.

The partnerships are ushering in a new generation of startups in the agricultural, medical device, cybersecurity and technology industries. Those firms, in turn, impact other businesses, society and the environment in dramatic ways.

“Our ability to commercialize technology has really taken off in the past eight to 10 years,” says Michael Papadakis, Ohio State’s chief financial officer. “A culture change has taken shape.”

Here seven startups offer examples of the recent activity.

Dean Zody ’86, ’96 M

Dean Zody ’86, ’96 M
Founder and CEO of GhostWave

Jane Fife ’97, ’03 PhD

Jane Fife ’97, ’03 PhD
Chief science officer of 3Bar Biologics

Peeyush Shrivastava

Peeyush Shrivastava
Founder of Genetesis

Jeff Schumann ’08

Jeff Schumann ’08
Co-founder of Aware

C. Emre Koksal

C. Emre Koksal
Developed DAtAnchor technology

Chris Crader

Chris Crader
Founder of ALC Innovations

Andrea Beeks ’02

Andrea Beeks ’02
Director of customer integration at Innovate IP

Bill Baumel ’90

Bill Baumel ’90
Managing director, Ohio Innovation Fund

Cheryl Turnbull

Cheryl Turnbull
Senior director of new ventures, Ohio State Corporate Engagement Office

Rendering of Ohio State's proposed innovation district

Learn more about Ohio State’s West Campus innovation district.


GhostWave

Based: Columbus
Founded: 2016
Employees: 2

Dean Zody ’86, ’96 M is founder and CEO of GhostWave.

Jo McCulty

GhostWave is a radar company working to make driving safer. The company’s radar sensors aren’t as susceptible to interference as others on the market. With the growth of the self-driving car industry, more cars will need these sensors to help prevent crashes.

Ohio State ties:

GhostWave was formed to commercialize Ohio State technology. The university licensed four radar patents to the company, and the Corporate Engagement Office helped with corporate governance documents. Ohio State also supported GhostWave when it applied for and received a state grant for commercializing institutional technology. The company has utilized Ohio State’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence and the Electro Science Lab to adapt the size and frequency of radars for automotive applications. Dean Zody, founder and CEO, has an engineering degree and MBA from the university. “Ohio State has been a strong partner with GhostWave,” Zody says.

What challenge within your business are you trying to solve right now?

“We just received a contract from the Ohio Federal Research Network. Our proposal is for drone collision avoidance by using a sensor fusion of cameras and GhostWave radars. When the Federal Aviation Administration allows drones to fly beyond visible lines of site, they will need an onboard system to avoid accidents,” Zody says. “When conditions are foggy, cloudy or smoky, cameras alone are not good sensors. By implementing a state-of-the-art collision-avoidance system, we can solve the degraded visual environment problem. Our challenge is to get high performance while shrinking the radar in weight and power consumption. We don’t want to consume too much battery power on the drone.”

What’s next for your company?

“Health monitoring of honey bee hives with radar. Seriously!”


3Bar Biologics

Based: Columbus
Founded: 2013
Employees: 11

Jane Fife ’97, ’03 PhD is chief science officer of 3Bar Biologics.

Jo McCulty

3Bar Biologics delivers a sustainable microbe inoculant system that helps farmers increase crop yields without having to change the way they plant. The microbes were discovered and isolated during a 15-year research process involving Ohio State scientists.

Ohio State ties:

3Bar is the licensee of technology developed in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. The unique and beneficial microbes help crops grow and fight off stress and disease. The company works with the Corporate Engagement Office and several professors through the license. Founder Bruce Caldwell pursued MBA course work at Fisher College of Business, focusing on technology entrepreneurship, and says 3Bar is a direct outcome of that experience. Several team members are Ohio State alumni, too.

What challenge within your business are you trying to solve right now?

“The challenge with biologicals has always been how to deliver them to the farm in a viable form,” says Jane Fife, chief science officer. “3Bar is solving this problem by providing farmers an easy-to-use delivery system to grow their own microbes on-site. By delivering 100 percent viable microbes with the seed at planting, we’re seeing better, more consistent results in the field. The initial reception from corn and soybean farmers has been strong, but there’s still a lot of skepticism about these ‘bugs-in-a-jug.’ Educating farmers about biologicals remains a huge challenge because this is new technology.”

What’s next for your company?

