Join us today as we speak with Bob Saunders from Oca Ventures about health innovation focused.
The CBAM-2 3D printing system delivers complex parts at production speeds and volumes, while partnership with BASF makes strong, heat-tolerant PA6-carbon fiber composite parts printable at scale
Impossible Objects’ new 3D printer, the CBAM-2, delivers complex parts on an industrial scale — speeding up the additive manufacturing process as much as 10x.
May 21, 2019 08:00 AM Eastern Daylight Time
DETROIT–(BUSINESS WIRE)–At RAPID + TCT 2019, Impossible Objects announced two watershed advances in composite 3D printing for the factory floor. The company’s latest 3D printing system, the CBAM-2, and a new partnership with BASF on PA6-carbon fiber composites extend Impossible Objects’ patented composite based additive manufacturing process (CBAM) to an unprecedented range of industrial applications.
“It’s been exciting to see how our customers are putting our approach to work to create high-performance parts for everything from aircraft and cars to lightweight athletic gear,” said Impossible Objects Founder and Chairman Bob Swartz. “We’re continuing to bring machines, materials and expertise to the market to transform the entire manufacturing process, from prototyping through to high-volume production.”
The CBAM-2 Speeds Production of 3D Parts at Scale
The new CBAM-2 3D printing system, being shown at RAPID + TCT for the first time, delivers complex parts on an industrial scale — speeding up the additive manufacturing process as much as 10x. The CBAM-2 combines high-performance polymers with long-fiber carbon and fiberglass sheets to rapidly produce 3D composite parts that are stronger, lighter, with better temperature performance, and more durable than possible with conventional 3D printing methods.
Since Impossible Objects launched its flagship Model One 3D printer at RAPID 2017, a growing number of Fortune 500 companies have adopted it. Major automotive manufacturers including Ford Motor Company, manufacturing services company Jabil, the United States Air Force, and the National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) among others are using Impossible Objects technology.
Features of the CBAM-2 include:
- Production speed: The machine can produce high volumes of production parts quickly — up to 10x faster than conventional 3D printing.
- Support for high-strength composites: The CBAM-2 can print 3D parts from composites that are not available through any other 3D printing method. Combining carbon fiber and fiberglass with high-performance thermoplastics like PEEK and Nylon can produce parts with better strength-to-weight ratios than metals, along with superior temperature performance and chemical resistance.
- Support for larger parts: Printed sheets can now reach up to 12 inches x 12 inches in size.
- Increased precision: The CBAM-2 features three added cameras, ensuring greater quality control and guaranteeing each sheet is printed perfectly and each inkjet nozzle is fired seamlessly.
- Streamlined maintenance: Automatic powder filling reduces fill-time to days, and bulk ink cartridges eliminate the need to refill ink frequently, allowing machines to run efficiently at a significantly greater duration.
CBAM-2 machines will be available for customers beginning in Q3.
BASF Partnership: An Unmatched Range of Material Choices and Capabilities
Impossible Objects also announced that through a collaboration with BASF, its Model One and CBAM-2 printers will support BASF’s Ultrasint PA6 (polyamide 6) powder, allowing customers to 3D print high-performance carbon fiber-PA6 composite parts for the first time.
Carbon fiber-PA6 composites offer better strength and temperature performance at a lower cost than PA12, and are up to four times stronger than conventional Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) parts and twice as strong as Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) parts made with PA12.
“Our collaboration with Impossible Objects opens up new possibilities for customers, especially in the automotive and industrial sectors where we’re seeing strong demand for PA6. This partnership is in line with our philosophy of open innovation and support for open platforms. We’re encouraged by how Impossible Objects is using PA6 and are excited to work together to advance the state of additive manufacturing,” said Kara Noack, regional business director for BASF 3D Printing Solutions.
“We’re honored to be collaborating with BASF 3D Printing Solutions to make this economical workhorse polymer, which is used in an enormous number of industrial applications, available to our customers,” added Bob Swartz of Impossible Objects.
Customer Momentum: Manufacturing parts for legacy aircraft with UAMMI
The Utah Advanced Materials & Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI) announced the successful creation of its first carbon fiber 3D printed part for the United States Air Force, made with an Impossible Objects printer.
The 3D printed part, a first aid kit restraint strap for B-1 aircraft at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma, is the first step in UAMMI’s mission to replace broken parts on legacy aircraft, whose original parts are no longer in production. For more information, please see UAMMI’s accompanying release.
