By: Josh Sloat
We’re very excited to announce the winners of our 2023 RISE Award. Originally called the Relief for Innovative Startup Endurance Award, this is an annual award that we launched during the pandemic to help innovators struggling to endure the financial hardships that ensued. And an award that has given us so much joy, we’ve continued to offer through the years beyond, but now as the Recognition of Innovative Startup Excellence Award. For the winner, we provide a free provisional patent application or $5,000 in service toward a non-provisional. And this year, as in several years past, we’ve also worked with impressive runners-up on awards customized based on need – oftentimes helping out with things like patentability and landscape searches.
Using a weighted matrix, our team scored applications based on the following criteria:
We can't say it enough, but the recipients are a truly gifted collection of entrepreneurs who will surely do great things. We couldn’t be more thrilled about the potential to be a part of their journey!
The first place, full $5,000 award goes to Absolute Concept Designs. Dustin Webb and his team at Absolute are developing a Hybrid Unmanned Aerial Underwater Vehicle (HUAUV) drone platform with the capacity to transition between air and water mediums and perform a number of different operations. At this time, we're unable to disclose anything more specific about the capabilities, but trust us – IT'S REALLY COOL! The platform would be utilized for various amphibious missions instead of sending a person into contested environments, resulting in saved lives of our Service Men and Women and increased security for the US and our Allies across the globe.
The ACD team has serious experience in this space, having previously worked with the Department of Defense on the design of armored vehicles, underbody blast mitigation technologies, air-to-air missiles, cruise and surface-to-air missiles, fighter jets, helicopters, and drones.
Our thought bubble. ACD's HUAUV is just the kind of impactful innovation, backed by the kind of DNA it takes to see through to market success. The development and protection of any technology that helps to keep US Service Men and Women out of unnecessary danger is a mission we’re proud to help facilitate in any capacity!!
Being chosen as the winner of this year's Rise Award will allow our business to accelerate the development of our HUAUV (Hybrid Unmanned Aerial Underwater Vehicle) Platform. With Aurora's generous support and vast experience in the patent industry, we know that our HUAUV Platform is going to be well safeguarded against potential competitors, thus giving us a strong position as we enter the drone market.
We’ve selected Rebel Cultures as our first runner-up, to receive a $2,500 patent services award. Rebel Cultures is on a mission to help the world overcome critical plant shortages by inventing a new, high-efficiency, lower cost method of plant production. Della Fetzer and her team are working on a lab-free method to efficiently propagate disease-free young plants. Their modular device stimulates the replication of thousands of young plants per cubic foot of production space!! This invention will allow plant producers in the forestry and agriculture industries to overcome their current barriers to producing enough young trees and crops to sustain our lives on earth.
Founding Rebel Cultures team members were leaders in commercial-scale laboratory plant production for years, where they learned the techniques, industry, and shortcomings of the current fastest way to make plants. Rebel Cultures is positioned to succeed because their team is leveraging knowledge and experience gained in the ornamental horticulture market to be the first prominent non-seed solution for the forestry industry amid a growing global seed shortage.
Our thought bubble. We’re very excited about Della's mission and think it’s the sort of innovation that’s not getting nearly the focus it deserves, given how important it is to literally sustaining all life on the planet. Her team also clearly has the internal expertise to really make a difference. This is the biggest piece missing from the environmental movement and something we’re happy to get behind and support however we can.
Developing a new way to produce plants isn't easy, but with support from our community, early adopters, and trusted allies like Aurora Consulting, it's happening. This RISE award is an honor and will allow Rebel Cultures to participate in the centuries-old tradition of securing IP to accelerate our positive impact across the greater agricultural industry.
We've selected Sand Baggage as our second runner-up, receiving a free patentability search and analysis. Sand Baggage founder Michael Wahlstrom designed a neoprene bag with a clever locking mechanism that uses beach sand for securing valuables while at the beach.
Michael's inventor story is an inspiring one about the power of self-bootstrapping when leveraging your own expertise. His company is 100% bootstrapped with zero debt, and he possesses all the core competencies required to take his product to market without the need to outsource a single function. Michael is a professional with over 20 years of experience in the apparel and accessories industry. He runs a creative design, cut, and sew consumer product studio specializing in handbags, leather goods, pet accessories, private label fashion apparel, and merchandising brand strategy. His background spans the entire product lifecycle starting with retail management, merchandising, wholesale, buying, product development, technical design, sourcing, manufacturing, construction, and finishing.
Our thought bubble. Michael's invention is a very practical solution to a real world problem – and a great example of the kinds of solutions that can be informed by experiences in our wonderful Northern Michigan backyard. We’re beach dwellers in our spare time and have very much felt the insecurity that comes with leaving valuables behind on the beach while swimming or doing other water sports that require leaving high dollar items behind and untethered. Beyond that, we love gritty entrepreneurs who roll up their sleeves and find ways to innovate – and really appreciate how Michael is self-bootstrapping and leveraging his own talent stack to bring this product to market. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of his innovation journey!
Winning the RISE Award and working with the team at Aurora has been the greatest gift for my startup. As a finalist in various business pitch competitions, they have helped structure an invention protection strategy that has allowed me to focus on other facets of my business.
We've selected Chefshare as this year's final runner-up, also receiving a free patentability search and analysis. Erin Eatough, PhD and her team at Chefshare are on a mission to help modern families reclaim their most precious non-renewable resource of time and bring peace, connection, and joy back into weeknight dinners. Hooray! They do this through a service that will offer heat and serve meals specifically designed for busy modern families, from local area chefs. The approach uses customer-provided preference data, paired with chef-prepared weekly menus to cluster and match meal orders in order to reduce the price point of private chef services, making it more accessible.
Erin is a mother, psychologist, and start-up tech executive. She founded Chefshare after becoming fed up with the time-starvation in her own life as a working mother. After auditing her time, nightly dinner was the most consistent, daily demand - both cognitively and physically - getting in the way of spending more quality time during the busy week with her kids. After hiring a private chef, she realized firsthand the huge return on the investment of outsourcing not just the food but the deciding, inventorying, planning, cooking, and cleaning for nightly dinners. She founded Chefshare to make outsourcing this part of modern life more affordable and accessible for other families too.
Our thought bubble. As parents who'd prefer to be playing with our kids or doing something else rather than cooking dinner, Chefshare really resonates with us. More broadly, so many households do not like or have enough time to cook (or learn to cook!) and if you can create a good meal that is healthy and affordable, that’s a big win. We also appreciate Erin's local, stepwise approach to scaling the business model. We're excited to be a part of Erin's innovation journey and can't wait to be one of her first customers!
I am incredibly grateful for Aurora and the RISE award! This award is enabling me to get the foundational legal searches done for patentability potential in using technology to improve the lives of busy working families by outsourcing all things related to weekly family meals. Ashley and Josh not only have instrumentally done legal work to support this business but have supported me with encouragement to build something amazing!
To learn more about past recipients and hear stories about their innovation journeys, check out our Patently Strategic Podcast episode where we interviewed winners from the 2021 RISE class.
Ashley Sloat, Ph.D.
Startups have a unique set of patent strategy needs - so let this blog be a resource to you as you embark on your patent strategy journey.