UpTech offers unique opportunity for informatics-fueled startups in NKY

UpTech co-founder Casey Barach says Northern Kentucky's investor culture must grow to support an informatics-fueled entrepreneurial cluster in the region.

"Northern Kentucky has a long of history of slapping bricks together and pushing dirt around. ... And that's our entrepreneurial history. But what the leading places do in creating an informatics-based economy is creating economic development through equity investing," Barach said at a meeting of the Covington Business Council late last week.

It's a cultural shift that will take several years, and UpTech is working to increase investment opportunities, Barach said.

A New Kind of Startup Accelerator
UpTech is a new business informatics incubator launched by several Northern Kentucky institutions, including Northern Kentucky UniversityTri-Edezone and Vision 2015. The organization plans to invest in 50 companies over the next five years. It’s funded mostly by private investors and some state funds. Many of UpTech’s mentors and support service providers are students and volunteers.

Informatics is an emerging industry built on managing the massive amounts of data being collected by companies, social media sites and health care providers, among others. Informatics involves gathering, managing, sharing and making business decisions based on trends found in that collected data.

UpTech's mission is to establish an informatics cluster in Northern Kentucky—a place where graduates from NKU’s College of Informatics can find employment or start their own informatics companies. During UpTech's six-month program, companies work with NKU students through internships and by engaging NKU’s Center for Applied Informatics to provide real-world experience.

"Our program offers weekly education opportunities and a dedicated professional support team in the areas of accounting, legal, marketing, sales and finance for each company," says UpTech program manager Amanda Greenwell. "Our companies are guided by mentors, exposed to experts in a variety of fields, and connected to leaders in our region. We have developed a  program designed to truly accelerate the launch of our portfolio companies. Our goal is to enable our companies to leave the program with a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that will attract their first round of customers and generate revenues to keep them growing."

A New Class
Eight companies went through the UpTech program in its inaugural year. A new class of seven companies, dubbed UpTech II, kicked off on September 9. This second round will conclude with Demo Day on Thursday, March 6, 2014. Participating companies include:

3DLT.com: Recently named “Innovative World Technology” by SXSW V2V, 3DLT.com is the "iStockphoto" for 3D printable designs.

Bearhug Technologies, LLC: Bearhug Technologies is a web-based, connected care platform for behavioral health providers. It enables behavioral health providers to securely use the internet to locate, connect and communicate with other health care professionals.

Inteo: Inteo is an interactive tool for mathematics-based studies that continually measures and updates student performance. The software provides real-time insight into student achievement, which helps teachers tailor coursework and assess preparedness for state exams.

Liquid: Liquid builds mobile software to collect, store, analyze, and organize any and all data.

New Home Marketing ServicesNew Home Marketing Services is helping home builders better understand their business opportunities and their competitive landscape with the world’s first customized, real-time data portal to daily marketplace activity. New Home Marketing Services provides powerful data tools through an easy-to-use dashboard that allows for enhanced decision-making regarding inventory management and profitability.

TixersBy trading your tickets to Tixers, they guarantee the value of your ticket, and you receive points (credit) almost immediately that you can use for other tickets on Tixers.

TouritzTouritz allows local historians and tour guides to create and upload walking tours and videos, which can be viewed and downloaded to mobile devices. Touritz is cultivating a community of tour creators to share local landmarks and historic sites, art gallery and museum tours, scenic locations, and family destinations.

These companies will receive up to $50,000 in equity investment along with office space and professional support services. In addition, they are strategically aligned to the applied research capabilities of NKU's College of Informatics and, therefore, will be able to use and leverage UpTech's partnership with the college for early success and accelerated growth.

Barach believes NKU's College of Informatics plays a crucial role in creating an informatics cluster in Northern Kentucky.

"To have industry cluster in this country, there has to be an educational component to it," he said. "You have to have kids coming out, you have to have training, you have to have great faculty. We have that, but it's something we have to constantly pay attention to."

A New Space, New Partners
UpTech is also moving to a new headquarters in Covington in November. Participating companies are staying in a nearby building until the Pike Street building renovations are finished.

That space is funded in part by local company partners that support the program. "We are grateful to our partners—the City of CovingtonLISC and The Catalytic Development Funding Corp.—for helping us make the dream of a long-term home in Covington a reality," Greenwell says. "Our newest partner, the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, is helping us create an amazing environment within the space that will inspire and stimulate our portfolio companies."

In addition to the accelerator program, UpTech has created an investment fund to support accelerator companies. Upon being accepted into the program, each new company received $20,000 in funding with funding opportunities as they complete the program.

"At the end of the day, people have to start saying, 'We need to put some money behind these companies," Barach said. "We want them to be here, stay here."

If you would like to get involved with UpTech or just check out what's going on, the following events are open to the public:
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