Impossible Objects Secures Additional Funding
To meet the demand for its products, Impossible Objects has raised $4.1 million in funding in a round led by returning investor OCA Ventures, bringing total funding to more than $13 million. The company raised $6.4 million in Series A funding in October 2017 from OCA Ventures, IDEA Fund Partners, Mason Avenue Investments, Huizenga Capital Management, and Inflection Equity Partners.
- Video about the CBAM manufacturing process.
- Video about the BASF-Impossible Objects partnership.
- Image of Impossible Objects CBAM-2.
- Visit Impossible Objects at booth #403 at RAPID + TCT.
About Impossible Objects
Impossible Objects, a 3D printer and materials company, was founded with the belief that materials science inventions would enable 3D printing to revolutionize the world in the same ways that computers and the Internet have revolutionized the way we live, work and play. The company’s proprietary composite-based additive manufacturing (CBAM) technology produces parts up to 10 times faster than conventional 3D printing. By combining high-performance polymers like Nylon and PEEK with long-fiber carbon and fiberglass sheets, CBAM produces parts that are stronger, lighter, with better temperature performance, and more durable than possible with conventional 3D printing methods. For more information, visit www.impossible-objects.com.
Molly Stein for Impossible Objects
Company’s NICUtrition® suite of digital tools and diagnostics is designed to standardize feeding, optimize nutrition and quantify gut health in premature infants
NEWS PROVIDED BYAstarte Medical
May 07, 2019, 08:31 ET
YARDLEY, Pa., May 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Astarte Medical, the only precision medicine company using software and predictive analytics to improve premature infant outcomes, today announced it has secured $5 million in Series A financing. Investors in the round include Viking Global Investors LP, Lunsford Capital, OCA Ventures, Keiretsu Forum MidAtlantic, Keiretsu Capital Fund, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Wing VC and Next Act Fund. The Company, which recently graduated from the Illumina Accelerator, will use the funds to complete the development of its NICUtrition® suite of digital tools and diagnostics, which support feeding protocols, practice and decision-making in the neonatal ICU (NICU). Duane Morris LLP, as legal council to Astarte Medical, advised the company on the transaction.
Every year, more than 380,000 babies are born prematurely in the United States. The first 1,000 days of life are a critical period for a baby’s growth and brain development – particularly for preterm infants – and maintaining a healthy gut is crucial during this time. The rapid changes in the microbiome during this period make it challenging for NICU teams to treat infants with a highly personalized level of care.
“This funding will bring us one step closer to completing our suite of solutions to support unmet needs in the NICU to drive better preterm infant outcomes such as improved growth and minimized risk of infection,” said Tracy Warren, CEO and Co-founder, Astarte Medical. “NICU feeding protocols are complex and often tracked manually, causing clinical care teams to spend unnecessary time on documentation. Our first product to market will automate and streamline feeding protocols, enabling doctors and nurses to spend more time with their patients and parents.”
Core to Astarte Medical’s platform is its comprehensive and proprietary dataset that integrates feeding protocols, microbial profiles and clinical information. Its NICUtrition® suite of products provides actionable information in real time to hospitals and clinical teams, enabling them to standardize care protocols, and customize treatment plans by quantifying preterm infant gut health.
“We are thrilled to support Astarte Medical as they develop cutting-edge technology to solve some of the biggest problems for the smallest patients,” said Bruce Lunsford, Chairman and CEO of Lunsford Capital. “With its first solution, the Company is poised to make a difference for not just the preterm babies, but also for clinical teams in NICUs where it will help streamline the workflow and increase efficiencies. Astarte Medical is addressing the needs of a large and underserved market, and we look forward to seeing the Company positively impact the industry, lowering healthcare costs and improving health for generations to come.”
Astarte Medical is comprised of a passionate management team and world-class advisors in neonatology, microbiome and predictive analytics. Company founders, Tracy Warren and Tammi Jantzen, have worked together for nearly twenty years as investors and serial entrepreneurs. Together, they are applying their expertise and business acumen to the vision of Katherine Gregory, PhD, RN, the company’s scientific co-founder. A NICU nurse by background, Dr. Gregory integrates her clinical experience with translational research, focused on preterm infant gut health and nutrition. She currently serves as Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Women’s and Newborn Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School.
