Bright Beginnings


Kickoff week is always exciting, but this year’s commencement was extra special for a few reasons. For one, we welcomed our most international cohort yet, with seven out of ten teams hailing from outside of the States. We were also joined by partners from New Energy New York and Binghamton University’s Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, who were shadowing our onboarding process in preparation for launching the brand new ChargeUp Battery Accelerator. (More below.) And finally, the first day of cohort 7 was marked by a celestial marvel — a total solar eclipse!

Total solar eclipse viewing from the NextCorps rooftop

While Rochester was in the path of totality, the clouds got in the way of the eclipse experience we were hoping for. Nevertheless, we had a great time marking the event with a party on NextCorps’ rooftop patio, watching the city skyline quickly fade into near complete darkness. The rapid light and temperature shifts were remarkable. So was the complete silence that fell over the city for nearly four memorable minutes.

Linda Smith, Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan, and Lisa Belodoff at the eclipse party at NextCorps(From left to right: Luminate advisory board member, Linda Smith; Luminate’s Managing Director, Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan; and Lisa Belodoff, Founder & CEO of Bell Collaborative)

These women in optics get it. Did you know in low-light conditions, red and green are the best colors to wear to stand out? During the dimness of a solar eclipse, our eyes become more sensitive to colors in the bluish-green part of the spectrum. Because red and green are complementary colors, they enhance each other’s intensity when viewed together. So wearing red and green clothing during a solar eclipse can help maximize our ability to perceive details and contrasts.

Cohort 7 at Mullers Cidery for trivia night

Our in-person days of the accelerator are packed with activities, both informational and fun — including a pre-kick-off dinner at Rochester’s famous Dinosaur BBQ and an eclipse symphonic celebration with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Pictured here: Trivia night at Mullers Cider House!

Cohort 7 teams present at the annual Tech Fast Pitch

A staple of the Luminate experience is immersion in the region and opportunities to connect with OPI companies that can help our startup teams advance their businesses. We jump in right away with the Tech Fast Pitch, an event co-hosted by New York Photonics. Cohort companies share what they’re working on and what they need help with, then network with members of the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster. We’re looking forward to seeing the collaborations that emerge!

Throughout kickoff week and the rest of this month, cohort 7 companies also attended training on:

  • Pitchbook, the leading source for public and private capital market news, reports, and data tracking. Each team gets their own Pitchbook account as part of the Luminate program.
  • Becoming an Excel master, with Jeremiah Hammel, Controller at NextCorps.
  • Building awareness and leads through PR, with Holly Barrett, Marketing Director at NextCorps, and public relations consultant, Shannon Wojcik.
  • Product stage assessment, including TRL (technology readiness level), MRL (manufacturing readiness level), and other key commercialization concepts, with Mike Riedlinger, Managing Director of Scale For ClimateTech and Managing Director of Technology Commercialization at NextCorps.
  • Customer discovery, with Matt Foley, Managing Director of Startup Incubation at NextCorps and a serial entrepreneur working primarily on software startups in the market research industry. 
  • How to build a successful team, with Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan, Luminate’s Managing Director.
  • How to work with photonics clusters, with Lisa Belodoff, Founder and CEO of Bell Collaborative.
  • Business modeling and cash flow, with Candice Sheffer, seasoned financial executive and NextCorps’ former Managing Director of Finance & Administration.
  • Business entity selection, with John Otruba, Business and Finance Attorney at Boylan Code.
  • Product development and manufacturing, with Mike Marvin, Startup Manufacturing Program Coordinator at NextCorps.

Magdalena Kurzyp, PhD“I wanted to personally thank you for your hospitality, your warm welcoming of our team in ROC and amazing food we had over the last week (I may need to monitor my weight before/after coming to Rochester!). The whole program is well-organized, and your involvement is simply priceless. [We] got back home with only positive thoughts and feedback to share with the rest of our team…”

Magdalena Kurzyp, PhD
Chief Business Development Officer, Photosynthetic

ChargeUp in Full Swing

ChargeUp leadership
The ChargeUp team during Luminate cohort 7 kick-off week in Rochester.

Over 90 applications from across the world were received for the inaugural cohort of the ChargeUp Battery Accelerator, the nation’s first and only accelerator dedicated to supporting battery and energy storage startups. Launched by New Energy New York (NENY) and led by Binghamton University and its Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, ChargeUp draws on the proven success of Luminate and will run in collaboration with NextCorps for this pilot year.

“We are continuously growing our NENY partner coalition for maximized regional and national impacts, and the collaboration with NextCorps, especially leveraging the expertise of the Luminate team, is a cornerstone of our strategy to nurture groundbreaking innovations in the battery sector,” said Olga Petrova, director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships, Binghamton University.

Members of the Luminate team joined ChargeUp for its kickoff in Binghamton earlier this month. Congratulations to Koffman and NENY on a successful launch, and to the four companies selected for ChargeUp’s first cohort:

  • Ateios Systems – developing innovative electrode manufacturing techniques to improve and accelerate production of new battery technologies across a range of various markets and applications
  • Fermi Energy – developing new approaches for large-scale production of low-cost, sustainable cathodes for high-energy automobile batteries
  • Mito Materials – developing and manufacturing innovative functionalized graphene across a wide array of applications
  • Standard Potential Co. – developing new cathode active materials for lithium- and sodium-ion batteries

These companies will each receive $25,000, mentorship from esteemed technical experts, investment opportunities, and access to state-of-the-art facilities and resources. Following the pilot 2024 cohort, the program will scale to include 8-10 companies per year. Learn more.

Portfolio Wins

Layer Metrics was selected for a $65K Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund Manufacturing Grant from FuzeHub. In partnership with RIT, Layer Metrics will use the grant to set up an AI model for real-time, on-site process monitoring and control of metal additive manufacturing systems.

Qunnect achieved record-breaking performance for distributing polarization qubits. GothamQ, its quantum network utilizing existing commercial fiber optic cable, surpassed previous performance metrics in enabling the distribution of polarization-based quantum entanglement while delivering exceptionally high rates of preservation and fidelity.

VoxelSensors has acquired Israeli company EyeWay Vision’s gaze-tracking and projection technology for XR, strengthening its position in spatial and empathic computing for mobile and XR devices.

Scout Space Inc. recently unveiled its Owl product line of advanced modular long-range SDA (Space Domain Awareness) sensors, a development made possible by an AFWERX Phase 2 SBIR awarded late last year.

NanoPattern Technologies raised $1.5 million in a seed round to scale its photopatternable quantum dot ink, which enables the commercialization of next-generation displays. As a part of the raise, NanoPattern also added three new board members, including Luminate’s Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan.

SaferStreet Solutions is making headlines for the deployment of its SmartSigns across D.C., North Dakota, and Washington state. Similar to signs that display speed, SmartSigns are attached to a mobile trailer unit and tell drivers to put their phones down, buckle up, or slow down. 

Quantune Technologies announced the initiation of the MiWear project, a pioneering effort to transform the management of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and its associated conditions through innovative monitoring technologies. The project utilizes a groundbreaking mid-infrared wearable device for non-invasive, painless monitoring of biomarkers directly in the interstitial fluid.

Oculi was featured in a recent segment of Greater Rochester Enterprise’s Why ROC on WROC-TV Channel 8. Founder, CEO, and CTO, Dr. Charbel Rizk explained how Oculi’s visual intelligence technology will make our everyday environments visually smarter.

Oculi and Dr. Rizk received a shoutout during Rochester Mayor Malik Evans’ State of the City address, in which Evans also referenced the highly successful Luminate accelerator and cohort 3 alum, SunDensity.

See You Next Month!