MAR 12, 2020

Olifant Medical, Inc. Wins Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I Contract for $50,000.

The businesses that received awards over the past several weeks are:

  • Olifant Medical, a startup commercializing a new airway device,

  • Hatchbed, a robotics research and development (R&D) engineering startup,

  • Inflow, a cybersecurity startup focused on national security, and

  • Elevate Systems, a product design and development company specializing in mechanical engineering services.

The highly competitive U.S. government program awards non-dilutive funding for companies to develop advanced tech innovation for the market. The R&D must have the potential for commercialization and meet an Air Force need.

San Antonio companies are starting to receive more awards from the Air Force’s new SBIR program. Denim Group, a cybersecurity company that developed a vulnerability resolution platform called ThreadFix and Allosense, a startup company producing internet-of-things or IoT tracking devices, also won Air Force Phase 1 SBIR awards in December.

These winning companies are eligible for up to $2.3 million in the SBIR program’s equity-free funding. While Phase 1 awards are for $50,000, companies may be awarded up to $2.3 million or more in Phase 2 and gain the ability to move to an unlimited number and value of contracts in Phase 3.

Only those granted a Phase 1 SBIR award (or a Direct to Phase II contract) are eligible for Phase 2 and 3 awards.

Sam Riehn, head of business development for Long Capture, which helps small businesses write successful SBIR proposals, explained how the Air Force SBIR program for its new innovation arm called AFWERX only started in 2017 with the first round of contracts announced in February 2019 so it “took a while to gain traction.”

“There’s been only four award rounds so far, and we had San Antonio companies Denim Group and Allosense win in round 3,” Riehn said. “Momentum is building with four San Antonio winners in round 4.”

Winning a highly competitive SBIR award is the reward for meeting stringent technical criteria in a company’s R&D approach. Phase 1’s $50,000 funds a company’s “customer discovery” over 90 days to find Air Force customers who need the technology.  With at least one signed agreement from potential customers in hand, the winner can then secure additional Phase 2 and Phase 3 funding.

A bonus feature: In Phase 2, the Air Force will match one dollar of SBIR funding to every one dollar raised in venture capital (VC) up to $1.5 million, and match 2 to 1 any federal customer funding.

Equity-free funding and SBIR validation will help Olifant Medical’s founder and anesthesiologist Dr. Steven Venticinque, who invented an airway device that is easier for healthcare providers to use.

“Airway management is one of the most stressful procedures for clinicians to do in both pre-hospital and in-hospital settings,” Venticinque said. “When you can introduce a ground-breaking leveraging advantage in a medical procedure that is stressful to perform, you will discover healthcare professionals will want to embrace it.”

Venticinque is confident Olifant Medical will be able to secure at least one, if not more, signed agreements over the next 90 days for its patent-pending airway device.

“When I tell them what our device does, every doctor I talk to—before I can even finish—chimes in with how they could have used this easier intubation device,” Venticinque said.


Applying for SBIR funding can be challenging, especially for first-time applicants unfamiliar with the stringent requirements.

Hatchbed founder Kris Kozak won SBIR funding for his company to develop a means to robotically inspect tall antennae structures that are much too dangerous for humans.


“Sam [Riehn] gave us a lot of help in submitting our award application by helping us focus our expertise on an Air Force stated need,” said Kozak. “The Air Force and all military branches have a substantial need for our specialized robotics R&D expertise.”


For those interested in applying to the SBIR program, Riehn, who worked on all six (including Denim Group and Allosense) SBIR proposals, recommends first registering your company on the U.S. government’s system for award management at


He also said to start securing letters of support from interested Air Force customers for the SBIR application because that process takes time.


“It helps to have a history of commercials sales and investments in your company because it demonstrates that you have experience commercializing solutions for the market,” Riehn added.


Instructions and topics for the next SBIR award round release May 6. The solicitation period opens June 3 and closes with the deadline for submission on July 2.


Featured image is of the Olifant Medical team. From left: Dr. Steven Venticinque (chief medical officer), Justin Rice (chief technical officer), Christopher Carroll (chief executive officer). Courtesy photo.

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OCT 18, 2019


Olifant Medical, Inc 50k Gold Winner in Austin Mass Challenge 2019 Cohort 

Out of 14 startups competing for $500,000 in equity-free investment from MassChallenge Texas in Austin, five startups emerged on top last night at the accelerator’s awards ceremony. 