Astarte Medical recently appointed Eric Heil and Stephen Hanson to its Board of Directors. Heil is an executive with extensive early stage, venture-backed entrepreneurial experience in healthcare, and currently teaches healthcare entrepreneurship at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Hanson is an accomplished hospital leader who has optimized performance for five health systems and four independent hospitals in seven states. Together, they will bring strategic oversight to Asarte Medical’s roadmap of solutions to improve preterm infant outcomes.
About Astarte Medical
Astarte Medical is the only precision medicine company using software and predictive analytics to improve outcomes during the first 1,000 days of life, with an initial focus on preterm infants. NICUtrition® by Astarte Medical supports feeding protocols, practice and decision-making in the neonatal ICU with a suite of digital tools and diagnostics designed to standardize feeding, optimize nutrition and quantify gut health. Learn more at www.AstarteMedical.com.
This project is supported by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA, an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority.
FAIRFAX, Va. & BOSTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Apr 4, 2019–Custom Ink, the leader in custom apparel for groups, companies, and communities, today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement with an investor group led by Great Hill Partners, a leading growth-oriented private equity firm, to recapitalize the company for its next chapter of growth and innovation. Custom Ink’s current management team will continue to lead the company, with Co-founder Marc Katz remaining a major shareholder as well as Chairman & CEO. Custom Ink’s current shareholders, including Revolution Growth and SWaN & Legend Venture Partners, will exit their investments. Financial terms of the private transaction were not disclosed.
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Founded in 2000, Custom Ink helps people create a sense of belonging and community within their schools, teams, businesses, charities, and other groups through digitally-powered solutions for the design, ordering, production, and delivery of customized apparel and other products. The company’s strong brand, robust platform, and caring and capable team have made it the leader in the custom apparel market with projected 2019 revenues exceeding $400 million. Custom Ink’s core values – The Golden Rule, Ownership and Innovation – and purpose-driven culture have earned it a perennial place on local and national “best places to work” lists and fueled industry-leading customer satisfaction and employee engagement.
“This is a really important milestone for Custom Ink,” said Katz. “It’s a testament to the great work of our team over the past 19 years, and it positions us well for the future. Our early investors were friends, family, and angels who saw the potential in Custom Ink, and more recent investors provided expertise and support to accelerate our growth. Now they are passing the baton to our new partners, who also embrace our values and vision. Great Hill in particular has an outstanding track-record of enhancing ecommerce and direct-to-customer companies that are similarly passionate about marketplace and workplace excellence. I think they’re an ideal partner to help us continue to build out our unique brand, offering, and platform.”
Great Hill Partners has deep experience investing in highly differentiated business models across the consumer, e-commerce, and retail sectors. The firm has a long history of backing native digital and omni-channel brands, such as Wayfair, Bombas, The RealReal, and The Shade Store.
“Custom Ink helped pioneer online customization and has created the industry’s leading end-to-end digitally-powered platform for customized apparel,” said Michael Kumin, a Managing Partner at Great Hill Partners. “This is a terrific brand with outstanding operations in a highly-fragmented category where we see huge growth potential for the company. We’re thrilled to back Marc and the team and are excited to help Custom Ink extend its market leadership, both organically and inorganically.”
Ted Leonsis, co-founder and partner at Revolution Growth, said, “When Revolution first invested in Custom Ink in 2013, we were impressed with how the company was using technology, combined with a passion for service, to revolutionize the custom apparel category and bring people together. We saw power in Custom Ink’s community-driven growth model, and this has proven to be a very successful investment. We’re proud of our role at Custom Ink and think Great Hill will be an excellent partner for the company’s next stage.”
Fred Schaufeld, SWaN co-founder and partner and longtime Custom Ink adviser, will remain an investor and board member in a personal capacity. Said Schaufeld, “Custom Ink is a wonderful story of creativity, determination, and striving to do the right thing. This was an excellent outcome for SWaN, and I couldn’t be more excited for Marc and the team. It’s a great company that will continue to do great things.”
The transaction is expected to close in May. Investing alongside Great Hill is HarbourVest Partners, a global private markets asset manager. GSO Capital Partners is providing committed debt financing as well as an equity investment in connection with the transaction. Guggenheim Securities LLC and DLA Piper advised Custom Ink on financial and legal matters, respectively.
