Two Boston-based startups, Bounce Imaging and Emerald, are attending the first-ever White House Demo Day today, and will be showcasing their startup ideas for President Barack Obama and White House staffers along with attendees from across the country. These presentations highlight “why we need to give every American the opportunity to pursue their bold, game-changing ideas,” according to a statement from the White House.
As part of the Demo Day, 45 venture capital firms within the National Venture Capital Association have also announced their commitment to advancing opportunity for women and minorities in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Among the firms who have pledged to create hiring policies to promote diversity are local VCs .406 Ventures, Flybridge Capital Partners, Battery Ventures, Polaris Partners, Founder Collective, Third Rock Ventures, CommonAngels Partners, and North Bridge Venture Partners.
“Demo Day promotes diversity,” Emerald co-founder and Syrian-native Dina Katabi said. “Women and people of different backgrounds are something that I think would be great to add to the startup community.”
Katabi, an electrical engineering and computer science professor at MIT, and two of her students, MIT Ph.D. candidates Fadel Adib and Zach Kabelac, founded Emerald in 2012. It’s a device which uses radio waves to detect, predict, and prevent falls among seniors. A 2015 MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition finalist, Emerald can detect breathing, heart rate, and changes in gait to predict a fall.
Francisco Aguilar founded Bounce Imaging, based out of the Harvard Innovation Lab, in 2012 to develop low-cost, throwable sensor units that snap a picture and transmit relevant data to a smartphone. The sensors have been used primarily by military and first responders who need real-time information about dangerous locations that might pose a physical risk. Aguilar, who received his master’s degree in public policy from Harvard, is excited to have the opportunity to be associated with the government and people engaged in public service, two areas that Bounce Imaging connects.
“When the White House calls, you drop everything and show up,” Aguilar said of the phone call he received July 29. “Getting this kind of support from people who lead the world gives us a boost.”
The 2010 Haitian earthquake, where first responders were challenged searching through rubble for survivors with expensive and higher-tech equipment, inspired Aguilar to create the softball-sized camera. A $50,000 startup accelerator MassChallenge winner in 2012, Bounce Imaging is available for the public to purchase.
Demo Day builds on the Startup in a Day initiative announced by Obama, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the National League of Cities on June 10. Startup in a Day is a partnership with 50 U.S. cities, including Boston, to develop online tools that allow entrepreneurs to apply for local, state, and federal business licenses in less than 24 hours.
At the event, Obama is expected to announce new public- and private-sector commitments that promise to provide more Americans with the opportunity to pursue innovative ideas.