Since it opened its doors in 2013, the CITRIS Foundry has helped innovators turn their ideas into real-world impact. In the process, the Foundry has supported more than 100 new ventures. The founders behind these companies are researchers, designers, makers, and disruptors from the University of California’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. As CITRIS and its peer California Institutes for Science and Innovation (ISIs) celebrate their 20th anniversary, the CITRIS Foundry and the companies it supports continue to amplify the mission of the ISIs—to bring university researchers, private industry, and the public sector together to boost the state’s economy and harness the power of research and discovery to address large-scale societal problems.
Below, we highlight six startups from the pioneering CITRIS Foundry cohorts to learn more about the impact these companies are having across the Bay Area and beyond since completing the program.
Since its founding in 2012 at UC Berkeley, CalWave has sought to unlock the vast and steady carbon-free power from ocean waves by bringing superior power generation and monitoring technology to market with a global reach. The company’s proprietary wave energy converter technology achieves high performance while surviving storms and extreme conditions.
“The Foundry program was essential for CalWave to form critical partnerships and reach commercial progress as well as create a network to other founders that is fruitful to this today,” said CalWave co-founder and CEO Marcus Lehmann.
Although the team has faced challenges due to COVID-19, CalWave has been able to make progress on constructing its first open-ocean pilot, enabled by a 2017 US Department of Energy contract to demonstrate its award-winning technology under field conditions.
The Clarity Movement Co. team continues to leverage its expertise in air sensing technology, IoT devices, and data analytics to empower reductions in air pollution by revolutionizing the way governments, businesses and communities understand and respond to air quality issues. Clarity has grown its sensing-as-a-service solution globally and recently crossed the 50-country mark to provide scalable air quality monitoring to more than 85 cities worldwide.
At the end of 2020, Clarity was selected by the Greater London Authority as the exclusive technology provider for a city-wide deployment of more than 100 air quality sensors at London hospitals, schools, and other sensitive locations. The Breathe London project makes London the first city ever to holistically integrate low-cost sensors with existing air quality infrastructure, and will provide Londoners with some of the highest-resolution air quality data in the world.
“The Foundry ecosystem was the ideal environment for bringing our technology from the lab to a commercially viable solution,” said David Lu, co-founder and CEO of Clarity Movement Co. “The mentorship, network, and resources available to Foundry members are exactly what we needed to take our startup to the next stage and begin to scale globally.”
By combining advances in nanomaterials and automation, Correlia has developed a proteomics platform that miniaturizes the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)—a quantitative test for proteins and antibodies widely used in drug and vaccine development, and diagnostics. Traditional ELISA tests require hours. In contrast, Correlia’s platform uses less than one microliter of sample to run rapid, automated assays. This increased performance efficiency opens new opportunities for researchers to expand ELISA-based assays in areas where fast turn-around times are critical. Correlia recently secured pilot agreements with five of the top global pharma companies, and in 2020, they announced the successful closure of a $7 million Series A financing round. This funding is enabling the commercial launch of Correlia’s next-generation immunoassay platform. This will be the first instrument planned in their larger suite of proteomics tools focused on highly efficient and automated protein measurements.
Recalling his experience in the 2013 Foundry cohort, Correlia co-founder Akwasi Apori said: “Working in the Foundry was an important first step for us to transition from the lab to running a company. We incorporated our company, secured our first grants, and even made connections with a future investor in our seed round all while participating in the program.”
Lioness is a women-led company and pioneer in the Sextech and Femtech industries. “Lioness wouldn’t exist without UC Berkeley’s Foundry — we were able to use the Invention Lab to prototype Lioness’s biofeedback technology and get guidance from instructors at the lab and the many mentors the Foundry invited to the program,” said Lioness co-founder and CEO Liz Klinger. “We also made a lot of friends with other startup founders in the program and would help each other as we all figured out how to bring our work to market.”
Lioness is now working on the Lioness 2.0 Vibrator as well as Generation 2 of its app. In partnership with the Center For Genital Health And Education (CGHE), Lioness has recently released a report on how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our sex lives using Lioness’s unique dataset of physiological behavior and data. This is the first study within the newly launched Lioness Sex Research Platform, which the company announced at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Event.
In the last year, the Lioness Smart Vibrator won multiple awards at the 2020 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) from Refinery29 and Engadget, won the Women’s Health Innovation Spotlight Powered by Johnson & Johnson, and was a finalist for Last Gadget Standing, one of the longest-running events produced by Living in Digital Times.
Lion Semiconductor’s products are in charger and power semiconductor integrated circuits (ICs) that enable better charging and power management in mobile devices. In 2020, they announced that the company’s switched-capacitor power ICs had reached a major milestone: their technology was bringing a faster, cooler, and more efficient charging experience to more than 50 million phones worldwide. This was achieved only two years after their start of production. Lion Semiconductor continues to grow rapidly to top-tier customers in various market segments, with offices in the United States, Korea, and China.
“The Foundry was very helpful especially in our early days when our team members were fresh Ph.D.s with no experience in startups,” said co-founder and CEO Wonyoung Kim. “We received a lot of help from Foundry members, especially [Foundry co-founders] Peter Minor and Patrick Scaglia.” Scaglia provided insights as a veteran technology executive and Minor brought deep connections to UC’s innovation community as an engineering postdoc.
WattTime’s “environmental demand response” platform makes it possible to sync energy use with cleaner sources from the grid. With a simple software solution, called Automated Emissions Reduction (AER), smart device owners can instantly and permanently reduce their carbon footprint and other pollution, and help renewable power plants compete on the grid. WattTime continues to grow its Automated Emissions Reduction technology, including developing a Greenhouse Gas Signal to support the elimination of net emissions from the nation’s largest energy storage program, the California Self-Generation Incentive Program. WattTime has also branched out into a variety of other data-driven ways to fight pollution, such as their novel “emissionality” technique to double the environmental effectiveness of new wind and solar farms.
“The Foundry taught me that a startup is not a small business. It’s a science experiment,” said WattTime Executive Director Gavin McCormick. “And that thinking worked—it was only after we stopped focusing on growth per se and instead focused on really experimenting with how to hit hypergrowth that things suddenly took off for WattTime.”
Most notably, in 2020 WattTime assembled and co-founded Climate TRACE, a project that will measure and trace all significant anthropogenic greenhouse gases to their sources worldwide, in near real time. Together with former US Vice President Al Gore, WattTime and eight other contributing partners are applying artificial intelligence (AI) to satellite imagery and other global sensor networks. Named by TIME as one of the 100 Best Inventions of 2020, Climate TRACE will have far-reaching implications, from supporting innovation in sustainability for the private sector to spotlighting potentially illegal polluters anywhere on the planet.
The CITRIS Foundry empowers innovators from the University of California to build transformative companies that will have a significant impact on the world. The program leverages the resources and expertise inherent in both our UC innovation ecosystem and global collaborations to support new ventures, social enterprises, and tech transfer pathways that can influence entire industries.
Interested in joining the CITRIS Foundry? Applications for the fall 2021 CITRIS Foundry cohort open in June.
The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty researchers and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners.
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