The Commercialization Academy, sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate (AFRL/RI), held its Fall Demo Day at Griffiss Institute in Rome, New York, on November 30, 2017. More than 100 people—including investors, entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, and members of the local business community—watched four local tech startups take the stage to pitch how they have been disrupting the market in Upstate New York.


The AFRL Commercialization Academy is a Griffiss Institute entrepreneurial education program. Griffiss Institute has partnered with venture capital firm Wasabi Ventures to run the academy since 2015.

NYSTEC was a sponsor of the event, with CIO Nick Alger serving as a panel judge. IgniteU NY was also represented: three of the four teams in the competition were alumni of our program.


Teams took the stage for four minutes each, pitching audience members and a panel of judges—and competing for up to $20,000 from program funders.

The four startup teams who took the stage on Thursday evening were:


GivDapps (IgniteU NY ’16 alum) – GivDapps provides crowdfunding opportunities to families in need, and specific community projects that have been vetted by other charitable organizations. GivDapps is a non-profit organization leveraging technology and the power of community relationships to promote transparent charitable giving within local communities.


Good People Energy Technologies – Good People Energy’s mission is to make energy saving technology easy, while being an example of responsible stewardship of energy, communities, and human potential. They have created the Phoenix Fan Controller, which provides 10-30% energy savings with improved quiet and comfort, and can be added to existing small fan HVAC systems (PTACs, fan coils, split systems, etc.) to extend their useful lives. 

Inky’s Bookshelf (IgniteU NY ’17 alum) –At Inky, curated selections of books are created based on your reading history and interests. The product is simple: send in a picture of your bookshelf, and once a month a book will be sent to your doorstep.


Let’s Chat About It (IgniteU NY ’17 alum) – Let’s Chat About It is a wellness support platform and online community for those struggling with mental health and substance abuse. Let’s Chat About It is a comprehensive online platform that builds a community to share, support, and gain confidence to combat substance abuse and to better overall mental health.  

The judges’ panel evaluated each startup based on such factors as:

  • The ability of the business to affect Upstate New York’s startup ecosystem and high-tech economy
  • The culture of innovation that has been created within the startup due to incorporating AFRL technology
  • The sustainability of the solution beyond the initial startup period
  • Marketing strategy

Ethan Durham and Devin Morgan, co-founders of Good People Energy Technologies, walked away with the judges’ vote and $15,000, while Garrison Grant, founder of Let’s Chat About It, won the audience vote and $5,000 for his startup.