Serra Capital III Invests in WhiteFox Defense Technologies

Serra Capital III is pleased to announce its 13th investment in WhiteFox Defense Technologies. Drones pose a present and evolving danger to people and property. Mitigating a drone threat in any protection mission requires a dynamic and reliable kill chain response to ensure a controlled landing. WhiteFox Defense Technologies, Inc. has developed a comprehensive, intuitive, portable drone threat mitigation device—the DroneFox.

Luke Fox, CEO of WhiteFox, says “WhiteFox is at a point of growth where our technology is critically needed and in high demand. Every DroneFox we sell will represent an entity being equipped to protect people and property from threats to security, safety, and even loss of life posed by drones. Our partnership with Serra will help us further accelerate delivery of this critically needed technology.”

“The team at Serra Ventures is honored to be partnering with Luke Fox and the executives over atWhiteFox Defense Technologies” says Steve Beck, Managing Partner at Serra Ventures. “WhiteFox has cracked the code on some seriously deep technology challenges to elevate protection capabilities for both the Department of Defense and the private sector in response to the ever growing threat of reckless and dangerous drone incursions. This technology is essential for both public and national security as well as the appropriate expansion of commercial drone use.”

Clarify Medical Receives FDA Clearance

Clarify Medical, a Serra Capital III portfolio company, has received FDA clearance for its main technology - The Clarify Medical Phototherapy System, which is the core technology of its Clarify Home Light Therapy service. Clarify’s proprietary technology allows patients with chronic skin diseases to receive UVB phototherapy in their homes, linked to their physicians and to Clarify support services through their smartphones. The company plans to start offering the technology in November of 2017.

“This is a major milestone,” said James M. Sweeney, Clarify Medical’s CEO. “We look forward to offering Clarify Home Light Therapy to patients throughout the country, beginning in November. It offers an in-office therapy proven effective with skin diseases such as psoriasis, vitiligo, and eczema in a convenient form.”


Inprentus Demonstrates its Diffraction Gratings at Brookhaven National Lab

Inprentus, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, demonstrated its diffraction gratings at NSLS-II SIX Beamline at Brookhaven National Lab on May 9, 2017. The newly completed SIX beamline, a flagship experimental end-station at Brookhaven National Labs' cutting-edge NSLS-II synchrotron, turned on for the first time in February, reporting sharp imaging and high fluence of the X-ray light source - both properties made possible through the integration of an Inprentus blazed diffraction grating which was custom designed and manufactured for the SIX beamline.

Joseph Dvorak, an Assistant Physicist in the Beamline Research and Development Section at Brookhaven National Laboratory, stated the following: "High quality gratings are essential to our technique of soft x-ray energy loss spectroscopy.  Inprentus is supplying gratings for our advanced spectrometer at NSLS-II."


Spatial Named Among Top 10 Artificial Intelligence Companies to Watch

Spatial, a Serra Capital III portfolio company, was recently named to the "Top 10 Artificial Intelligence Companies to Watch in Transportation" list by Disruptor Daily. Transportation is one of the biggest aspects of infrastructure that keeps the modern world functioning efficiently. With artificial intelligence, roadways become safer, smarter places through the use of personal assistants, AI vehicle maintenance help, and even autonomous, self-driving commercial vehices. integrates social data into a navigation system based in the user’s smartphone, their platform is called Xero. Xero uses natural language processing and artificial intelligence to provide real-time information about local events. Xero integrates with AI personal assistants to offer drivers information according to their tastes.


Serra Capital Invests in Madison-Based Asto CT

Serra Capital has invested in its 12th company - Asto CT, LLC, of Madison, WI. Asto CT is the developerof Equina™, a novel multi-slice computed tomography (CT) system to image the limbs of standing horses. Serra is participating in the company’s $1.5M round with an initial commitment of $250,000. Asto CT plans to do a Series A preferred round later in 2017.
David Ergun, CEO of Asto CT says, “Asto CT is thrilled to have Serra Ventures as an investor. This is another huge step towards our goal of bringing safe, affordable CT imaging to the equine veterinary community.”
“The Serra team is very excited to be investing with the Asto CT team. We are excited about what they have built and with the reaction from the equine marketplace. We look forward to assisting the management team as they build this company” said Dennis Beard, a Managing Partner at Serra Ventures.

