Feedback: June 2015

by Robert Brannen, Ph.D.; Wendy Jameson; Alberto Osio

Question: Arizona has been recognized as a hotbed for startups, and technology is one of the hottest sectors. There are a number of accelerator and awards competitions that recognize technology startups. What has been the result, to your company, of winning one or more of these competitions?

Robert-BrannenRobert Brannen, Ph.D.
Agave Semiconductor
Sector: Technology

Arizona has a lot of promising tech startups that are developing exciting new technologies, and our state has a lot of wonderful things going for it that make it a great place to start a new company. We feel very fortunate to be one of the winners of the Arizona Innovation Challenge. We were able to use the award to bring on the engineering resources that were required to finish our early-stage product development.

An even greater benefit has been the connections made through the Arizona Commerce Authority. The mentoring provided through the Venture Ready program has been tremendous; and the relationships that were developed with the local business leaders and volunteers are still ongoing.

Getting connected with Arizona’s startup ecosystem has been the best part of participating. The advice they provide is invaluable.

Robert Brannen, Ph.D., founded Agave Semiconductor to make integrated circuits that improve the energy efficiency of electric motors. He has spent 15 years in the semiconductor industry. He holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska. Dr. Brannen currently holds 12 United States patents in the areas of analog circuit design and motor control.


Wendy-JamesonWendy Jameson
Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Sector: Technology

Colnatec was the first Valley company to win the Arizona Commerce Authority Innovation Challenge Grant in 2011. Funding assisted growth and product development, but we also benefited through exposure to new connections and opportunities. The press we got introduced us to funding sources and demonstrated that our tech was credible, and the ACA has been exceptional at keeping us connected to the local tech community.

Launching a semiconductor equipment startup during the recession was exceptionally difficult — funding sources were limited for even the most promising tech projects, especially one with heavy data requirements and asset needs.

The ACA funds then were critical in helping us get products commercially ready, finding test labs to generate data required, and pushing them out to the 40-plus countries where we export. We are now positioned to take the lead in next-generation equipment for making today’s hottest electronics, from cell phones to solar cells and more.

Without funding like the ACA provides, novel scientific research and the products developed as a result cannot reach commercialization. We’re very thankful for our opportunity!

Wendy Jameson is CEO and co-founder of Colnatec, a nanotechnology sensor manufacturer in Gilbert. She has been recognized as a “Champion of Change” by the White House and was named a “Tech Titan” by the Phoenix Business Journal. She serves on several boards and is an avid promoter of STEM education.


Alberto-OsioAlberto Osio
Chief Executive Officer
Yolia Health
Sector: Biosciences

Winning the 2013 Arizona Innovation Challenge and the Innovator of the Year Award was a hard task. However, these awards have supported Yolia to achieve national and international recognition. Since then, we have been invited to present at several investor conferences and establish world-class strategic partnerships. One of our most recent R&D partnerships was with The Tsubota-Lab in Japan. This partnership will allow us to further develop both our presbyopia and myopia vision correction technologies and to export our products to Asia.

Being successful is not easy; it requires a lot of teamwork. This would not be possible without the incredible relationships Yolia has locally in Arizona. In our case, both BioAccel and the Arizona Commerce Authority have been the true springboard Yolia needed to accelerate its growth. We know success is not a journey but a destination, therefore we continue to work harder to achieve our goal to develop non-invasive vision correction technologies.

Alberto Osio first conceived of Yolia while earning an MBA at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. While still a student, he raised more than $1 million in seed capital for his firm, Yolia Health, an ophthalmic bio-med company that developed the first non-invasive treatment to correct vision problems like presbyopia or vision fatigue. Osio was recently named among Mexico’s Top 10 Entrepreneurs by CNN Expansion and, in Arizona, Innovator of the Year at the 2013 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation.

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