HardTech Labs, a San Diego accelerator program that gives startups access to low-cost manufacturing in Tijuana, has selected four companies to serve as a beta class. The idea is to help the co-founders and mentors identify the skills that are most important to entrepreneurs and to iron out problems.
The cross-border program, announced last month, is a collaborative effort that includes incubators, entrepreneurs, and investors in San Diego, along with manufacturers, innovation experts, and legal and technical consultants in Tijuana. The accelerator is intended to help tech founders take advantage of the low costs and rapid product development processes offered by manufacturers in Baja California—and to boost the regional innovation ecosystems by linking startup communities on both sides of the border.
“We really and truly believe that San Diego should be a tech mecca,” said Derek Footer, a HardTech Labs co-founder who is managing partner of Origo Ventures, a San Diego firm. “We see this as a jobs program for San Diego over the long term.”
The four startups will begin what Footer calls “Class Zero” on May 5. “If you’re a programmer, you always start with zero instead of one,” Footer explained. “Our Class Zero is the class before the real launch of the program.”
The accelerator plans to focus primarily on startups developing consumer products, medical devices, and robotics. Companies selected for the program can remain in the program for as long as a year, depending on their needs and progress, Footer said.
Key pieces of the accelerator include startup mentoring, classes in advanced prototyping, and learning how to tailor a product for manufacturing, Footer said.
The four companies selected for Class Zero are:
—Owaves, founded last August in San Diego, is launching a health, fitness, nutrition, and beauty business. The startup has been developing wearable devices and Web-based software to inspire and motivate people to engage in healthy lifestyle activities.
—LANpie, a Tijuana startup founded last year, is developing an appliance for monitoring local area networks, using the open source Rasberry Pi, a credit-card sized computer, and raspian operating system software.
—CleverPet, a San Diego startup founded by cognitive scientists and behavioral neuroscientists, plans to lift the curtain later this month on a pet learning console—a WiFi-enabled device that rewards pets for solving continuously customized puzzles.
—CryoMedix, a San Diego medical device company, uses liquids maintained under slight pressure to attain temperatures as low as -170 C (-310 F) to destroy tissue and nerves. The company says its cryoablation technology offers the potential for improved clinical outcomes over conventional radio frequency ablation for treating hypertension.
HardTech Labs says it will offer $300,000 in loans that can be converted into ownership stakes to each of the Class Zero companies that completes the program and enters production with one of the accelerator’s contract manufacturing partners.
In a statement, Footer says, “Dedicated funding is clearly a cornerstone of a successful acceleration program. Once we commence our full program later this year, entrance and exit funding will be in place to build on the success of our inaugural class.”
HardTech Labs hopes to enroll 10 startups in its first class, which is expected to begin sometime in September.
The organizations that came together to support HardTech Labs include San Diego’s Ansir Innovation Center, FabLabs San Diego, the Co-Merge Workplace, Origo Ventures, and Tijuana’s Ignitus innovation program and MINK Global, a legal and technical consulting firm.
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