Here’s to More Firsts


Firsts are exciting. To most of us, they represent new beginnings. To entrepreneurs, they demonstrate the importance of seeing the world in a slightly different way — what could be if we truly dare to change the status quo.

While 2020 did serve us some extremes, it also gave us many historic firsts that we can all feel good about! Carbon dioxide emissions declined for the first time in many years. The stock market reached new heights. The Academy Awards’ best film went to a foreign movie. And yesterday’s swearing in of the first-ever female vice president of the United States also marks the first African-American and Asian-American to become the highest-ranking female elected official.

In this first month of the 21st year of the 21st century, we’re eager to see what firsts our portfolio companies — and new cohort members — will achieve for their businesses, their industries, and our world. Here’s to many more firsts!

From Our Advisory Board

What’s on your 2021 reading (or listening) list? Members of our advisory board share some of their favorite books and podcasts.

Jenifer Bunis, Principal, Westlake Photonics

Dale Carnegie lived in a very different world than today’s professionals, but in my experience, the advice he pioneered in his early books, such as The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking, was transformative. This was written long before I was born, but the book and, more important, his actual classes, had a profound influence on me personally and professionally. They instilled a confidence that acted as a catalyst for personal and professional growth.

Jay Kumler, President, Jenoptik Optical Systems

I read a lot of books, but also see a lot of value in the speed and relevant information found in podcasts.   Here are a few that I subscribe to and recommend.

Business and economics topics: 



Do you have an idea that could help address the climate crisis?

Call for Climate Tech InnovatorsVenture For ClimateTech, a new global non-profit venture studio + accelerator, is looking for its first cohort. Participation in this competitive, free, virtual six-month program is open to applicants anywhere in the world. Register for an info session to learn more, and apply by March 12.


Celebrating Luminate companies’ success

Circle Optics wins grant for AFWERX flying cars programCongratulations to Circle Optics, which was recently awarded a Phase I STTR Grant from the Air Force to support the AFWERX Agility Prime “flying car” program with their Hydra camera system. The Circle team will be partnering with the University of Rochester on this grant (entitled “Agile Image Capture for Low Parallax Panoramic 360”) to work on the software component of the Hydra, developing color correction and exposure algorithms.

Prism Awards FinalistsCongratulations to Augmentiqs and Lumedica Vision, 2021 Prism Award finalists in the Life Sciences and Medical Devices categories, respectively. This annual international competition from SPIE and Photonics Media honors the best new optics and photonics products on the market that are making a difference, solving problems, and improving life through photonics. Great work and best of luck, Augmentiqs and Lumedica!


Lead with “Why,” and Other Pitch Tips from Our Technology Program Manager

Damon Diehl teaching holography at MCCFor startups that go through the Luminate accelerator, Damon Diehl becomes a fast friend. When he’s not coaching teams on their business pitch, working with them on their technology, or connecting them with regional resources, he’s teaching grant-writing classes at industry conferences (or knitting a hat for a lucky friend). Get to know Damon Diehl, PhD.

See You Next Month!