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UB ventures into funding, invests $250,000 in student-founded startup


Fri, Oct 16th 2020 03:30 pm

By the University at Buffalo

The first-ever venture capital fund administered by the University at Buffalo has made its inaugural investment: $250,000 to Buffalo Automation, an artificial intelligence (AI) startup founded by former UB students and primarily focused on autonomous marine navigation. UB’s investment will be matched by Varia Consulting Group for a total investment of $500,000.

“The University at Buffalo is not only a leader in research and education, but they are providing the ecosystem needed to cultivate and nurture innovation,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said. “The UB Innovation Hub is helping support emerging partnerships and foster collaboration. This inaugural investment is an example of the university’s commitment to growing the tech economy and creating good-paying jobs, paving the way for Buffalo and Western New York to build back better and succeed in the post-pandemic future.”

Vikram said, “The programs to support entrepreneurial activities have been helpful to many student ventures, and the university’s ability to refine entrepreneurs and open doors is often understated. The mentorship and support we’ve received from faculty and staff have been instrumental in getting us to the key milestones we’ve achieved.”

Buffalo Automation’s flagship product, AutoMate, is a predictive boat navigation system that guides large commercial ships. The system utilizes AI, neural networks and thermal imaging technologies to identify obstructions such as stationary objects, people or other boats and provide warnings to crews to safely navigate around them.

The AutoMate system is also available in a consumer version called Pegasus, designed for smaller recreational boats. Pegasus provides a comprehensive navigation and safety system that protects both new and experienced boaters. While working seamlessly with today’s gas-powered engines, the forward-thinking Pegasus technology is designed to provide a fully autonomous boating experience when combined with future electrified transport such as water taxis and ferries.

The company’s newest product, an app called Mayday, enables the public to experiment with AI and opens up new market opportunities.

“Mayday is a solution for non-programmers. The lack of software engineering and AI knowledge is a limitation for a lot of people who want to start tech companies. Mayday allows entrepreneurs to utilize AI in their products without ever writing a single line of code, Vikram explained.

“Say, for example, you have a machine that you want to give food to your cat or dog. If you have a mechanical background, you’ll be great at building the machine, but detecting the animal might be a challenge. Mayday can be easily trained to detect the dog and dispense food at a specific time. This kind of technology could be utilized in all kinds of unique use cases in a wide array of markets. It’s a very exciting direction for our company.”

“We designed the Buffalo Innovation Seed Fund to be cyclical, and our investment in Buffalo Automation is just the beginning. By providing students, faculty, staff and researchers with the support they need to take a kernel of an idea and turn it into a product or service that benefits society, we are catalyzing the next generation of great startups right here in Buffalo,” said Christina Orsi, UB associate vice president for economic development.

For more information, visit: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2020/10/009.html.

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