Highlights from Luminate Finals 2021


Last month we unveiled the recipients of $2.1 million in follow-on funding at Luminate Finals 2021. Nearly 700 people from around the world registered to watch the virtual event for a look at emerging technologies from our fourth cohort.

Miss the event? You can watch the recording here.

PreAct Technologies Named Company of the Year

While car crashes may be inevitable, injuries and deaths from those crashes shouldn’t be. Portland, OR-based PreAct Technologies took home top honors and $1 million for its technology that deploys life-saving safety measures before a crash occurs. Congratulations, PreAct!

Our Outstanding Graduate Award and $400,000 in follow-on funding went to Andluca Technologies, a Princeton University spin-out that developed a wireless smart glass system powered by harvesting UV light. Mesodyne and Dynocardia, two companies from Massachusetts, secured Distinguished Graduate Awards and $250,000 each. Mesodyne’s compact power generator converts fuel to electricity via light, and Dynocardia’s ViTrack is the first cuffless, wrist-wearable device to offer direct, beat-to-beat measurement of blood pressure with the accuracy of intra-arterial lines. Rochester, NY’s Owl Autonomous Imaging received the Honorable Achievement Award and $200,000 in funding to advance its patented 3D Thermal Ranger for safe autonomous operation. Finally, the Audience Choice Award and $10,000 went to Layer Metrics, a Wilmington, DE-based company improving the reliability of 3D metal printers through precision measurement and optical inspection systems.

We’re Looking for Cohort 5

If you’re part of a team that’s working on an emerging technology, you could be on stage next year! Applications are open for cohort 5. Apply by January 10, 2022.

Not sure if you should apply? Join us for a free info session to learn more about the Luminate accelerator, what it’s like to participate, and the application process.

Supporting Diversity & Women in Entrepreneurship

Finals 2021 wasn’t just about the tech pitches and awards. Our Managing Director, Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan, moderated a panel discussion with distinguished women in science and investment on the challenges diverse founders face in their entrepreneurial journeys.

Susan Houde-Walter, CEO of LMD Power of Light Corp (formerly LaserMax, Inc.), spoke from her experience starting a business while teaching and raising a family.

Susan Houde Walter“I brought home the bacon in my family, but I was also writing business plans at 2:00 and 3:00 AM and trying to get tenure as a professor at the University of Rochester,” said Houd-Walter. “We had a new baby and only I could do the breastfeeding. As a female, depending where you are and what stage of life you’re in, you can get stretched very thin. And starting a new business is really all consuming.”

Leslie Kimerling, CEO and co-founder of Double Helix Optics (Luminate’s cohort 1 Company of the Year), emphasized the importance of being comfortable with risk-taking as an entrepreneur.

Leslie-Kimerling“I was lucky enough to grow up in an entrepreneurial family and I learned a lot of lessons working with my dad’s industrial gas business in Birmingham, Alabama during the summers in the 60s and 70s. In his business, there were women and blacks, including black women in positions of leadership. You might consider that risky for the time, but for him, it was just good business, even if it cost the company a sale or an investment. What may be considered risky for one person may in fact be the best action that you can take for your company.”

Dr. Manjari Chandran-Ramesh, described what she’s seen in her experience as a deep-tech and software venture investor at IP Group PLC.

Manjari Chandran“Unfortunately, what I have found is that all-women teams fare the worst. Personally, I think a common factor has been the lack of a network — advisors and mentors that you have on speed dial. For whatever reason, that’s not always there for women. And that is the reason why accelerators and organizations like Luminate can help so much, rather than starting off on your own.”

Marcia Lesky, Senior Director for Diversity, Inclusion & Volunteer Cultivation at Optica, encouraged entrepreneurs to tap into the many benefits of industry societies.

Marcia Lesky“Professional societies like Optica can provide two things that are very crucial for entrepreneurs: Visibility and networking. We have programs that help facilitate engagement for women and other underrepresented communities in both of these areas. And we have grants and scholarships for students to facilitate entry into the optics field, like the new million dollar Women in Optics scholarship.”

Look back at Luminate Finals 2021 for the full discussion, including our panelists’ take on new trends in emerging technologies. The panel begins at 33:10 in the recording.

Introducing Optica: a New Name for the Leading Global Society in Light Science and Technology

In case you missed it, The Optical Society of America is now Optica. Dr. Eric Mazur, Optica’s Foundation Chair and 2017 President, sat down with Luminate’s Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan to talk about the rebrand and how it reflects the society’s growing global reach and commitment to inclusivity. Watch the video interview.

Thank you, Optica, for sponsoring Luminate Finals 2021, and for your continued support and partnership!


Crushing goals. Arovia (cohort 1) officially launched Splay on Kickstarter earlier this month and quickly left their original goal in the dust. (There are still a few days left to back the 2-in-1 portable display and projector.)

Celebrating in Syracuse. Circle Optics (cohort 2) was awarded $500,000 following round 5 of the GENIUS NY competition. Per program requirements, Circle will operate their business in Central New York for the next year.

Shaping the future of food. Nordetect (cohort 3) was one of two grand prize winners at the Bayer Crop Science 2021 International Startup Call, powered by Hello Tomorrow.

Heating up computer vision. Owl Autonomous Imaging (cohort 4) made Aragon Research’s 2021 list of Hot Vendors in Computer Vision.

Adding to an innovative team. Rubitection (cohort 3) is moving closer to product launch with the help of an experienced clinical research strategist and advisor. Congrats to Rubitection’s new hire, Alethea Wieland.


Grant Writing from the Ground UpCongratulations to our own Dr. Damon Diehl on the release of his new book, Grant Writing from the Ground Up. Available through SPIE, this book presents a step-by-step process for constructing grant proposals that get reviewers’ attention.

“This book, without a doubt, will be a must-have for early-career researchers and for more experienced ones. I’ve attended quite a number of grant writing workshops and webinars; this book answers all of the critical questions in the most clear and straightforward fashion. Being a bit egoistical, I hope that my immediate ‘competitors’ will miss on this brilliant work, so I’ll have enormously larger chances to be funded.”
Ilia L. Rasskazov, The Institute of Optics, University of Rochester


[All-Virtual Conference] Frontiers in Optics + Laser Science Conference (FiO LS)

Optica’s FiO LS is coming up next week, November 1-4. Explore the latest developments in optics and photonics, including those of Luminate’s 2021 follow-on funding winners. Four startups from cohort 4 will introduce their innovations at the technology showcase on Tuesday, November 2, and answer questions.

[Webinar] Emerging Technologies Changing Ophthalmology Access and Point of Care

Learn about the technology of five companies in the Luminate portfolio that are revolutionizing ophthalmology diagnostics and surgical devices. Register for the December 1 webinar with Photonics Media.

*Update: This webinar is being rescheduled. Stay tuned.

See You Next Month!