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Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

Tech Incubator Hatches Skateboard Startup

Make in LA, a technology hardware accelerator in Chatsworth, last month held its first demo day, looking to set up its four portfolio startups with investors. About 125 attendees, many of them angel investors, were present during the half-day pitch event at the Los Angeles Cleanteach Incubator in downtown Los Angeles. The day’s proceedings also included an overview of the Make in LA program from co-founders Noramay Cadena and Shaun Arora. “Interest really peaked when we had a skateboarder come in and do some tricks in the hallway,” Cadena said. The skateboarder was demonstrating RideBlock, a device that attaches to a skateboard to track movement when skaters are performing tricks. It was developed by Flipmotion Inc., a startup from India that also developed an accompanying app for sharing information with other skateboarders around the world. Jibin Jose, co-founder and chief executive of Flipmotion, said that having access to equipment like 3-D printers and advisers and mentors introduced by the program has been a big help to his fledgling company. “They had a makerspace that basically helped in prototyping and making changes as necessary, all in 24 hours,” said Jose. A makerspace is a collaborative work area. Flipmotion is testing RideBlock with plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign in the spring and then deliver the devices six months after that. The other startups in Make in LA’s first class are Force Impact Technologies, which is developing Fitguard, a head-injury awareness mouth guard; Sentio Solutions, inventors of Feel, a wristband using sensors that recognize and track human emotions; and Blue Power Ltd. Corp., which has created Plobot, a robotic toy for children 4 years and older. Make in LA is funded by $500,000 from outside investors and a matching $500,000 from NEO Tech, a Chatsworth microelectronic components maker formerly known as Natel Engineering, where Arora serves as director of marketing. NEO Tech has set aside 20,000 square feet of space for offices, manufacturing space and warehousing for the incubator. It is taking advantage of the 3-D printing revolution by ordering three of the devices as well as a compact computerized numerical controlled milling machine for the program. It also will make available its existing equipment to the participating startups, which stay at the Chatsworth location for four months. Arora and Cadena said they have already chosen the next four companies for the program, which should be arriving in March. Device Counting In preparation for a marketing campaign using street banners, the Valley Economic Alliance wanted to know how many vehicles and pedestrians would be passing by to see the banners. So it turned to a software and technology company that could provide just that. Buzd placed a sensor in the alliance’s office in the 5100 block of Van Nuys Boulevard in Sherman Oaks capable of detecting Wi-Fi-connected smartphones and other mobile devices up to 140 yards away. The sensors gave a real-time measurement of vehicles and passers-by. Additional sensors are being installed near banners in Burbank and Glendale. Alliance Chief Executive Kenn Phillips said the data collected by the sensors will be handy in telling companies that may want to sponsor a banner in front of their business what the exposure can bring. The nonprofit’s office has also become a demo site where San Fernando Valley companies, government agencies and educational institutions can see the Buzd technology at work as demonstrated by Steve Adams, vice president of business development for the Americas of the Monterey company. Phillips estimates that about 50 companies or agencies have seen the demonstration in the past month. In his visits to the L.A. area, Adams has met with representatives from Cal State Northridge, Pepperdine University and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Requests for specific project-related information have come from the San Fernando Valley chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Los Angeles Fire Department, he added. Buzd plans to open a local office in the same building where the alliance is located, Adams said. Retail shops, school campuses, large shopping malls and street projects are among the uses where Buzd’s location analytics technology can give a look at how people move in and out of certain spaces. Adams told of a coffee shop that decided to open an hour earlier to capture business from pedestrians and drivers going by. The shop saw revenue go up after making that change. “It does not have to be complicated, life-changing stuff,” Adams said. “It can be simple.” While the data is collected by detection of mobile devices, no information is known about the identity of the device owners. Buzd does not sell or disclose any device-specific information to third parties. Staff Reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or mmadler@sfvbj.com.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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