A year of incubation from Seahawk Innovation helped four young Wilmington startups survive “the valley of death,” that early startup phase of negative cash flow but positive momentum.
At a December 16th “coming out party”, the founders of the companies—a baby bottle brand, health analytics startup, SaaS for clinical research and synthetic DNA producer—shared plans for 2016 and celebrated with the community at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNCW, where Seahawk, an investment and advisory firm, is a tenant.
Seahawk started soon after the CIE opened near the UNCW campus. The firm partnered with the university to provide mentorship to companies in the CIE at the same time as it worked to raise a fund and incubated its own portfolio companies. There’s no news of the fund so far, but read on to learn about four companies who’ve received help from Seahawk.
The businesses are Mimijumi, LifeGait, Inc, CRA360 and SeekerDNA. During the event, each company revealed plans to raise at least $500,000 to further grow their companies in 2016.
Brendan Collins, CEO of Mimijumi, introduced his company, which developed a baby bottle that mimics a natural breast and is meant to improve first-year nutrition for infants. It is formed from a nylon and silicon skin over a polyester membrane and is cast using the same precision machinery used to create ultra precise silicon components for Porsche vehicles. This unique skin-like experience helps to avoid nipple confusion and is also unique in that it allows the baby, rather than the bottle, to control milk flow.
The application manages to bring a distinctly digital aspect to ownership to the real world—that of metadata. By registering a completely unique synthetic DNA identifier to your name and applying this substance as a spray, grease or glue to your physical property, these items can be traced using genetic tests to tie their synthetic sequence back to you, their registered owner. SeekerDNA’s synthetic sequences have no relation to biological DNA and are attached to a person only by digital registration.
In 2014, property crimes on the UNCW campus outnumbered those elsewhere in the city of Wilmington. Items stolen most often included laptops, bicycles and consumer electronics. SeekerDNA was incubated within the campus ecosystem and will first target university staffers, students, parents, teachers and nearby pawn shops. This will allow students to track and recover stolen items. The company is raising funding for development of an associated web application.
Seahawk co-founder and general partner Tobin Geatz took the floor after the presentations to say how proud he is of the progress these businesses have made. They stand as an example of how startups can and should be operated, he said. First, they identify a real problem. Second, the founders focus time and talent on solving the problem, and finally, they discover the treasure after successfully applying the solution.
Though all of these companies are raising money, in the end, he emphasizes that it’s not about the money, but the people.
“You can’t money your way to the top of Mt. Everest,” he said, “You can’t pay to get carried there, and no helicopter can get you there.”
He sees good mentoring and leadership as the sherpas of the ambitious founder and emphasized the role of passion and human capital in getting entrepreneurs to the top of the proverbial mountain.