“We’re working to get more microbial products commercialized and in the hands of farmers,” Caldwell says. “Helping farmers reduce dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides with microbes is 3Bar’s mission.”


Genetesis

Based: Mason, Ohio
Founded: 2013
Employees: 26

Peeyush Shrivastava started Genetesis his first semester at Ohio State.

Jo McCulty

The biomagnetic solutions Genetesis creates help health care providers determine whether a patient’s chest pain is cardiac in nature. It makes the CardioFlux Magnetocardiograph, a noninvasive system that requires no patient exposure to radiation or exercise during the procedure.

Ohio State ties:

Peeyush Shrivastava started Genetesis during his first semester as a biomedical science major at Ohio State. Joining him the following year was Manny Setegn, a computer science, engineering and economics major. “We began as a dorm room startup, spending a lot of time by whiteboards at Lincoln Tower and the following year at Park-Stradley Hall,” Shrivastava says.

Ohio Innovation Fund connection:

Shrivastava and his co-founders connected with the fund in late 2017, not long after CincyTech led the company’s seed financing round. “Bill [Baumel] instantly understood the transformative capabilities of our team and business, but also the risks,” Shrivastava says. “He connected us with people who could help us map out those risks into operational strategies.”

What challenge within your business are you trying to solve right now?

“As we transfer over CardioFlux to low-volume production, there are engineering, quality and regulatory processes we want to have well established,” Shrivastava says. “These processes will help us successfully scale the business and maintain a healthy product-development culture. These processes take time, focus and capital to develop.”

What’s next for your company?

“We’re in the process of commercializing our CardioFlux technology. Throughout 2019, we expect to install nearly a dozen CardioFlux systems spanning rural and urban health centers.”


Aware

Based: Columbus
Founded: 2017
Employees: 37

Jeff Schumann

Jo McCulty

Aware makes a software platform of the same name. It helps companies monitor how employees are using social enterprise networks such as Slack, Yammer and Workplace by Facebook to protect against harassment, exclusion and comparable issues. It also provides a social graph showing who is interacting with whom and with what positive or negative sentiment.

Ohio State ties:

Jeff Schumann ’08 co-founded the business, which recruits Ohio State students to serve as interns across its product, marketing, engineering, sales and operations divisions. Many interns have become full-time employees. Aware also supports events on campus such as the annual HackOHI/O hackathon, for which it provides judges and mentors.

Ohio Innovation Fund connection:

The fund led a $12 million financing round and has a member on Aware’s board of directors. By serving as “awesome advisors, mentors and champions,” it also is helping to position the company for the future, Schumann says. 

What challenge within your business are you trying to solve right now?

“As a growing startup that services international customers, one of the biggest challenges we face is establishing a presence in our potential markets,” Schumann says. “Typical startup constraints force us to think outside the box and get creative with our approach, which includes hiring wicked-smart students who challenge our thinking and come up with ingenious ways to tackle these opportunities.”

What’s next for Aware?

“One thing we’re working on that I’m most excited about is a set of new artificial intelligence-enabled features that will help our customers understand the collective mindset of their employees in real time,” Schumann says. “This new view into employees will forever positively change how businesses operate around the world.”


DAtAnchor Inc.

Based: Columbus
Founded: 2018
Employees: 8, plus 2 interns

​Faculty member C. Emre Koksal developed the DAtAnchor technology​.

Jo McCulty

DAtAnchor provides an alternative to traditional data security measures. Its technology effectively “anchors” a client’s information to one location, allowing for better security and making it harder to compromise.

Ohio State ties:

Designed by C. Emre Koksal, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, the technology was first implemented by his former graduate student Hari Indukuri ’17 MS. The technology earned an Accelerator Award and is now licensed to DAtAnchor, a startup Koksal founded.

Ohio Innovation Fund connection:

The fund is one of the company’s main investors and worked with it to build the business case and bring in Michael Hughes, former senior VP of Barracuda Networks, as a board member. The technology is owned by the Ohio State Innovation Foundation and licensed to DAtAnchor.

What challenge within your business are you trying to solve right now?

“The businesses with compliance constraints have different mechanisms to integrate a new product,” Koksal says. “In most cases, the people who will benefit from DAtAnchor — the employees who consume the data — are different from the decision maker in IT who would purchase it.”

What’s next for DAtAnchor?

