Neurodivergent employees need extra supports at work. So, too, do startups focused on innovation in the neurodivergence space, as they often don’t find specialized resources to help them grow.
Baltimore-based impact investment fund Neuvation Ventures and neurodiversity nonprofit Multiple have partnered to create the Multiple Accelerator. Together, they aim to support companies from early to growth stage and create the next generation of tech innovations to improve the lives of children and adults living with autism.
Tech and innovation in this space is lagging, the program’s founders said, despite the rapid innovation in other sectors to help people adjusting to life during the pandemic, including telehealth, medical devices or even education.
Founders Mahesh Narayanan of Neuvation Ventures and Dan Feshbach of Multiple are trying to change that. With their six-month accelerator, they want to help more companies working on tech related to neurodevelopmental disorders get past the startup “death valley curve.” That’s where new companies have kicked off operations, but post no revenue while burning through cash reserves — a time when even strong ideas ultimately fail.
From the investment side, Narayanan — who is also the founder and CEO of Bethesda’s PepVax Inc. — said the program isn’t about the services and caretaking side of living with neurodivergence.
“Nothing new and innovative has been approved by the FDA — not saying that they don’t exist, those ideas have just not been funded,” he told Technical.ly. “We’re not trying to do the same thing others have done, but really bring in newer ideas. From an investor perspective, we’re willing to take that risk because we know how big of an impact just one technology can make in this community.”
Multiple Accelerator’s first cohort of startups launched this month. What stood out with the six companies is not only how they’re all at the stage of having a minimum viable product, the founders said, but that each of their products has the ability to be adopted by anyone.
The hope is that these companies’ innovations could create a rising tide: If successes pop out of this accelerator, then more VC firms or entrepreneurs will see the neurodevelopmental disorders space as a viable market, thus sparking even more innovation.
“We’re very focused on the unmet needs of the [neurodivergent] community and being able to find companies that can address those needs with innovation,” Feshbach said.
Below, meet the cohort’s six companies, which will get mentorship and investment. (Descriptions have been provided.)
- Autism 360 is an Australian-built, end-to-end platform that helps neurodiverse children thrive by developing their social, emotional, cognitive, and learning skills.
- Valence Vibrations is Los Angeles-based, early-stage neurotech startup delivering emotional feedback in real-time conversation via visual and tactile cues.
- Social Cipher is a Los Angeles-made video game for children with autism that guides them through a social/emotional learning curriculum.
- Impruvon Health is medication management platform for enterprise care agencies based on specific needs determined through customer discovery.
- BPAUS of Israel offers a digital platform that empowers partners and specialists to make decisions at the right time.
- Cogniable of India a machine learning-based validated autism detection and therapy recommendation platform.
The accelerator doubles as a due diligence process for Neuvation Ventures. Companies that hit specified milestones to reach commercialization over the six-month curriculum will receive investment form the impact fund. The plan is to run two cohorts a year, with 15 to 16 companies going through the program and Neuvation Ventures investing in 10 of those companies.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation. -30-