CUDOS entrepreneur at INCUBATE
Miriad Technologies founders, Dr Darren Hudson and Dr Tomonori Hu
CUDOS PhD graduate, Tomonori Hu is in the middle of an intense 14 week entrepreneur program run by the University of Sydney Union to accelerate his start-up business, Miriad Technologies, commercialising an invention he developed while working on his doctorial research paper.
Dr Hu kindly took time out from building his website, working on his pitch and patenting his invention as part of the INCUBATE program, to talk about the course and his commercialisation plans.
Can you tell us a bit about your invention?
It is a compact (tissue-box sized) device that uses light to detect chemicals - like a sniffer dog looking for hazardous toxics. Our background is in the development of mid-infrared laser research, and the device was an outcome of the problems we faced in the laboratory. It helps scientists monitor a specific band of light, which is extremely sensitive to differences in presence of certain chemicals. We are now looking at bringing this technology to solving industry specific problems, such as monitoring the production process of beverages.
How did you get involved in INCUBATE?
I heard of Incubate from my lecturer during my masters study (Maryanne Large) who actively supports entrepreneurship and has started-up companies herself. Whilst doing my research here at CUDOS I thought Incubate would be a perfect platform to learn how to learn about entrepreneurship and gather new insights.
How hard is it to get a place in the program?
Apparently there are 100-200 applicants that goes through a fairly extensive written application. The top 16 are then selected to attend an interview which consisted of a board of Incubate organisers, serial entreprenuers, and investors. They select the final eight start-ups to then enter the program.
What do you think won it for you?
Probably a bit of luck and a lot advise from helpful people. I reached out to ex-Incubate applicants who had similar stories, like Dr. Peter Liddicoat who is also breaking the academic barrier to entrepreneurism at this university. The advice was to be able to explain exactly what the problem is, and how much value (in dollars!) you can be saving for people. We have to sell the value technology creates, not the technology itself.
How are you finding the course?
Incredible. You just can't get the start-up mindset they have here anywhere else at this university. They provide fresh opinions on entrepreneurship which is not the traditional 50 page business document. Its a dynamic environment, no time to rest, its all about seizing opportunities at the right moment. We get introduced to some of the greatest mentors and investors in Australia and every minute of their time is so valuable.
How has CUDOS helped you get your invention off the ground?
CUDOS has always been supportive of our commercial activities. We've had great contacts through CUDOS to people like Dr. Simon Poole, (who has given us tremendous advice), providing a testing space for us to do our early research and development, to giving us exposure to the international community of researchers in photonics. The CUDOS internationally known 'brand' gives us a lot of credibility.
What’s next for your start-up?
We started by taking the advice from the most successful entrepreneurs in photonics - start in a niche space to grow your ideas. Looking forward however, we really need to take the technology to an area where we can thrive and build the business. Through the Incubate program we are establishing new contacts and markets, to expand beyond the researcher space into the larger scale applications of food sensing or chemical monitoring.