Purdue startup chosen for VilCap USA: Health IT business accelerator program

February 10, 2015  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - SPEAK MODalities LLC, a startup commercializing a technology to benefit children and families affected by severe, non-verbal autism, is one of 12 startups selected to participate in VilCap USA: Health IT, a nonprofit business acceleration program launched by Village Capital and Texas Medical Center.

"Being selected for the 2015 VilCap USA: Health IT entrepreneurial program is a tremendous honor, and we can learn much by working with other entrepreneurs and gain expertise from the VilCap program," said Oliver Wendt, assistant professor of speech, language, hearing sciences and special education, who developed the technology and is a co-founder of SPEAK MODalities.

The program provides selected startups with four, four-day sessions over the course of three months to help entrepreneurs further develop their companies. The VilCap USA: Health IT program is a collaboration between Village Capital and Texas Medical Center. The program supports seed-stage businesses and consists of in-person workshops and remote webinars during which participants receive coaching on building their company, as well as establishing a network of like-minded peers and possible investors.

SPEAK MODalities is commercializing the Purdue University innovations SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore!, which are iPad apps to help children with severe, non-verbal autism  communicate more effectively and develop natural speech and language. The apps use graphic symbols to help children construct sentences they wish to say, which ultimately leads to the acquisition of more advanced language concepts.

Other co-founders of SPEAK MODalities are Michael Zentner founder, president and CEO, and Diana Hancock chief operations officer.

Spensa Technologies Inc., another startup based on a Purdue innovation, previously participated in the program.

The 2015 participants' final pitches are scheduled for March 4 in Salt Lake City. Entrepreneurs themselves will act as investors and decide which two of their peers will each receive a $50,000 investment at the end of the program through a transparent peer ranking system.

SPEAK MODalities also received startups guidance from the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurial hub in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, and has won the Trask Innovation Award from the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization as well as top honors at the 2014 International GAIN-TEN Business Pitch Challenge. A video about SPEAK MODalities is available at http://youtu.be/AabR3FV9roY.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization hub in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. The Purdue Foundry is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2014 Incubator Network of the Year from the National Business Incubation Association for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org

About SPEAK MODalities LLC

SPEAK MODalities was formed in 2013 and obtained an exclusive license to the SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore! technologies from the Purdue Research Foundation. The first commercially supported version of SPEAKall! was released in January of 2014. SPEAK MODalities has a mission to expand the reach of SPEAKall! and subsequent products that assist children with special needs to develop speech and language skills. 

Writer: Melissa Wang, 765-588-1041, mkwang@prf.org 

Purdue Research Foundation contact: Cynthia Sequin, 765-413-6031, casequin@prf.org

Source: Oliver Wendt, 765-494-2462, olli@purdue.edu 

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