KENNESAW, Ga. | Jun 22, 2021
Six innovative technology startups formed by Kennesaw State students and alumni are now one step closer to thousands of dollars in funding, having cleared the first milestone in the University’s Igniting New Companies (INC) business incubator.
Supported by the Mookerji Innovation Fund – a $120,000 gift to Kennesaw State from technology entrepreneurs Sid and Sophie Mookerji – the INC invites students and alumni from across the University to apply for funding and development assistance for their tech-based businesses. The young entrepreneurs passing the milestone include enterprise software developers, data scientists, video game designers, and social media experts.
"The companies identified for the first cohort of the Mookerji Innovation Fund are all based on very innovative ideas that have a chance to make a real impact,” stated Mookerji. “The screening process and the quality of mentors were top-notch. I am very pleased with the results and am looking forward to seeing the impact the grants from the Mookerji Innovation Fund will have on the growth trajectories of these startups."
Each of the six ventures received $2,500 and will continue to work with Kennesaw State’s Robin and Doug Shore Entrepreneurship Center to grow their businesses. The RDSEC ultimately plans to advance 12 technology companies using a real-world continuous accelerator model. The Entrepreneurship Center’s advisory board rates ventures based on the participants’ individual motivations, their concept’s potential, and their current momentum.
The advancing projects all focus on finding high-tech solutions to problems that consumers, businesses, and other organizations face every day. For Apex Innovations, a software company formed by three alumni of Kennesaw State’s Computer Game Design and Development program, that problem is the high cost of training employees on heavy machinery like forklifts and commercial refrigerators.
“Traditional training requires scheduling workshops, teachers, and catering,” said founder and CEO Brennan Vitek, who graduated from Kennesaw State in 2020. “If your business trains more than 200 people a year, when you include hotel nights, catering, plane tickets, instruction fees, and trainee paychecks, that adds up quickly.”
Vitek and his business partners Meg'n Mullikin and Jacob Jennings developed virtual reality software that businesses can use to train new employees on complex machinery in a virtual environment without the costs and safety issues of onsite training. They drew on their experience as game design students.
“Game development skills can be used for much more than your traditional Xbox game,” Vitek said. “The same programming that goes into Mario games is going into our VR simulations. It’s nearly a 1:1 process. Video games are fun, and there’s no reason why work education can’t be fun too.”
Apex Innovations already has a contract to design simulations for Lanier Technical College’s ammonia refrigeration program. They will use their first round of INC funding to purchase additional VR headsets.
Also crossing the first INC milestone are the following business ventures:
Qixuan Hou – KSU Student, Bachelor of Fine Arts
Feiyang Qu – KSU Alumni, Master of Science in Computer Science
Using machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing, Insights is a platform to connect universities that hold patents on products or services with businesses to help commercialize those patents.
Sean Feeser – KSU Alumni, Computer Game Design and Development
Ben Snowden – KSU Alumni, Computer Game Design and Development
A game design studio developing a Vertical Shift, a movement-based VR eSport. Taking advantage of the growth in VR and eSports, Vertical Shift will allow large groups of friends to play together, and will provide revenue via the game’s sale price, in-game purchases, and in-game advertising.
Chase Watts – KSU Alumni, Entrepreneurship
TopLayer is an enterprise resource planning system for construction companies, which will help them better manage the disparate parts of their businesses. The subscription-based system includes modules for accounting, asset management, business management, estimating, and project management.
Ryan Bishop – KSU Alumni, Information Systems
SweetRoll is a cloud-based platform that allows small businesses to automate much of their social media management and makes it easier to move between organic and paid social media marketing.
Joey Ruse – KSU Alumni, Entrepreneurship
Recognizing that the average educator uses at least three separate technology platforms to offer critiques on their students’ creative works, Creative Critique combines the best features from the top design collaboration software tools into a single product.
Although the Entrepreneurship Center that oversees the program is housed within the Michael J. Coles College of Business, the INC participants all come from different academic backgrounds. According to RDSEC Executive Director Greg Quinet, this was by design.
“The Mookerji Innovation Fund and the INC signify the center’s focus on entrepreneurial execution,” Quinet said. “It establishes an action-oriented program for cross-discipline KSU students and graduates to experience startup operations while receiving early-stage funding support, business and industry mentorship, and real venture creation experiences.”
For the six businesses moving forward, the owners will continue working with the RDSEC to help bring their ideas to market. The center will also provide additional funding based on milestones that vary with each business’s model and goals.
“We are so excited to watch the impact this program will have on these entrepreneurs and how it will accelerate their ventures,” Quinet said. “We are proud of all the progress they have made.”
– Patrick Harbin
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.