FREDsense Technologies lands coveted spot at Silicon Valley startup accelerator
A startup in Calgary is making waves—by testing waves.
FREDsense Technologies is a new Alberta-based business that engineers organisms to test water quality. The founders came up with a “bio-sensor” technology to engineer bacteria and put them in containers, much like USB sticks, which can be submerged into water to test for a wide variety of contaminants.
This technology will be useful for the oil and gas industry, as well as the agriculture industry. Its founders are all students or recent alumni of the University of Calgary.
Because this new technology has the potential to have a big impact, FREDsense was one of seven startups selected from a pool of 400 applicants from around the world to participate in an accelerator program for new businesses in Mountain View, California.
Co-founders David Lloyd, Chief Operating Officer, and Emily Hicks, CEO, are at Singularity University, which runs this program specifically for startups coming up with disruptive technology to solve big world problems.
“It’s pretty fantastic. I’m still realizing that we’re here, this is happening, right in the heart of Silicon Valley,” Lloyd said.
“We’re suffering from huge impostor syndrome. Looking around seeing the talent and huge ideas in other teams is unreal. We’re also the only Canadians here, and Emily is the only woman here.”
Lloyd and Hicks participated in ATB’s Alberta BoostR program, a rewards-based crowdfunding platform, to help raise some money for their startup. After they did this, they realized they needed to accelerate even more. That’s where the program they’re now participating in came in.
“It’s a 10 week experience, you get $100,000 for your company, and every week we’re learning rapidly how to run our business better. We’re being introduced to potential customers and investors. It’s been an awesome experience,” Lloyd said.
Alberta BoostR was important for Lloyd and Hicks because they needed a way to fund prototypes of their product. They needed to show potential customers and investors that their technology really works, and Alberta BoostR helped to provide them with some funding to do that.
“When I heard about Alberta BoostR, I thought it was an incredibly cool way we could have impact and get people involved in what we’re doing at the same time. We decided to give it a go, even though in some ways, we’re really not the ideal fit when it came to rewards-based crowd funding,” Lloyd said.
“It’s one of the big reasons we’re here today in California and having this opportunity.”
Since Alberta BoostR is a rewards-based crowdfunding initiative, Lloyd and Hicks had to come up with, well, rewards. They ended up giving out water bottles, Lloyd said, since it fit the theme of “testing what’s in your water.” They also gave out t-shirts and hoodies. Finally, they gave away experiences. First, the put on a biology art day, where kids painted pictures with bacteria that glowed in the dark. Then they hosted a “be a synthetic biologist for a day” experience.
Once they’re back in Alberta, Lloyd and Hicks plan to really get the business up and running by getting their products to market.
“And we want to do that in Alberta. We believe in the province and the people and the amazing talents we have, and that we can make an impact from there on the rest of the world,” Lloyd said.
The company’s first product, FRED (Field-Ready Electrochemical Detector), uses a genetically modified bacteria to detect multiple water-borne contaminants in two simple steps. A cartridge holding the ‘sensing’ bacteria and chemicals needed to run the test is placed in a detector with the water being tested. After one to two minutes the detector sends the results via Wi-Fi, 3G, or USB connection, to your device.
Video Source: http://singularityhub.com/2015/10/02/taking-flight-meet-the-startups-of-the-2015-inaugural-su-labs-accelerator/