Stanford StartX Graduates Tackle Cell Therapy, Mental Health, Batteries

Nine startups graduating from the Fall 2011 session of StartX, the startup accelerator for Stanford students and affiliates, shared their wares with investors and journalists last night at AOL West in Palo Alto. Below are some quick summaries pulled from my notes, as well as videos from the live-stream webcast of the event. All of these companies are seeking seed funding of between $500,000 and $1.5 million. (Unfortunately, I can only tell you about eight of the companies—one of them asked to stay off the record.)

Pratik Verma, co-founder

If hospitals and insurers were allowed to aggregate clinical data about patients, it would create a huge data-mining opportunity that might lead to deeper insights about how diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s progress, AgeTak believes. The company has developed access control technology that allows healthcare organizations to pool this clinical data without violating privacy regulations.

Bell Biosystems
Caleb Bell, CEO and founder

Researchers have been working for decades on cell-based therapies intended to replace, rather than cure or repair, failing tissues in the body. The problem is tracking altered cells inside the body, making sure they get to the right place, and minimizing any side effects. Bell Biosystems says it has come up with ways to solve these problems using magnetized cell lines. This was by far the most mind-blowing presentation of the evening. I wish I could say more than that, but the startup is requesting an embargo on the details until it can publish them in a major scientific journal. For the same reason, there’s no video available of Bell’s presentation.

Mark Goldenson, CEO

Breakthrough is building a platform for mental health counseling through online video. The startup sees a big unaddressed market in the form of the 50 percent of Americans who have signs of depression or anxiety but don’t get treatment because of the cost, or because it’s hard to find local providers. The company’s Web-based interface includes multi-person video conferencing, screen sharing, and chat; behind the scenes, there’s a “practice management suite” that helps psychiatrists and other mental health professionals keep track of appointments, payments, and the like. Breakthrough plans to make the system available through contracts with major insurers.

Keaton Swett, co-founder

Mindsumo is a hybrid crowdsourcing platform and hiring forum for big companies looking to recruit the smartest college graduates. Companies post “challenges” on the site, and the solutions submitted by students help to round out their resumes when they apply for jobs. Seven companies are participating in Mindsumo’s private beta test, which has involved 500 Stanford students so far.

Smit’s Crew
Smita Saxena, co-founder

The premise behind Smit’s Crew is that bars and restaurants need better ways to make sure their best customers get served on busy nights—and better ways to bring back those same customers on slow nights. The startup has built a hybrid website/mobile service that allows users to invite their friends to join “crews” who can order ahead at their favorite bars. Once they arrive, bartenders validate and deliver their orders, and all payments are handled electronically. On slower nights, bars can bring crews back in by offering discounts.

TipTop Med
Michael Green, co-founder

TipTop Med is building an online marketplace for healthcare providers where prospective patients can get clear, up-front information about how much a particular visit or procedure will cost. The company’s service will schedule appointments and handle payments, with the startup deducting a transaction fee. The company plans to launch a private beta version of the site for Bay Area doctors later this month.

Vi Energy
Meghali Chopra and Sonali Chopra, co-founders

The lithium ion batteries found in most smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles are too heavy, too costly, and too slow to recharge, say the Chopra sisters. They say they’ve found a new, low-cost material for battery cathodes that could increase the capacity of today’s cells by 50 percent. They won’t say yet what this material is—a patent is pending—but it has something to do with a “spherical morphology” and a “conductive coating.” They’re raising money to expend into a larger laboratory and hope to begin licensing the technology to battery makers by 2013.

Willem Bult and Mariya Yao, co-founders

Zoku focuses on what happens after you collect a business card from someone you’ve met at a conference or meeting. Most often, of course, the answer is “nothing.” When you sign up for Zoku (which is currently in private beta testing, like most of the Fall 2011 StartX companies’ products), it scours the Web and social media for information about the activities of your contacts and surfaces relevant news. The idea is to give you a pretext to reach out to someone you met recently and cement the new relationship.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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