American Security Challenge

Detection, RFID productions are the big winners
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009
WASHINGTON--The American Security Challenge, an event intended to identify hot new technologies for homeland security applications, held its final-round event May 21 and announced the winners of the challenge. From six finalists, Hi-G-Tek, a maker of RFID tracking solutions, was awarded a $2 million prize from venture firm Chart Venture Partners, and MINDco, a maker of nuclear detection technology, was awarded $500,000. The awards are dependent on the companies and Chart reaching funding agreements over the coming months.
The Challenge is open to small technology companies with products that will solve homeland security problems. The event hopes to identify those companies, connect them with funding, and speed them to market. 
Kristina Tanasichuk, executive director of the non-profit National Security Initiative that runs the Challenge, said she was pleased with the event’s second year. “We had over 225 applicants,” she said, “and the prize increased from $100,000 to $2.5 million.” She said there are also conversations happening between venture capitalists and non-winning applicants.
Even moving past the potential award money, Hi-G-Tek CEO Larry Blue said, “It was a very good event for us, because just the preparation for it taught us a lot about what our business really is and helped us crystallize our go-to-market strategy.” He also mentioned that another ASC sponsor, integrator Alion Technologies, took interest in Hi-G-Tek and has introduced the company to potential U.S. government opportunities. 
Mark Premo, U.S. manager of Emza Visual Sense, a finalist that was not awarded a prize, said the event was beneficial even for those who didn’t win. “For a small company like us, it’s great,” he said. “To be selected among 200 applications is fairly impressive, I think.” Emza is an Israel-based company that makes outdoor cameras with embedded analytics (See related story on page 35).
As the venture firm making the awards, Chart Venture managing parter Matt McCooe said, “The event actually exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the companies that presented were terrific. They were really mature technologies, well past the proof-of-concept stage.” He said the experience working with the winners would dictate Chart’s future involvement, but that there were at least two other applicants in this year’s event that Chart - a $100 million, New York-based firm that works exclusively in the security space - will be speaking with further. 
Tanasichuk said the American Security Challenge will grow next year, with new sponsors and more visibility. She said the event hopes to add awards for solving specific problems, such as those related to a vertical industry. “We’re working with several non-profit organizations that might provide awards,” she said. “The American Water Works Association, for example, are working to develop an award for an innovative technology that would protect water supplies. 
“We’re hoping to be known as the innovation event.”