VitreaLab, Quantopticon, Luminess win big at SPIE Startup Challenge

At the annual industry-focused competition, ten competitors pitched their photonics-enabled technologies
26 January 2022
2022 SPIE Startup Challenge winner
Jonas Zeuner of VitreaLab, center, is joined onstage by Jenoptik's Song Yop Chung, left, and Ralf Kuschnereit, right.

BELLINGHAM, Washington, USA — Earlier today, at a ceremony during SPIE Photonics West, VitreaLab, with its laser-lit chip focused on the 2D and 3D display market — a technology which enables more power-efficient displays — was announced the winner of the $10,000 top prize at the 12th annual SPIE Startup Challenge.

With cash prizes all provided by Jenoptik, Quantopticon, a designer of simulation software for quantum photonic hardware manufacturers, received $5,000 for second place. Luminess came in third, winning $2,500, with their versatile platform for safer, more sensitive, and more reliable X-ray medical imaging. The SPIE Startup Challenge, which showcases new businesses, products, and technologies that address critical needs with photonics, is supported by Founding Partner Jenoptik, Lead Sponsors MKS Instruments, Hamamatsu, Edmund Optics, and Thorlabs, and Strategic Partners Allianse and NextCorps' Luminate.

In addition, as part of the overall SPIE Startup Challenge program, four companies in the process of fundraising — Fastree3D, Raydiant Oximetry, Stratio, Inc., and UbiQD — presented their new technologies to prospective investors.

"I think this was an absolutely fantastic result," said VitreaLab CEO Jonas Zeuner. "It's great to be at the biggest photonics event and at the Startup Challenge because it means a lot of outreach possibilities, a lot of people will see us, and we can get in touch with investors so fast. Winning today is a very, very useful result, and we are very appreciative."

"I'm delighted and humbled to be selected as one of the winners," said Quantopticon CEO and Co-founder Mirella Koleva. "It's wonderful to have this opportunity, to receive so much recognition and support from the judges. It really means a lot to me, to us."

"We're very pleased and confident in the potential of our technology and it's really a pleasure to see its acceptance at such an early stage from a panel of experienced investors," said Luminess' Charles Roques-Carmes. "This gives us a lot of hope for this year since we'll be looking for early-stage investment. We really hope that we can leverage this platform that's been given to us through the SPIE Startup Challenge."

Judges drawn from across the industry who vetted the applicants for their business models, financial cases, and competitive advantages included Innovation Acceleration Capital's Darius Sankey, Edmund Optics' Greg Hollows, Fusion Fund's Homan Yuen, Anchored In's Ian Tracey, Jenoptik's Song Yop Chung, and Genoa Ventures' Bill Hyun.

"What I love about the Startup Challenge is that it brings the most promising technologies and connects them with investors," noted Tracey. "It allows us to take photonics technology to market and change the world for the better. I love the energy and the focus of these competitors, and there was such a wonderful variety of different technologies that they touched upon. It was really fantastic seeing them as they came on stage, to spot their energy and enthusiasm."

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 is an annual entrepreneurial pitch competition for new businesses that utilize optics and photonics to create innovative products, applications, and technologies.  Startup Challenge winners that have gone on to wider commercial success include Cellino Biotech, Double Helix Optics, PhotoniCare, C. Light Technologies, Circle Optics, and In A Blink.

About SPIE

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, brings engineers, scientists, students, and business professionals together to advance light-based science and technology. The Society, founded in 1955, connects and engages with our global constituency through industry-leading conferences and exhibitions; publications of conference proceedings, books, and journals in the SPIE Digital Library; and career-building opportunities. Over the past five years, SPIE has contributed more than $22 million to the international optics community through our advocacy and support, including scholarships, educational resources, travel grants, endowed gifts, and public-policy development. www.spie.org.

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