About Custom Ink
Custom Ink is the leader in custom apparel and accessories for groups, events, and special occasions. The company helps group organizers bring their families, friends, teammates, and colleagues together with inspired designs they are proud to wear. Custom Ink makes the customization process fun and easy with innovative design tools, caring customer service, creative design inspiration and high-quality merchandise. It also offers Custom Ink Fundraising, a platform to raise money and awareness for charities and personal causes through the sale of custom t-shirts. Its influencer-led custom apparel platform, Represent, helps actors, athletes, musicians, thought leaders, and social media icons create and sell limited-run t-shirts and merchandise to their fans. Custom Ink is based in Fairfax, Virginia with other locations that include Charlottesville, Virginia; Reno, Nevada; Dallas, Texas; and Los Angeles, California.
About Great Hill Partners
Great Hill Partners is a private equity firm that has raised over $5 billion in commitments since inception to finance the expansion, recapitalization, or acquisition of growth companies in a wide range of sectors in business-to-consumer and business-to-business industries including eCommerce, software, financial and healthcare technology, digital media and internet infrastructure. For more information, visit www.greathillpartners.com.
HarbourVest is an independent, global private markets asset manager with more than 36 years of experience and more than $58 billion in assets under management. The Firm’s powerful global platform offers clients investment opportunities through primary fund investments, secondary investments, and direct co-investments in commingled funds or separately managed accounts. HarbourVest has more than 500 employees, including more than 100 investment professionals across Asia, Europe, and the Americas. This global team has committed more than $35 billion to newly-formed funds, completed over $19 billion in secondary purchases, and invested over $9 billion directly in operating companies. Partnering with HarbourVest, clients have access to customized solutions, longstanding relationships, actionable insights, and proven results.
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CONTACT: For Custom Ink:
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Stanton Public Relations
KEYWORD: UNITED STATES NORTH AMERICA MASSACHUSETTS VIRGINIA
INDUSTRY KEYWORD: PROFESSIONAL SERVICES FINANCE RETAIL FASHION
SOURCE: Great Hill Partners
Copyright Business Wire 2019.
PUB: 04/04/2019 07:00 AM/DISC: 04/04/2019 07:00 AM
A Chicago startup with ties to the University of Chicago that provides international medical students and graduates with clinical training at U.S. healthcare systems just raised a new round of funding.
AMOpportunities announced Monday that it has raised $2.2 million from investors, such as OCA Ventures, HealthX Ventures, Wildcat and M25 Group. The University of Chicago also invested.
The new funding brings AMOpportunities’ total funding to nearly $3.3 million.
The startup says it will use the new financing to scale its clinical visitor platform, which will be designed for use by U.S. hospitals and foreign medical schools.
Founded in 2013 by Kyle Swinsky and Benjamin Bradley, AMOpportunities makes a platform that allows medical students to find month-long clinical rotations at U.S. healthcare systems that match with their specialty and experience level. AMOpportunities makes money from fees it charges students for available rotations.
Participating in rotation programs in the U.S. is required before foreign-educated doctors can practice in the U.S.
“To thrive, the American healthcare system needs doctors from all over the world,” Swinsky said in a statement. “Without these international trainees, the U.S. will experience a devastating physician shortage. We need these international physicians to ensure our healthcare system survives. Diversity and immigration will only make our country stronger.”
AMOpportunities, which won the 2017 University of Chicago New Venture Challenge, has hosted more than 2,500 visitors across over 200 clinical sites in the U.S. since launching. The startup now has affiliations and partnerships with health systems, such as the University of Illinois Chicago, University of Miami and Saint Anthony Hospital.
By Jim Dallke -February 27, 2019
OCA Ventures, a 20-year-old Chicago-based venture capital firm, is heading west with the opening of an office in Silicon Valley.
OCA announced that it has hired Kevin McQuillan, a longtime venture investor and co-founder of Focus Ventures, to lead the firm’s West Coast operations. McQuillan, a five-time member of Forbes’ “Midas List,” a ranking of the top venture capital investors, previously led investments in startups such as Sensity (acquired by Verizon) and Paydiant (acquired by PayPal). More than 20 of McQuillan’s startup investments have gone public.
Focus Ventures, based in Palo Alto, has invested $850 million in technology companies across three funds since launching in 1996.
The addition of McQuillan and the opening of an office in the Valley have less to do with increasing OCA’s investments in West Coast startups, and more about adding value to the firm’s existing portfolio companies, OCA CEO Jim Dugan explained. Having a physical presence in Silicon Valley will help the firm strengthen its relationships with larger venture firms who can provide expansion capital to OCA’s portfolio companies as they grow.
