One in six fatal car crashes in the US involves marijuana, but police have no objective way to test for recent marijuana use. Two recent UofL graduates are aiming to change that situation. Phillip Cupp and Chiraag Bhimani, who earned entrepreneurship MBAs in May, are the principals of RIZIN Technologies, a startup that is developing a marijuana breathalyzer device called HiTRACE.
Cupp, who grew up in Oldham County, is the company’s CEO, while Bhimani, a New Albany native, is the CFO. Louisville Future caught up with them recently to learn more.
What does HiTRACE do and when will it be available?
Cupp: It’s a portable, noninvasive, patented device that detects THC (the main psychoactive compound in marijuana) on the breath in the last three hours. It’s a little early, but we’re hoping to commercialize this within the next couple of years.
So what’s happening now?
Cupp: We realize there are going to be significant legal challenges moving forward in commercializing this technology, so we just want to make sure this product is as accurate and reliable as possible. We’re continuing to refine the testing methodology and make it the most user-friendly device that we possibly can for the various segments we’re targeting.
How are you securing funding?
Bhimani: We’ve been primarily focused on the competition circuit. That’s a good way to raise non-diluted funding—a lot of money with no strings attached necessarily. You don’t have to worry about losing equity to any outsiders. We’re always open to VC money where we can find it, but we realize that there is also a lot of grant money from governments, so we’re looking into those avenues as well.
How did you land on this idea?
Bhimani: Phillip and I met in the entrepreneurship MBA program. Part of the curriculum is centered around starting a business. When we were looking at different technologies to bring to market, we came across this one on the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center website. The EPI-Center focused on commercializing technologies and inventions from labs that the professors run.
How else did being at UofL help?
Bhimani: Being in the entrepreneurship MBA program, we were able to leverage our university resources. They paired us up with a few law students from the Entrepreneurship Law Clinic, so we were able to get some legal guidance along the way. Our professors are well established and respected leaders in the entrepreneurship community within Louisville.
Speaking of the entrepreneurship community, what is the atmosphere like?
Bhimani: Everyone rallies around startups. Everyone’s kind of focused on the goal of seeing local companies succeed because that’s ultimately how the city will benefit in the long run.