It was a full house at the Barrymore Theatre on Thursday night as gener8tor showed off its five new graduates — probably the most diverse group of startups the Madison and Milwaukee accelerator has mentored yet, with products and services that ranged from medical to digital, from fashion to housecleaning.
Veramarx, a Boulder, Colorado, company that says it has developed the first early test to diagnose Lyme disease, drew rapt interest from the crowd of about 600.
Founder Whitney Richards, a former Wall Street trader, said he started the company after enduring his own struggle with the tick-borne disease, which involved seeing more than a dozen doctors — each with a different diagnosis — unneeded surgeries and unsuccessful treatments, at a cost of some $1 million. “And they all failed me,” he said.
Richards said current Lyme disease tests measure antibodies for the ailment and miss 60 percent of the people who contract it. He said his company’s test searches for 10 biomarkers that have been linked to Lyme disease and has a 92 percent sensitivity, which signifies a test’s ability to correctly identify someone with a disease. Richards said he plans to launch the test later this year.
The diagnostic product does not need approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, gener8tor co-founder Troy Vosseller said later, because a third-party lab will run the tests and physicians will make their own diagnoses based on the results.
Richards’ five-minute pitch was strong enough to draw the interest of Dan Thome, founder of Axiom Advisors, in Appleton, who said he knows someone with Lyme disease and might consider investing in Veramarx, after he looks into the company further.
Thome, attending his second gener8tor premiere, was upbeat about the startup presentations. “I usually work with more mature companies,” he said, “but I was excited by the energy of some of these younger (companies).”
Only one of the startups was from Madison: Errund, a service that aims to take the guesswork out of finding someone to clean your home or business. Founder and CEO Jacob Ong said more than 1,500 customers have used Errund’s background-checked cleaning crews since January 2016. He has plans to expand beyond the Midwest and beyond house-cleaning into other services in the future.