“We’ve been doing business now in venture for 20 years. The heartbeat of the ecosystem is in the Valley,” Dugan said. “This expansion for us is a continuation of us being able to add value to our portfolio companies, particularly for those later-stage rounds.”
OCA, which is investing out of its fourth fund, invests in Seed, Series A and Series B rounds. Its notable exits include Cleversafe (acquired by IBM), Tenor (acquired by Google) and TradeKing (acquired by Ally Financial). It also scored a win last year after DocuSign’s IPO. OCA invested in Cartavi, a Chicago-area software startup, which was acquired by DocuSign in 2013.
If you are a mother who has taken a break from full-time employment to raise kids, you may have also experienced the challenge that is jumping back into the working world after your break.
You may find you need more time flexibility; you have been out of the job market for years and so your confidence is knocked; your skills are no longer as relevant as they were before; or you just want to rethink your career; plus many employers — whether they say it or not — seem less interested in you because of all of the above, and no level of burnishing your resume on LinkedIn will help. It can be tough (and I say that from first-hand experience).
Now, Chicago-based startup The Mom Project, a platform specifically built to help female knowledge workers find jobs after pausing to raise kids, has raised a little egg of its own to take on this challenge. It’s picked up a Series A of $8 million that it plans to use to bring its job marketplace to more cities — it’s currently in Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco — and to expand the kinds of services it offers to make the challenge of juggling work and parenthood easier.
The funding is being led by Grotech Ventures and Initialized Capital, with another new investor, Aspect Ventures, and previous backers Atlanta Seed Company, Engage Ventures, OCA Ventures, BBG Ventures, IrishAngels and Wintrust Financial also participating.
This brings the total raised by The Mom Project to $11 million, and with 75,000 registered moms and 1,000 companies, including Procter & Gamble, BP, Miller Coors and AT&T, the startup claims it’s now the largest platform of its kind in the U.S.
From selling diapers to changing diapers
Allison Robinson, the founder and CEO of The Mom Project, said she came up with the idea for the startup in 2016, when she was on maternity leave from a strategy role at Pampers.
“I started realising a lot about moms before I became one,” she says about her last role before striking out as an entrepreneur. “But what I hadn’t understood until I was on maternity leave myself was that your priorities can change after having a child.” (She’s pictured up above with her son.)
Citing a study she’d seen in the Harvard Business Review that estimated 43 percent of skilled women exit the workforce after having children, Robinson realised there was a gap in the market for those among them who had timed out from returning to their previous roles, but still wanted to make the leap back into working at some point.
And she has a point: Not only do people who decide they want to return to work face all of the usual issues of newly needing more time flexibility, wondering whether their skills are still current enough, general confidence and so on, but the average recruitment process, and job sites overall, do not really have ways to account for any of that very well.
And the gap exists on the employer side of the marketplace, too. Businesses — both large corporates very much in the public eye as well as smaller businesses that are not — are rethinking how they hire and keep good people in the overall competition for talent. (Just this week, the U.K.’s Office of National Statistics said that the number of unfilled positions in the information and communication technology sector rose by 24.3 percent compared to last year in the country, a shortage that’s reflected in other markets.)
Having a diverse workforce — including more women and women from different walks of life — is key not only to helping counteract that, but to contribute to better overall work culture. That’s a fact that many employers have realised independently or have simply been thrown into the spotlight unwittingly and now are trying to repair.
And yet, there haven’t been many opportunities for them to pursue more diverse hiring practices.
LinkedIn recently made a tiny move into exploring diversity in hiring by at least allowing recruiters to search their job candidate results by gender, but this is a far cry from actually addressing the specific predicaments that particular segments of the working population have, and how to help them connect better with employers who might be keen to bring more of them on through recruitment.
In fact, the idea of providing improved job search for knowledge workers in specific cases is actually a very interesting one that shows there is definitely still room for innovation in the world of recruitment: Handshake earlier this year raised $40 million for its own take on this, which is providing a better LinkedIn-style platform to connect minority university graduates with interesting job opportunities at companies keen to make their workforces more diverse.
“Companies have started to realize the value in building a diverse workforce, but we still have a long way to go in achieving equal representation and opportunities,” said Julia Taxin, a partner at Grotech and new Mom Project board member. “Allison and her team have built an incredible marketplace of diverse talent for companies and I look forward to working with The Mom Project to execute on their vision of helping to close the gender gap in the workplace.”