“DAtAnchor is about to be integrated into businesses that consume sensitive data, which they are obliged to keep secure for compliance purposes,” Koksal says. “The main industries where there’s a natural fit include law, health care and finance. Our objective is to make DAtAnchor the ubiquitous solution in data security.”


ALC Innovations

Based: Columbus
Founded: 2016
Employees: 2

Chris Crader turned to Ohio State to perfect ALC Innovations’ cleaning product.

Jo McCulty

ALC Innovations makes an all-natural, plant-based cleaning product for restaurants and bars. Founder Chris Crader conceived the idea after spending 10 years working in the industry as a bartender and restaurant manager before launching Grow Restaurants Inc., the company behind Harvest Pizzeria, The Sycamore and Cosecha Cocina.

Ohio State ties:

Crader came up with the idea in 2011, but put it on the back burner while he built his restaurant company. By 2016, he had a formula that was 95 percent complete, but felt it needed to be perfect. “So we approached the chemistry department at Ohio State,” he says, and met with instructional lab supervisor Christopher Callam and chemist Brent Sauner. After a few months and a dozen or so iterations, the formula hit Crader’s mark. “We negotiated the university’s position to be one of equity rather than royalty or license-based.” After completing the formula, ALC Innovations and the Corporate Engagement Office built a roadmap to commercialize the product within the university and the private sector. Crader’s business partner is Andy Robinson ’94.

What challenge within your business are you trying to solve right now?

“A food- and human-safe cleaner and polisher was crucial for the hospitality industry,” Crader says. “We wanted to be able to do everything from removing lipstick from glassware to cleaning tables and windows without introducing harsh chemicals or odors that would disrupt your dining experience. From a larger perspective, we hope to rid workplaces, schools and restaurants of ammonia and other toxic substances.”

What’s next for your company?

“While trying to sell to as many restaurants as possible, we’re also working on an antiviral version that can safely kill nearly all bad bacteria and viruses.”


INNOVATE IP

Based: Columbus
Founded: 2017
Employees: 5

Andrea Beeks ’02​​ is Innovate IP’s director of customer integration.

Jo McCulty

Innovate IP is a web-based enterprise platform for an organized and effective technology transfer operation. The business was developed within the Corporate Engagement Office, where it’s been used since 2011.

Ohio State ties:

The first version of Innovate IP’s code was created within the university and inspired by the experiences of Corporate Engagement Office leaders Mike Coutinho and Andrea Beeks ’02, says CEO Jim Bratton. “Ohio State is our first customer and has been a great partner, providing feedback as we roll out new features. As we grow, Ohio State will continue to be a part of our success as the licensor of our original source code and an equity holder in the company,” Bratton says. “Our founders were frustrated with inadequacies of multiple software platforms used to manage licensing practices and decided to do something about it. Working with colleagues to map out the business processes and job tasks within the office, they developed a web-based platform for managing the intellectual property asset value chain.”

What challenge within your business are you trying to solve right now?

“We have had remarkable success with our early adopters. They have been incredibly supportive and have provided invaluable feedback on their experience using our platform,” says Beeks, director of customer integration. “The challenge is to grow and scale while maintaining the close relationship with each of those customers and for those planning on migrating to our platform.

What’s next for your company?

“We’re focused on building out our customer base among U.S. research universities and will expand out to federal and nonprofit labs soon,” Bratton says. “There’s also significant demand in Europe and Asia. Long term, our platform is applicable to corporate innovators and companies that work along the innovation value chain.”


Meet Bill Baumel ’90

Bill Baumel

Bill Baumel ’90
Managing Director,
Ohio Innovation Fund

Photo courtesy of Bill Baumel

Before Bill Baumel was recruited to launch the Ohio Innovation Fund, in which Ohio State is a founding partner, he spent 20 years as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. A 1990 graduate of Fisher College of Business, Baumel returned to Columbus in 2016 and is leveraging his experience to build high-growth companies in next-generation industries. He, his wife and six sons live in Dublin, where he coaches junior high basketball and baseball.

What brought you back to Ohio?

I grew up in Cincinnati, went to Ohio State and came back yearly to keep tabs on the startup community. I saw a strong expansion in the level of startup activity and noticed the quality. I saw a lot of seed and angel-stage investing, but not a lot of larger venture investing. There’s a big gap there, and that’s what Ohio State saw, too.