Chicago and the Midwest establishing themselves as best-of-class in agriculture

Orlando Saez, former CEO of Serra Capital I portfolio company CityScan, recently published at article in Crain's Chicago Business titled "Can Chicago Own Innovation in Big Agriculture?" While the Midwest region and Chicago has increasingly established leaders in the fields such as nanotechnology, robotics, digital and financial tech, material science and advanced manufacturing, they are now becoming best-of-class in agriculture. 

The International Association of Agricultural Economics projects worldwide population will grow 35 percent by 2050, leading to a 59 to 98 percent increase in demand for food.  One way to meet this demand is to find new ways through bioengineering and precision farming to increase yields from existing farmland. Serra Ventures was named among several venture capital firms and other initiatives that are active in this endeavor. 


Serra Ventures CEO Tim Hoerr Featured on Expedition Midwest

Tim Hoerr, CEO and Managing Partner with Serra Ventures, did an interview with Expedition Midwest on April 28. The article outlined Tim's past and what led him to found Serra, as well as what involvement he has in the Midwest ecosystem. Tim shared a few economic factors that make investing in the Midwest favorable. "Deals tend to be more economically priced in the Midwest", he says, "with a capital imbalance currently standing as a major driver of financing activity in the twelve-state area."

Expedition Midwest was developed to document the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Midwest's twelve-state region.




Serra Adds John Giuliani and Karin O'Connor as Venture Partners

In the first quarter of 2017, Serra announced two new additions to the team - John Giuliani and Karin O'Connor, 

John Giuliani joined the Serra team as a Venture Partner in February. In addition to taking the helm of Dotomi and building the company until it was sold for $295 million, John most recently led Conversant to significant growth and an exit to Alliance Data in December, 2014 for $2.3 Billion. John comes to Serra Ventures with over 30 years of experience helping and growing successful businesses. He is a Champaign County nativewho presently resides in Las Vegas, NV. 

Serra added Karin O’Connor to the team as a VenturePartner in March. Karin O’Connor is founder of Chicago-based Perimeter Advisors, an advisory firm that assists owners of promising mid-market companies with planning and execution of value enhancement strategies.  She is also an active investor in and advisor to early- and growth-stage companies and entrepreneurs. Serra partners have known and worked with Karin for over 10 years. With the addition of Karin, Serra is expanding its presence in the Chicago market where it has nine portfolio companies. 

“These three exceptional additions make Serra Ventures much stronger. Our reach is broadening and our strength is deepening,” commented Dennis Beard, Managing Partner. 

Spatial a Finalist at Google Demo Day; Aims for Silicon Valley

Spatial, a Serra Capital III portfolio company, was chosen as a finalist at Google Demo Day on March 30. This was the fourth annual Demo Day, which is a competition for up and coming tech companies in the US. Spatial combines machine-assisted analysis and human-driven data like social media content to provide a cultural map of cities.  Spatial's cultural overlays make maps more useful for many industries including automobile navigation, real estate, apartment search, vacation rental and many more.

Spatial was one among three finalists, and google will give one finalist the chance to visit Googleplex headquarters in Silicon Valley in California and meet with investors and mentors for a chance at funding.


Serra Invests in farmlead; Part of $6.5M Series A Round for company

Serra Capital III announced that it has invested in its 11th company, FarmLead. FarmLead is a digital marketplace that allows buyers and sellers to list, negotiate and finalize grain deals. Available online and as a mobile app,  FarmLead increases market reach, provides 24-7 access and reduces brokerage fees. The FarmLead Marketplace facilitates greater efficiency in grain marketing.  Farmers find more buyers and identify the best possible deal, while grain buyers easily identify the grain for sale in their desired location.

