Off to a Strong Start


One month into their time in the Luminate accelerator, the startups of cohort 4 are showing they came to work hard to advance their companies and technologies. Through baseline discussions with our Board Chair, Don Golini, quick pitches to members of the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster, and their first weeks of training, the teams hit the ground running and made strong first impressions.

Keep reading for a recap of our newest cohort’s first month and highlights from our portfolio. 

Luminate Tech Fast-Pitch 2021
More than 40 members of the Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster (RRPC) attended the Tech Fast-Pitch Networking Event to meet cohort 4 teams and learn about their technical needs and where they might be able to help.

SEMINAR HIGHLIGHT: Founders’ and Employee Equity

Tips for Growing Your Team, from Jason Klimek

Jason Klimek Woods OviattAmong the decisions startup founders need to make in the early days of building their businesses, distributing equity is one of the trickiest. Earlier this month, cohort 4 teams received guidance from Jason W. Klimek, Associate in the Business and Finance Department at Woods Oviatt Gilman LLP.

Jason talked through a continuum of incentives that early-stage companies can consider offering their employees — from equity-based options like stock awards to cash-based alternatives such as bonuses — along with the associated advantages, disadvantages, and tax consequences to the employee and company.

“When your company is starting out and your valuation is changing, issuing stock options as part of compensation always involves negotiating. Everybody hopes their company is going to be worth more in the future, but prospective employees will likely care about what it’s worth today. Realistically, where you’ll end up will be somewhere in the middle.”

With every potential hire, founders must ask themselves what they need and if they can afford to bring someone on. Jason suggests conducting a facts and circumstances analysis to work through what type of hire is right, whether that means an employee or a contractor, keeping in mind that investors may have input.

Jason also talked through methods for determining how to split equity, provided sample calculations from Mike Moyer’s Slicing Pie, and fielded questions on when it might make sense to set up an option pool.

“It would be better to be a 10% owner of a billion dollar company than a 100% owner of a million dollar company. As a founder, you’re going to be giving away equity. The key is to not give away too much.”

Cohort 4 startups also kicked off their time in the accelerator with training on:

  • Customer discovery with Matt Foley, Director of Startup Incubation at NextCorps
  • SBIR funding with Kirk Macolini, Founder, President, & Principal Consultant of InteliSpark
  • Lead generation with Joe Morone, Performance Consultant and Co-Founder of Worldleaders Sales Solutions
  • Business models with Candice Sheffer, Managing Director of Finance & Administration at NextCorps


SPIE Startup Challenge, here we come! A number of Luminate companies from all four of our cohorts are semi-finalists at this year’s Challenge. Congratulations and best of luck to Owl AI and Qunnect (semi-finalists in the Seed Stage, Deep Tech category); Organic Robotics Corporation, Simulated Inanimate Models, and Think Biosolution (Seed Stage, Healthcare); and Haqean, Inc (Pre-Seed Stage, Deep Tech).

Look who’s in the mix for Switzerland’s most prestigious award. Cohort 4 startups Infrascreen and XRnanotech are among 17 semi-finalists for the W.A. de Vigier Foundation 2021 Award. Up to five Swiss entrepreneurs will receive CHF 100,000 each at the award ceremony in June.

Together we can do so much. Cohort 2 startup Circle Optics has reached an agreement with Sydor Technologies to help accelerate the production of the Hydra, the world’s first seamless 360° camera. Congrats on the partnership, Circle!

ESD invests in innovation. Cohort 1 startup Mosaic Microsystems received a $250,000 investment from Empire Statement Development, part of a $2.4 million raise that will expand the use of Mosaic’s thin glass substrates for next-generation microelectronics and photonics, such as 5G technology.

Our Top 10 Achievements from 2020

Is a win in 2020 like a double win? Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the Luminate accelerator made a seamless transition to a virtual cohort experience, our portfolio of companies remains strong, and interest from international applicants and investors continues to grow.

Luminate top 10

See our full top 10.


Spotlight on OVITZ: Delivering Life-Changing Vision Improvements

Nick Brown, Director of Engineering at cohort 1 company OVITZ, speaks with Luminate’s Technology Program Manager, Dr. Damon Diehl, about higher order aberrations of the eye, how OVITZ is simplifying the delivery of custom lenses, and why participating in Luminate was game-changing for his team. Watch the video interview, or listen on Spotify or iTunes.

Finger Lakes Forward: A Vision for Our Region’s Future

The Rochester and Finger Lakes Region is a great place to live and launch a business, thanks in part to continued investment in startups, entrepreneurs, and the accelerator programs that support them. Vincent Esposito, Regional Director of Empire State Development, talks with Luminate’s Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan about Finger Lakes Forward, ESD’s strategic plan for our economic future. Watch the video interview, or listen on Spotify or iTunes.


Keep Experimenting, and Other Tips from Our Optical Metrology Technician

Gary Nothard headshotSomeone has to make sure nobody breaks the expensive equipment in our optics lab. Bonus: Gary Nothhard knows his way around an interferometer. With decades of experience designing cutting-edge technology during Kodak’s heyday, he helps our startup teams test and improve their solutions. Get to know Gary Nothhard.

Our Inspiring Managing Director

Sujatha RBJ Women of Excellence 2021Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan was on WROC-TV Channel 8’s Be Inspired program and shared how Luminate offers a “Sci-Fi look into the future,” bringing innovative companies from all over the world to Rochester. She described some of the exciting technology from our cohort companies, the importance of a balanced team, and the women who’ve inspired her.

Sujatha was also recently named a Rochester Business Journal 2021 Women of Excellence Honoree. These honorees “have achieved impressive career accomplishments and have made the Rochester community better through their civic engagement and mentoring.” She certainly has! Congratulations, Sujatha.

Luminate Companies are Hiring

Do you want to work for a tech startup? We want to help our portfolio companies continue to grow with the right talent. Check out our Jobs page for current openings, and create a bookmark — new opportunities are added frequently.

See You Next Month!