What are you seeing in terms of the entrepreneurship of students and faculty?

There’s been a dramatic change. We’re seeing more students who want to do something creative and innovative that will have a high impact. I’m on the Accelerator Awards committee in the university’s Corporate Engagement Office. A couple years ago, you’d see a few deals each quarter. Now we’re seeing 10 high-quality deals a quarter and have a tough time deciding which companies to choose.

What should other alumni know about this work?

We are creating successful startups in Ohio. A majority of them are doubling revenue year over year. Fortune 500 companies are their customers; major universities are, too. They’re attracting strategic partners and investors — Microsoft, Sanofi, Dell, Facebook. I’d encourage alumni interested in entrepreneurship or technology to look at our companies and see if they could provide value as advisors.

Where is this work heading?

We’re helping to fund the next wave of medical technologies, cybersecurity, data science, artificial intelligence right here in Ohio. The result is alumni don’t have to leave after graduation to be a part of an exciting, high-growth company.


Meet Cheryl Turnbull

Cheryl Turnbull

Cheryl Turnbull
Senior Director of New Ventures,
Ohio State Corporate Engagement Office

Photo courtesy of Cheryl Turnbull

For 20 years, Cheryl Turnbull has helped inventors, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists come together to build companies that have changed the world. After a career in private finance, she joined Ohio State six years ago to manage the equity portfolio of startup companies that bring university intellectual property to market. She lives in Upper Arlington with her husband and five children enjoys following Ohio State and professional basketball.

As of late April, the university had 88 active startups. Tell us about some of the most disruptive and interesting technologies seen.

Aether Therapeutics is combating neonatal abstinence syndrome. It allows addicted mothers to not pass the addiction on to unborn babies. If they’re successful, that’s a big impact. Another started off as a sketch on a piece of paper. Simple-Fill is in the compressed natural gas space and will change the way vehicles are fueled and be more environmentally friendly. Research and science that comes out of Ohio State has such a positive social impact and the potential to change people’s lives. That’s what is so inspiring about all of this.

What major milestones has the Corporate Engagement Office experienced over the past few years?

We had a record number of invention disclosures last year, and hopefully our office’s emphasis on increasing our accessibility helped with that. We also spun out a record 19 new startups last fiscal year. More and more experienced entrepreneurs are raising their hands to help lead these companies.

How are Ohio State alumni affecting the startup community?

They are fabulous — one of our strongest assets — and we hope to get more of them involved. We have a number of alums who are founders and startup leaders, but we’re also looking to throw out a much larger net to engage alumni to help advise startups.


Innovation district will spawn big, bright ideas

Ohio State is creating space on West Campus for the synergy that leads to startups.

The Interdisciplinary Research Facility and Energy Advancement and Innovation Building will co-anchor an innovation district along Kenny Road south of Lane Avenue. The area also will accommodate the Wexner Medical Center West Campus Ambulatory Center, planned in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and slated to include central Ohio’s first proton therapy treatment facility, and potentially future development.

“The innovation district will build on Ohio State’s tradition as a hub for all stages of discovery — from the very inception of an idea to applications that improve the daily lives of people around the world,” says Provost Bruce McPheron ’76. “This district is a manifestation of the university’s mission to conduct research and bring it to society to solve problems and create new products.”

Two essential elements of the district, McPheron notes, are a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary work and engagement within the university community as well as with the private sector.

The research facility will house some 270,000 square feet of wet, computation and core labs, a vivarium and support spaces. The Energy Advancement Center will provide space for faculty, students, alumni, ENGIE North America researchers, entrepreneurs and industry experts to work on the next generation of smart energy systems, renewable energy and green mobility solutions. The center is a cornerstone of the university’s public-private partnership with Ohio State Energy Partners, which committed $50 million for the project.

“From my time as a student to my role now as provost, I have seen how Ohio State acts as a force multiplier by connecting people and ideas from various disciplines and backgrounds,” McPheron says. “This innovation district is yet another step in that ongoing process at Ohio State.”

Design of the three facilities is under way, and completion is targeted for late 2022. Framework 2.0, the university’s long-term planning vision, identified West Campus for the innovation district, which could take decades to fully develop.

— From staff reports

About the author

Laura Newpoff

Laura Newpoff is a freelance writer in Columbus.