Local Angel Investors Fund UNH Startup Focused on Improving Hearing Aids
Local angel investors have funded UNH's fifth spinoff company, Setem Technologies, which is using the research of mathematics professor Kevin Short to develop signal separation technology that addresses the "cocktail party problem" -- the ability to focus on a specific speech source and mitigate/eliminate any extraneous background noise or interference.
"This technology can be used on any application, service or device that is dependent on capturing and delivering voice clarity," said Anthony Cirurgiao, Setem co-founder and CEO. "Background noise impacting speech perception is one of the greatest problems affecting voice command systems, hearing aids, cell phones, headsets and other microphone dependent devices and services."
Participating in the $1.3 million funding for the startup were a number of angel investors, including the eCoast Angel Network, a small group of angel investors eager to invest in local companies.
George McQuilken, one of those local angels, stressed that his group is always actively looking for new enterprises. "Entrepreneurs need to know there is money out there. We are in the midst of a huge revival in angel investing and you can in fact get the seed money you need if you have the right idea."
McQuilken is eager to see more ideas coming out of UNH and works closely with Marc Sedam, executive director of UNH's Office for Research Partnerships and Commercialization. "A lot of new companies fail," McQuilken said. "If you invest in something that fails you lose your money. What's nice about ideas coming out of the university is that it has a reputation for doing high-quality research. When you first meet an entrepreneur, sometimes you don't know if you're talking to the next Galileo or just a dreamer. We feel very confident about the work being done at UNH."
Setem Technologies was created in November 2011. It leverages technologies that have been and continue to be developed by Short while he also remains an active member of the faculty at UNH, and Setem has exclusively licensed the use of Short's patents filed through UNH.
"This is exactly what we want to see happen more and more," said Sedam. "Dr. Short is one of UNH's leading innovators, and we want the technology developed at UNH to help keep high-growth opportunities local and create jobs in the state. The work that is being done here is crucial to the future of the state's economy."
Cirurgiao echoed McQuilken thoughts on funding, saying the company was pleasantly surprised to have multiple parties interested in investing in the company despite the challenging financial times.
Short's previous company, Chaoticom, was the first company spun off from UNH. McQuilken and the eCoast Angels were the original backers in 2001.