The Mom Project, Robinson said, is tackling the challenges at both ends of the spectrum.
On the employer side, she said there is a lot of educating going on, talking to HR people and getting them to understand the opportunity they could unlock by hiring more parents — which tend to be almost entirely all-women, but sometimes men, too.
“We want to provide more data to these companies,” she said, pointing out that it’s not just a matter of providing a job opportunity, but also giving parents options in areas like childcare, or flexible working schedules. “We want to show them ‘here is where you are doing well, and here is where you are not. Fixes don’t cost a lot of money, but a lot of companies are just not aware.”
“We’ve got 75,000 women on our platform, and currently around 1,000 companies posting jobs,” she said. “The goal is to have 75,000-plus jobs. We want to make sure that all the moms signing up on the platform are getting work.”
“The Mom Project is determined to create a future where women aren’t forced to choose between their families and their careers,” said Alda Leu Dennis, partner at Initialized Capital and new Mom Project board member, in a statement. “There is a huge pool of experienced talent, parents and non-parents, that is sometimes overlooked because companies haven’t created the kind of diverse, flexible workplace culture that attracts and retains them. Initialized wants to be part of making this cultural shift happen.”
On the parent side, not only is it also about making the platform known to people who are considering a return to work, but it’s also about some fundamental, but very important basics, such as giving would-be jobseekers the flexibility to go to interviews. Robinson said that one campaign it’s about to launch, in partnership with Urban Sitter, is to provide free childcare credits to Mom Project jobseekers so that they can get to their interview.
“Sometimes you have to go to an interview with 24 hours’ notice, and lining up a sitter can be stressful,” she said. “We want to alleviate that.”
Parents also know that this isn’t just an issue for the interview: Many towns and regions have what Robinson called “childcare deserts,” where there is a scarcity of affordable options to replace the parent on a more daily basis.
Contract work is king (and queen)
For now, Robinson said that the majority of jobs on the platform are focused on fixed-term employment — that is, not permanent, full-time work.
This is due to a number of reasons. For example, parents coming back to working after a break may be more inclined to ease in with shorter roles and less long-term commitment. And employers are still testing out how this demographic of workers will work out, so to speak. Equally, though, we have seen a huge swing in more general employment trends, where businesses are hiring fixed-term workers rather than full-time employees to account for seasonality and to give themselves more flexibility (not to mention less liability on the benefits front).
While Robinson said that the aim is definitely to bring more full-time job opportunities to the platform over time, this has nonetheless presented an interesting business opportunity to The Mom Project. The startup acts like Airbnb, Amazon and a number of other marketplaces, where it not only connects job-seekers and employers, but also then handles all the transactions around the job. When the job is fixed-term, the Mom Project essentially becomes like the job agency paying the employee, and that is how it makes a cut. And it also becomes the provider of benefits and more.
In other words, while there is an immediate opportunity for The Mom Project to compete against (or at least win some business from) the likes of LinkedIn to target the specific opportunity of providing jobs for women returning to work, there is a potentially and equally big one in becoming a one-stop employment shop to handle customers’ other needs as employers or workers, providing a range of other services, from payroll through to childcare listings and more.
Four months ago, when two commercial DJI-made drones loaded with 1 kilogram each of plastic explosive detonated during a speech from Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro at a military event in Caracas, the world at large was introduced to the newest threat from our automated, dystopian present — cheap weaponized drone technology.
For Luke Fox, the founder and chief executive of WhiteFox Defense Technologies, it was simply the latest in a string of events proving the need for the kinds of services his company is developing. Something he calls “a highway patrol for the sky.”
From drug smuggling to reconnaissance and information gathering to terror attacks, unmanned aerial drones are no longer the provenance of state military and police actors, and are increasingly being used by criminal organizations to open new, aerial fronts in their operations.
“Drones are by far the biggest asymmetric threat that the U.S. faces,” says Fox. “Countries that don’t have a state-sponsored drone program are using them [and] it’s where you see people like ISIS are going.”
In the battle for Mosul in Iraq, ISIS flew more than 300 drone missions in one month, according to a talk given last year at CyCon by Peter Singer, a senior fellow and strategist at the New America Foundation. One-third of those were strike missions, representing the first time U.S. military faced an aerial attack since the Korean War.
The 24-year-old Fox began thinking seriously about the weaponization of commercial and consumer drone technology six years ago, when he founded WhiteFox Defense.
