A business created under Grove City College’s entrepreneurship umbrella is garnering buzz in the startup world and drawing investor interest.
Gecko Robotics, a company started by Jake Loosararian ’13 in 2013 under the Grove City College Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation’s VentureLab, took third place at Rice University’s recent Business Plan Competition, the richest and largest global student startup competition.
The company, which has already over $1 million in funding, was awarded an additional $150,000 in individual prizes for their pitch, which highlighted the unique role that robots can play in power plant safety and lowering emissions levels.
“It is exciting to see visions begin to come to fruition through hard work. But we have a lot more work to do to transform this industry,” Loosararian said.
Gecko Robotics builds and deploys robots that can climb the interior walls of large boilers and other tight and dangerous spaces to conduct safety inspections. The primary customer for the company, which has offices in Pittsburgh and Silicon Valley, is the power-generation industry. Their customers represent nearly $1 million in revenue and are cash-positive.
The impressive showing at Rice’s event follows on the heels of Gecko being named one of the Top 7 Startups at Y Combinator Winter 2016 Demo Day, a March conference hosted by the Silicon Valley startup accelerator. As a result, they received seed funding, developed their ideas and improved their business acumen to deal with investors and acquirers.
“Grove City College honed a foundation centered on values, work ethic and purpose. A startup demands this from its founders,” Loosararian said. “Through supporting things like VentureLab and Team GCC, the college has enabled and heightened the entrepreneurial spirit of me and my co-founders. The key to the College's success is top-tier professors with experience and aptitude. They just have a knack for believing in you. Team GCC lit a fire of entrepreneurship for me and gave me the confidence to start my own company.”
The College also produced some key talent that has become a core part of the company. Troy Demmer ’11 is Gecko's chief operations officer, and Josh Moore ’13 is the lead mechanical engineer for the commercial product. Ian Miller ’13, a member of the original Gecko Robotics VentureLab team at Grove City College, serves as the chief technology officer.
“To watch this project grow from the seedling of an idea in our first VentureLab cohort into a company that will disrupt an entire industry has been truly exhilarating,” Yvonne English ’97, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, said. English was the team’s VentureLab coach as well as their advisor after graduation.
“We are proud of Jake and the team and applaud their tenacity and vision. They are a wonderful representation of Grove City College values and entrepreneurial spirit,” she said.
Gecko’s mission comes from a desire to eliminate the danger that human safety inspectors face in the power industry. Most power plants must shut down at least once a year to check for damage to their boilers. These inspections involve crews setting up and climbing massive scaffolds to manually check infrastructure for wear and damage. It’s dangerous work that ends up costing the industry billions. Gecko’s solution saves lives and drastically reduces costs.
For more about the Entrepreneurship Program at Grove City College including the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Entrepreneurship Department, visit www.gccentrepreneurship.com.