National Cybersecurity Center opens for business in Colorado Springs
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Vance Brown, National Cybersecurity Center CEO, center, and other employees pose for a portrait in their new building on Thursday January 18, 2018 in Colorado Springs, National Cybersecurity Center and Exponential Impact cybersecurity accelerator are there to help cybersecurity, blockchain, and artificial intelligence startups grow in June. (Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette)

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Entrepreneurs from four startups focused on cybersecurity, blockchain, artificial intelligence and related technologies will spend the next 11 weeks in Colorado Springs as part of an accelerator program designed to turn fledgling companies into thriving businesses.

Founders of Barn Owl, Bytable Foods, Mandy AI and QBRICS are the first "cohort" of participants in the Exponential Impact accelerator program that is designed to build companies in the three technology areas.

The accelerator, funded with a $100,000 donation from Cherwell Software CEO Vance Brown, is at the National Cybersecurity Center, which Brown also heads. The accelerator will deliver its programming through Colorado College.

Barn Owl was started by Josh Phifer, an Air Force reservist in Colorado Springs who joined with recent Texas A&M University graduate Greg Mallie to develop a system using smartphone cameras to remotely monitor water tanks, irrigation systems, gates and other equipment on farms and ranches so owners and operators don't have to drive around their fields or pastures to check on them.

Phifer and Mallie hope to use artificial intelligence to analyze the data the cameras gather and make the system more efficient.

Bytable Foods was started about a year ago by Jacy Rittmer and Brett Dugan in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to use blockchain technology, now used mostly for cyrptocurrenices such as Bitcoin, to track food from the farms where it is produced through processing and distribution to retailers and eventually to consumers to increase the safety, efficiency and reliability of the food supply chain.

While in the accelerator, the company is testing the technology by tracking cotton from a North Carolina farm to its use in a T-shirt.

Mandy AI, started by Jared Lafitte of Louisville, Ky., and Stephen Han of Dubai plans to use artificial intelligence to take data from questions employees answer by email or text messages and use it to deliver information on trends and predict employee behavior to help supervisors and executives better lead their companies and organizations. Lafitte spent the last six years working in executive coaching and is looking for help in rolling out the technology from the test stage to the enterprise level.

QBRICS was started by Rakesh Ramachadran and Rajiv Chandran, both of India, and Brennan Bennett of Park City, Utah, to use blockchain technology to automate regulatory compliance for workers in the H1B visa program for foreign workers in specialty jobs in engineering, medicine and technology.

They plan to spend their time in the program to expand use of their technology to track compliance with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation on privacy and data protection.

The companies applied in February and spent five days last month in the Springs learning about the program before they were selected last month.

Applicants had to be past the idea stage and have developed a "minimum viable product." The companies will receive up to $30,000 in seed funding for all expenses - housing is provided at Colorado College - for a 4 percent to 7 percent stake through investor partners in the accelerator.

The program ends Aug. 17 with a demonstration day, when participating companies will pitch their ideas to investors.

Ethan Lavin, program manager for the accelerator, said the next cohort will be selected early next year to participate in the accelerator program next summer.

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