The investment is part of a $6.5M Series A round led by Monsanto, and also includes Canadian agtech venture capital firm Avrio Ventures and Canadian government-backed commercialization agent MaRS Innovation Accelerator Fund. With this round of funding, FarmLead is expanding to the US where 5% of its customer base are already based. It is opening a headquarters in Chicago and already starting to hire new personnel to fill it. The funding will also go towards building out new product capabilities such as enabling payments through the platform.


Serionix Awarded NASA Phase II Grant

Serionix, a Serra Capital I and III company, announced on March 14 that it has officially been awarded a NASA Phase II grant. Serionix, the startup fundamentally changing the way we look at air, received a $750,000 contract from NASA to fund continued development of filters to remove toxic gases from next-generation spacesuit life support systems. The same technology is on its way into consumer products expected to launch within the year. 

NASA has awarded funding to evaluate ColorfilTM technology for incorporation into the next generation of spacesuit and Personal Life Support System (PLSS), which is used during spacewalks to keep astronauts safe, healthy, and comfortable. Jim Langer, President of Serionix enthused, “We are excited for the opportunity to work with NASA to send our Colorfil technology into space!”   


OceanComm Brings Wifi to the deep ocean; Featured in ChicagoInno

OceanComm, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, was featured on on March 8. OceanComm, the UIUC startup, has created a wireless underwater modem that unleashes robots from its cables and eliminates dependency on support ships. OceanComm’s modem not only dramatically brings down that cost, but can communicate data with faster  speeds and more efficiency than ever seen before. 

In light of a recent announcement from NASA on the discovery of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a dwarf star that could potentially support life, OceanComm expresses the need to focus on our oceans which have been drastically unexplored. Oceans comprise nearly 77% of the earth's surface, presenting a tremendous opportunity for OceanComm's technology to reveal answers on a variety of issues.


Agrible's New App Makes Drones Easy, Partners WITH ADM

Agrible, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, has had a busy month as it has just launched a new drone app, which works as a useful tool to help the farming community by giving users the power of aerial insights. Agrible supplies actionable predictive analytics tools to growers all across the United States and provides global ag data and support in over 80 countries.

Agrible has partnered with Crop Copter by using their UAV technology in the app, allowing users to see quickly how much damage a field has following a weather event or pest stress. The app then works with Agrible's flagship software, Morning Farm Report which is a suite of predictive analytics tools that give growers field-level insights about everything from when they can take equipment into the fields to how much nitrogen each field needs.

In other news, ADM, one of the world’s largest agricultural processors and food ingredient providers, has partnered with Agrible by offering their farmer customers a complimentary one-year subscription to Agrible’s Morning Farm Report.


Serra Colleagues and Clients Recognized at Innovation Celebration

March 3 marked the 12th annual Innovation Celebration, an annual awards ceremony that provides recognition for individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions, taken risks, and provided leadership to ensure the continuing economic success of Champaign County. Serra had several colleagues and clients among the winners and nominees this year. 

Reconstruct, a Serra III portfolio company, was a finalist for the Entrepreneurial Excellence: New Venture Award. Sanjay Patel, an advisor with Serra Ventures, was a finalist for the Entrepreneurial Excellence: Management Award. Coattails, LLC, an investor with Serra, was a finalist for the Entrepreneurial Excellence: Paul Magelli Advocacy Award. Litania, a client of Serra Ventures, was the winner of the Innovation: Longevity Award. David Hodge, a Venture Partner with Serra, is also the Owner, President and CEO of Litania. 

Serra has been a long time sponsor of Innovation Celebration, and each of the Serra partners has been a recipient of an award at the event in years past. Tim Hoerr was the recipient of the Excellence in Management Award, Dennis Beard was the recipient of the Advocacy Award, and Rob Schultz was the recipient of the Economic Development Impact award.

See the link below for a full list of winners from this years Innovation Celebration.

Label Insight Signs Leading Brands for SmartLabel Transparency Initiative; Adds to Executive Team

Label Insight, a Serra Capital II company, has had a busy month as they have signed several leading food brands and added new individuals to its executive team. Label Insight, the leading provider of data solutions that power transparency between consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, retailers, and consumers, is pleased to announce several new clients including Albertsons, ConAgra, Reily Foods, and King's Hawaiian. 

