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Tech Startup: Afference’s Touch-Sensitive Prosthetics


WHERE: Boulder, CO



Initial lightbulb

CEO Jacob Segil collaborated on Afference’s underlying technology with co-founder and CSO Dustin Tyler, a professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. “We’ve been studying how to restore the sense of touch for people with amputation,” Segil says.

To that end, Tyler has implanted devices in amputee patients “that cuffs the nerve and it creates sensations in the brain of things that aren’t there,” Segil says. “It’s allowed these people to use prosthetic hands to feel the world again.”

That technology has won accolades worldwide and garnered coverage from “60 Minutes” and National Geographic. “What’s happened recently is that we were able to show how to do this with a wearable … you don’t want to go through a surgery in order to feel artificial sensations,” Segil says. “We put rings on your fingers, and we can use the same techniques to create artificial sensations in your hand.”

READ: Tech Startup — Skyhook Solar’s Solar-Powered Charging Stations for E-bikes and Electric Cars

In a nutshell

Afference aims to take its wearable neural interface, branded the Phantom, to the gaming and virtual reality markets as the concept of spatial computing takes hold.

Segil says the Phantom tackles “a similar but different problem” to the technology’s use in prosthetics. “In the prosthetic space, there’s a physical object you’re trying to manipulate … but you don’t have a hand,” he explains. “And then in the virtual world, you have a hand, but there’s no object.”

The common thread is neural haptics.

“What you’re doing is creating new information in the nervous system and you’re doing it in a way that the brain feels things that aren’t there,” Segil says. “We’re using electricity to create new information in the nerves that are running from your fingertip down to your brain.”

For example, a user could press a virtual button floating in space. “When my virtual hand touches that virtual button, I send new information in and I feel a click; it feels like something’s there when there isn’t anything.”

Not only can the Phantom replicate the feel of physical objects, it can approximate the feeling of heat and other sensations. “It feels like this sort of buzzing and tingling,” Segil says. “We can vary it in terms of its intensity and its temporal properties.”

The first public demonstration of the wearable was at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2024, where it won the “Best of Innovation” award. Afference is now working with early commercial partners to further hone the technology for applications in gaming and enterprise training.

Afference is assembling the first Phantoms in-house, but Segil says the company will need to find a manufacturing partner to scale in 2025.

The market

Segil sees spatial computing nearing an inflection point, not unlike personal computing in 1984 or touchscreen interfaces in 2007. “It’s only in the past 18 to 24 months where you could use your hands to touch digital interfaces,” he says. “We’re seeing high growth and lots of investment from the big tech players. We think we’re well-timed and well-positioned to support this growing industry.”


Afference raised a pre-seed round of $1.5 million led by Denver-based Konvoy Ventures in late 2022. The company also won a $250,000 Advanced Industries grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade in late 2023.

“When we were looking at the XR [extended reality] space, there was a clear trend that we’re moving away from controllers,” says Taylor Hurst, Konvoy principal. “When we met them and saw their vision around neurostimulation, it was clear: This is how your body works. Your body feels things through electrical signals within your nervous system. And so when we heard they were doing that, it was kind of a no-brainer for us. If there’s going to be a haptic solution that becomes widely adopted, this is the way it’ll have to be done because it is as close to reality as possible.”

Tech Startup: ThinkOrbital — Infrastructure For outer space


WHERE: Lafayette, CO





Co-founder and president Lee Rosen retired as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force in 2011 and embarked on a career in the commercial space sector. After a decade with SpaceX, Rosen came together with ThinkOrbital co-founders CEO Sebastian Asprella and CTO Vojtech Holub, Ph.D., to develop Holub’s idea for infrastructure in outer space.  

Now with about 10 employees, the company is based at a space-centric facility called Tycho Station in Lafayette. Rosen says he anticipates hiring in 2023 but doesn’t see recruitment as a hurdle: “Everyone wants to move to Colorado. It’s not like Los Angeles or Florida.” 


The legacy method of manufacturing orbital infrastructure is strictly terrestrial. “Everything is built on the ground,” Rosen says. “You’re constrained by the volume of the rocket. 

“It’s like trying to build the Empire State Building in New Jersey, putting it on a truck and taking it to New York City. It makes absolutely no sense. You want to build big infrastructure where you need it.” 

