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From vaccines to apps for truck drivers, Lincoln startups mark big year for investments

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MatMaCorp of Lincoln has received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration for use of its portable COVID-19 testing system.

Last year, depending on how you look at it, might be considered the biggest year ever for Lincoln-based startups.

It all comes down to whether you still consider Hudl, which is nearing its 15th birthday, a startup company. Experts disagree, with some arguing that Hudl, which has 2,300 employees and offices in four countries, is now a mature company.

If you consider Hudl a startup, then the $120 million it raised last year from Bain Capital dwarfs any capital raised in the history not just of Lincoln startups but any in the state of Nebraska. In fact, the investment, on its own, would match the annual record for startup investments in the state, set in 2015.

Hudl acquires funding from Bain Capital, plans aggressive investment

But even if you don't consider Hudl a startup and overlook the massive investment, it was still a banner year for local startup companies.

Two of them, Adjuvance Technologies and Virtual Incision, raised $20 million apiece just a week apart last January.

Lincoln biotech company gets $20 million venture capital investment

Both have since validated those investments by taking big steps forward. Adjuvance, which makes an agent called an adjuvant that can make vaccines more effective, recently announced it has partnered with Oragenics Inc. to develop a second-generation vaccine for COVID-19.

Virtual Incision in October received an investigational device exemption from the Food and Drug Administration to allow it to do a clinical study using its minimally invasive surgical robots.

Other startups that have received significant investment over the past year are CompanyCam, which offers a photo app that helps contractors monitor and manage projects, and BasicBlock, a mobile app that enables faster payments for truck drivers.

Lincoln's startups: A big haul for some tiny robots

CompanyCam got $6 million in June, and BasicBlock pulled in $1.5 million in May.

The startup investment trend kept going this year as Thyreos, a vaccine company that is developing a novel vaccine platform that protects against herpesviruses, announced a $750,000 seed investment earlier this month.

When you are trying to get a company off the ground, any little bit helps, even $25,000. That's what five startup companies -- Corral Technologies, Sub Guru, Oculi Data, Job Share Connect and Iron Sun -- received in December as part of the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development's LaunchLNK grants.

5 startup firms awarded LaunchLNK grants

It wasn't just startup companies that got in on the investment haul. Invest Nebraska received a $600,000 grant from the federal government to help build The Combine, an agtech incubator program at Nebraska Innovation Campus.

And not all big startup news last year had to do with investments.

MatMaCorp, a Lincoln biotech company that's been focused on animal health, developed a portable COVID-19 testing system last spring and got emergency use authorization from the FDA in January to start commercial use.



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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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Maptician's latest software upgrade helps companies navigate the return-to-work process after COVID-19. Its founders have ties to the state, and the company is planning to hire technology, product, sales and marketing employees in Lincoln.

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