Imagine you are a child at a hospital.

Maybe you're scared of needles, or maybe just the idea of being in a hospital frightens you.

Now you're given a virtual-reality game, with a special headset that allows you to play games by breathing.

In what industries are you most interested in seeing tech startups develop? For examples, read@ThisWeekSarah's survey of five central Ohio businesses built on innovative and available technology.https://t.co/JpPYPIvojc

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Your parents, your doctors and your nurses can see and control its features, but you're just playing a game.

It takes your mind off whatever pain or anxiety you might have.

This technology is real, and it is being developed by LittleSeed, a Columbus-based company that designs products to improve a patient's experience. Called "Voxel Bay," the mixed-reality gaming platform had its origins at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus.

"Voxel Bay" was launched about three years ago at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said Jeremy Patterson, LittleSeed's chief creative technology officer.

Eventually, Patterson and acting CEO Jeff Penka licensed the project from the hospital to develop it, founding LittleSeed in the process.

Virtual-reality games are the best kind of games to distract patients, Patterson said.

"You're absorbed in that alternative reality," he said.

Although the headset technology is under design, the product soon could be used by young patients in hospital rooms, Patterson said.

He said LittleSeed is working with a pharmaceutical company to sponsor the game. The goal, he said, is to implement the technology at five children's hospitals – one of them Nationwide – by the end of year.

LittleSeed might have a good handle on linking the gaming industry to health care, but it is not the only central Ohio business using innovative and available technology, such as 3D printing and app development, that could have been considered science fiction a decade ago.

Some of these companies also seem to be capitalizing on timing, finding their footing locally because of the availability of funding assistance.

Helping hands

Private funding assistance has a few forms, but the two with which most people might be familiar, according to business.com, are "angel investors," who usually use their own money, and "venture capitalists," people or organizations who generally use money pooled from several sources that could include investment companies, corporations and pension funds.

Startup companies are becoming more numerous in central Ohio in large part due to venture-capital funding sources, such as Rev1 Ventures, the Ohio Innovation Fund and Drive Capital, said Scott Osborne, vice president of economic and corporate engagement at Ohio State University.

Osborne knows startups well.

Within his office is a group called New Ventures, which facilitates the creation of startup companies based on technology invented at Ohio State.

Currently, 90 active startups have been launched, Osborne said. New Ventures doesn't own these companies but rather serves as a sort of coaching service, offering a network of business leaders to assist companies with such tasks as writing business plans and making introductions to potential funding sources, he said.

The startups have licensed technology from the university that was discovered or developed at Ohio State, but they are separate companies and not part of the university, according to Krista Richardson, who works for Ohio State's corporate-engagement office.

Likewise, business leaders in the network are not employees of the university, Richardson said. They often are entrepreneurs who have a passion for growing businesses, and some are alumni, she said.

"For Ohio State startups, a benefit for entrepreneurs is that the basis for the startup already is established – the technology developed at the university – and we can connect the business leaders to a number of resources, potentially including Rev1 Ventures and/or funding," Richardson said.

Life sciences – things that either directly or indirectly affect health care for humans or animals – are a fast-growing arena for startups, Osborne said.

One Ohio State-born startup is Spirosure, a company that offers products and services to manage chronic pulmonary diseases, such as asthma and cystic fibrosis, according to its website.

Another is NeuRenaisson, which is making a "Neural Organoid Platform" that mimics the human central nervous system to study human brain-disease mechanisms and facilitate drug discovery, efficacy and safety testing, according to its website.

Mobility technologies and artificial-intelligence technologies also are popular, as are technologies that facilitate monitoring homes, car tires and similar items, Osborne said.

Like Osborne, Wayne Embree, executive vice president of investments and venture acceleration at Columbus-based Rev1 Ventures, said life sciences were popular subjects for startup tech companies.

He also noted information technology – specifically, companies that develop products that help other companies optimize their processes and systems.

Rev1 was formed in 2014 to establish long-term relationships with startups, helping them become established by providing services, programming and capital, Embree said.

Since 2014, Rev1 has invested about $40 million in more than 100 companies, he said. The business typically works with more than 150 companies per year, and over the past several years, it has averaged investing in over 30 companies annually.

One of the companies that Rev1 has worked with is LittleSeed, which, Osborne said, is categorized as an IT startup.

Mobile medicine

As LittleSeed is looking to improve the patient experience inside a hospital, Grandview Heights-based ScriptDrop is streamlining the way people receive their prescription medicine.

Founded by Nick Potts in 2017, the company created a prescription-delivery service, connecting pharmacies to trained, professional couriers, said Jessi Behrendsen, director of content and marketing for ScriptDrop.

ScriptDrop also benefited from venture-capital funding. Its initial investors included Rev1, the Ohio TechAngels Fund, M25, the Jumpstart Foundry and "angels," Behrendsen said.

Pharmacies that use the ScriptDrop service can give patients the option to have their medicine delivered to them, she said. Pharmacies pay the fee, which ScriptDrop negotiates with couriers, or they have the patients pay the fee.

ScriptDrop is delivering medicine to patients in 35 states, Behrendsen said. Pharmacies in any state could contract with the company.

The patient receives notifications about the prescription as it's being delivered, and someone must be at the home to sign for the medicine, she said. Pharmacies also get tamper-free packaging for the medicine to ensure it's delivered safely.

The point of the service, Behrendsen said, is to reduce medication abandonment, which occurs when patients are too sick to travel to the pharmacy or if they don't have transportation. A reliable delivery service saves the pharmacy money and helps patients adhere to their medications, she said.

On June 7, ScriptDrop launched a pilot of its new patient app, Delivering Health, Behrendsen said. The app was launched to friends, family and acquaintances, she said, but if someone wants to sign up for the app, he or she can go to deliveringhealth.com.

