Tucson Tech: New partnership forms pipeline of startups between UA agencies

Feb. 10, 2021

This is a snippet of a full article originally posted on Tucson.com, find the link at the bottom for the full article.

Three startup companies have joined the fast-growing University of Arizona Center for Innovation, in what is hoped will become a new pipeline of startups to the business incubator from the UA’s new entrepreneurial hub, Arizona Forge.

The startups, Obánj, Metfora and Dive Technologies, recently completed an advanced entrepreneurial program at Forge (Finding Opportunities & Resources to Grow Entrepreneurs) in its inaugural year and have joined UACI as part of a pilot program leaders hope will continue into the future.

All three companies have ties to the UA:

  • Obánj, which has launched a rental service for high-end jewelry on a monthly subscription basis, was founded by UA alumna Melissa Kiguwa.
  • Metfora LLC is developing a simple blood test using artificial intelligence-assisted metabolic analysis for early diagnosis of various chronic diseases, based on the work of co-founders and UA medical faculty members Ruslan Rafikov and Dr. Olga Rafikova and research colleague Alex Borovinskiy.
  • Dive has developed a software platform using advanced technology to seamlessly curate, structure and share information. Company founders are Daniel Frost, a student in the UA Eller College of Management, and Sahand Sabet, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering at the UA.

The three companies were part of Forge’s third cohort of startup founders and the first to win entry into UACI. The first two cohorts peer-selected picks to join Forge’s resident startup accelerator program.

Arizona Forge founding director Brian Ellerman said the partnership with UACI will benefit both organizations, adding that he hopes the pilot will become an ongoing program.

“As we looked at it, we realized a lot of these folks need the incubation services and structure UACI provides,” Ellerman said. “It became clear that this could be a really great way to connect and fill in a significant gap in the ecosystem that exists between those early-stage startups and how they ready themselves to be in a really robust program like UACI.”

Eric Smith, executive director of UACI, said the three companies represent a “trifecta” of the local entrepreneurial ecosystem: a “go-getter” community entrepreneur in Obánj’s Kiguwa; a startup spun out of UA research labs in Metfora, and the student-driven Dive, whose founders are completing the program at the UA’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship.

“If you think about where these three startups came from, it’s a great representation of our university and Tucson-based community,” Smith said, adding it also shows how the UA gives local entrepreneurs a “continuum” of support.

Read the full article here