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Tech startups ‘Propel-ed’ at University of Dayton win $200,000 state grants

Tech startups boosted by a program to support entrepreneurs building a new business based on technology developed at the University of Dayton each received $200,000 awards from the State of Ohio Technology Validation Startup Fund.

 The awardees are:

  • Kalix provides solutions for low-cost, rapid, accurate and on-site detection and management of diseases caused by parasites, bacteria or viruses in animal, dairy and agricultural farms. "The way existing testing works, farmers have to send samples to outside labs and the results can take days or even weeks," said co-founder Vamsy Chodavarapu, UD electrical and computer engineering professor. "The delay costs valuable time and money as diseases in animals and birds can spread quickly. Kalix technology combines advanced molecular diagnostics systems and reagents and artificial intelligence to enable disease detection and management right at the farms, and one need not be a microbiology expert to use it." Kalix also recently was a winner in UD's Flyer Pitch Competition, receiving $25,000 cash and $25,000 of support from the Entrepreneurs' Center in Dayton. 
  • Nabu Optical Systems has developed a platform for nanomanufacturing and aims to establish its technology in the semiconductor industry in southwestern and central Ohio. "Small and medium enterprises and innovative startups in many fields ranging from digital health to the automotive industry often require custom electronic chips for their products, but are poorly served by the manufacturing industry that tends to favor large players with very large scale demands," said Imad Agha, founder and UD associate professor of physics and electro-optics and photonics. "This problem is acutely felt at the prototyping and early sales stage, leading to the failure of many companies that are always at the back of the queue for chip manufacturers. Nabu's technology combines requirements of low-cost and high-throughput, putting a tool in the hands of startups and small enterprises, reducing their time to market, and enabling them to grow and innovate." In addition to Propel Dayton, Nabu also has received support from the Entrepreneurs' Center in Dayton.
  • CapV LLC is a 5G microelectronics company developing software tunable hardware solutions for defense and telecommunication applications. "CapV was born through a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Wideband Adaptive RF Protection (WARP) Phase 2 program where UD was subcontracted for the key component, a thin film variable capacitor (varactor)," said Guru Subramanyam, a UD professor of electrical and computer engineering and CapV co-founder. CapV is planning to develop an end-to-end fabrication process for varactors and varactor-based chip scale hardware solutions such as tunable filters, phase control circuits and true time delay circuits which result in size, weight and power advantages for defense and aerospace systems. 

"Reviewers with State of Ohio Technology Validation Startup Fund particularly noted they made these awards in large part because of their work with Propel Dayton," said Mathew Willenbrink, UD's director of technology and entrepreneurial partnerships. "Thanks to a generous anonymous gift that helped launch Propel Dayton in 2020 and a subsequent gift from Dave Schoettmer, we are able to build on our region's legacy of entrepreneurship and create new businesses from locally grown technologies."

Propel Dayton was created in response to UD President Eric F. Spina's inaugural speech calling for the creation of "innovative policies, practices and incentives" to advance entrepreneurship within the University. While the program was created primarily to support UD faculty and staff in commercializing their technologies, Propel Dayton also will work with promising entrepreneurs in the Dayton region interested in bringing technologies developed by the University to market.

University leaders hope the program will tap UD's rich portfolio of technology and intellectual property developed by the University of Dayton Research Institute and other research efforts. Through conducting more than $2 billion in sponsored research in areas such as corrosion protection, nanotechnology, materials, green technology and image analysis, UD has developed promising cutting-edge technologies with commercial potential. More information about UD technologies and patents available for license can be found here. 

Propel Dayton will provide those who enter the program with resources, from advice in developing a business plan to connections with seasoned entrepreneurs. The program consists of three phases, the first of which involves exploring commercial opportunities with new entrepreneurs and outlining the resources available to them. Interested candidates are then sent through a pre-accelerator program before the final stage, when new companies are launched. 

To learn more about Propel Dayton, contact Willenbrink at or visit Propel Dayton's website. For interviews, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications, at, 937-229-3391 or 937-545-5421.


News and Communications Staff