November 1, 2001
Three new investments announced at Trask Entrepreneurs Forum
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. The Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization today (Thursday, 11/1) announced $750,000 worth of investments in three fledgling companies based on Purdue-licensed technology.
The companies Simulex, OptoLynx and Griffin Analytical Technologies each received $250,000 in pre-seed capital. They represent three of the first four investments made by PRF's Trask Pre-Seed Venture Fund. The fourth investment was announced in May for Integrated Process Solutions.
Simulex provides military style war-gaming software to help companies formulate, develop, test and implement e-business strategies in an artificial world. The "game" replicates the real-world economy for years at a time and can be built to simulate an entire industry. The artificial world includes every factor that could affect an individual business, from its competition's strategy to supply chain problems to declines in consumer confidence to potential federal government antitrust suits. Simulex founders Alok Chaturvedi and Shailendra Mehta, professors in Purdue's Krannert School of Management, originally worked with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop the technology.
OptoLynx manufactures a high-performance fiberoptic detector that allows for increased speed and capacity on the Internet. The size of a fiberoptic detector influences the speed at which it can detect light. To increase optical detection speed, manufacturers traditionally have had to reduce detector size. This became virtually impossible when detector size got too small to connect with the diameter of the fiberoptical system. OptoLynx president and CEO Mike Melloch, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering, worked with other university researchers, technicians and alumni to develop a detector that is fast, responsive to light and available in larger, usable components.
Griffin Analytical Technologies markets a miniaturized mass spectrometer to the analytical instrumentation market. This portable and functional chemical analysis instrument provides identification and quantification of chemical targets for the pharmaceutical, biotechnological, automotive, chemical, environmental, consumer product and petroleum industries. Founder Dennis Barket Jr., a Purdue alumnus, plans to expand the applications and markets of mass spectrometry.
Integrated Process Solutions creates software designed to quickly and thoroughly analyze potential problems in manufacturing processes, saving time and money. IPS co-founder Venkat Venkatasubramanian, a professor in Purdue's School of Chemical Engineering, developed computer software support tools for corporations that use batch processing in manufacturing. Many companies still manually analyze process hazards. This software is designed to reduce the human error factor and provide high-quality analysis in less time, with more comprehensive results.
The Trask investments are made in the form of convertible loans, in which the dollars invested eventually will be converted into shares of stock in the company.
"It is very difficult for small companies to raise money," said Lisa Kuuttila, PRF assistant vice president. "This investment not only provides capital for some start-up expenses, but gives the added benefit of being able to use the Purdue name when working with potential investors.
"We are the only university in the state making this kind of financial commitment and taking these kinds of calculated risks on new companies. However, it is important to remember that this money is an investment not a grant. We do expect to receive a return on the money just like any other investor would."
The Trask program is open to Purdue faculty and students who have licensed intellectual property from the university. Awards are limited to a one-time pre-seed investment of up to $250,000. Preference is given to companies that plan to locate within the Purdue Research Park.
The Trask Venture Fund originally was established in 1974 through an estate gift from Vern and Ramoth Trask, both Purdue alumni. Vern was the foundation's patent attorney in the late 1930s and early 1940s and established the fund to support short-term projects that would enhance the value of PRF intellectual property disclosures. The fund evolved into the Trask Pre-Seed Venture Fund last year.
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