CSU’s Demo Day spotlights campus innovation and Northern Colorado entrepreneurship

By: steveporter Friday April 28, 2017 Tags: Fort Collins, CSU Demo Day, CSU Ventures, Scott Fulbright, Chris Petersen, Frank Mendicino, James Schrack, Amy Prieto, Kirk Holland, Mike Freeman, Tom Reilly, Natalie Markham, Kat Boehle, Syed Reza


FORT COLLINS – It was a day to demonstrate the cutting-edge research and entrepreneurship happening on the Colorado State University campus and in Northern Colorado, as CSU marked Demo Day 2017.demo-day-2017-inside1use

More than 70 posters were on display in the Lory Student Center Ballroom Thursday as CSU students and local startup entrepreneurs vied for prizes and recognition of their innovative business ideas and models.

Those attending Demo Day had the opportunity to vote on the technology they liked the best in both student and company poster presentations and final pitches that climaxed the day’s activities, which also included several panel discussions and featured speakers.

Chemistry student Kat Boehle’s presentation on antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria took first place in the student competition, while Syed Reza’s Nexus Bioenergy presentation won the company competition.

Boehle said her research is aimed at developing a rapid diagnostic test for AMR, which currently causes about 700,000 deaths globally each year and is projected to be the No. 1 cause of death by 2050 unless a better, faster test can be created.

Boehle said she’s working on a test that is low-cost, takes less than an hour to get results and has achieved 97.8 percent accuracy.demo-day-2017-inside2use

Boehle said the test should be ready to take to market by 2018, in time to be in the running for a $20 million prize offered by the National Institutes of Health for a rapid diagnostic test by 2020.

Reza’s Nexus Bioenergy company aims to be a “waste recovery company,” with technology that can take organic waste and convert it to fuel and other byproducts with an onsite anaerobic digester.

Reza said the company is setting up a pilot system at a beef processing facility in Fort Morgan to prove its capability.

The day-long event included an opening keynote address by Scott Fulbright, a former CSU student and co-founder and CEO of Living Ink Technologies.

A lunch chat featured insights from Chris Petersen, LogRhythm CEO, and Frank Mendicino, Access Venture Partners.

Four panel discussions in the afternoon focused on “Commercializing Your Startup,” “Resourcing Your Startup,” “Funding Your Startup” and “Lessons Learned Along the Way.”

Tips on how to move an innovation into the commercial market were shared by panelists Darcy Mora of SiVEC Biotechnologies, James Schrack, Stuff ‘N Marshmallows, and Amy Prieto, Prieto Battery.

Schrack, a former CSU business student who started Stuff “N Mallows with two fellow students, said the idea to develop a business based on making pre-made chocolate-stuffed marshmallows happened almost on a lark.

“I was able to take a fun, goofy idea that nobody was doing to market,” said Schrack. “It’s been a cool experience. I didn’t go back to school for my MBA, but I feel like I’m living my MBA.”

Schrack said his business quickly caught on and is now supplying the marshmallows to large chain stores including Bed, Bath and Beyond.csu-demo-day-logo

On the other hand, Prieto, founder of Prieto Battery, said her journey to developing a better battery has been a much longer one since her company was formed in 2009.

“When I came to CSU 12 years ago I was looking for a project,” she said. “I totally fell in love with the application of new battery technology.”

Prieto said her company now has nine employees and is approaching commercialization of its technology, which focuses on safety and having a low impact on the environment.

“Our goal is to get our batteries on the market in the next 18 months,” she said.

Demo Day 2017 is a joint presentation by CSU Ventures, CSU’s College of Business, CSU’s Institute for Entrepreneurship and the CSU Energy Institute.


About the Author: steveporter

Steve Porter, editor of InnovatioNews, has more than 20 years of newspaper experience in reporting, editing and managing news organizations. Steve brings a deep knowledge of the Colorado business landscape and award-winning writing and editing skills to the project.