Creating the company was an extension of the way that Fox had been taught to think about the world as a child, he’s said. Fox grew up in an abusive foster home, raised by a mentally ill foster mother (who was, herself, a child protective service employee) who had adopted him and a number of mentally and physically challenged children.
“The reality I grew up in had my mind constantly looking for vulnerabilities. And instead of seeing these vulnerabilities as opportunities for crime I now had a whole color palette to choose from,” said Fox. “For example, when the world started going crazy over drones as recreational toys I saw that they could be used as weapons or for crime, and this insight into the criminal mind inspired a company that defends the country from drones.”
Fox was adopted from foster care by the librarian of his local Sacramento-area high school, tested out of college and went on to a community college before enrolling in California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo.
He began working with drones while in school and credits that introduction to the technology as the inspiration for starting WhiteFox.
“We previously started out in drone manufacturing, starting out in high-performance drones for specialty clients and research organizations. We needed affordable drones that were highly capable,” said Fox. “Making a highly capable drone that was very affordable attracted some very shady people. And, realizing that there was only so much we could control, it brought us to ask what is out there? At the time, the only thing to counter drone-related attacks was large missiles shooting down large Iranian drones.”
WhiteFox currently has three products either in development or on the market. Two have already been released to a select group of customers in different industries and the entire suite will be launched at the beginning of next year, according to Fox.
Without going into specific details of how the technology works, Fox said that WhiteFox Defense systems can detect, identify and mitigate unauthorized drones flying in a particular airspace.
“It’s not jamming or blocking drones or catching them out of the sky,” says Fox. Rather the idea is to provide situational awareness and identify the type of threat that an errant drone represents — whether the operator is, in Fox’s words, “clueless, careless or criminal.”
What Fox would say is that his company has developed a technology that’s based on identifying and differentiating between drones based on their unique radio frequency signatures. That product for identifying drones operating in a space is complemented by a second technology offering that allows WhiteFox to take control of the unauthorized drones in an airspace.
“One of the technologies that was started at Drones For Change [the company that would become WhiteFox] was a universal controller,” said Fox. “That technology really formed the basis. We asked what if this universal controller could become a master controller to take over any drone that was in your airspace? That solved the problem that got us out of drone manufacturing.”
WhiteFox isn’t alone in its attempts to create anti-drone technology. According to some industry statistics there are at least 70 companies working on drone defense technologies, with solutions ranging from deploying other drones to capture unauthorized UAVs to jamming technologies that will block a drone’s signal.
Earlier this year, Airspace Systems raised $20 million for its kinetic (drone versus drone) approach to drone defense, while Citadel Defense raised $12 million and Dedrone pulled in $15 million for their drone-jamming technologies. And last year, SkySafe raised $11.5 million for a radio-jamming approach similar to WhiteFox, which forces unauthorized drones out of restricted airspace while permitting authorized drones to still fly.
“As the adoption of consumer drones increases, we believe it is vital for an ambitious and effective defense platform to emerge,” said Alex Rubacalva, a partner at Stage Venture Partners and an early investor in WhiteFox Defense.
In all, drone-related startups have raised nearly $2 billion in the last eight years, according to data from Crunchbase, pulled at the beginning of 2018. Roughly $600 million of that investment total has come in 2017 and the early part of 2018 alone, the Crunchbase data indicated.
Technologies like SkySafe and WhiteFox are about more than just defending airspace from malicious actors.
“Counter-drone technology is not just about securing spaces from drones and preventing bad things from happening,” says Fox. “It’s about enabling drones to be used in the right way.”
The applications extend far beyond military uses. In fact, Fox’s technology is already being adopted by prisons around the U.S. and, indeed, anywhere airspace usage can be considered sensitive.
“Someone described as the largest delivery operations in the world is happening at prisons,” said Fox. “You have a lot of money behind buying a DJI at Best Buy and loading it up with heroin, with drugs, with weapons, with even Chinese food that was smuggled in. We found that there were drones smuggling in contraband every single day.”
WhiteFox recently conducted a survey with an undisclosed large public prison system in the United States to study just how pervasive a problem drone-smuggling was among its prison population. What the prison saw as one drone a week flying into restricted airspace became a realization that multiple drone flights per day were occurring in attempts to smuggle contraband onto prison grounds.
Operations extend far beyond police and military applications though, according to Fox.
