After a Couple of Late Changes, Gener8tor Graduates Its Newest Class

Radiologists today are drowning in a figurative sea of images. Since 1999, there has on average been a five-fold increase in the number of scans a radiologist must interpret, says Peter Wakahiu Njenga, co-founder and CTO at Behold.ai. But these experts at image-reading have not gotten five times more efficient during that time, says Njenga, whose New York-based startup is developing software that uses machine learning algorithms to look for abnormalities in medical images, and which he says is aimed at making radiologists more efficient.

Behold.ai was one of four early-stage companies that pitched to a room of more than 500 onlookers, including scores of investors, on Wednesday. The organizations are newly minted graduates of Gener8tor, a startup accelerator in Wisconsin.

Gener8tor’s just-concluded 12-week program—along with its “Premiere Night” pitch event—took place in Madison, WI. Njenga says that he will soon return to Manhattan to resume working from the Columbia Startup Lab. However, he says that his co-founder Jeet Raut, who serves as Behold.ai’s CEO, will be staying in Madison a while longer.

Raut was inspired to create Behold.ai after a physician misdiagnosed a lump on Raut’s mother’s breast as benign. The family sought out the opinion of a second doctor, who diagnosed the lump as malignant. The cancer was treated, and today Raut’s mother is doing OK.

Njenga says that one of the startup’s near-term goals is to obtain a 510(k) clearance from the Food and Drug Administration. While the path to regulatory approval is never smooth, Njenga has been watching IBM (NYSE: IBM) lobby for artificial intelligence technologies to be regulated differently than medical devices, as Bloomberg has reported.

“We are hoping a company like IBM that has deep enough pockets to lobby Congress will have done that heavy lifting by the time we get to stage of actually selling,” Njenga says.

Behold.ai expects to raise a seed round by the end of September, he says, and it already has funding commitments from multiple investors.

The startup is also seeking to pilot its software at three or more hospitals during the next 12 months. Njenga says he and Raut have had multiple discussions with large hospital systems based in the Midwest. Introductions to some of these organizations came about thanks to Gener8tor’s network of advisers and investors, Njenga says.

“Getting in front of anybody in a hospital system—a radiologist, a physician of any kind—is incredibly hard,” he says. “Gener8tor has gone above and beyond what we expected. It’s about the connections more than anything.”

gBETA expands, StartingBlock moves forward

Maggie Brickerman, who directs gBETA—a no-strings-attached accelerator run by Gener8tor for early-stage companies affiliated with colleges and universities in Wisconsin—says it will hold its first program in Milwaukee this summer, which is scheduled to run for six weeks starting on July 8. The first three gBETA programs have been in Madison, and there’ll be one there again this summer, she says.

Gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues says that it’s uncertain whether the accelerator will be able to hold multiple gBETA programs in Milwaukee each year, as it expects to do in Madison, owing in part to support from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and American Family Insurance.

“We’re hoping to find partners to anchor gBETA in Milwaukee,” Kirgues says. “Part of what we’re trying to do is be accountable. We all claim we want … Next Page »

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Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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