SAN DIEGO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Triton Fund (TTF) announces their seed round investment in GrollTex, an early stage company with breakthrough technology for the mass production of graphene. Funds from the seed round are enabling GrollTex to accelerate commercialization of their technology.
A University of California, San Diego graduate student has found a way to use mass-produced graphene, an allotrope of carbon that is one atom-thick. Large-scale graphene can be used for applications such as water desalination membranes and flexible electronics.
“Graphene is more conductive than any metal we know of, and it’s 200 times stronger than steel because of the way the atoms bond to form a hexagonal pattern (think of chicken wire) with a cloud of free electrons hovering above and below it,” said UC San Diego NanoEngineering Ph.D. candidate Aliaksandr (Alex) Zaretski. “It has been known for years that graphene is useful as a water desalination membrane. We can introduce nanopores into a monolayer of graphene, push large quantities of salt water through and the salt will be rejected on the basis of size and charge.”
The problem, according to Zaretski, is that no one has been able to produce graphene on a large-enough scale for this and other applications.
“GrollTex looks like they have cracked the code on this. The company has developed an environmentally benign process to grow graphene with the same properties as traditional manufacturing. This is an enormous market if we can get the technology commercialized,” said David Schwab, Managing Director of the Triton Fund and Vertical Venture Partners.
After winning the UC San Diego Entrepreneurship Challenge, Zaretski caught the attention of Rosibel Ochoa, Senior Executive Director, Entrepreneurism and Leadership Programs at the Jacobs School of Engineering, who suggested he apply to the Southern California Clean Energy Technology Acceleration Program managed by the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and funded by the Department of Energy. Through this program, Alex received proof of concept funding and individualized mentorship to help validate his technology for the market.
“It was a really eye-opening experience,” said Zaretski. “I not only had great peers in the program, I also had great mentors who propelled my business idea to the state of a viable high-tech startup.”
“GrollTex’s accomplishments exemplify how the partnership between the von Liebig Center and early stage funds like The Triton Fund accelerates innovation and supports young promising entrepreneurs like Alex,” said Rosibel Ochoa.
Since working with the von Liebig Center, Zaretski has won multiple awards, including the second prize of the DOE Business Plan Competition in 2014, and this year’s first prize at Chapman University’s 4th Annual California Dreamin’ Business Plan Competition.
Things took off – Zaretski patented the technology through UC San Diego’s Technology Transfer Office and obtained an exclusive license. From there, he went on to form a core team by hiring a CEO – Jeff Draa, President of Tech Coast Angels.
“We’re currently talking with companies about lab space and strategic partnerships,” said Zaretski.
Zaretski says none of this would be possible if it weren’t for the unique culture at UC San Diego that fosters entrepreneurship.
“That’s one of the reasons I chose UC San Diego,” said Zaretski. “I wanted to go to a graduate school where my ideas would not only be accepted, but embraced and nurtured. It’s because of programs and centers such as von Liebig and mentors such as Rosibel Ochoa that GrollTex has come this far.”
About GrollTex: GrollTex is an early stage company with breakthrough technology for the mass production of graphene. The company has developed a method in which graphene is grown on a copper substrate and overlaid with a sheet of nickel. Because graphene adheres better to nickel than to copper, the entire graphene single-layer can be easily removed and remains intact over large areas.
About The Triton Fund: The Triton Fund (TTF) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Vertical Venture Partners (VVP). TTF invests in companies commercializing technologies being developed at UC San Diego (UCSD) or by UCSD alumni. Companies can originate in any school including, for example, Jacobs School of Engineering, Rady School of Management, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, or the Medical School. Technology areas of interest include cloud applications, analytics, social media, mobile, materials, medical devices, digital health, healthcare IT, instruments and cloud software infrastructure. Of particular interest are technologies that can be matched with a targeted vertical market. For more information, interested parties may contact TTF at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Vertical Venture Partners: Vertical Venture Partners is a venture capital firm focused on investments in companies that target specific vertical markets. Some vertical markets of interest include Retail, Healthcare, Transportation, Insurance, Financial Services and Telecommunications. Some technology areas of interest include: analytical applications, cloud applications, mobile, vertical CRM, cyber-security and software infrastructure. Vertical Venture Partners will invest at any stage of a company’s growth and can help companies accelerate their business. For more information, interested parties may contact VVP at email@example.com.
About the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center: The von Liebig Center is a nationally recognized Proof of Concept Center with a mission to accelerate the commercialization of university discoveries. Housed at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering since its founding in 2002, the von Liebig Center, now an NSF funded I–Corps Site, has helped more than 200 innovator teams conduct proof of concept studies and market research through a combination of gap funding, expert mentorship and entrepreneurial education. To date, the Center has helped launched more than 53 startup companies.