Here are the five startups, their concepts, and how much they won:

TRAXyL — $150,000: TRAXyL reduces the cost of setting up data connectivity by painting optical fiber directly onto road surfaces and sealing it with a special coating. This method reduces installation costs by anywhere from 30 to 90 percent, the company said, because workers don’t have to dig into the ground to lay cable.

Collective Liberty — $100,000: Collective Liberty works to reduce sex trafficking by collaborating with professionals across industries and strategically engaging community leaders and the media. 

Men’s Gold Boxx — $100,00: Men’s Gold Boxx applies cutting-edge e-commerce concepts to men’s “big and tall” sizes. Shoppers create profiles to view personalized sizes and recommendations and can sign up for subscription boxes tailored to their tastes.

teleCalm — $100,000: teleCalm protects elderly people with dementia or Alzheimer’s from phone scams and telemarketers, reducing stress for them and their caregivers. 

Olifant Medical — $50,000: Olifant’s founder innovated a faster, safer way for healthcare providers to insert breathing tubes during high-stress situations. 

The awards ceremony included keynotes from Sara Brand and whurley. Brand is the founding partner of True Wealth Ventures, which makes early-stage investments in woman-owned startups, and whurley is a serial entrepreneur and technologist who founded Chaotic Moon Studios, Honest Dollar and Strangeworks.

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MAY 06, 2019


Olifant Medical, Inc. Named top 12 in Army X-TECH SEARCH 2.0 Winning 120k 

A technology search competition sponsored by the Army to help advance its modernization priorities is seeking entries for a third round of the contest.

The Expeditionary Technology Search, known as xTechSearch, was launched in 2017. It invites small nondefense companies to demonstrate technologies and nontraditional innovators who can work with the Army to modernize the force.

A Purdue University startup from West Lafayette, Indiana, won first place in the inaugural competition of xTechSearch, earning $200,000 in prize money.

Announced in March at the Association of the U.S. Army Global Force Symposium and Exposition in Huntsville, Alabama, the money is to continue work on ALITEC, a cost-effective solid rocket propellant that increases by 40% the range of ballistic missiles against other propellant-based projectiles.

Also in March, 12 finalists for xTechSearch 2.0 were selected from up to 25 entrants featured at the AUSA symposium. They were Lumineye; MELD Manufacturing; United Aircraft Technologies; Cogitari Inc.; Great Lakes Sound and Vibration; AKHAN Semiconductor Inc.; Novaa Ltd.; Spark Thermionics Inc.; Olifant Medical; Vidrovr Inc.; Antimicrobial Materials; and Valley Tech Systems.

In the third round, xTechSearch 3.0, the Army is seeking novel, disruptive concepts and technologies to advance capabilities in areas such as long-range precision fires, the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle, Future Vertical Lift, the Army network, air and missile defense, increasing soldier lethality, medical technologies and military engineering technologies.

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MARCH 01, 2019


Olifant Medical, Inc. Featured in Startups San Antonio 2019 Edition 


JAN 03, 2019

Olifant Medical, Inc. featured in XConomy


Xconomy Texas — San Antonio — Entrepreneurship wasn’t something that Steven Venticinque expected to pursue in his life. Like many tinkerers and inventors, Venticinque took to entrepreneurship in order to fix a problem.

Intubation—the process of quickly inserting a breathing tube into someone, such as an emergency room patient who needs help breathing—isn’t as easy as you might think. The stress of emergency circumstances and a patient’s physical features can mean it’s quite difficult to push a breathing tube past a (usually unconscious) patient’s vocal cords, says Venticinque, an anesthesiologist in San Antonio, TX. That difficulty is exacerbated in more extreme situations, like caring for wounded soldiers during war—something Venticinque has experience with. Jabbing a tube into the larynx can also cause damage.

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Venticinque wondered why no one had built a better solution even as he heard ongoing complaints about inserting the breathing tubes, which requires a doctor to use a probe-like tool called a stylet and a laryngoscope, a flexible, lighted tube that helps a physician examine the larynx, to guide the breathing tube past the cords to keep the airway clear. Video laryngoscopes exist, but they’re expensive and not always accessible. Then, a colleague at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio proposed something Venticinque hadn’t considered before—that Venticinque himself build the solution.

Now, four years later, Venticinque has created a business, Olifant Medical, around a medical device he developed in his garage. The business is quite young: Venticinque has developed prototypes using a 3D printer in his house, and is working with the UT Health commercialization office on securing patent protection for the invention. The university will license the device to Olifant, which hopes to eventually sell it.

