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Thursday, April 13, 2017 - 12:04pm

Four clients of the Venture Creations Business Incubator at Rochester Institute of Technology have advanced to the final round of the 2017 Rochester Venture Challenge business competition. The four companies will compete against each other and a fifth Rochester, N.Y.-based company-one of which will receive $25,000 in cash when the winner is announced during the Celebration of Entrepreneurship Luncheon on April 27 at Hyatt Regency Hotel Rochester. Cash and prizes will also be presented to the runners-up. The competition is hosted by High Tech Rochester.

Empire Medicinals, founded by RIT alumnus Qiaosong George Zheng '15 (mechanical engineering technology), Chris Carter, Scott Valpey and Dr. Xinmin Zheng, is a biotech manufacturer looking to advance health and well-being by modernizing traditional herbal medicines through the cultivation, extraction and packaging of USDA organic, natural medicinal supplements. Their first product, Lingzhi Essence, is a dietary supplement made from Ganoderma Lucidum mushrooms, which reportedly addresses issues varying from immune system modulation to relieving fatigue.

Hz Innovations, founded by Greyson Watkins and co-founded by Nick Lamb '16 (electrical engineering) and Zach Baltzer '16 (microelectronic engineering), is the maker of Wavio, a sound recognition system that is connected to a home Wi-Fi system. When a doorbell rings, smoke alarm chimes, water faucet drips or dog barks, for example, the unit notifies the homeowner via smartphone, smart watch, tablet or laptop, and identifies the sound. According to developers, virtually any sound deemed important to the homeowner can be recorded and "memorized" by the system during installation.

Hz Innovations also won the 2015 Next Big Idea competition hosted by RIT's National Technical Institute for the Deaf and sponsored by ZVRS.

MicroEra Power, founded by Eleanor Rusling and James Grieve, is developing efficient stationary generator systems to provide businesses with reliable back-up power and cost-effective on-site power generation. The system replaces a diesel back-up generator with a hybrid power system operating on inexpensive natural gas or propane.

ThermApparel, founded by Bradley Dunn '15 (industrial design), Kurtis Kracke '15 (industrial design) and Crystal Mendoza Paulin '13 (biomedical engineering), is a lower cost, discreet, flexible garment that assists patients with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy or other conditions by regulating body temperature in hot weather.

The finalists were selected from a pool of 35 companies.

Another Venture creations client, Impact Earth, a zero-waste solutions company providing individuals, businesses and event planners with personalized training on sustainable practices, advanced to the semi-finals of the competition but were eliminated from the finals.

"RIT's Venture Creations business incubator congratulates these companies on their advancement to the Rochester Venture Challenge finals, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of these entrepreneurs, their employees and our incubator coaches," said Richard Notargiacomo, incubator director. "While we certainly look forward to seeing how our companies perform during the competition, we are even more excited about what the future holds for these innovative companies and the entrepreneurs who are leading the way."

Venture Creations was created in 2003 to establish an environment in which new and technologically innovative businesses could develop from the research conducted or sponsored by RIT, translating academic research into commercially viable high technology. The incubator was designed to provide services to incubating companies, facilitating the design, development, construction and operation of these companies for the purpose of advancing the educational and research missions of the university through the enhancement of faculty, student and staff involvement in high technology. It was also created to promote economic development and competitiveness in Monroe County and New York state by encouraging and facilitating the transfer of technology resources to the marketplace. Thirty-three companies have graduated from the incubator and together have created 466 jobs.

The Rochester Venture Challenge is a collaborative effort among community organizations High Tech Rochester, Digital Rochester, The Entrepreneurs Network, Excell Partners, Nazareth College School of Management, RIT and University of Rochester.

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