The bottom line: Rosen says ThinkOrbital could launch the equivalent volume of four International Space Stations on a single rocket in the form of its spherical ThinkPlatform. “If you imagine a soccer ball made up of pentagons and hexagons, and you were able to take those pentagons and hexagons and stack them flat, IKEA-style, you could get a lot more material in a much smaller volume,” he explains. “What we do on orbit is essentially re-assemble that soccer ball. We do that by taking that flat pack and using precision robotics and latches to align large pentagons and hexagons. That gives it its basic structure, and then the special sauce is actually welding that structure together to make it a rigid, pressurizable structure in space.” 

In the near term, the company is developing tools for welding, cutting and additive manufacturing in space. “Eventually, we’ll use that toolkit to build large infrastructure in space,” Rosen says. 

Case in point: ThinkPlatform 1 would be a module attached to an existing space station to prove the concept, then ThinkPlatform 2 would be a free-flying spacecraft, likely to demonstrate in-space manufacturing. “ThinkPlatform 3 is the future with a pressurized human-habitable volume for NASA or in-space manufacturing of space tourism,” Rosen says. 

Rosen says he expects demonstration missions of the company’s welding and cutting tools by mid-2024 before their market debut in 2025 or 2026, followed by ThinkPlatform 1 in 2027 or 2028. “It’s not a 20-year project,” Rosen says. 

Brandon Shelton, founder of Charlotte, North Carolina-based TFX Capital, says Rosen’s background with the Air Force and SpaceX was a big part of the decision to invest in ThinkOrbital. “We’re really looking for resilience, that ‘been there, done that’ sort of thing,” Shelton says. 

With the International Space Station set to be decommissioned in 2031, there’s a big opening. “You have to have options,” Shelton says. “What is the next step for having space in space?” 

READ: Tech Startup — Skyhook Solar: Solar-powered Charging Stations for E-bikes and Electric Cars


ThinkOrbital’s market includes government entities like NASA and Space Force as well as companies involved in space tourism, pharmaceutical manufacturing and orbital debris remediation. 

“Our near-term focus is on building this toolkit so you can actually do this type of construction in outer space,” Rosen says. “We want to be able to sell the toolkit first, whether it’s a welder, a cutter, or an inspection capability.” 


The company has received two grants totaling more than $800,000 of cash and incentives from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade as it raised a pre-seed funding round in 2023. 

Rosen says ThinkOrbital will subsequently pursue a seed round of about $9 million after its first demonstration missions.  


Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer’s Colorado, Frommer’s Montana & Wyoming, Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver’s Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]

Tech Startup — Skyhook Solar: Solar-powered Charging Stations for E-bikes and Electric Cars

Skyhook Solar  

WHERE: Carbondale


FOUNDED: 2019 



With a background in the Aspen hotel business, President and CEO Daniel Delano came out of a brief retirement to co-found Skyhook Solar with Chief Product Officer William Gilmore. He didn’t want to sit on the sidelines in the face of climate change. 

“I became increasingly concerned about climate change, and that led me to look at the solar energy space and ultimately to Skyhook Solar,” Delano says. “We created the Skyhook Solar Station, and initially that was used to charge EVs in prototype. A year later, we deployed the first EV-charging solar station at a public school.” 

That station is still operational, but Skyhook has since focused on e-bikes, working with PBSC Urban Solutions to supply solar stations for WE-cycle’s bike-sharing program in the Aspen area beginning in 2021. 

READ: Tech Startup — OneClock is Your Solution for a Tech-free Bedroom


Skyhook’s D4 Solar Stations (which sell for $28,000, minus a 30 percent federal tax credit) in Aspen and Basalt were “the first solar-powered e-bike docks anywhere,” Delano says. “The solar stations include a microcomputer and large batteries that allow us to charge when the sun’s not shining.” 

“In 2020, we introduced e-bikes into our fleet,” says Mirte Mallory, co-founder and executive director of WE-Cycle. “At that point in time, we were changing batteries back at the shop, and it became very apparent that it wasn’t scalable. It was not cost-effective or operationally efficient.” 

