Investing in Innovation Pays Off


When companies in the Luminate portfolio make progress, our whole region moves forward. Owl AI — an autonomous imaging company focused on improving pedestrian safety — is expanding its operations in Monroe County in the Town of Perinton and committing to create up to 105 high-technology jobs in the region.

Owl AI team photo

Owl was a member of Luminate’s fourth cohort, took home $250K in follow-on funding at last year’s Finals competition, and recently closed a $15 million Series A financing round.

“Owl AI exemplifies an emerging company in the Finger Lakes Region that is developing revolutionary technology using optics and semiconductors,” said Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan, Luminate’s Managing Director. “The company and its team is well positioned to shape the future of vehicular imaging.”

Pitching Investors at Sony

Cohort 5 pitches SonyAs a program sponsor, Sony gets a first look at our startup teams and their solutions. Earlier this month, cohort 5 companies gave virtual pitches to senior directors on the venture and technology side at Sony — gatekeepers who can facilitate future introductions within the organization.

Some startups have already secured follow-up meetings, and there will be plenty of chances for fruitful connections in the coming months. A spot in the Luminate accelerator comes with opportunities to pitch to 30+ investors within and beyond our region. And it’s great practice leading up to Finals 2022, the exciting culmination of our annual accelerator program where cohort 5 startups will compete for an additional $2 million in follow-on funding.

(Save the date! Finals is taking place at Optica’s Frontiers in Optics + Laser Science at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 from 12:30 to 2:00 PM EDT. You can attend in person or virtually this year!)

This past month also included instruction on:

  • How to choose a business entity, including the tax considerations and administrative requirements of each type, with J. Michael (Mick) Wood and Amy Varel, Partners at Boylan Code LLP.
  • Tax credits and financial incentives for business owners, with CPA Dave Veniskey, Partner at EFPR Group.
  • Import and export compliance with Robert Stein, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Compliance; and Ginette Murray, Senior Account Executive at Mohawk Global
  • Fair labor standards, workplace safety, and other employment law topics with Debbie Ternent, Senior HR Strategic Partner at HR Works, Inc
  • Employee rights and employer obligations surrounding harassment, with Sharon P. Stiller, Partner and Director of the Employment Law Practice at Abrams Fensterman, LLP.

Cohort 5 in the News

Custom Surgical's smart-phone based platformAs we start the countdown to Finals 2022, the Rochester Business Journal is profiling each of our cohort 5 companies.

Custom Surgical kicked off the series last week. Get to know the team that’s digitizing medical microscopes with its smartphone-based platform, helping ophthalmologists and other medical providers document their procedures for better, earlier detection of pathologies and effective training.

Read the RBJ spotlight on Custom Surgical.

Takeaways from Photonics for Quantum 2022

Damon Diehl headshotNobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr once said, “If you can fathom quantum mechanics without getting dizzy, you don’t get it.” Last month, Luminate’s Technology Program Manager, Dr. Damon Diehl, attended SPIE’s Photonics for Quantum 2022 conference at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He deciphered the whirlwind of diverse information about quantum engineering into a handful of takeaways.

Check out Damon’s post on 4 trends from Photonics for Quantum 2022.

Portfolio Updates

Giving soft robots a heart. Organic Robotics Corporation’s Co-Founder and CTO, Rob Shepherd, is leading a collaboration between Cornell’s Organic Robotics Lab and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory on a deformable pump that can provide soft robots with a circulatory system, in effect mimicking the biology of animals.

Road safety for all. Owl AI was cited in a recent Ojo-Yoshida Report that dove into the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s proposed changes to the New Car Safety Assessment Program (NCAP), most notably its call for Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking (PAEB). VSI labs, a leading organization providing testing for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) equipment, cited Owl as one of four vendors in a position to most easily take advantage of this action. Unlock the story with free registration.

A complete object tracking solution. PreAct Technologies scored coverage in EE Times for its software-definable LiDAR that, due to its accuracy, is suitable for robotics, factory automation, and other industries beyond automotive.

Tackling national security challenges. SCOUT won a $750K Phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research contract from the U.S. Space Force to augment military systems with commercial data from space-based sensors. SCOUT was also recently selected to participate in The National Security Innovation Network (NSIN) Propel program, which enables the development of next-generation applications of emerging technology for government, defense, and space.

Artificial intelligence-based state measurement of synthetically generated spacecraft.
Artificial intelligence-based state measurement of synthetically generated spacecraft. Background removed for clarity. Credit: SCOUT

See You Next Month!