Santa Cruz entrepreneurs plot disruption with DNA and bicycles

Daylight cruise, night time workout.

“I look for transitions in markets”, said Neal Saiki, the founder of NTS Works as he explained why he’s designing and building high tech, electric bicycles. The market for traditional human powered bicycles is stagnant, but e-bike sales are rocketing. He plans to match his patented e-bike technology with existing bicycle industry distribution channels to ride that transition to success. His new products include a solar cargo bicycle that he says can run at 10 miles per hour on level ground powered just by sunlight. Any faster or steeper, and you have to pedal.

Saiki was speaking at the Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup last week, one of several entrepreneurs who pitched new companies and technologies to an audience of more than 250 people. The gathering, at CruzioWorks, marked the sixth anniversary of the New Tech Meetup and celebrated the people and organisations who have transformed Santa Cruz into a high tech hotspot.

From Norway to Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz is close to Silicon Valley and, particularly, the biotechnology hub south of San Francisco, “but still has the quality of life that we’re looking for”, said May Roen, as she explained why she decided to relocate her new venture, Isentio, from Norway.

She’s spotted a market transition brought on by scientific advances, too. It’s easier to fight an infection if you know what’s causing it. But treatment is a guessing game, with identification of bacteria and viruses taking the better part of a week using traditional methods. DNA sequencing can speed that process – taking hours instead – but it’s expensive and requires considerable expertise. Isentio aims to change that equation by tying DNA sequencers to a cloud-based diagnostic platform.

“The future is to have sequencers out to doctors’ offices, and maybe CVS and Safeway”, she said. The company already has sixty customers, including major labs like Stanford and the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Other presenters included Kurt Thams of PayNearMe, who talked about Bitcoin and Axel Shultz who demonstrated his Buzz Marketing social media platform. Two other local start-ups – Lightstrap and Creative Cultures – also showed new products, respectively a wrap around light to improve smart phone picture taking and a new range of healthy drinks.

The Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup is held monthly, the next event will be 5 March 2014.