From Trout Jerky to Bike Safety to Cancer Fighters: 13 DFW Startups Selected for MassChallenge Accelerator
From Trout Jerky to Bike Safety to Cancer Fighters: 13 DFW Startups Selected for MassChallenge Accelerator
Thirteen Dallas-Fort Worth startups are among the 250 companies named to the MassChallenge 2022 U.S. Early-Stage Accelerator. One of the most acclaimed startup accelerators in the U.S., MassChallenge has supported founders in 20 countries worldwide. Meet the 13 DFW startups who'll get "unparalleled" mentorship and partnership, free workspace in MassChallenge's Dallas office, and the chance to win equity-free cash prizes in the accelerator's up to $1 million annual competition.
BY DAVID SEELEY • AUG 9, 2022
MassChallenge—one of the most acclaimed startup accelerators in the U.S.—has named 250 startups to its 2022 U.S. Early-Stage Accelerator. And 13 of them are right here in North Texas.
For more than 12 years, the Boston-based accelerator has supported founders in Texas, across the U.S., and in over 20 countries worldwide. That includes unicorns like Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston-area life sciences company that went public last year.
The 13 North Texas startups selected by MassChallenge range widely in their missions and sectors: from a company that makes trout and salmon jerky to a next-gen immunotherapy startup to supply chain solutions focused on “hyperautomation.” You’ll read more about all 13 below.
New MassChallenge CEO: ‘forward and farther’
Cait Brumme CEO of MassChallenge. [Photo: MassChallenge]
In June, MassChallenge named Cait Brumme as its new CEO. She says her goal is to lead the accelerator “forward and farther.”
“We run on innovation, and I like to think of entrepreneurs as really the heartbeat of innovation,” Brumme told Axios recently. “And so our commitment and our goal is to help continue to support entrepreneurship.”
Startups that go through MassChallenge’s cohorts and programs are given “unparalleled” mentorship and partnership, along with free workspace in MassChallenge’s Dallas office. They also get the chance to win equity-free cash prizes—MassChallenge awards uo to $1 million each year for the startups that compete in the annual competition.
“As the world continues to shift, it has become only clearer how critical the promise and possibility of entrepreneurship is to address the challenges before us all,” former U.S. Senator Mo Cowan, a member of the MassChallenge board, said in a statement. “Today’s greatest challenges of climate, inequality, social justice, and human health—and the stubborn inequities in access to funding—require not a continuation but rather an acceleration and expansion of entrepreneurship. Our work must continue with urgency.”
Meet the 13 North Texas startups in the MassChallenge 2022 U.S. Early-Stage Accelerator
AllergenIQ Founder and CEO Dr. Nana Mireku, [Image: AllergenIQ]
Based in Southlake, AllergenIQ offers a tech-enabled virtual allergy care solution that democratizes access to comprehensive allergy care. The startup is developing allergy relief treatments to serve children, adults, and their families with chronic allergies.
In June, we wrote that AllergenIQ was set to get a boost by the Tech Equity Hub, a 12-week accelerator program aimed at Black and Latina female founders put on by law firm Davis Wright Tremaine. The program provides mentorship and workshops covering topics like product development, fundraising, and business strategy. It will cap off with a pitch competition event at the end of September in New York.
The move adds to other programs AllergenIQ’s founder—Dr. Nana Mireku—is an alum of, including Dallas’ Health Wildcatters.
Avsana Labs, Inc.
Research team at Avsana Labs [Photo: Avasana Labs/UTD]
Based in Dallas, Avsana Labs is a biotechnology startup and spin-out company from UT Dallas that seeks to improve viral diagnostic testing using a cutting-edge digital nanobubble methodology.
In April, we wrote about Avsana’s rapid test for viruses that delivers results as accurate as lab tests within 30 minutes. The test is 150 times more accurate than traditional rapid tests and matches the accuracy of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, the team says.
Dr. Zhenpeng Qin, UTD associate professor of mechanical engineering, mechanical engineering doctoral student Yaning Liu, and Dr. Haihang Ye, research associate in mechanical engineering, are part of the team that developed the method, called DIgitAl plasMONic nanobubble Detection (DIAMOND). Qin says the tech can be applied to other viruses, such as those that cause COVID-19 and the flu. Researchers also plan to use the platform to identify cancer biomarkers.
