2021 SPIE Startup Challenge semi-finalists, virtual training sessions announced

Finals of the annual SPIE pitch competition will be held 2 June
15 April 2021
Founder and CEO of Circle Optics Zak Niazi at SPIE Photonics West in 2020.
Zak Niazi, Founder and CEO of Circle Optics, pitches the company's Hydra 360 degree camera at the 2020 Startup Challenge Finals in San Francisco.

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA — At an event headlined by Photon Fund's Zhenlin Li and Fusion Fund's Homan Yeun, SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, announced the 36 semi-finalists for the 2021 SPIE Startup Challenge. The announcement took place on 14 April during the SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing Digital Forum.

Today, light-based technologies enable developments in a proliferating number of areas, from healthcare and high-speed communications to quantum computing, AR-VR-MR, and self-driving vehicles. The SPIE Startup Challenge, now in its 11th year, is an annual entrepreneurial pitch competition for new businesses that utilize optics and photonics to create innovative products, applications, or technologies, and the winning teams share from more than $85,000 in cash and other prizes. SPIE Startup Challenge winners that have gone on to wider commercial success include Cellino Biotech, Double-Helix Optics, PhotoniCare, and C. Light Technologies.

This year, the 36 startups will be attending a series of virtual training sessions — "What Do Investors Want?" "Prototyping and Market Strategy" "Valuation and Legal Issues" — as well as pitching their products and technologies through the Startup Challenge's two tracks, Healthcare and Deep Tech. Teams will get feedback on their financial and market viability from more than 20 judges, all of whom are business-development experts or venture capitalists in the photonics industry.

Successful teams will move onto the finals, which will be held online on 2 June. Attendance to the SPIE Startup Challenge finals is free, but registration is required.

The SPIE Startup Challenge semi-finals will run in weekly sessions on the 5, 12, 19, 26 of May. Attendance to these virtual sessions is free, but registration is required.

About SPIE

SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, an educational not-for-profit organization founded in 1955 to advance light-based science, engineering, and technology. The Society serves more than 258,000 constituents from 184 countries, offering conferences and their published proceedings, continuing education, books, journals, and the SPIE Digital Library. In 2020, SPIE provided over $5 million in community support including scholarships and awards, outreach and advocacy programs, travel grants, public policy, and educational resources. www.spie.org.

Daneet Steffens
Public Relations Manager
+1 360 685 5478

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