VT KnowledgeWorks Stars Lead New River Valley Technology Sector

in his Roanoke Times article, Progression despite recession, 1/11/09, Jeff Sturgeon writes that "some companies are growing even though the overall economy is not…  Some companies…are bringing out products and services in support of other, innovative technologies."

From the New River Valley technology sector, Sturgeon cites NanoSafe and LimbGear, both of whom are member companies of business acceleration center VT KnowledgeWorks.  The LimbGear® Noggin Net was featured on The Today Show.

Jeff Sturgeon's excellent, comprehensive profiles of both companies are quoted here:

NanoSafe Inc.

NanoSafe is pursuing a big idea in a small world — the nanosphere, made up of objects as small as a few billionths of a meter.

The Blacksburg company offers independent, third-party testing of nanotechnology products.

"We can quantify … safety," President Matt Hull said.

Nanomaterials are powerful and require safe handling. Objects behave differently when downsized to a few billionths of a meter. They may react more energetically to light, heat and electricity or become incredibly strong — creating opportunities as well as the risk of unintended consequences.

Nanoscale scientists already have spent two decades improving consumer goods. Examples include more protective sunscreen and harder, lighter baseball bats.

They foresee similar results in medicine, energy and drinking water.

As the industry expands, Hull, a Pulaski County native and graduate student at Virginia Tech, said he believes that users of nanoscale materials are looking for greater transparency around the potential environmental health and safety risks posed by their operations.

So Hull has built a service business in which he and scientists he recruits can perform research, testing and consulting for companies, government agencies and organizations seeking to use nanomaterials safely.

Much the way Underwriters Laboratory became the product safety testing company for a host of everyday products from fire extinguishers to microwave ovens, NanoSafe hopes to become a premier evaluator of nanotechnology products.

Recently, NanoSafe tested the containment properties of a laboratory fume hood — it's first product test — and gave the hood a passing grade. The maker, Labconco of Kansas City., Mo., is free to label the hood with NanoSafe's mark: a black N inside a pentagon.

Steve Gound, president of the laboratory equipment company, said the designation "is something we will promote as outside, independent verification of the performance of the product in our literature and advertising materials and reporting."

That's feedback welcomed by Hull, 30, who is studying for a doctorate degree in civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and who hopes, after he completes his degree, to take NanoSafe to the next level.

LimbGear

In spite of a recession that some fear could be severe, while many are hunkering down, Tyson Daniel of Roanoke quit a $73,000-a-year job as an attorney.

He's gone into business for himself. His venture, LimbGear, sells "MP3-enabled" apparel.

For starters, there's a $21.99 skullcap with a rear pouch for a small portable media player. For an additional $7.51, you get ear buds on a short wire that are held in place by the hat — a favorite of nationally known gadget guru Steve Greenberg, who plugged the Noggin Net on NBC's "Today Show" the week after Christmas.

LimbGear also is selling a $15.49 armband MP3 holder that comes in three sizes depending on bicep bulk. Both products are intended to interest people with an active lifestyle, the company says.

Daniel was asked what the six-employee enterprise must do in 2009.

"Generate revenue," he said.

WeighOut LLC, the parent company, does not release financial information.

He noted that in spite of the nation being in the middle of an economic storm with no end forecast, the audience of LimbGear is a large and growing population because of the huge popularity of personal electronic devices.

Apple, for one, said it has sold more than 150 million iPod portable media players.

Daniel, 37, is propelled by passion for nurturing something he created from scratch.

Plus, he had tired of the psychological demands of being a senior assistant capital defender in the Christiansburg-based Office of the Capital Defender for Southwest Virginia. He spent nearly five years representing people charged with capital murder, meaning, they were at risk of getting the death penalty.

Late last month, he moved the business from the basement of his Roanoke Valley home to the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

"This is not an opportunity that I want to pass up," Daniel said. 

The text above was quoted from Jeff Sturgeon's Roanoke Times article, Progression despite recession, 1/11/09.

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