“There’s a lot of things that make the good part of the world go around, and entrepreneurism is one of them,” Venticinque says. “To go home and solve some challenge—to [3D] print some stuff and put it together—it’s a blast.”

Venticinque has self-funded the business with about $15,000 of his own money and two $25,000 grants from a program that UT Health operates to encourage innovation. Like many budding startups with an unproven product, he’s looking for more funding to bring it to market. Because his device is an adaption of existing products, Venticinque says he believes he could get to market within two years of getting funding.

The innovation behind Venticinque’s device is largely in its design. He built a stylet with an ergonomic shape that he believes will make guiding the tool easier, as well as a handle that a physician can squeeze in order to insert the endotracheal breathing tube. Venticinque says it’s faster, too, which can make a difference in emergency care situations for EMTs or military physicians.

“The goal is to guide it down rather than have a collision” with the vocal cords, he says. “The whole concept of a handle, and the way to push the endotrachial tube, is pretty novel.”

The inspiration for the device comes in part from his daily work in the department of anesthesiology at UT Health, where he has worked since 2007 (he is now the interim chair). But it also comes from his 20 years of experience in the military. During 12 years in the U.S. Air Force, Venticinque served in Iraq and Afghanistan—two missions in 2003 and 2005—during which he worked as a critical care doctor on evacuation missions. Intubating a severely wounded soldier in the dark of night is no easy task. [Corrected references to service in the Air Force, not Army, throughout.]

“Imagine having to do airway management on the back of a C-130 [aircraft] at 3 a.m. when the lights are out,” he says. “You have these young medics, young physicians, these young providers in the field having to save their comrades—it’s very stressful.”

Before his time in the Air Force, and before he went to college or medical school, Venticinque served eight years in the Navy, enlisting when he was 18 in 1980. Joining the Navy may not be that surprising, but what Venticinque did there is.

Venticinque was an electronic intelligence operator on a spy plane that would take flight for 12 to 14 hours at a time near the borders of “unfriendly countries,” he says, in hopes of picking up electronic signals those nations might be sending out. He’d gather electronic intelligence data and signals, interpret them in real time, and relay the results to the Navy.

The plane didn’t always go unnoticed, and was frequently intercepted by Russian jet fighters, Venticinque says. “For being in my early 20s, it was so much fun,” he says.

Eventually, Venticinque’s time overseas ended and, then in his mid-20s, he decided in the late 1980s to use his military benefits to get a college education. He figured he’d become a pilot, given his experience on the spy plane and the fact that he’d always liked tinkering with technical, scientific problems.

While living in Florida, he had a chance meeting with his neighbor, another veteran who was also going back to school as an older, nontraditional student. The neighbor planned to become a doctor—a fact that surprised Venticinque. (Didn’t you have to start planning for that much earlier? You didn’t.) Venticinque took the idea of medical school and ran with it. He joined the Air Force to help pay for his school bills, graduated with his MD from the University of Florida in 1994, and took his internship and residency at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. He worked at various military medical institutions in San Antonio before retiring from the Air Force in 2007 and joining the staff at UT Health, a decision that led to his latest venture as a businessman and inventor.

“You go into a field, you’re young, and you look at things and say ‘Why do people do it that way? That looks hard.’ … Then you become inured to it, you stop asking, and you just do it that way,” Venticinque says. “At some point, I said, I’m going to stop that. If something doesn’t look efficient, safe, or it can be better, I’m going to do it.”

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NOV 01, 2018

Dr. Steven Venticinque and Olfiant Medical, Inc. receive President’s Translational and Entrepreneurial Research Fund (PTEF) Award


“Institutional commitment for very early ideation and R&D is incredibly motivating for our faculty and staff, stated John Gebhard, Ph.D., assistant vice president for Office of Technology Commercialization. He added, “funding is critical, but speaking on behalf of the OTC team, it’s extremely rewarding to have highly successful clinicians, like Steve [Venticinque, M.D.] ‘walk the talk’. His passion for improving the standard of care for patients and devoting hours to his already jammed schedule to developing his technology, is admirable. We’re witnessing the impact of his leadership and Ken’s [Hargreaves, D.D.S, Ph.D.], co-chairs of the Entrepreneurial Faculty Scholars, for spreading the ‘entrepreneurial bug’. We ended the fiscal year with 61 invention disclosures and 5 start-ups.”

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