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Startup302 supports a new wave of tech in the First State

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HX Innovations’ Von Homer was hesitant to start his own neuroergonomics and biomechanics business, which blossomed from technology Homer created to help himself overcome a serious college football injury.

But now he and his wife and HX Innovations Director of Operations, Nicole Homer, are more than glad to be growing their business in their home state of Delaware, especially after being awarded a $50,000 Delaware Innovator Award and a $10,000 Automation and Insights Prize during the first Startup302 competition. They’ll use the grant funding to support and grow HX Innovations, which uses a scientific method to predict injury by scoring the balance, comfort, and endurance characteristics of a given shoe.

Von Homer and his team demonstrate for Gov. John Carney how they predict a likelihood of injury. | PHOTO COURTESY OF HX INNOVATIONS

“There are no other neuroergonomics and biomechanics businesses on the East Coast, and those we know of are not minority owned and operated,” said Nicole Homer. “We’re in a good place to bring some type of notoriety around Delaware that doesn’t just involve banks and chemicals.”

HX Innovations is one of 10 tech startups with at least one team member from an underrepresented demographic to be recently awarded a total of $275,000 in grants through Startup302. The competition was organized by Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP) and local partners, with grant funding provided by DPP, the Delaware Division of Small Business, the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, JPMorgan Chase, Discover Bank, New Castle County, FMC, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware, Labware and Delaware Innovation Space.

Kwaku Temeng founder and CEO of Desikant | PHOTO COURTESY OF DESIKANT

Desikant, based in Wilmington, is another smart apparel business that will benefit from Startup302’s funding, earning the top prize in the competition. The company and its founder and CEO, Kwaku Temeng, will use Desikant’s $75,000 Delaware Innovator Award to support Desikant’s mission to create a new category of smart apparel and accessories that help the body regulate its temperature.

The idea for Desikant came from Temeng’s experience working as the director of innovation for Under Armour, and was inspired by advances in autonomous vehicles. A deep understanding of the problems posed by heat stress, with the inspiration from automation made Temeng wonder why not use sensors and artificial intelligence to detect when someone is becoming heat stressed — and then use electronics to do something about it.

And that’s exactly what he’s doing at Desikant.

We wear these protective gear, and they’re designed to prevent stuff from coming in. Precisely because of that, they don’t allow your sweat to escape, either,” Temeng explained. “Our goal is to transform those accessories and garments and make them smarter so they can tell when heat stress is about to start.”

Temeng said he is already actively working with the U.S. Army to test his technologies on armor vest applications. Next, he is aiming to work on the surgical apparel market while developing prototypes of the noiseless, almost unnoticeable technologies Desikant uses to both detect and address the onset of heat stress by measuring body temperature and movement levels while adding ventilation.

“What is motivating us is to help the body regulate itself and perform better,” Temeng said. “Our mission really is to help people perform longer at peak levels by helping the body to regulate its temperature better.”

With their Startup302 funding, the Homers of HX Innovations, based in Middletown, test products and are currently developing a camera method that would allow companies and consumers to use their technologies in house.

“[The Startup302 funding] will allow us to continue to develop and evolve the technologies and science to make a bigger impact on Delaware economically,” Nicole Homer said, noting that it will help empower and ultimately expand their team.

Their business uses a scientific approach to understand how the body moves, and anticipating the potential for injury based on neuromuscular activity, explained Von Homer, a neuroscientist by training and former footwear industry consultant.

“I want to push the envelope of innovation and discovery right here in Delaware, with other scientists and other innovators,” said Von Homer. “We’re not just a testing company, but a deep technology company. We have those capabilities to make anything happen and we’re open for partnerships.”

The following companies also earned inaugural Startup302 awards:

  • Gaskiya Diagnostics of Wilmington, Delaware, Dr. Mary Larkin, founder, aquaculture diagnostics – $25,000 Delaware Innovator Award and $10,000 Innovation in Agriculture Prize
  • Lazarus 3D of Corvallis, Oregon, Smriti Zaneveld, founder, 3D-printing technology for surgery practice – $20,000 Open Innovation Award and $10,000 Innovation in Health Prize
  • TheraV of Newark Delaware, Amira Idris Radovic, founder, therapeutic devices – $20,000 Blue Hen Prize
  • GetPotluck of Newark, Delaware, Abubakarr Kamara and Hope Vega, founders, specialty grocery delivery – $10,000 Blue Hen Prize and $10,000 New Castle County Innovator Prize
  • WeavAir of Toronto, Canada, Natalia Mykhaylova, founder, air quality technology – $10,000 Open Innovation Award
  • Kiddie Kredit of Miami, Florida, Evan Leaphart, founder, financial literacy app – $15,000 FinHealth Prize
  • Elyte Energy of Dover, Delaware, Jalaal Hayes, founder, hydrogen energy technology – $5,000 Prize for Best Science-Based Startup plus 10 hours of mentoring
  • Neggster of Wilmington, Delaware, Kasai Guthrie, founder, banking and financial literacy app – $5,000 FinHealth Prize


By Maddy Lauria


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