A technology institute launched last winter by the University of Nebraska’s two Omaha campuses has signed its first four startup companies.
UNeTech, a partnership between the University of Nebraska Medical Center and University of Nebraska at Omaha, was established to help identify promising startups and help them become successful.
The four companies will move into the UNeTech building, a three-level, 5,000-square-foot structure at 3929 Harney St. formerly occupied by the American Red Cross.
The NU Board of Regents approved UNeTech in 2015 and the Nebraska Legislature allocated $1 million a year toward its operating expenses.
Dr. Rod Markin, UNeTech’s executive director, said bringing in the first tenants is a big milestone.
“We interview folks and go through a process of deciding,” he said. “Not everyone is going to be able to get into it.”
Joe Runge, associate director of UNeTech, said the institute has a whole pipeline of prospects, some for the near term and some that could come later on. The mix includes those based on ideas from the university and the community. “I think that’s reflected in our current crop of startups,” he said.
The incubator is intended to pick up where UNeMed, the UNMC technology transfer office, leaves off by organizing and funding startups. The goal is to help them become profitable businesses and employers.
Plans call for raising between $7 million and $10 million from individuals and outside agencies to create a kind of revolving fund to help promising technologies and companies get through their first few years and the “valley of death” during which half of new businesses fail.
Markin said businesses will either fail or graduate, and the organization has criteria to help make those calls. “Since we’re in the education business, we’re interested in graduation,” he said.
The first batch of startups:
FutureAssure uses new devices and software to assess patient frailty, and is based on the research of Dr. Jason Johanning, a UNMC vascular surgeon.
Avert, developed by entrepreneur Preston Badeer, has developed a program that can determine whether someone has suffered a concussion by analyzing the individual’s balance. The idea was based on studies conducted by UNO biomechanics researchers.
Esculon is designing a self-irrigating chest tube, a device used to help drain the area around the lungs after surgery, that is less likely to clog. The company was developed by entrepreneur Evan Luxon.
Virtual Cardiovascular Solutions is the product of a collaboration between Dr. Ed O’Leary, a UNMC cardiologist, and Hani Heider, an orthopedic researcher, and provides cutting-edge educational tools.