But Skyhook’s technology was eminently scalable. WE-Cycle now shares 420 bikes (153 of them e-bikes) at about 80 stations in the Roaring Fork Valley. For 2023, 10 of those stations are solar-powered Skyhook products from Aspen to Carbondale.  

“It went from impossible to scale and not value-aligned to possible to scale and mission-aligned,” Mallory says. “Our e-bikes are now 100 percent solar-powered by the Colorado sun.” 

Skyhook Solar currently assembles its products in Carbondale, but Delano says he is looking to open a manufacturing facility in Grand Junction. The company is in growth mode as it looks to supply municipalities as well as bike-sharing companies and

“We’re in a number of other cities now on a pilot basis, including Detroit and Montreal,” Delano says. “The transition is just beginning in bike-share to electric bikes, so we see Skyhook Solar being in many cities in the U.S. and Canada in the next couple years. We’re also looking at expansion into Europe.” 

Skyhook is releasing a new EV-charging station with a three-kilowatt solar array in 2023 that’s 50 percent larger than the D4 Solar Station. 

“The EV transition is absolutely necessary if we’re going to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, and one of the necessities of that transition is the infrastructure,” Delano says. “In many places, it may be easy to add a plug or two to a parking lot to charge EVs, but in other places, it’s very expensive to connect to the grid if you have to dig trenches across sidewalks and streets.” 

He also notes that the stations are great for remote areas without electrical service, or where connection costs are high, and installation is notably user-friendly. “It deploys in an hour and it can be moved, so it has flexibility if you need to move it.” 


“We haven’t gotten to the point where EVs are dominant in the market, but California and New York have fairly strict laws that mean EV sales will be phased into 100 percent by law by 2035,” Delano says. “There is a need to convert from gas-powered transportation to electric, and there’s a need for infrastructure. It’s a matter of all hands on deck now.” 


Delano says Skyhook has raised funds from friends, family and angel investors. The company began pursuing a seed round of $2.5 million when it graduated from the Endless Frontier Labs program at the Sterns School of Business at New York University in May.  

Tech Startup — OneClock is Your Solution for a Tech-free Bedroom






“My wife and I committed to getting our phones out of the bedroom,” he says of the inspiration for OneClock. “We’d been using them, keeping them plugged in on our nightstands, using them as our alarm clock. We were both ready to commit to trying to get better sleep.” 

After failing to find an alarm clock that he wanted, Kripke teamed with co-founder Lon McGowan, a serial entrepreneur with manufacturing experience, and started working on a design in earnest in 2020, enlisting the help of Denver-based Link Product Development in the process. 

OneClock launched the $299 product on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms in early 2021. The company shipped about 4,000 clocks to customers in 30 countries as a result, then pivoted to a direct-to-consumer model.

READ — Tech Startup: Maybell Quantum and The Next Generation of Quantum Computing


OneClock takes a science-based approach to rousing its users from slumber. “It’s an analog clock that wakes you up with really nice music that is designed to help you create a tech-free bedroom,” Kripke says.

The company works with a contract manufacturer in China to make the OneClock. “We tried everything we could to make them here in the States,” says Kripke. “It just wasn’t possible for us.”

The company hires artists to create original music for the clock. Multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez, a member of the band The War on Drugs, composed the music on the first OneClocks, and Captain Planet is working on forthcoming tracks for the product. “His music is completed and we’re just finalizing the tool that will allow you to change the music on your clock,” Kripke says.

Marc Hanchak of Link Product Development (now part of ERI Group) helped design the OneClock — and is now a dedicated user. “Smart design for manufacturing had to marry with the unique sound science behind OneClock to culminate in something that everyone would want on their bedside table,” Hanchak says of the design.

As a user, his first experience sold him on the product: “I recall soft music building slowly in my dream, then this uninterrupted transition from sleep to being awake that I wasn’t even aware of. I opened my eyes and said to myself, ‘Wow, now that’s the right way to wake up.’”


While the sun all but set on the alarm clock market with the advent of the smartphone, a growing backlash to always-on connectivity is fueling demand for OneClock, says Kripke.

“Millennials are starting to bounce the other direction, because I think they see the negative effects of being on their phones all the time,” he notes. “I really believe that sleep and our bedrooms are going to become the only real place to recover and recharge from a day that’s increasingly packed with technology and screens.”