During the California wildfires, rescue operations were halted thanks to unauthorized usage of drones by civilian operators who wanted to capture footage of the disaster. Their actions potentially risked the lives of not only rescue workers but of the citizens they were trying to save and the fire crews attempting to control the worst wildfire in the state’s history.
“This is one of the fascinating things about this industry as a whole,” says Fox. “It’s not that drones are bad and scary and we need to do something about them. If we’re going to embrace this technology as a society we need to be able to safely integrate it into society.”
From its initial deployments, WhiteFox was able to convince investors to funnel $12 million into the company to finance its expansion plans.
The extension of the company’s seed round included investors like JAM Capital, Stage Venture Partners, Okapi Venture Capital, Serra Ventures and OCA Ventures.
“WhiteFox’s customers are armed with a highly robust and scalable-for-deployment technology platform that addresses the increased threat of hostile drones and enables greater control of their airspace,” said Jeff Bocan, a partner at OKapi Venture Capital, in a statement. “Crucially, WhiteFox’s technology also offers customers the ability to protect against reckless drone use, while enabling “friendly” drones to fly freely — all without any human intervention.”
WhiteFox Defense Technologies, Inc., a drone airspace defense and security company, had their flagship product, DroneFox, participate as selected equipment by the U.S. Government for the prestigious Black Dart counter-UAS and Red Teaming exercise last month. It was the first time WhiteFox had performed testing at Black Dart, the largest counter-drone testing exercise in the world. After only a brief training, military personnel were able to operate DroneFox to effortlessly detect, identify and mitigate drone threats that were sent by a contracted Red Team. WhiteFox participated alongside several Department of Defense organizations and civilian companies after passing the rigorous nine-month down-selection process. As UAS pose a unique and complex threat that requires multiple layers of defense to comprehensively protect, public and private entities were encouraged to work together.
Representatives of the U.S. Government saw how WhiteFox engaged with the entities and helped evolve security modeling along with techniques, tactics and procedures. Through the DroneFox user interface, operators were able to perform threat assessments of individual unknown or hostile drones and “whitelist” their own “friendly” drones. The military personnel operating DroneFox then relayed this information to remote personnel performing various ground operations at the exercise.
The Department of Defense has hosted the invitation-only exercise since 2004 to test the capabilities of Department of Defense and civilian companies as unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) have become easier to own and use. More than 70 countries now use UAS for government or military applications, according to the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization.
FBI director Christopher Wray recently told a U.S. Senate panel that the threat from commercial drones “is steadily escalating” even as Congress gives agencies new tools to address these threats. The comments came just days after President Trump signed into law legislation that gives the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice new powers to detect and mitigate drones that pose a threat to government and other sensitive assets.
Luke Fox, CEO of WhiteFox Defense Technologies, said: “Drones are becoming an integral part of military forces worldwide. They are being used for research and development, in combat missions, as target decoys and reconnaissance. They are also playing a key role in security, search and rescue missions, communications and munitions.
“The demonstrations at Black Dark showed how our technology can support the military in field operations, protect their sensitive assets, and become a pillar of defense against drone threats, enabling soldiers to focus on their missions.”
About WhiteFox Defense Technologies
WhiteFox Defense Technologies, Inc. is a drone airspace security company headquartered in California. WhiteFox builds proprietary software and hardware that enables users and institutions to secure their airspace from drone threats. Pioneering the safe integration of drones into society, WhiteFox develops products that save lives, protect property, and safeguard privacy. WhiteFox’s mission is to keep the sky open for responsible pilots, advancing drone technology for the benefit of society. In a constantly changing industry, WhiteFox is pushing the boundaries of what security means.
To learn more about WhiteFox or schedule a demo, email
DroneFox is a SWaP-C optimized, portable solution which uses a novel method for tracking and taking temporary control of drones: a “master signal” which allows its operator to choose from a dynamic set of responses including land, return to launch, confiscate, and reroute.
Unlike jammers and other non-kinetic products, the DroneFox can select the exact signal it wants to manipulate, without interfering with any others signals—even other drones.
The core WhiteFox technology offers critical infrastructure and personnel the ability to protect against reckless drone use, while enabling “friendly” drones to fly freely and continue the work they’re doing to positively impact society.
About Black Dart 2018
Black Dart 2018 is an annual Department of Defense field demonstration of current and emergent counter-UAS technologies. The event is coordinated and overseen by the Joint Staff J8; Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization. The training event brings industry personnel, observers from allied nations and military participants from across the Department of Defense.
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