Additionally in the month of February, Label Insight hired Dave Dave Aniol as its new CFO, along with Angie Kimes as senior vice president of sales, Josh Goldman as senior vice president of business development and Rich Coleman has been hired as vice president of client development.



HerdDogg's Drone Technology on Display at the 50th world Ag Expo

HerdDogg, a Serra Capital III portfolio company, recently displayed their drone technology at the opening ceremony of the 50th anniversary of the World Ag Expo on February 14. HerdDogg is a revolutionary Internet of Things technology for remote monitoring of animal herd genetics, health and key environmental data. HerdDogg collects data and creates a complete profile of the animal that can be viewed on a farmer's smartphone.

"You could collect more quickly," CEO Melissa Brandao said. "The animals were not affected in any way, so that we weren't really involved directly with the animals. And then from there (the rancher) can take that data and make decisions about whether or not he needs to pick out certain animals if they're not feeling well..."


Serra Ventures Publishes New White Paper

In a recently published piece by Steve Blank, an accomplished VC, entrepreneurial guru and best selling author of The Four Steps to the Epiphany, he said "Venture Capitalists who are serious about turning their firms into more than one-fund wonders may want to have their associates actually start and run a company for a year."

At Serra, we couldn't agree more! Steve inspired us to author a new white paper in our continuing series on selected entrepreneurial topics entitled Made to Coach: Why the Best VCs are Former Startup CEOs. 

Label Insight Opens Up Data to Academic Researchers

Label Insight, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, announced on February 1 that it is now providing academic researchers complimentary access to its data set in consumer packaged goods. Label Insight is the leading provider of data solutions that powers transparency between CPG brands, retailers and consumers. The company has created the Open Data initiative, the industry's most complete solution to help brands meet consumer demand for transparency of food information.

Dagan Xavier, Co-Founder and VP of Customer Intelligence, remarked "We believe that if you want to change the world, that the first point of calls is to ensure the smartest people in your industry have the access and tools they need to be heard and either challenge or support the status quo."


Steve Beck Joins Serra Capital as General Partner

California native Steve Beck has been named a General Partner in Serra Ventures, LLC. After working informally with the Serra team for several years, Steve joined Serra Ventures as a Venture Partner in January of 2016. Now named a General Partner, Mr. Beck will emphasize developing Serra Capital’s reach and influence in selected West Coast geographies. 

Steve is a passionate entrepreneur and technology investor with over 25 years of experience both launching and guiding start-up companies. Throughout Steve’s entrepreneurial and technology investing career, he has participated in two IPOs: Baidu (Nasdaq:BIDU) and Lifelock (Nasdaq:LOCK), and he has transacted five public and five private company sales.

Tim Hoerr, CEO and Managing Partner of Serra Ventures remarked, “Steve not only brings depth of expertise and unique real-world experience in the tech start-up space, but he does so with a rare sense of humility and grace. He is an exceptional person and a great cultural fit with the Serra team. We could not be more proud to name him a GP.”

Steve Beck commented, “At this juncture in my career, I only have interest in working with the best people on opportunities that add true value. Serra has formed an excellent team, strategy and ethos to produce exceptional value to its investors, portfolio companies and their customers by supporting the underserved markets of the Midwest and other key selected regions. I’m honored to be a part of the effort.”


Nanomedical Diagnostics Will Present at SLAS 2017

Nanomedical Diagnostics, a Serra Capital II portfolio company, is set to present field effect biosensing for fragment-based drug discovery at the 2017 Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) conference in Washington, D.C. from Feb. 6 to Feb. 8.

Nanomed has developed a breakthrough electronic assay based on Field Effect Biosensing (FEB) technology that provides real-time, label-free kinetic binding and affinity data. 

“Because Field Effect Biosensing measures electrical changes instead of mass, the technology can sense in solutions such as DMSO which cause a high level of background noise on optical sensors. We have detected in 10% DMSO with no effect,” says Nanomedical Diagnostics CEO, Ross Bundy. “This provides an excellent alternate methodology for researchers who struggle to measure in complex solvents that are necessary for their candidate compounds.”