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Tech and Biotech:UW grad students win clean tech contest; gBETA class graduates; Ensodata draws funds

Tech and Biotech:UW grad students win clean tech contest; gBETA class graduates; Ensodata draws funds


Two UW-Madison Ph.D. students in engineering mechanics and astronautics think they’ve come up with a great idea to bring electricity to the homes of people in Africa. And judges at a nationwide competition apparently agree.

Aaron Olson and Mehrdad Arjmand and their company, NovoMoto, won three awards and a total of $90,000 in the Clean Energy Trust Challenge in Chicago on Tuesday.

Their idea: To set up solar-powered control stations where several households would be able to charge batteries for use in lights, mobile phones, TVs and fans.

Their target is the Democratic Republic of Congo where, they say, 59 million people don’t have access to reliable power through transmission grids and instead, depend on kerosene for lighting.

Nearly 80 applicants entered the contest and NovoMoto is the only one from Wisconsin to make the finals — and to win.

“It’s a real big idea,” said Dan Olszewski, director of the UW’s Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship and an adviser to NovoMoto. He said Olson knows first-hand about the electricity problems in the Democratic Republic of Congo because he was born there, moved to Madison when he was young, and still has family there.

“It’s exciting to have students that are thinking about these sorts of innovations to really make a difference in people’s lives around the world,” Olszewski said.

gBETA class debuts

Just out the gate, and the gener8tor accelerator’s third gBETA class already is lining up customers and support.

About 120 people piled into The Brink Lounge on Tuesday night to hear final presentations from the five startups that have now completed their six-week mentorship program.

Linectra, which is developing a 3-D metal printer intended for industrial use, already has “two really strong leads,” said Maggie Brickerman, gBETA director.

CEO and co-founder Brandon Walker said the concept is for a heavy-duty machine that can print out large metal parts or several smaller parts at the same time for manufacturers. “This is not something you find at Wal-Mart,” he said.

He sees other uses for a metal printer, too — like creating customized titanium parts for hip replacement patients.

Linectra also is a finalist in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan contest.

Admit Sensei’s goal is to match MBA applicants with students already attending the business schools they want to get into. CEO Angie Peltzer said up to 50 percent of those applying to the top 30 business schools use a consultant, at an average rate of more than $300 an hour.

The entire process of getting accepted into an MBA program can cost $4,000 to $10,000, she said. Paying student mentors would cost a lot less and could provide insider tips about an applicant’s dream school, Peltzer said.

The other three startups were Open NF; SciArt; and Milwaukee-based ReNeuroGen.

Brickerman said the gBETA companies had practice pitching to investors throughout their final week of the program. “The goal really is to get those doors open and help them make connections with people who might be interested,” she said.

EnsoData draws interest

Madison health IT company EnsoData has made some connections ... and landed $550,000 from investors in a funding round led by HealthX Ventures, of Madison.

Founded in 2015, EnsoData develops software that analyzes sleep data and automates diagnosis of sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.

CEO and co-founder Chris Fernandez said the funding will let the company add staff and fine-tune its technology.

“This capital will allow us to multiply our efforts and get a better product into the hands of more clinics and health systems faster,” he said.

Fernandez said he hopes to benefit from HealthX’s mentorship and connections. “The folks at HealthX have a lot of experience and expertise in this space, and we’re incredibly excited to work with them,” he said.

HealthX managing partner Mark Bakken will join EnsoData’s board of directors.

Contact Judy Newman at with tips and story suggestions.


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