The company raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter and Indiegogo to launch the product in 2021. Kripke says he is “open to conversations” with outside investors. “We were approached recently by a VC firm in New York that liked our business just because it’s of the moment, with people trying to cut down on their tech addictions,” he adds.


Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer’s Colorado, Frommer’s Montana & Wyoming, Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver’s Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]

Tech Startup — Maybell Quantum and The Next Generation of Quantum Computing

Maybell Quantum


FOUNDED: 2021 



Co-founder and CEO Corban Tillemann-Dick spent a decade with Boston Consulting Group before he launched Maybell Quantum. The gig encompassed quantum computing — the emerging technology that could make the status quo look like an abacus — and inspired the startup. 

“Every computer that we rely on for everything today, from a wristwatch to a cell phone to the most powerful supercomputers in the world, they’ve got the same architecture at their core,” Tillemann-Dick says. “And that architecture is a whole bunch of wires that are either charged or not charged. Depending on their charge state, they’re either a one or a zero in a binary system.” 

In a quantum computer, however, every quantum bit—or qubit—isn’t a wire, but the probability of a one or a zero. That means that “quantum computers scale exponentially where classical computers scale linearly,” Tillemann-Dick says. “If you go from one to 20 bits in a classical computer, you’ve gone from one to 20 bits of computing power. If you go from one to 20 qubits, you’ve gone from one qubit of computing power to two to the twentieth power—so over a million qubits of computing power.”  

With 14 employees “and growing quickly,” Maybell came out of stealth mode in March 2022 and will be shipping its first products by the end of the year. 

Tillemann-Dick envisions massive disruption in the near future. “By the end of the decade, we’re going to have a whole lot of apps that feel fundamentally different,” he says. “In our lifetime, I fully expect that we will go to the doctor and they will take a sample and print real-time, personalized medicine based on what a quantum computer says is wrong with you.” 

READ — Top Company 2022: Technology, Software & Telecommunications


With quantum computing in its infancy, there are numerous ways to create a qubit, but no clear industry standard — yet. “Today a quantum computer is generally a room-sized system: a few hundred square feet that’s a tangle of tubes and wires and stuff like that,” Tillemann-Dick says.  

Maybell’s Icebox is a pair of 19-inch racks that supports three times the qubits in about 10% of the space of existing systems. “We have some customers who have said, ‘We wanted to do this for a long time, but we just couldn’t because our lab didn’t have room for one of those systems,’” Tillemann-Dick says. 

Investor Dan Caruso notes, “Maybell is reinventing quantum cryogenics for the first time since the 1980s. It is a game changer for America’s leadership in quantum hardware, and for scalable quantum globally.” 

The company’s domestic supply chain and Denver-based manufacturing are particularly attractive to government customers, Tillemann-Dick adds. “Quantum is not a five- or 10-year technology, it’s a 50- or 100-year technology, and China is investing really heavily right now. We really can’t afford to have China define the infrastructure for quantum—we need to make sure that’s done domestically.” 


Quantum computing could revolutionize molecular modeling, materials science, risk analytics, weather modeling and other areas. “There are some problems that are literally impossible for a classical computer to solve that become trivial for a quantum computer of sufficient size to solve,” Tillemann-Dick says. 

Maybell’s customer base is “a mixture between academics, government labs and the big commercial players,” he says. “We are trending above our best-case scenarios in terms of the interest we’ve generated.”


After closing a seed round in 2021, Maybell is “raising another round now to accelerate some of our innovations and to scale up manufacturing because of demand,” Tillemann-Dick says, noting that the company is nothing like a software startup. “Every single [system] we sell is profitable, and we get a 50% down payment.”


Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer’s Colorado, Frommer’s Montana & Wyoming, Frommer’s Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver’s Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]

Denver’s interviewIA Drives Interviews with Data


Initial Lightbulb:

Founder and CEO Joe Thurman has seen the pain points involved with job interviews firsthand.

Through his 15-year career in human resources, Thurman came to realize the interviewing process was fundamentally broken at most companies. “This largely unmanaged yet expensive process that is interviewing is where we spent a lot of time,” he says, “There was more need there than you can deliver as a consultancy, so there was always a vision or a thought of one day solving this problem at scale to help improve decision quality for companies across the board.”

