Bethlehem Startups Receive Technology Grant Funding
By Colin McEvoy on January 11, 2016
The Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) has awarded its first technology transfers grants of 2016, helping to support startup companies seeking to market and commercialize a product or service.
A total of $35,000 was awarded to Cernostics, Inc., a cancer diagnostics company; CrowdPlsr, which uses crowdfunding to attract concerts and events; and Mezzimatic LLC, which makes a “throwable paintballs” product called Goblies.
These grants are just one of many ways the Southside Bethlehem KIZ helps foster innovation and entrepreneurship in the city. Since 2004, the KIZ has invested about $6 million in 80 companies, and helped lead to 387 jobs created, 227 patents filed, 103 new products developed, officials previously said.
“The Southside Bethlehem KIZ continues to support amazing people who are starting amazing companies,” said Paul Pierpoint, co-chairman of the Southside Bethlehem KIZ board, and vice president of community education at Northampton Community College.
“Some like Briana Gardell, founder of Mezzimatic, are practically working out of their kitchen while others like Mike Hoerres of Cernostics are well on their way,” Pierpoint said. “All of them have the potential to change lives and the community and they need our support in their early development phases.”
Technology transfer grants can total up to $15,000. Mezzimatic received the full $15,000, while Cernostics and CrowdPlsr each received $10,000, according to Asher Schiavone, Bethlehem economic development coordinator.
“There are few communities that award $15,000 grants to start-up companies,” said Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez. “The commitment to innovation here in Bethlehem is a testament to the entrepreneurs and community partnerships that support the KIZ.”
Cernostics is focused on delivering “next generation cancer diagnostics” through a unique approach to tissue analysis. Most diagnostic approaches offer a limited view of cancer because they fail to evaluate the tumor as a system composed of multiple interacting cell types, according to the company. Cernostics uniquely analyzes whole slide digital images with multiplexed fluorescence, providing greater information and accuracy than traditional subjective tissue diagnostics.
“Cernostics is in the business of preventing esophageal cancer, which is the fastest growing cancer in the U.S.,” said Mike Hoerres, CEO of Cernostics. “This technology transfer grant from the Bethlehem KIZ will greatly assist us in the commercial roll-out of our first diagnostic test, the TissueCypher Barretts Esophagus Assay. We greatly appreciate the ongoing support of the KIZ.”
CrowdPlsr lets users decide which concerts and events take place in their area, and get tickets before anybody else, by using a crowdfunding platform. They can search for or create a campaign for a concert or event they want to attend, then support it by sharing it or contributing money to it. If the campaign receives enough support, the event will take place, and those who contributed to the crowdfunding get first dibs at VIP tickets and backstage passes, according to the company.
“The Keystone Innovation Zone has been instrumental to our success,” said George Richie, CrowdPlsr co-founder and CEO. “They’ve supported us from the start, and they’re a resource that has really helped us grow from just a concept into an emerging company.”
Mezzimatic makes the product Goblies, small throwable paintballs that are thrown like water balloons, resulting in colorful splats just like from a game of paintball. Made from vegan food ingredients and cosmetic dyes, Goblies are non-sticky, colorful wet powder that are sold in kits that include red, blue, and yellow dye, which customers can mix to create their own unique color.
“I’m planning to use the grant to create a manufacturing facility in Bethlehem,”said Briana Gardell, founder of Mezzimatic and a Lehigh University graduate. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to get this funding to push my business forward, and I’m really happy to be able to do it in Bethlehem, since I’ve been here for six years. The way I’m utilizing the grant will create jobs, so I’m hoping I can help Bethlehem as much as this grant will help my company.”
The KIZ is managed by the Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation, and the grant recipients are selected by the KIZ board, which includes representatives from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). The grant for CrowdPlsr was awarded in December, while those for Cernostics and Mezzimatic were awarded this month.
Technology transfer grants can go to a company located in the Southside Bethlehem KIZ that has been in operation for less than eight years and falls within a set of approved industry clusters, Schiavone said. The KIZ provides several incentives to qualified businesses, which also include, student internship grants and KIZ tax credits.
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