Two very different Akron area innovations — a portable marijuana-detection device and an app that allows users to exchange free baby-sitting services — have each won $25,000 from the region’s nonprofit Innovation Fund.
The ventures — the Komae baby-sitting app and Triple Beam Technologies, maker of the pot detector — are among four Northeast Ohio startups that received money from the fund designed to help young companies at early stages of development.
Triple Beam Technologies created a device called the Cannibuster.
The startup’s creator and founder said the device could be a significant law-enforcement tool as more states allow for the medical and recreational use of marijuana.
The Cannibuster, using saliva, provides for a reading for the level of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, in a few minutes on a handheld analyzer.
If authorities now suspect marijuana impairment in motorists, they have to rely on blood tests that can take weeks for confirmation.
The market is big. A total of 28 states and the District of Columbia allow for medical marijuana and eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational pot use for adults. In addition, lawmakers in 17 states are working on measures that would legalize recreational use.
Kathy Stitzlein, a UA student, is president of Triple Beam Technologies. She has worked on the venture with UA student Mariam Crow. Both are graduate students in biomedical engineering.
Stitzlein said Triple Beam plans to use the $25,000 Innovation Fund award to compare Cannibuster results against traditional lab tests.
“The goal now is just moving toward commercialization,” she said. “We’ll be looking toward attracting investors, and in order to do that we have to have a good amount of data.”
The baby-sitting app is called Komae. It’s named for the Greek word for village, kómé; users of app build “villages” of people they know and then use the app to send out requests for baby-sitting to people in their villages.
Creators of the app are Audrey Wallace of West Akron and Amy Husted of Copley Township. They have since added developer Adam Skinner to their team.
Parents earn Komae points when they baby-sit, and they use the points to pay for baby-sitting.
Wallace and Husted have pointed out that the app eliminates the need to ask someone directly for baby-sitting help — a situation that can lead to guilty feelings if the person being asked declines.
Komae released the app in Apple and Android app stores earlier this year. The web app — app.mykomae.com — was released in September.
The team plans to use the $25,000 for “enhancing the app design for an even better user experience,” Wallace said.
“We’ve done usability testing with customers to find out what they like and what can be improved,” she said.
Wallace said Komae now has about 2,000 users. That’s up 93 percent from earlier this year, before its release in the app stores.
Both Triple Beam Technologies and Komae have previously attracted grants from groups that work with startups.
The Lorain County Community College Foundation started the Innovation Fund, which has awarded $11.7 million to 178 technology startups since it started accepting applications in July 2007.
Fund partners include the University of Akron and Northeast Ohio Medical University.
Each quarter, the fund grants money to technology startups in a 21-county Northeast Ohio region, including Summit, Stark, Portage, Medina and Wayne counties.
The two Akron area ventures —Komae and Triple Beam Technologies — along with two Cleveland startups received a combined $175,00 in the most recent round of funding.
The Innovation Fund said in a release that companies use the grants — between $25,000 and $100,000 — “to complete specific projects that will bring their technologies closer to market, preparing them to raise more funding, launch new products, and create jobs.”