Echo Labs Wins “Quick Pitch” Contest with Digital Hybrid Microscope

By popular acclaim, San Diego-based Echo Laboratories founder Eugene Cho claimed top honors, and a $15,000 check, for his two-minute presentation last week in the 10th annual “Quick Pitch” competition, hosted by San Diego’s Tech Coast Angels.

Cho made his case for Revolve, a digital instrument created for biology labs that combines the features of an upright microscope (for viewing glass slides) and an inverted microscope (for viewing live samples in a petri dish). The hybrid microscope also replaces conventional microscope eyepieces with an iPad, enabling users to view digital, high-resolution images and send them to caregivers or save them in the cloud.

Cho, a former sales manager for Nikon Instruments and Vala Sciences, founded Echo Labs in 2014. He told the audience Revolve sales had generated $1.8 million in nine months.

Revolve hybrid microscope combines the features of an upright microscope and an inverted microscope. (Echo Labs image)

Revolve hybrid microscope combines the features of an upright microscope and an inverted microscope. (Echo Labs image)

The San Diego angels group also awarded a $10,000 cash prize for second place to Braykion, which has developed a wearable device for hospital caregivers. Braykion CEO Jon Wilensky said the smart wristband is intended to help prevent the spread of hospital-acquired infections by tracking whether doctors, nurses, and other caregivers are washing their hands before they interact with patients, who would also be wearing a Braykion wristband.

The angels group gave a $5,000 third-place award to Pelv-ice for “Mama Strut,” a soft brace for soft-tissue trauma patients, such as new mothers following delivery. Founder Jill Bigelow (who is not related to me) said the brace includes a removable heat or ice pack feature that provides increased mobility, mood, and birth satisfaction.

It was the first time the San Diego angels group has enabled the audience to choose the winners of its signature event, the John G. Watson Quick Pitch Competition, which attracted over 400 people to the Jacobs lecture hall at Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) headquarters. After each entrepreneur’s pitch, 10 judges scored the  presentation and offered their feedback from the stage. The audience used text messaging to vote for their favorite presentation.

“We wanted the judges to be influencers, but ultimately it’s the audience that votes on the winners,” said Millard Chan, a San Diego TCA executive board member.

It also was the first time the angels group awarded cash prizes for second- and third-place winners, according to Sergio Gurreri, the local TCA president.

San Diego TCA Quick Pitch Competition

Crowd Gathers for San Diego Tech Coast Angels “Quick Pitch” Competition

The event reflected the efforts of a new generation of angel investors that has moved onto the group’s executive board, Gurreri said. The San Diego group also hired its first executive director, Ashok Kamal, and has been working to improve its operations by restructuring and streamlining its due diligence process.

“We’re getting more investors, we’re getting a lot of good companies, a lot of good deals, and we’re now syndicating our deals nationwide,” Guerreri said. A record 140 startups applied to compete in this year’s Quick Pitch event as a result.

Other finalists that presented at the Quick Pitch competition:

CourseKey has developed technology that enables university professors and other teachers to use smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers to increase student participation. CourseKey’s software automatically tracks student attendance, shares key information, and sends pop quizzes to students’ devices.

Industry has developed career and social networking software focused specifically on jobs and workers in restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and hotels—known collectively as “the industry.”

—In Spirit is a craft cocktail startup that has invented technology that separates cold-pressed juices from spirits, bitters, and artisanal syrups in the same bottle—enabling consumers to mix their own cocktails.

Librede is an industrial biotech that uses yeast to produce cannabinoid compounds (the same natural chemicals found in marijuana) in fermentation tanks. CEO Jason Poulos said industrial biotechnology can produce cannabinoid compounds used in pharmaceuticals and “nutraceuticals” more efficiently than agricultural production.

ResortPass, an online booking platform that enables hotels and luxury resorts to sell one-day access to underutilized spas, pools, and other amenities.

Throtl, a search engine and online marketplace for auto enthusiasts. Throtl is targeting the 1.75 million car enthusiasts who spend $11.5 billion a year on used cars and specialized auto parts.

—Vor has developed a handheld device for rapidly detecting harmful bacteria in food. Founder Winston Chen said the test would enable suppliers to avoid costly recalls, and help U.S. consumers avoid 48 million illnesses, 3,000 deaths, and $15.6 billion in medical expenses annually.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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