Charlottesville medical device company Luminoah won over the judges and claimed the people’s choice award Tuesday at Lighthouse Labs’ Demo Day competition at Richmond’s Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.
The company is behind a mobile feeding tube device that collects data. It competed against seven other companies in a pitch competition as part of the event. All eight had just completed Lighthouse Labs’ accelerator program.
Luminoah was awarded $1,000 for winning the people’s choice award and $2,000 for winning over the judges, or panel of “sharks”, that included Meg Pryde, co-founder of Brandefy, Aaron Montgomery, co-founder of CarLotz, and Ebonie Atkins, managing director at Henrico EDA.
Luminoah founder and CEO Neal Piper said winning both competitions was “humbling” and that he was grateful to be able to go through Lighthouse Labs with the other founders. He said he learned a lot from the accelerator program, especially financial modeling, go-to-market strategies and communications.
“I found tremendous value in just sharing ideas and being authentic with one another about the challenges that we are facing,” Piper said.
The company had never participated in an accelerator program but felt it was time to enter a program. Accelerators are a common method for startups to realize a path forward.
“We were looking at several opportunities,” Piper said. “We looked at Y Combinator, Techstars and Lighthouse Labs. Being a Virginia-based company, we thought it was important to be in a Virginia-based accelerator. This is the first accelerator we applied for and were accepted into.”
Luminoah is set to close on a $6 million Series A funding round in the next couple of weeks, Piper said. The company plans to expand the team and further develop its product. The goal is to apply for Food and Drug Administration approval in 2024. Luminoah wants to go after the pediatric home health care market initially but also seeks to move into senior and rehabilitation markets.
Piper said the program opened a bunch of opportunities for Luminoah. The company had a network in Charlottesville and within the University of Virginia but not around Richmond. The program connected Luminoah with mentors and experts at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“They opened their arms to their providers and gave us support,” Piper said. “They gave us feedback on the product.”
Overall, he said he realized the hubs being created across Central Virginia are becoming a powerful source of entrepreneurship. People are starting to realize the state is supporting the startup community, and 757 in Norfolk and Lighthouse Labs accelerator programs are getting noticed across the country. Cville Biohub is building a biotech hub in Charlottesville.
“Each of these pockets are having events with the leaders, and you are building relationships,” Piper said. “What we are finding is that there are VCs coming from the Bay Area, and they are seeing Virginia as an opportunity to invest. That was not the case prior to Covid.”
Piper started the company after his young son was diagnosed with cancer. The treatment required him to be fed through a tube, a process that involved him being constrained by a medical pole and a pump.
“[Our] device is small,” Piper said. “It’s so small you can’t tell anyone is wearing it.”
Around 500,000 children could benefit from the product, and it solves a problem in the market. While his son no longer needs a feeding tube and is cancer free, other kids can benefit from the technology.
“It’s just a no-brainer to let a kid be active while you pump nutrition into their stomach,” Piper said.
The other companies who competed in the pitch competition were medical device maker E-Sentience (Durham, North Carolina); health-tech company Healp (Fairfax Station, Virginia), shipping solutions company Heroshe (Houston), cybersecurity company Karambit.AI (Annandale, Virginia), AI and augmented reality software maker Kilsar (Virginia Beach), online fitting room company Modi (Miami) and smart-home-as-a-service company HIO (Richmond), which was formerly called Project Mongoose.