Now nine employees, interviewIA was founded in mid-2020. “There’s a lot of need,” Thurman says. “There’s a big talent issue right now.”

In a Nutshell:

Launched in early 2021, interviewIA’s platform helps bring data-driven order to the often chaotic interviewing process.

“Most companies are trying to manage this in spreadsheets and documents,” Thurman says. “We are basically building a SaaS [software as a service] platform that helps manage the interview process for the business and for talent. The whole focus is: Can we make interviewing more effective and more equitable?”

Minimizing the bias of interviewers is a focal point, Thurman says. “You will spend hours and dollars on this high-stakes decision, so we look for both qualitative and quantitative data around interviews, interview processes, interviewer behavior to ultimately drive and improve the process of hiring across an organization.”

He adds, “If you’re an employer who treats people equitably, you’re in better position for creating diversity.”

The interviewIA platform offers templates for interviews, 1,500 pre-loaded questions, and an automated scorecard to rigorously rank candidates. “It’s all around question structure,” Thurman explains. “We think of questions as a prompt, and that prompt should have a framework around what you intend to measure and how you intend to quantify the responses to that question.”

The end result is interviewIA’s Smart Scorecard to “create and track data from every response,” Thurman says. “If you have 10 candidates, you’ll start to see an overall score, an ability score, and alignment score, and a growth-based score for every candidate you’ve interviewed.”

The Interviewia Team

The platform has about 150 customers of all sizes. The focus is on higher-skill jobs; many clients are in health care or tech, or any industry’s sales departments, Thurman says. “The largest customer is a 35,000-employee company,” he says. “Depending on team size and the scale of hiring, customers have had up to $200,000 in savings for the first nine months of usage.”

The newly launched freemium model elevates to paid versions for individuals ($6 per month), teams ($13.49 per user per month) as well as enterprises (price varies). Paid features include tracking interviewers’ demographics and adherence to processes as well as tools for collaboration and onboarding. “Our goal [in 2022] is to truly scale,” Thurman says. “Now we’re focused more on teams within a client.”

Case studies of interviewIA users show impressive results. One mid-sized health-care company reduced turnover by 25 percent in six months. Another, a 1,000-employee growth-stage company, immediately hired top-performing salespeople with the help of the platform.

Andreya Blake, director of human resources for Pacific Medical Data Solutions in Greenwood Village, says interviewIA’s platform has “helped immensely” with the 120-employee company’s interviewing procedures since 2019.

“When it came to interviewing, our hiring managers were all over the place — there was no standardization whatsoever,” Blake says. “With interviewIA, it’s definitely standardized all of that and given us a single platform we can go into for a structured interview process.”

The Market:

Fortune Business Insights forecasts the global market for talent intelligence software will grow from $7 billion in 2021 to $13.2 billion in 2028. “There is an emergence of people-management tools that are built for business,” Thurman says.


After interviewIA closed on $2.8 million of funding to date, Thurman says the company is aiming to raise a second seed round in 2022.

Tech Startup: BioIntelliSense

Biobutton Person Image For Media Without Logo

Where: Golden
Founded: 2018

Initial Lightbulb: 

A cardiothoracic surgeon turned entrepreneur, Dr. James Mault got involved in medical technology startups that were acquired by Microsoft and Qualcomm in the last 15 years. 

Jim Mault Headshot
Dr. James Mault

Mault served as chief medical officer for both companies, working with customers largely in the wearables space. That introduced Mault to a Silicon Valley startup called Striiv and its founder, Dave Wang, and the company’s technology made a strong impression on him. “It was superior to anything in that space,” Mault says.  

As Striiv hit a rough patch, Mault left Qualcomm to partner with Wang, buy Striiv’s intellectual property, and hire the staff for a new medtech startup in BioIntelliSense. “I had a very clear vision of creating a medical-grade wearable for monitoring sick people, which is different from a consumer wearable for fitness and exercise,” Mault says. “I was confident that Dave and the team he had built would be able to fast-track what I had in mind for BioIntelliSense.” 

BioIntelliSense employs about 100 people who are split between the Golden headquarters and a development office in Redwood City, California. Mault serves as CEO; Wang is the company’s CTO.

