gener8tor’s Premiere Night caps ‘crazy week’ for four startups

It’s not often that a week-old company gets to pitch to the top investors in the state.

But Madison-based Curate did just that at last night’s gener8tor Premiere Night, where it joined three others in pitching their companies after spending 12 weeks in the accelerator program.

“It’s been a crazy week,” co-founder Taralinda Willis said after the event.

Curate started some months ago as Exis, a platform to ease processes for software developers. It was successful enough to get into gener8tor’s gBETA program, aimed at startups with ties to Wisconsin colleges. It then got accepted to gener8tor’s main program, which this round accepted less than 1 percent of its applicants.

And within a week of scrapping those plans and launching Curate, the company got seven verbal commitments for its new product, which will use artificial intelligence to scrape websites and provide useful information to companies.

“We’re really excited about what they can do going forward,” gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues said.

The Edgewater Hotel event had almost 700 people registered, which co-founder and CTO Peter Wakahiu Njenga said was the largest audience he’s pitched to. The New York company also uses artificial intelligence, but to help radiologists identify abnormalities in medical imaging.

It started when the mother of Njenga’s co-founder, CEO Jeet Samarth Raut, discovered a lump in her breast. A doctor told her the tumor was benign, but that turned out to be wrong when she got a second opinion.

Raut’s mother is now “doing well and she’s fighting,” Njenga said, but the two decided to launch a company that would help avoid such misdiagnoses. Through gener8tor, Njenga said, they were able to meet consultants that will help them through the FDA process. And they were able to talk to local health systems and investors that know how to deal with health care startups, he said.

“They know what to do when it comes to health tech companies,” Raut said.

Also pitching Wednesday was Abigail Barnes, the co-founder and CEO of the startup Allergy Amulet. As a kid, Barnes’ 20 different food allergies landed her in the hospital six times and almost caused her to die once at summer camp.

“I’m fortunate to stand here and tell this story, but others are less fortunate,” she said.

Barnes co-founded the company with Dartmouth College chemistry professor Joseph BelBruno, creating a portable device that detects whether a food contains an allergen. The device, which uses disposable test strips, can be worn around the neck or placed on a smartphone.

Right now, they’re only targeting peanut allergies, but they hope to move into other common allergies so people can get a “uniquely tailored” device.

And Indianapolis-based DATTUS ended the program with its Internet of Things platform that “makes machines smarter.” The company, co-founded by two Purdue University grad students, attaches sensors to manufacturers’ machines to collect data on their performance.

That’s because less than 14 percent of machines are currently producing data, said co-founder Anurag Garg, leading to inefficiencies at manufacturing operations. Their platform lets manufacturers analyze that data, and it’s already launched at a wide range of companies that include Harley-Davidson and Rolls Royce.

Garg, who said DATTUS is about to close a fundraising round, said gener8tor helped them make more contacts and refined their pitch.

“The business has not changed, but now we talk better to investors, speak better to customers,” Garg said. “That’s what we needed.”

— By Polo Rocha,