By Tim Hunt
Gamechanging companies are committed to Tri-ValleyUploaded: Mar 24, 2022
Listening to the companies honored at the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group’s 2022 Gamechangers Awards earlier this month, it’s notable how consistent their commitment to the Tri-Valley area is as a region to build their company.
AEye Founders Luis Dussan and Ransom Wuller met online through a common interest in autonomous trackers. Dussan came from Lockheed Martin where he led a diverse team from a variety of agencies researching the technology. The two had emailed back and forth and then Wuller was on vacation in Orlando when Dussan contacted him—turned out he lived there so they met and got busy founding the company.
They were among the first tenants at the Igate incubator in Livermore in 2013 and were an early company funded by Greg Hitchan and Tri-Valley Ventures, the local venture capital fund. AEye went public last year, something that the founders could not have imagined just eight years before.
They have fielded the questions about why they’re not in Silicon Valley proper and seeking funding on Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto. Wuller said, “You can raise a family here and be as close to Silicon Valley. It is Silicon Valley, in my opinion, and (you can) create a company that goes public.”
Presenting the award, Brandon Cardwell, the Igate director who met them back in 2013, said, “Their hardware and software architecture allows autonomous everything to track and interpret surrounding area faster than their competitors.”
Another technology company recognized, Raydiant Oximetry, has roots in the valley dating back to Nellcor. Nellcor developed the equipment that now is routine as the blood oxygen saturation detectors that go on your finger in the hospital. Raydiant tapped into that base of engineers to develop its non-invasive medical device to monitor babies during childbirth.
Founder and CEO Russ DeLonzor said he’s been developing medical devices locally for 25 years starting with Nellcor. When Nellcor was located in Pleasanton, they were successful in convincing tech workers to skip the commute and work locally. Throw in the fact that his wife loved the San Ramon Valley school district for their three boys and he’s here for his career.
The current fetal heart monitoring devices result in lots of false positives about distress in the baby that results in unnecessary c-section surgeries that also result in higher rates of morbidity.
DeLonzor said, “We're applying the same basic principles that Nellcor pioneered decades ago in pulse oximetry… we're now using state of the art algorithms, machine learning and everything that technology has now where we can shine light through the maternal abdomen, bounce that off the fetus, and with that reflected light, we can determine the status of the fetus.”
Investors are so excited by the prospects that the last funding round was oversubscribed. They’re located in Bishop Ranch, which DeLonzor described as ideal, and planning to go for their Series B funding next year and use that to fund the Federal Drug Administration testing that should lead to commercial development. Tri-Valley Ventures also is an investor in this firm.
Coming away from the event, I just continue to marvel at the diversity of companies growing strongly here and the ideal ecosystem for entrepreneurs that has been developed.