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Friday, Dec 2, 2022
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STARTUPS & INNOVATIONS

FUNDING

Laguna Beach tiny-home company Wilderwise Homes has opened a $10 million Series A round.

The news comes after Wilderwise closed an oversubscribed equity crowdfunding campaign last month.

The Series A funding will expand its production capabilities, support the development of new products, and build out the company’s tech platform, which will connect landowners with tiny homeowners, Wilderwise founder and CEO Arya Mazanek told the Business Journal.

Mazanek, a graduate of University of Southern California, started Wilderwise in 2017.

She and her boyfriend live part time in the company’s two-story, mobile prototype.

“I’m not just a business owner—I’m living in the product,” she said, adding that the 21-foot-long tiny home is larger than her 180-square-foot studio in Laguna Beach.

“It has everything we need in order to live comfortably, including high-end, energy efficient appliances in our full kitchen.”

Wilderwise currently employs nine people at its 14,000-square-foot facility in Bosnia; Mazanek plans to hire marketing and operations roles in the U.S. this year.

Wilderwise currently counts 450 preorder requests, 25 deposits and six down payment commitments for its tiny homes, for which production is slated to begin by the end of 2022.

Newer models and add-on products, like awnings and foldable decks, are expected to launch by the end of 2023.

CONTRACTS

The U.S. Air Force’s commercial investment arm, AFVentures, has selected Newport Beach brainwave therapy company Wave Neuroscience for its Human Performance Contract.

Under the terms of the contract, the Air Force will use Wave Neuroscience’s technology to observe and track the cognitive health of service members, officials said April 26.

“While Wave Neuroscience is recognized for our contribution to the treatment of brain-related disorders, we are excited to formalize the exploration into human performance, optimization and the aspects of our technology that could help anyone in the world perform at their very best,” Wave Neurosciences’ Chief Executive Fred Walke said in a statement.

“We anticipate that this contract with AFVentures will be the beginning of many human performance collaborations with the armed forces to come.”

Established in 2019, Wave Neuroscience develops brain stimulation technologies that improve cognitive performance without pharmaceuticals or invasive procedures, the company said.

Its flagship device, called the Nest, is designed to use magnetic neural entrainment to reshape and improve brainwave activity within 30 days.

It costs $1,200 online.

PRODUCTS

Steve Hochman, co-founder of the Fit Body Boot Camp franchise, says he has invented and launched the first wearable glute workout device through his new Irvine-based company, GX5 Fit.

The GX5 Trainer goes for $62 apiece via an Indiegogo crowdfunding page.

Officials say GX5 Fit is “ready for mass production” and can deliver units by June.

The company was founded in 2021. With the purchase of a GX5 Trainer, users will have access to a six-week training program powered by an accompanying mobile app.

As of last week, its crowdfunding campaign has raised about $4,200 of its $10,000 goal.

“After training thousands of clients over the past 20 years, I discovered that 90% of people struggle to activate their glutes,” Hochman said in a statement, adding that the patent-pending design allows consumers to “feel the burn” up to 87% more.

The GX5 Trainer wraps around the user’s shoe, which corrects a body’s form during both stationary and moving exercises, such as walking or lunges, officials said.

Hochman added: “We believe this product has the potential to take off on a global scale …and make a splash in the U.S. health and fitness market.”

Software firm Helium 10, an Irvine subsidiary of e-commerce company Assembly, has rolled out new tools for product research, inventory management and market expansion, including the Pinterest Trend Finder and Inventory Heat Maps, officials said.

Helium 10, which originated in 2015, is a SaaS provider for e-commerce sellers on marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart. It provides sellers data-driven tools to help them grow their business. It offers monthly plans that range from $29 to $209.

It has surpassed 2 million members worldwide, the company reported April 29.

“There is so much opportunity for entrepreneurs to be successful in the e-commerce space,” Helium 10’s VP of Product Zoe Lu said on the company’s website. “Our training, community and technology helps entrepreneurs launch and scale their e-commerce business.”

In addition to its embedded tools, the company says it now provides video resources on YouTube that are designed for varying stages of e-commerce selling.

PARTNERSHIPS

Plant-based nutritional company Naturade Inc. of Irvine has expanded its product offerings in Target stores.

Naturade, founded in 1926 and purchased by Claude Tellis and Kareem Cook in 2012, manufactures and distributes health-related products, including vitamins, nutritional supplements and protein shake mixes.

Tellis and Cook, both graduates of Duke University, seek to make health foods more accessible in lower-income areas.

“We stand behind the taste and nutrition of all of our products, and we’re thrilled to offer a wider variety to Target customers,” said Tellis, who won the Business Journal’s Innovator of the Year Award last year. “Especially when our lives are busier than ever, it’s helpful to have access to food that is nutritional and easy. We’re excited to offer this ease through Target.”

The expansion adds four Naturade products to Target shelves: the VeganSmart All-In-One Nutritional Shake in vanilla and chocolate, as well as the Plant-Based Protein Nutritional Shake, also in vanilla and chocolate.

Irvine-based biotechnology company Zymo Research announced April 26 its investment in Star Array of Singapore to together develop an automatic diagnostic platform for COVID-19 and future point-of-care tests.

According to the officials, the partnership will combine Zymo Research’s DNA and RNA extraction technology with Star Array’s automation expertise into a ready-made, “superfast PCR platform.”

“Zymo Research and Star Array have both built businesses at the intersection of science and technology and we share a vision of ultrafast PCR technology that will enable POC PCR tests to be analyzed in just minutes in doctor’s offices, laboratories, and hospitals,” Star Array’s Vice President Dr. Yanhui Liu said in a statement.

Founded in 1994, Zymo Research aims to develop simpler collection kits for laboratories.

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Audrey Kemp
Audrey Kemp
Audrey Kemp is a staff reporter and occasional photojournalist for the Orange County Business Journal. Her beats include — but are not limited to — healthcare, startups, and education. While pursuing her bachelors in literary journalism at UC Irvine, she interned for New York-based magazine Narratively Inc., wrote for Costa Mesa-based lifestyle magazine Locale, and covered the underground music scene for two SoCal-based music publications. She is an unwavering defendant of the emdash and the Oxford comma.
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