From left, AyuVis Senior Research Scientist Sumita Behera with CEO and Founder Suchi Acharya. [Image: AyuVis]
Based in Fort Worth, AyuVis is preclinical stage pharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of novel multi functional small molecules which boost the body’s natural ability to fight disorders associated with inflammation, immunomodulation, and microbial infection.
In March, we wrote about how AyuVis is one step closer to protecting pre-term babies from a leading cause of death with its lead drug candidate, AVR-48. AyuVis has received three NIH grants for $2.1 million and funding from private investors/family offices of $4.6 million.
“I look forward to participating in this program with my team,” founder and CEO/CSO Suchismita Acharya, PhD, said in a statement. “We have the opportunity to work with a global network of mentors that will help us close the gaps to starting our clinical trials. This will be a big inflection point for the company.”
Kellen Ragsdale, founder and CEO of BlackWerx. [Photo: BlackWerx]
Based in Rockwall, BlackWerx is “where medical innovation meets human-centered design.” The startup has assembled a team of industry leaders in medicine, technology and market development to bring a “design-centered approach” to innovation projects. It works directly with innovators to create paths to market.
“Our hands-on experience with the innovative process gives us a unique perspective, and our network of market professionals helps us pave the way to market innovation,” the company says.
Writing on LinkedIn, BlackWerx founder and CEO Kellen Ragsdale says his “not-so-stealth startup” looks forward to all it has to gain throughout the program. “We’re excited to tap into the MassChallenge global network of mentors and partners. Can’t wait to get started,” he added, thanking all of his startup’s “awesome mentors, collaborators and advisors.”
Based in Dallas, FirstThen addresses what it calls “the biggest gap in pediatric ADHD care” with self-guided psychosocial trainings and tools.
The startup says its science-based tools help children develop positive behaviors and skills, offering “quality care, how and when families need it.”
FirstThen offers self-guided behavioral trainings and practice tools; coaching and peer support to help stick with it; data-driven insights to measure and reward progress; and focused attention on caregivers’ emotional well-being.
The company’s co-founder and CEO, Amanda Schnetzer, is the former president of the Dallas Committee on Foreign Relations. She also spent eight years at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, where she served as director and fellow of global initiatives. In early 2021, Schnetzer was a fellow/explorer in the What If Ventures Mental Health Startup Accelerator.
“If we have a superpower, it’s bringing together diverse teams to tackle big problems,” Schnetzer and her co-founder and husband, David Schnetzer, say on their website. “We’re incredibly proud of the leaders in psychology, neuroscience, business, and tech who’ve already joined us on this journey to lead a new wave of innovation in ADHD care and support.”
The Good Jerky
[Photo The Good Jerky]
Based in Fort Worth, The Good Jerky makes award-winning, flavorful “snacks from the sea”: offering salmon and trout jerky for those looking for a healthy, grab -and-go snack.
Quentin Crawford, co-founder of The Good Jerky.
The Good Jerky was recently notified that it’s a semi-finalist for the Founders First CDC Job Creators Quest Grant.
“Extremely blessed whether we come out on top or not,” co-founder Quentin Crawford wrote on LinkedIn. “We want to make an impact in our community through job creation and this would help us towards that goal.”
The startup’s e-commerce site offers a wide range of flavors and products, from “Sweet Tooth” Smoked Salmon Jerky to Habanero Honey Trout Jerky to Sweet Honey Teriyaki Smoked Salmon Jerky and Sweet N Smoky Smoked Salmon Jerky.
Li Zhang of HemePro Therapeutics. [Photo: UT Dallas]
Based in Plano, HemePro is developing “a first-in-class treatment that safely and effectively targets many cancers, regardless of specific genetic subtype.”
The basis of the startup’s technology was developed at Professor Li Zhang’s laboratory at UT Dallas.
Most cancer therapies are limited by toxicity, HemePro says, and only work for specific cancer subtypes. The startup says its therapies “broadly and effectively target many types of cance—with demonstrated efficacy in hard-to-treat lung and breast cancers—and have a remarkable safety profile.”
HemePro says its patented biologics (called HeSPs) “effectively ‘starve’ cancer cells by sequestering extracellular heme, a vital nutrient for tumor energy production. Healthy cells are unaffected as they do not need this heme.”
KoiReader Founder and CEO Ashutosh Prasad
Based in Dallas, KoiReader has developed an IoT-powered “hyperautomation platform” for logistics and the supply chain.
