25 - 30 January 2025
San Francisco, California, US

Past SPIE Startup Challenge winners

Meet the entrepreneurs who have successfully pitched their businesses

Winning SPIE Startup Challenge

The SPIE Startup Challenge has taken place annually for over a decade. This competitive event invites new entrepreneurs to pitch their light-based technology business plans to a team of business development experts and investors.

A man pitches his business pan at the SPIE Startup Challenge

2023 Winners

Swave Photonics

Holographic eXtended Reality chips based on proprietary diffractive photonics technology, winner of the $10,000 top prize.

QART Medical

Utilizing biophotonics and data for 3D analysis of sperm cells during IVF, received $5,000 for second place.


Novel bioprinting technology that repairs in vivo human tissue during surgery, came in third and won $2,500.

During a ceremony at SPIE Photonics West, the 2023 winners of the 13th annual SPIE Startup Challenge were announced. 

All cash prizes are provided by SPIE Startup Challenge Founding Partner Jenoptik.

View past winners

Swave Photonics
 — with their Holographic eXtended Reality chips based on proprietary diffractive photonics technology — was announced the winner of the $10,000 top prize.

2nd Place: 
QART Medical, utilizing biophotonics and data for 3D analysis of sperm cells during IVF, received $5,000 for second place.

3rd Place: 
PhosPrint came in third, winning $2,500, with their novel bioprinting technology that repairs in vivo human tissue during surgery.

All cash prizes are provided by SPIE Startup Challenge Founding Partner Jenoptik.

Winner: VitreaLab
VitreaLab’s laser-lit chip is disrupting the 2D and 3D display market.

2nd Place: Quantopticon
Quantopticon builds simulation software for quantum photonic hardware and devices.

3rd Place: Luminess
Luminess Detectors, a versatile platform for safer, more sensitive and more reliable X-ray medical imaging.

Healthcare Track

Winner: Advanced Optronics, LLC
OptoFlex provides flexible, biocompatible integrated photonics for intraoperative monitoring in the cochlea.

2nd Place: LASE Innovation
Enabling highly multiplexed single-cell analysis with novel laser particles — next generation light-emitting probes.

3rd Place: Prebeo
KVAS is a transportable OCT device and an image-processing algorithm for non-invasive quantitative assessment of donor kidney quality.

Deep Tech Track

Winner: InABlink
Data In A Blink of an eye. Our WINK-ol is a virtual fibre optic link that transmits data from industrial vehicles to the operation center at 1.5+Gbps.

2nd Place: OwlAI
Owl’s 3D thermal camera with ranging operates day and night, in any weather, to classify people, animals and vehicles for safer robotic mobility.

3rd Place: Ki3Photonics
Enabling quantum communication networks today.

Healthcare Track

Winner: Odin Technologies, LLC
Odin is developing a wearable diagnostic that assesses extremity hemodynamics, allowing caregivers to identify perfusion injuries and complications.

2nd Place: Rubitection
The Rubitect Assessment System (RAS) is an optical skin health and wellness tool for diagnosis and monitoring with an initial application to early pressure ulcer (bedsore) prevention.

3rd Place: Eysz, Inc.
Leave no seizure undetected.

Deep Tech Track

Winner: Senorics GmbH
Senorics builds low-cost, mobile and robust spectroscopic systems which bring spectroscopy to the B2C mass market - detect. know. decide.

2nd Place: Labby Inc.
Labby is a data company that is combining optical sensing with AI to help dairy farms become more profitable through real-time milk analysis.

3rd Place: Circle Optics
Hydra is setting a new standard for 360° content capture by making it as easy as a regular point and shoot camera.

Winner: Avenda Health
Avenda Health is treating prostate cancer in the clinic while preserving quality of life.

2nd Place: Radiance 4D
A revolutionary 3D printing technology inspired by tomography prints the entire 3D volume of an object at once, unlike slow, layer-based alternatives.

3rd Place: Opto Biolabs
Opto Biolabs' core product is a temperature-controlled LED illumination device that allows the analysis of optogenetic experiments in a flow cytometer.