App users will be able to sign up for themselves or on behalf of a friend or family member to get prescriptions delivered to their homes, Behrendsen said. Users select which pharmacy to use, as well as what time to deliver the prescription and where, she said. They receive text updates about the deliveries, which are done within an hour.

Signing up for an account costs $99 annually, she said.

The pilot program currently is available only for pharmacies in and around Grandview Heights, Behrendsen said. ScriptDrop is looking to expand that to other areas of central Ohio soon, but the company doesn't have a timetable for doing so, she said.

Print prowess

Another Columbus-based company is making health-related innovations through 3D printing.

Ben Feltner and Anjan Contractor founded BeeHex in January 2016.

Contractor had worked for a research-and-development firm in Austin, Texas, which received a solicitation from NASA to develop personalized nutrition for astronauts via 3D printing, Feltner said.

Contractor was a principal investigator for the project, but it ended up getting cut due to funding, Feltner said.

So Contractor started his own business, finding Feltner, a lawyer working in Texas, online.

They invested personally in BeeHex at the beginning, Feltner said.

BeeHex then gained Jim Grote, owner of Donatos Pizza, as an "angel investor," and the business moved to Columbus in March 2017, Feltner said. The company since has received support from Rev1 and Army Small Business Innovation Research, he said.

Tom Grote is chief adviser for Edge Innovation Hub, which helps the Grote family's businesses – Donatos, the Grote Co. and Jane's Dough Foods – focus on food technology and connect with innovative businesses, he said.

He said his father had invested in Beehex after a demonstration of 3D-printed pizzas at Ohio State.

"You can imagine that got our attention," Tom Grote said.

BeeHex is based at Edge Innovation Hub at 1140 Gahanna Parkway in Columbus, as is fellow tech startup Platter, which focuses on "smart" kitchen technology, Tom Grote said. The Grote family is looking for more food-tech businesses to share space at the hub, he said.

Although BeeHex got the Grote family's attention with the pizzas, the startup is using 3D printing for food in two other ways.

The first substitutes 3D-printed frosting for traditional hand-piped frosting.

Feltner said BeeHex has 3D printers at bakeries in Columbus, New York City and Green Bay, Wisconsin. The printers can be used to create royal icing for cookies and buttercream frosting for cakes, he said.

In most cases, those who have the skill to decorate cakes and cookies typically go into business themselves, so larger bakeries have difficulty finding people to decorate their desserts, Feltner said.

BeeHex also has a contract with the U.S. Army and NASA for a personalized nutrition machine, Feltner said.

BeeHex has software that takes a person's health information – such as height, weight, age or DNA data and information from health analyses – and runs it through algorithms to tell the 3D printer which ingredients to use to make a nutrition bar or a snack akin in consistency to yogurt and granola.

"It's tailored to you, specifically," Feltner said.

A powdered pea protein, for example, could be mixed with water and another ingredient for a snack bar or a snack cup, he said.

This type of technology most likely would be used in military bases to help those who are injured or recovering from a workout and need a highly personalized nutrition routine, he said.

Although BeeHex is focused on the technology's military uses, Feltner said, he could see potential for the product in airports, cafeterias and gyms. Users who like the service could subscribe and receive personalized shipments, he said.

Media mentor

Although the health-care industry has provided opportunities for many new technology jobs, social media is the arena in which Malorie Yagelski of New Albany works.

She and boyfriend Logan Buehrer founded Mastery by Mal in April 2018 after she began growing and managing Instagram accounts for some of Buehrer's clients and then her own.

Mastery by Mal, which is based in New Albany and receives no outside funding, offers courses for people who want to learn how to grow, monetize and brand social-media accounts, Yagelski said.

Courses include Instagram growth, monetization through Instagram, branding through social media, how to create and sell photo filters and how to create online courses, she said.

A total of 1,600 people have taken the first course on Instagram growth since they started offering it, Yagelski said.

Yagelski became interested in social-media branding when she met Buehrer while she was in college, she said. He was doing Instagram marketing, and he taught her how. She picked up some of his clients, she said, and then gained her own.

But when she realized that more people needed help than she was able to serve, they launched a course, she said.

"It just kind of took off from there," she said.

Business backer

Business-related technology also should not be overlooked, according to New Albany resident Rick Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said he was inspired to found with partners Riccardo Grasseschi and Greg Heis a company to create an app called RoamHR after helping his 24-year-old son, Taylor, with his taxes.

Taylor recently had secured a job in the "gig economy," a term used to describe the self-employed sector, Gonzalez said.

With the advent of apps like DoorDash, Lyft and Uber, the self-employed sector is fast-growing, Gonzalez said. More and more people are working independently, whether on a full-time basis or to supplement their paychecks, he said.

"That's pretty systemic," he said.

Because many are young, some don't know how to file their taxes, and they don't have a human-resources department to help them, Gonzalez said.

RoamHR is free to download via Apple and Android platforms, and a subscription costs $4.99 per month, Gonzalez said. By the end of May, the app had registered more than 5,000 downloads since it was released March 23, he said. About 10% of the registered users have purchased the subscription, he said.

RoamHR creates a tax-savings account connected with personal checking accounts, Gonzalez said. The service calculates what someone needs to save for taxes and automatically moves that money into a secure tax-savings account, he said.

The app will pay quarterly estimated taxes on behalf of the users, Gonzalez said. It also records driving trips, he said.

And when users spend something, because the app is tied to bank accounts, they can flag the expense as a business expense, he said.

"We're trying to do anything we can to help self-employed people improve their tax situation," Gonzalez said.

Cleveland-based JumpStart, an organization like Rev1, is an investor for RoamHR, and several "personal angels" have contributed money, Gonzalez said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah