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ASU-affiliated startups to vie for funding, relationships at Jan. 31 pitch event

InvestU program connects investors and companies


People sitting in audience listening to presentation

InvestU angel investors, entrepreneurs and community partners listen to startups present their business plans in 2023. Photo by Terrance Balousek/ASU

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January 12, 2024

This January, entrepreneurs with a tie to Arizona State University will present their startups with hopes of gaining access to benefits offered by a university-affiliated investor network that is holding its third pitch event of the fiscal year.

InvestU, a program of ASU Enterprise Partners, serves as a strategic venture network for companies with a tie to ASU, including the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU. The network’s goal is to provide a platform for startups to raise capital through its angel investors and leverage resources across ASU’s global entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“One of the main elements we focus on with these pitch events is highlighting new, innovative companies in our community,” said Louise Hardman, director of RealmSpark and investor engagement for ASU Enterprise Partners.

On Jan. 31, entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to pitch their startups to an audience of investors, fellow entrepreneurs and community partners, with the ultimate goal of generating seed funding and gaining access to new networking opportunities with InvestU.

The event will feature at least three early-stage companies developing innovative solutions in various sectors.

Two pitch events held last fall featured eight startup founder presentations and attracted more than $300,000 in angel investment. In November, InvestU partnered with Wexford Science and Technology to host a pitch event focused on health care technologies.

Lenoss Medical won first place in the event and was awarded a credit for space at Connect Labs by Wexford in Phoenix. The prize incentivized Lenoss to set up an office in Arizona, further driving the diversification of ASU’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and enabling future growth of the company in Arizona.

Lenoss, based in Bristol, Rhode Island, has developed a biological solution to treat patients suffering from osteoporotic spinal fractures.

“InvestU was designed to leverage the strength and scale of ASU’s network and accelerate the growth of affiliated startups. Collaborating with Wexford Science and Technology to provide a space like Connect Labs is a large part of that,” Hardman said.

Connect Labs, in the 850 PBC building in downtown Phoenix, provides companies with a coworking environment tailored to health care research and development, providing opportunities for growth and collaboration.

“Arizona is a key market for us, with a rapidly increasing aging population and a huge need for solutions for the treatment of osteoporosis-related issues. We are extremely excited to now have an office in the heart of Phoenix,” said Dom Messerli, president and CEO of Lenoss Medical. “Within the Connect Labs community, we anticipate making many relevant connections to help us connect and grow our business in the area.”

The pitch event helped Lenoss find new investment potential and experience that comes with the InvestU network. Participation gave companies different resources to support the growth of their businesses.

“InvestU unlocked several key investors in the area, which have the potential to unlock even more funding during our current Series A round,” Messerli said. “We have made not only one, but three connections with potential investment groups, and we are excited for the expert advice they provide.”

Serva Energy also participated in the last pitch event. A nuclear technology company that developed a novel method for producing cancer-destroying isotope actinium-225, Serva Energy was founded in 2017 with the support of an ASU faculty member. The company was originally designed to create accident-tolerant fuel sources. After a few years of development, the company pivoted toward utilizing the technology it created in isolating medical isotopes to treat cancer and other diseases.

“Actinium-225 is kind of the Goldilocks of isotopes right now,” said Sarah Jones, vice president of medical with Serva Energy. “It is showing really promising results, and it has incredibly positive capabilities through destroying cancer cells.”

In practice, the isotope would be attached to cancerous cells within the body, and through the natural process of radioactive decay, it would effectively destroy the cells.

Serva Energy also benefited from InvestU’s resources and investment opportunities.

“Pitch events like this are doing a really fantastic job of growing the biotech endeavors and activities in Arizona,” Jones said. “The reason I pushed for us to participate in this event is because it is important for us to make those connections here in this community.”

Jones earned her PhD in clinical psychology from ASU in 2002 and an executive master's degree in global management from Thunderbird in 2022.

To learn more about InvestU and reserve your spot at the upcoming startup pitch event on Jan. 31, contact InvestU@asuep.org.

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