Winner: PhotoniCare, Inc.
The PhotoniCare ClearView is a simple, low-cost imaging platform that enables users to see through tissue. Visualize the middle ear without cutting the eardrum open.

2nd Place: CareWear Corp.
CareWear Firefly is a wearable therapeutic light patch using printed LEDs and CFQD film to treat pain and accelerate recovery from soft tissue injury.

3rd Place: Orbis Diagnostics, Ltd.
Orbis will allow smart dairy farmers to innovate by providing key data about core business — producing excellent milk from the healthiest animals in the most sustainable way.

Winner: Cellino Biotech
Using lasers and nanotechnology to cure any viral or genetic disease that affects the blood.

2nd Place: IC Touch
Sight for the visually impaired using cornea-based “symbolic” imaging via tactile spatial stimulation.

3rd Place: Lumedica
Making eye imaging more affordable, accessible, and easier to use.

Winner: Double Helix, LLC.
Double Helix replaces prediction with evidence at the single molecule level inside the individual cell, enabling seeing biology we would have otherwise missed.

2nd Place: Diagnostic anSERS, Inc.
Building a "Marijuana Breathalyzer" to answer the question, "How high is the suspect right now?"

3rd Place: Disease Diagnostic Group
What if we told you we could save one million lives every year with just refrigerator magnets and a laser pointer?

Winner: Briteseed, LLC
SafeSnips is a novel tissue-detecting technology that gives surgeons critical information to make more confident decisions in the operating room.

2nd Place: XARION Laser Acoustics
Membrane-free Optical Microphone: Moving sounds without moving parts.

3rd Place: Picoyune
Picoyune's patented plasmonic film can replace a lab bench worth of equipment with a robust, portable detector that anyone can operate.

Winner: University of Western Australia
A miniaturized optical coherence tomography probe, small enough to be encased in a needle — a 'microscope-in-a-needle'. With its high resolution imaging, it can allow the surgeon to find the edge of the cancer in real-time during surgery, allowing them to get the surgery right first time.

2nd Place: PlenOptika
PlenOptika is addressing the global shortage of optometrists with the QuickSee: an innovative, low-cost device that provides eyeglass prescriptions at the push of a button.

3rd Place: MagBiosense
MagBiosense develops a diagnostic device and assay for heart attack, offering laboratory-quality sensitivity and the rapid results and ease of use of a point-of-care system.

Winner: fastCHECK
A revolutionary 3D surface inspection system that is amazingly fast, accurate and easy-to-use.

2nd Place: Nicoya Lifescience
Compact, low cost, high performance optical biosensors for point-of-care diagnostics.

3rd Place: ColdSteel Laser
ColdSteel Laser is a medical device company from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center developing the Remote Image Guided Endoscopic Surgery (RIGES) platform to improve minimally invasive surgery.

Biophotonics Division

Winner: Dr. Carlos Serpa of LaserLeap Inc.
Tunneling drugs through the skin.

2nd Place: Dr. Babak Shadgan
Noninvasive diagnosis of bladder dysfunction using near infrared spectroscopy.

3rd Place (Tie): T. Scott Rowe
The Ocular Prognostics MPR: Macular pigment measurement made easy.

3rd Place (Tie): Dr. Daniel Gareau
Noninvasive cellular morphometry for melanoma detection: meet "Melanomore!" the robot pathologist.

Opto-electronics Division

Winner: Samuel Schaefer
A smart, compact microscope in the palm of your hand.

2nd Place: Yin Wang
A novel point-of-care breath analyzer.

3rd Place: Petrus Johannes Venter
Low-cost integrated light sources in CMOS.

Winner: Hariharan Subramanian, Research Associate, Northwestern University
Screening for lung cancer using partial wave spectroscopic microscopy.

2nd Place: Chang Won, Post-doc, Temple University
Detecting malignant tumors with tactile imaging system.

3rd Place: Natan T. Shaked, Post-doc, Duke University
InCh Microscope: Compact and portable quantitative phase microscope for label-free cell imaging.