 In a Nutshell: 

“This is pretty simple,” Mault says. “We have the ability to monitor and measure all sorts of things when you’re in the hospital or in the doctor’s office, but the moment you leave the hospital, at home we basically have no real information to monitor you and try to see something that might be a problem. So people quietly start developing health problems and complications without anybody knowing it until it becomes a crisis and a trip to the emergency room.” 

BioIntelliSense’s “virtual care” products — the BioButton and BioSticker — automatically monitor a patient’s vital signs remotely to prevent this series of events from playing out. “It’s measuring 20 different physiologic and biometric parameters and then transmitting that data to the cloud and then to a doctor or hospital or nurse or someone trying to take care of you.” 

While it’s seamless for the user, product development was no small feat. “It’s a different gig being a medical device company versus a consumer products company,” Mault says. “It’s harder — there are no and, ors or buts about it.” 

Namely, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval is required — which BioIntelliSense earned for its first product, the BioSticker, in late 2019. “It’s literally like putting on a Band-Aid,” Mault says. After that, the BioSticker allows for 30 days of remote monitoring of the wearer’s vital signs. Released in early 2021, the BioButton does the same thing for 60 days. 

BioIntelliSense works with contract manufacturers in Asia for production. Medicare and other insurers reimburse health-care providers for the cost of BioIntelliSense’s technology. 

“I think the technology is frankly game-changing,” says Dr. Jacob Keeperman of Renown Health in Reno, Nevada.  “It is by far the smallest, most comprehensive in the wearables space with medically validated data you can use to really shape patient care.” 

As executive medical director of the Renown Transfer and Operations Center, Keeperman oversees the new “traffic control center for health care,” providing logistical support to providers in 27 counties. After a 60-day pilot with BioIntellisense in late 2021, he says, “The plan is to deploy it on all patients at our hospitals.” 

The Market: 

Telehealth has been on the rise for years, but it exploded with the arrival of COVID-19. Mault says the market of eligible patients “is estimated at well over $30 billion,” noting that BioIntelliSense has deals in the pipeline with “every major hospital system and health-care provider in the U.S.” as well as the world’s top two insurance companies. 

“It’s a lot cheaper if you deliver care to the individual rather than the individual having to come to a hospital facility,” Mault says. “It’s a pretty exciting time to be in the pole position with a technology solution that can serve this new opportunity.” 


BioIntelliSense raised $25 million in a Series A round in 2019, followed by a $45 million Series B that closed in August 2021. “This is a very hot sector,” Mault says. “We’ll have a lot of opportunities for a significant transaction, probably in 2022.” 

This Boulder tech startup is the solution to a real life problem

Tangram Vision

Where: Boulder
Founded: 2020

Initial Lightbulb

 Co-founders Brandon Minor and Adam Rodnitzky worked together at Boulder-based Occipital–a provider of computer vision technology–before starting Tangram Vision. 

At Occipital, the pair recognized integration issues with users of the company’s sensors. Robotics companies “were having a hard time putting our technology into their products,” Minor says. “It wasn’t just Occipital’s sensors that these companies were having problems with, it was every sensor on their system. That’s what Tangram came out of: trying to solve this real sensor integration problem, this pain, for all of these companies.”

Minor and Rodnitzky teamed in 2020 to develop a platform to ease this pain. Named for the children’s puzzle with seven polygons that combine to form a square, Tangram Vision currently has five employees. “I got the name because you can do a lot of things with sensors,” Minor says, “but at the end of the day, it’s all a distinct set of parts.” 

In a Nutshell

Tangram Vision launched its software platform in June 2021. “What we’re shipping right now is an improved calibration experience that can cut a process that’s currently two days into a couple hours, or a process that’s currently a couple hours into a couple minutes,” Minor says. “This is the seed for the platform. We’re going to go into more sophisticated data pipelining and plug-and-play sensor systems. We’re not offering any of the sensors directly, but we’re augmenting what’s already there on these platforms.”

Some companies spend a year or more working to integrate sensors, Rodnitzky adds. “Every sensor manufacturer approaches their software differently; there really is no standard that they work from,” he says. “It’s hard to keep them running optimally and properly, so we’re building software that will monitor them, basically correct them, and – at the very least – let you know when you need to correct them so everything’s working as it should.”