>span class="dynamicElement-bold" data-v-b056b7ac="">Koi as it means “Any” (for any data format, unstructured or structured) in Hindi, as well as accurately represents the underlying technology, K(C)ognitive Optical Imaging.
KoiReader’s founders, including CEO Ashutosh Prasad, are alums of XPO Logistics, EY, PwC, Mu Sigma, Oracle, Blue Yonder/JDA/i2, and Capgemini. They offer expertise in artificial intelligence, edge computing, image processing, algorithms, data science, logistics, trade, transportation, maritime, and the supply chain.
Language Learning Market
Language Learning Market leadership team: Allison Monroe, founder and CEO; Hiba Hamati, VP of Marketing; and Leonor Gallegos, creative director [Photos: Language Learning Market]
Based in McKinney, Language Learning Market connect buyers and sellers in an online marketplace for educational resources in all languages.
In 2021, we wrote about how the startup was expanding its HQ with a grant from the McKinney Economic Development Corporation’s Innovation Fund. The woman-owned and minority-led company says it’s “empowering micro-entrepreneurs to reach their customers globally.”
“We think of ourselves like the Etsy for education in all languages,” said Allison Monroe, founder and CEO of Language Learning Market, in a statement. She calls her startup “an innovation center for the global education industry” and “the world’s only one-stop-shop for parents to find high-quality language learning content.”
One Stop Wellness
Romy Antoine, CEO of One Stop Wellness [Photo: Courtesy One Stop Wellness]
Based in Dallas and Addison, One Stop Wellness is a digital health literacy platform that pays employees to adopt health habits and have better relationships with their physicians.
In 2020, we profiled CEO Romy Antoine about his startup, which uses data science to identify potential health risks and motivate employees to reduce risk factors. “Our team is made of people who are passionate about health and making the world a better place,” Antoine told us. “Our mission is to empower people with their health data and the guidance to help them become their own health advocates.”
On Monday, Antoine took part in the Dell for Startups Pitch Competition at Dallas Startup Week.
Radian’s BiKube device. [Photo: Radian]
Based in Dallas, Radian makes a device—the BiKube—that amplifies the presence of a bicycle directly to a vehicle, activating its Collision Avoidance System to prevent collisions.
The company says its tech bypasses drivers who are often distracted, disengaged, disoriented, or even hostile to cyclists.
Millions of vehicles have sophisticated collision avoidance systems, but they have difficulty seeing things like cyclists and pedestrians. Radian says its BiKube device “optimizes the object detection capabilities of a vehicle’s own Collision Avoidance System.”
Founder and CEO Kevin McMahon is the former general counsel of the Automotive Safety Council. He brings an extensive background to Radian, having worked as a corporate executive and attorney focused on regulatory performance standards and vehicle product safety technologies. McMahon has represented Land Rover, Jaguar, Bosch, Continental, Delphi/Aptiv, Autoliv, Veoneer, ZF/TRW and others who develop and manufacture collision avoidance systems. Plus, he’s an avid cyclist too.
Video still from Quimby demo. [Image: Quimby]
Based in Coppell, Quimby is an app platform that enables companies to know how their teams are feeling and why, with a mission of improving well-being at work.
Quimby founder and CEO Sumedha Ganjoo [Photo: Tres Cox]
The startup says that instead of waiting for yearly surveys, companies can use Quimby to know their teams’ real-time sentiment through dashboards that aggregate data on their well-being and how they are feeling. Companies can then use the insights for to continually drive conversations to support their employees’ needs.
Sumedha Ganjoo, the company’s founder and CEO, was a winner of the Dell for Startups Pitch Competition at Dallas Startup Week Monday, taking the No. 2 spot. “The favorite part of my job is that I get to talk to and work with phenomenal people who deeply care about making sure that others at work are supported,” Ganjoo wrote on LinkedIn. “It gives me more hope that we will be fine as a collective.”
[Photo: American Diabetes Association]
Based in Dallas, Yumlish offers “culturally relevant nutritional therapy for minorities with diabetes while addressing socioeconomic barriers to dietary adherence.”
Yumlish says it empowers people with chronic conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, to take charge of their health. “We’ve pioneered a whole person approach that considers cultural heritage, socioeconomic factors, and lifestyle to provide digital nutrition therapy that aids weight loss and reduces A1C,” the startup says. “Our approach cuts healthcare costs for employers and reduces readmissions for health systems.”
Writing on LinkedIn, CEO Shireen Abdullah is succinct about what drives her: “Your compensation package can’t buy: passion.”