IRIS Wins Grand Prize at Inaugural Innovation Awards

Frank DiBello (left) and judges (back row) present the grand prize check to IRIS.

FSBDCN Headquarters: Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS) was named the first place winner and recipient of a $100,000 cash prize at the inaugural Innovation Awards, a business plan competition designed to fuel technology development in Northwest Florida. Held Friday, November 7 at the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front, the Innovation Awards was presented by Innovation Coast, Space Florida, and the Florida SBDC Network.

Combating preventative blindness

Led by Dr. Sunil Gupta, founder and chief medical officer, and Jason Crawford, chief executive officer, IRIS is a leading retinal screening technology provider. With IRIS, physicians are able to directly screen patients for retinal conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States. Retinal screenings are critical in the detection of preventable retinal conditions as one step too late can cause irreversible damage.

"It means a lot to us that we have this type of investment flowing into our community," said Crawford. "We are creating jobs and bringing healthcare dollars to our area, and this award will allow us to scale faster and fulfill our mission of ending preventable blindness for patients around the world. We are honored to receive this important award and are very thankful for Innovation Coast, Space Florida, and the Florida SBDC Network for putting this event on."

Competition boasts more than $215,000 in prizes

IRIS was selected among the top 10 presenting finalists to compete before a live panel of judges for cash prizes valued at more than $215,000. In addition to the grand prize of $100,000, second place received a $50,000 cash prize sponsored by Space Florida, the state's spaceport authority and aerospace development organization. Third place was granted a $5,000 prize package of business services sponsored by the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, three of the 20 semifinalists received a Microsoft BizSpark Plus subscription, Microsoft software and Azure services valued at $60,000.

Winner circle:

(L-R): Dr. Sunil Gupta, IRIS; Frank DiBello, Space Florida; and Jason Crawford, IRIS

First place: $100,000 courtesy of Space Florida
Intelligent Retinal Imaging Systems (IRIS)
Sunil Gupta, M.D., Founder and CMO
Jason Crawford, MBA, CEO
Pensacola, FL

Second place: $50,000 courtesy of Space Florida 
Jeff Phillips, CEO
Pensacola, FL

Third place: $5,000 in business services courtesy of the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce
Robotics Unlimited
Sebastien Cotton, Ph.D., Founder and CEO
Pensacola, FL

Microsoft BizSpark Plus Recipients:

Fueling Northwest Florida's technology development

"The 2014 Innovation Awards far exceeded our expectations," said Brice Harris, director of strategic initiatives for the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement and Treasurer of Innovation Coast's board of directors. "The presentations were excellent, the venue was beautiful and the community support was overwhelming," Harris said. "I am so proud of everyone involved in making this event a huge success, and I look forward to the next event."

Previous Space Florida-sponsored business plan competitions have garnered more than $40 million in total capital investment.

"We were so impressed with the caliber of professionals and startup companies that we heard from," said Space Florida President Frank DiBello. "Their determination and poise came across clearly and we are pleased with our selection today to award $100,000 to IRIS and $50,000 to Accountingfly. We are confident that both of these companies will be successful and look forward to watching them grow."

All semifinalists received an exclusive package of business consulting from the Florida SBDC Network - the state's leading provider of business assistance. Additionally, finalists received a special mentorship opportunity from the network to help formulate their pitch and business plan.

"The Innovation Awards supports the idea that innovation is key to driving our economy," said Michael Myhre, CEO and Network State Director for the Florida SBDC. "The mission of the Florida SBDC is to provide businesses with the expertise and resources they need to succeed. By helping businesses grow, we create a better Florida for all. Congratulations to this year's finalists, know that the Florida SBDC and Northwest Florida stand behind your success."

To view pictures from the event, and for a recording of the event in its entirety, click here and here.