Tangram’s platform can act as “a foundational layer” in robotic systems, says Alex Iskold of 2048 Ventures, the New York-based lead investor in the startup’s pre-seed round in late 2020. 

“You can effectively normalize the data that goes into the brain of any robot,” he notes. “When you think about the world of APIs and the world of data, having standards is critical.”

Minor was one of the founders of Colorado Robotics, a trade group “working to bring together robotics companies on the Front Range,” he says. “Our activity got a little slow during COVID, but we’ll probably be starting things up here soon again. There’s a lot of amazing people doing amazing stuff.”

The Market

Robotics and transportation are the two key markets. “Our earliest partners are all in service robotics,” Rodnitzky says.

In the longer term, autonomous vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) represent an even larger market, he adds. “All those sensors also need calibration and integration,” Rodnitzky says. “Closing a deal with GM, who knows how long that takes, but that’s the holy grail.”

Smart cities are another opportunity. “The more data you want, the more sensors you’ll have,” Minor says. “We’ve had some inbound interest from smart city companies that have the same problem roboticists do.”


Tangram Vision closed on $1.5 million in pre-seed funding in late 2020. The round was led by 2048 Ventures with Trucks Venture Capital and Dynamo Ventures, but the fledgling company’s founders aren’t pursuing more outside investment for the time being. “We will eventually, but we really don’t need to in the near term,” Rodnitzky says.

A tablet for playing board games

The Last Gameboard

Where: Denver
Founded: January, 2019

Initial Lightbulb: Co-founder and CEO Shail Mehta says her lifetime love of gaming stems from her family immigrating to the U.S. from India in the 1990s.

In her new home of Manhattan, Kansas, “No one looked like me, no one spoke like me.”

Through board games, she found a community. “We just want to connect,” she says. “Gaming is this great equalizer where you’re just sitting down and you’re playing together. Its something thats collaborative and constructive and something that breaks down preconceived notions. I learned English that way; I made friends that way.”

While later working in finance in New York, Mehta says she posed a question to her husband and co-founder, Tim Schukar: “Why cant I play any game that I want to?”

The couple started brainstorming and came up with an idea for a startup to make touchscreen-based hardware that could replicate just about any gameboard, from chess to Monopoly to role-playing games.

After Mehta and Schukar relocated to Colorado in 2015, a 2018 Kickstarter campaign proved there was a market for the idea. The campaign target was $100,000. “We hit this in 20 hours,” Mehta says. “We currently have an 8,000-person waiting list.”

The company now has 15 employees; Schukar serves as COO.

In a Nutshell: The company aims to change the game for board games with an internet-ready, touchscreen tablet that can be used for just about any game. Game pieces can be used, multiple Gameboards can be connected into a single unit, and people all over the world can play together online.

“It took a year and a half for R&D and prototyping to develop something that people wanted to buy and we could realistically make and deliver in a consumer product,” Mehta says.

Dubbed Gameboard, the companys patented flagship product is slated to start shipping to customers by late 2021. Compared to an iPads “10 or 20 touch points,” the 16” by 16” tablet has unlimited touch points, Mehta says, and a lightning-fast refresh rate. “It’s truly how you are using your hands in real life how you are using them on the surface of Gameboard,” she adds. “It’s truly a physical/digital experience.”

The ability “to play with anyone anywhere” is a key feature. In Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), “A game is only as good as your Dungeon Master,” Mehta notes – and thats a problem if your Dungeon Master lives hundreds of miles away.

Patented in 2020 and slated to be manufactured this summer in China, Gameboard is priced at $699, with a $15 monthly subscription fee for access to its library of games.

“Anyone technically can build a game for Gameboard,” Mehta says. “We have onboarded about 75 game creators and developers. They range from triple-A studios and really large games to indie developers.”

It’s all created a lot of anticipation. As Kickstarter supporter Ibero70 commented in early 2021: “I am salivating, and getting visions of playing it. The reflective surface is a bit of a nuisance, but the vibrant colors look great.”

Mehta credits her parents, noting that her father owns an Indian grocery store in Boulder. “Nothing teaches you about entrepreneurship like being the child of immigrant parents,” she says. “Sink or swim – thats what it is!”

