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Acuitec, the Vanderbilt University portfolio company based in Birmingham, is raising A-round capital and will probably relocate to Nashville if angels here become dominant investors in the firm.
President and CEO Lionel Tehini told VNC yesterday, "If we get funded out of Nashville, then we'll probably relocate there."
However, he added, if Acuitec does not attract the targeted $1.5 million or "if we don't get the deal we like, we'll just continue to finance it ourselves, and we'll just grow it slower," in Birmingham.
Tehini's comments suggested he'd prefer Nashville money and a new Nashville address; but, either way, he made clear, "I'm not going to close it down, I think it's too much of a good thing..." He said potential buyers of Acuitec products have been very positive about the technology.
Regarding the overall capital-formation climate, he said "there's just no confidence, at all, and the government's not helping much," with the vagaries of bailout policy and suspense about the effectiveness of the incoming administration of President-Elect Barack Obama leaving many worried we will yet see a "complete meltdown."
Tehini said he believes that angel investors are the most likely to support Acuitec, currently, because venture-capital investors have migrated farther from early-stage investing, toward operating companies.
"I think all the VCs have stepped-up a notch from where they were," he added, noting that before the scope of the financial crisis was so apparent, he had been approached by a number of VCs interested in early-stage investment.
Tehini said he and a "couple of friends" in Birmingham-based EmmJay Concept Technologies provided most of the seed capital for pre-revenue Acuitec, which operates through a joint venture with Vanderbilt University. He said EmmJay has also invested in tech firms in Utah and in Tehini's native South Africa.
Acuitec's products are a comprehensive surgical-centered information-management system (VPIMS); and a multi-pronged clinical decision-support system (Vigilance) that allows clinicians to subscribe to an array of patient-monitoring, lab and other alarms and data streams, including video, which are transmitted to mobile devices. Earlier this year, Vigilance earned a Microsoft Healthcare User Group Most Innovative Product Award.
Acuitec systems have been tested within Vanderbilt's Medical Center anesthesiology department. Tehini credits Vanderbilt clinicians with playing key roles in the development and deployment of the technologies, some of which have been in use at Vanderbilt nearly a decade, in dozens of operating rooms, involving more than 200,000 cases have been treated.
Tehini's been smitten by Nashville, for sure. "Nashville's got a lot going for it, Nashville is a phenomenal city, I love Nashville," he said, adding that had he been familiar with Nashville before settling in Birmingham, he would have chosen Nashville.
At least one other among Vanderbilt's 20 portfolio companies is considering relocating to Nashville. A decision is pending at Melbourne, Fla.-based Tyratech, Inc.
Tehini has also been associated with Birmingham-based Applied Ultrasonics, which provides technology and services for treatment of welded metal structures, to improve strength and life. He is a 1983 chemical-engineering graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand at Johannesburg. Tehini named his JV company, Emmjay, after the first letters of his two now-college age children's names. ♦