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Homeland Security backed accelerator program taking entrepreneurs to San Francisco for Demo Day

By Steve Bittenbender

Earlier this month about 20 entrepreneurial teams met with venture capitalists, technology leaders and government officials to showcase the products and applications they’re developing for first responders in hopes of being able to turn their ideas into a possible breakthroughs.

The EMERGE Accelerator Demo Day, which took place on Sept. 23 in San Francisco, was the culmination of an intense, three-month program established by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate to develop wearable applications and products first responders will need in the near future. Other EMERGE partners include the U.S. Air Force Academy, the DHS Center of Innovation and the Center for Innovative Technology.

According to John Verrico, a department spokesman, Homeland Security officials wanted to reach out entrepreneurs and small businesses that typically would never partner with government agencies and help them take their ideas and turn them into potential products for fire fighters, law enforcement officers and other emergency responders.

“This is really a new way of doing business for government,” Verrico said.

The program began in March, when more than 100 applicants sought to join the initial program. After the first class of teams was chosen, they were paired with one of two accelerators to provide the teams with mentors and other resources they need to prepare them for the Demo Day event. 

Chicago-based TechNexus has been working with about 13 teams. Since its establishment in 2007, the business incubator has helped spawn or grow more than 200 companies that have raised nearly $230 million in investments and created thousands of lucrative jobs. In Dallas, Tech Wildcatters, which has been listed as one of country’s top accelerators for fledgling tech firms, has provided education, mentoring and networking support to the teams it’s nurturing.

The hope is that one or more of the teams can win crucial next-stage funding from a venture capitalist or be able to develop a partnership with an established technology company. That, potentially, could lead to a proof-of-concept project or additional development opportunities to make their idea commercially viable.

“We have to be able to integrate the expanding technological capabilities within our first responders’ tool kits, their personal protective equipment, and within their decision making abilities,” Deputy Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr. Robert Griffin said in a DHS newsletter. “We sought innovators with ideas for the latest scientific advancements, knowing that sometimes, these technologies aren’t developed in a commercial laboratory or a major industrial company. The EMERGE program is one way we’re charting that path.”

Among those that participated in the Demo Day are:

LanguageMAPS has developed a mobile application to help first responders assist or render aid to a resident or visitor who cannot speak English. The app allows emergency medical technicians and other emergency workers to be able to learn and give critical information in less than one minute.

MindTalk has found a way to take technology developed for athletes to listen to music through mouthguards and create a two-way communication device for firefighters and others in situations when responders have to protect their ears, rendering headphones useless.

BearTek originated with Willie Blount trying to find a better way to control his phone and music while riding his motorcycyle. Blount and his cousin, Tarik Rodgers, will be demonstrating the technology their honing that can turn any glove into a remote control.

SES Automatic Injury Detection Response was created by a former police officer, Ken Brinkley, whose son has followed in his footsteps. Brinkley’s son serves as the police chief in Irvington, Ky., which is about 20 miles west of Fort Knox. Being an officer in a rural area often means backup can be a half-hour away. SES is a sensor-based solution that immediately alerts backup officers to respond when it is torn, from perhaps a gun or knife attack.


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