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Industry News

Tech Potential: startups make their pitch to investors

TulsaWorld.com. February 17, 2011

Though the economy has taken a beating over the last three years, local investors are willing to open their checkbooks to help fund the next big tech thing.

That's the message from those who attended the 2011 Technology Ventures Summit, a two-day conference for tech startups to showcase their ideas and products to investors who could help them grow.

Mike Moradi of Century Venture Partners of Oklahoma City said that even before the summit kicked off Tuesday, many local startups were getting helping hands.

"In spite of the fact that the economy isn't where it needs to be, deals are getting done," he said.

Leaders of this year's summit, sponsored primarily by the Oklahoma Capital Investment Board and hosted by the Tulsa Metro Chamber at the Doubletree Hotel, 616 W. Seventh St., selected 12 budding companies to make presentations to potential investors.

The 12 represented a diverse array of technologies. Metcel LLC is the result of 2 1/2 years of research at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater into developing a new type of metal that has been engineered into honeycomb shapes at the microscopic level.

The result, said Advait Bhat, director of research and development at Metcel, is a metal that's lighter, stronger and - most importantly - cost-effective. Its use as the blocking material in body armor could just be a start.

"The material has many other potential uses, such as the interior framework of aircraft," Bhat said.

The company hopes to get funding to invest in equipment and streamline the manufacturing process, he said.

Larger but still tiny material is the innovation behind Impact Earth LLC. Michelle Witt, vice president of business development at the company, said its staff is incorporating abrasive grit in water to enhance deep-earth drilling.

"We project the abrasive slurry at high velocities out of jets while drilling, which can bore into ground up to 20 times faster than regular drilling," Witt said.

Impact Earth hopes to use investment money to undertake its first vertical drill after multiple successes with horizontal drills during demonstrations.

And then there's Perk Dynamics, makers of AutoPerk. It all started when co-founder John Sharpley, who installs software servers used in entering orders, was asked to find out why profits of a busy coffee shop in a Dallas hospital weren't as high as expected, said R. Gerald Leeman, CEO of AutoPerk.

"It turned out they had a lot of people giving away coffee," Leeman said. "The machines weren't smart enough."

AutoPerk is software designed to fit between the point-of-sale device and the coffee machine, ensuring the machine can only dispense the exact type and amount of coffee, espresso or other drinks that are ordered.

Leeman said he's working with Automated Coffee Systems, a New Orleans company, to develop a self-service coffee station that can dispense made-to-order coffeehouse-style drinks.

Perk Dynamics is seeking funding for a dedicated sales team to get the systems into more restaurants, he said.

William Paiva of Sevin Rosen Funds said the tech summit, last held in 2008, tends to attract young businesses with strong ideas, and that many of them find investors.

"Deals won't get done today, but the presentations do pique investor interest," he said. "It usually takes four to six months to get things done."

By ROBERT EVATT World Staff Writer
Published: 2/17/2011  2:29 AM
Last Modified: 2/17/2011  4:47 AM