Vogt Awards’ Demo Day showcases six promising startups, gives out $25,000 grants

Ellie Pucket, commercialization director at EnterpriseCorp and Greg Landon, chair of the Vogt Awards selection committee, discuss the accelerated program in which the award winners participate. | Photo by Lisa Hornung

Six local startups each won a $25,000 grant to improve their businesses and participated in a 12-week accelerated program in which they received instruction and personal mentoring from volunteers in the local entrepreneurial community. On Monday, they presented their companies at Demo Day at Ice House. 

The Vogt Awards were created by a $5 million endowment given in 1999 by Henry Vogt Heuser, a local inventor and entrepreneur. The Community Foundation of Louisville’s Vogt Invention and Innovation Fund supports the awards.

Almost $2.5 million has been given out to nearly 50 companies in the past 12 years. The program is managed by Greater Louisville Inc.’s EnterpriseCorp – an entrepreneurial support organization under the chamber of commerce.

Susan Barry, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Louisville, spoke of how the Vogt Invention and Innovation Fund supports Louisville entrepreneurship. | Photo by Lisa Hornung

Susan Barry, president and chief executive of the Community Foundation, said this year the fund had helped launch new ventures, including Diversity Pitch Fest, a network of entrepreneurial women, and it supports other events such as XLerate Heath, which helps startup health care companies, and 1804, an entrepreneurship center.

The foundation also helps other startup events, including Startup Weekend and Venture Sharks.  

The Vogt Fund also is for the first time supporting a Vogt Innovator, a person who will spend 20 hours a week for one year, starting in January, with a $25,000 stipend, to help to spark Louisville entrepreneurship.

According to a release, the Vogt Innovator will spend their time supporting 1804 initiatives and advancing their own entrepreneurial ambitions. The application is due Dec. 15.

“We’re excited about 1804’s vision for entrepreneurship in Louisville, and look forward to supporting the Vogt Innovator’s contributions to its work,” Barry said in a press release. “We are especially interested in how the Vogt Innovator can reach individuals and organizations who may like to know more about the entrepreneurship resources that exist in our community.”

The companies that won this year and gave demos were:

CASPER Security — CASPER is a monitoring system that can monitor vacant homes, alerting the city and neighbors when there is a break-in, damage or fire, so that emergency services can be called. CEO Nathan Armentrout said Louisville had about 5,000 vacant properties.

Unlike other security systems on the market, CASPER does not require a power source: It’s solar-powered.  Armentrout said the company’s primary customer will be cities, and the cost is significantly lower than other security systems on the market. The company did a test within Louisville for six month and said it had zero false positives during its run.

HeXalayer — HeXalayer is a company that plans to improve on the standard lithium-ion battery to make it last up to 600 percent longer. That means you’ll only have to charge your cellphone about once a week, said CEO Harutyun Vardanyan.

The company is replacing the graphite in the anodes with Graphene, a form of carbon consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. It can store far more lithium than graphite can, making your phones and electric cars last a lot longer. His partner, Dr. Tereza Paronyan, is a physicist and chemist focused on energy-harvesting materials.

Lokator Pitching Academy — The Lokator is a pitching system that trains pitchers and collects data for baseball players, coaches and scouts. CEO Steve Stemle played for the Kansas City Royals for less than one season before enduring career-ending injuries. Now he’s a pitching coach, and he said he has trouble communicating the strategy of pitching and teaching accuracy.

The Lokator is iPhone- and Apple Watch-based and uses a target designed to improve accuracy. He volunteered as a pitching coach at IUS, which had been ranked 122nd in the nation in pitching. After one year using the Lokator, the team was ranked ninth. The system also keeps stats so that colleges and recruiters can see who the top pitchers are, making their jobs easier and less expensive.

Blacktop — Meta Construction Technologies, created by CEO Nick McRae and COO Max Kommor, is a system to help asphalt contractors locate trucks when needed, even if the contractor doesn’t own the fleet. Kommor has worked in the construction industry and said it’s a real problem when a project has to get done but there aren’t enough asphalt trucks to get the job done.

Contractors have to work through individual dispatchers, and they may or may not get the trucks to show up on time or at all. Blacktop will work through the drivers’ phones and communicate directly to the person requesting the trucks instead of the contractor having to make multiple phone calls.

RCM Brain — John Williamson, CEO of RCM Brain, said that 15 cents of every dollar spent on health care is spent tracking down payment from insurance companies. RCM Brain is a system that uses artificial intelligence to obtain payment without using the human workflow or antiquated software, which cause too many opportunities for mistakes.

Those mistakes cause “revenue leakage,” or money being missed from those physicians’ revenue. The system would mostly be used by physicians’ offices, who would only pay a percentage of new revenue gained by the system.

Demetrius Gray explained his company, WeatherCheck. | Photo by Lisa Hornung

WeatherCheck — Demetrius Gray was “chasing hail storms” trying to sell new roofs to people who could file insurance claims when he came up with the idea of WeatherCheck, a system that would alert homeowners and real estate investors when damaging weather had occurred at their property.

WeatherCheck helps the homeowner and investor know when to file a claim with his or her insurance company. Gray said insurance companies have their own systems in place, but they are betting that the client won’t file a claim. This puts the knowledge into the hands of the property owner.