The Market: Sales of digital and analog tabletop games totaled about $20 billion in 2020. “I think COVID has shed light on the power of this market, because usually people play analog and they’ve been driven online for these experiences,” Mehta says, noting that D&D alone has 59 million players worldwide, and nearly half of them are women.

Financing: Beyond the successful 2018 Kickstarter campaign, The Last Gameboard closed on $4 million in venture financing in spring 2021 after two pre-seed rounds

Tech Startup: BurstIQ tackles issues with health data


Where: Denver
Founded: 2015

Initial Lightbulb: After working together at other data-centric companies, Frank Ricotta and Brian Jackson co-founded BurstIQ to tackle issues with health data.

“We felt there was this whole new wave of information-sharing and a whole new access model that we were on the verge of entering into with health around precision medicine, IoT, and even machine intelligence,” Ricotta says.

“Everyone wanted to just keep the data and not share the data,” Jackson says. “There was a lot out there, and over the last few years, almost too much data out there.”

With the right tools, the data could be leveraged to improve treatment and outcomes, he adds. “How do we put that data back in the patient’s hands?”

Ricotta and Jackson, the 20-employee company’s respective CEO and president/COO, anticipate hiring 20 more employees in 2020.

In a Nutshell: Launched in mid-2017, BurstIQ’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform aims to empower patients, health care providers and researchers by better leveraging and sharing data. Pricing is based on a traditional SaaS model, with base and transactional fees.

Security is a HIPAA-mandated priority, and BurstIQ leverages blockchain to balance data privacy with approved access. “It was a little difficult at first for some of the hospitals and health-care providers to understand it,” Jackson says. “As we move forward, people understand that this technology really does have a benefit.”

Ricotta points to the ability to add a “trust layer” to people’s health information and allow them to share it as they see fit, with doctors, researchers and even friends. “It allows lots of disparate parties to come together and collaborate, and still understand who owns what,” he says.

He cites “70 amazing projects on the platform,” and notes, “If you want to build a digital app and you want to use blockchain, I think we’ve got the best platform to do that. You can do that for free.” For example, Salt Lake City-based Empiric Health has helped 100 hospitals reduce costs in surgical workflow with the help of BurstIQ’s platform.

Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, BurstIQ launched Research Foundry in mid-March 2020. “When COVID came around it was, ‘How do we share this data?’” Jackson says. “That’s the premise of what we started the company around.”

Research Foundry “is an acceleration of our go-to-market plan with a broader data-sharing network,” says Ricotta, calling it a coalition of “researchers, public health officials, organizations both public and private, and innovators.”

With about 300 active participants, “We started seeing this cool collaborative ecosystem emerge between the innovators and researchers,” he adds. “It’s been a positive experience in this terrible pandemic we’re living through.”

In May, BurstIQ announced a collaboration with Hitachi Vantara and the American Heart Association (AHA) focused on the relationships between COVID-19 and other health conditions.

Wesley Wiggins, practice principal with Hitachi Vantara, says the goal is to “bring researchers who are looking to solve this problem to the data,” including imaging data from COVID-19 patients.

“Part of it is bringing the data itself to a virtual cloud environment through the [AHA’s] Precision Medicine Platform where researchers can log into,” Wiggins says. “They can be anywhere in the world, they can use this cloud environment that’s integrated with BurstIQ’s Research Foundry and work together in real time.”

Ricotta says the pandemic has catalyzed acceptance of collaboration around private health data. “People are a lot more comfortable in the virtual space, a lot more comfortable trying different access models,” he says. “The whole topic of security and privacy is going to take center stage now as we go into the next phase with all these jurisdictions, even here in the United States, talking about immunity passes and digital identities that validate your COVID status.”

The Market: Health IT is a global market of “several trillion dollars,” Ricotta says, noting that blockchain solutions could represent more than $4 billion of that by 2025. “When you really open up, it also extends into biotech and pharma as well as supply chain on the natural segment, as well as health and wellness tech.”

Financing: After a $250,000 seed round from First Mile Ventures, BurstIQ closed on a $5.5 million round led by Elsewhere Partners of Austin, Texas, in September 2019. “We pretty much have bootstrapped our company,” Jackson says.