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STARTUPS & INNOVATIONS

PARTNERSHIPS

Mission Viejo’s Smart Cups LLC has teamed up with New York’s International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. (NYSE: IFF), the printed liquid products maker announced April 26.

With IFF, Smart Cups aims to bring new health and wellness products to market by the fourth quarter, according to Smart Cups CEO Chris Kanik, a Cornell University graduate who founded Smart Cups in 2011.

With seven patents pending, the company has created what it calls the world’s first printed beverage: an energy drink. Its technology, Kanik explained, will soon create “anything [liquid] in a grocery store” by adding water, from barbecue sauce to real eggs.

“Even though we’re called ‘Smart Cups,’ we’re not a drink company nor a cup company,” Kanik told the Business Journal. “Our technology allows for flavor materials on surfaces, which reimagines the way consumer products are packaged and distributed.”

Smart Cups currently employs 11 workers at its 23,000-square-foot plant.

“By gaining exclusive access to Smart Cups’ manufacturing technology … we will focus on the development of new innovative print products that will help lead the future of sustainability, manufacturing, and enable new product formats for consumer-packaged goods,” IFF’s Chief Global Scientific Officer Dr. Gregory Yep said in a statement.

Seattle-based real estate brokerage Redfin Corp. (Nasdaq: RDFN) has linked up with Newport Beach real estate SaaS firm Constellation1 to accelerate market expansion.

The partnership will allow “Redfin to become a truly national search destination much faster than we could have via our own engineering resources,” Redfin Chief Growth Officer Christian Taubman said in a statement. “Data accuracy has always been a core part of Redfin’s consumer experience, which is why we selected a partner with a proven track record of data excellence and reliability.”

Constellation1, a subsidiary of Constellation Web Solutions Inc., provides cloud-based services for brokerages, franchises, and multiple lister services in North America. The platform allows for “real-time automation of data processing,” according to the company.

Since launching in 2006, Redfin reports saving customers more than $1 billion in commissions, serving over 100 markets across the U.S. and Canada and employing over 6,000 people. Redfin, which raised $138 million in its 2017 IPO, now has a $1.3 billion market cap.

Andrew Binkley, president of Constellation1, added: “It’s very rewarding that Redfin has recognized the value of our listing API and how Constellation1 data services can propel their growth strategy.”

VENTURE CAPITAL

Newport Beach-based fast-casual chain Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG) announced April 19 the launch of a new, self-funded $50 million venture fund.

The Cultivate Next fund will invest in seed to Series B-stage companies that are developing technology and innovations in the restaurant industry, officials said.

“We are exploring investments in emerging innovation that will enhance our employee and guest experience, and quite possibly revolutionize the restaurant industry,” Chipotle Chief Technology Officer Curt Garner said in a statement.

“Investing in forward-thinking ventures that are looking to drive meaningful change at scale will help accelerate Chipotle’s aggressive growth plans.”

The news comes after Chipotle began testing last month an artificially intelligent robot, Chippy, to cook its tortilla chips, as well as radio-frequency identification to trace and track ingredients in its restaurants. The company was profiled in the April 4 print edition of the Business Journal.

It invested in an autonomous delivery company, Nuro, last year. Officials also hinted at a new scheduling tool that uses machine learning to build more effective schedules.

Each new venture is to “drive efficiencies and enhance the human experience,” the company said.

Shares for Chipotle traded near $1,500 apiece for a $42 billion market cap as of last week.

NEW HIRES

Modulim, a medical device company in Irvine, has appointed Andre Grujovski as vice president of marketing.

Grujovski joins Modulim with over 17 years of business-to-business telehealth and medtech experience at both startups and large companies, including Teladoc Health and InTouch Health.

“I worked closely with Andre during our time together at InTouch Health and so I have personally seen Andre’s ability to develop and deliver programs that drive new customer acquisition, grow revenue, increase sales, and improve customer satisfaction in emerging healthcare technology markets,” Modulim CEO Charlie Huiner said in a statement.

Modulim, founded by UCI alumnus David Cuccia in 2005, develops imaging technology, called the Clarifi, which maps tissue health at the point-of-care for patients with diabetes, kidney disease and peripheral vascular disease. The Clarifi is FDA-cleared and helps clinicians identify patients at risk for diabetic foot ulcers and other vascular complications, the company said.

In 2019, Modulim raised $7 million in Series B funding round led by Canada’s Pangaea Ventures, and in 2016, raised another $500,000 in venture funding led by Irvine’s Cove Fund.

PRODUCTS

Irvine-based Victury Sports, maker of the Ollyball, April 22 launched its newest product—the Ollyball Slugger—a balloon-like ball designed to be safely thrown indoors.

Joe Burke created the Ollyball in 2018 after his daughter practiced her soccer skills in the house and spilled spaghetti. Since its launch, over 1 million Ollyballs have been sold, earning it the No. 1 Amazon New Release in its category, according to the company.

The product expansion comes after the Los Angeles Angels’ Head Hitting Coach Jeremy Reed saw the Ollyball in a viral video with over 40 million views on TikTok and Instagram. Reed then teamed up with Burke to expand the company’s “full-force indoor play” toys with the Ollyball Slugger.

“A lot of parents try to get technical with their kids as they are starting out in baseball. The most important thing is to be athletic, have fun and make contact,” Reed said in a statement. “We like the Ollyball Slugger because a first-time hitter can get success by just rolling the ball on the floor and hitting, to full-force hitting indoors and more advanced games such as simulating curveballs and rise balls. The best part … is that kids can get immediate and positive feedback hitting.”

Roots, a hair products company founded by students at Westminster High School last year, won first place in Virtual Enterprises’ National Finance Competition.

Roots develops products for various hair types that are made with natural ingredients and packaged sustainably, according to its student founders.

The National Finance Competition, run by New York nonprofit Virtual Enterprises, is a week-long virtual and in-person competition.

Virtual Enterprises, founded in 1996, reports serving over 20,000 student entrepreneurs every year through its various programs and competitions.

“It opens up the opportunity for students to observe and understand first hand what they are learning and what interests them as it relates to the careers they might pursue,” Virtual Enterprises’ founder Iris Blanc said in a statement.

In the months leading to the competition, Roots’ student team won each local, regional and state competition. Their successes led them to the final round of the competition earlier this month at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, where they competed against 40 other finalists.

“The team had an amazing time exploring the city and bringing home some wins for WHS,” Roots officials said in an Instagram post on April 6.

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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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