Today: Apr 17, 2024

Hypercell Technologies: Learning from hyper-growth to build startup success!

4 months ago

Key Points:

  • Agrifoodtech startup Hypercell Technologies has exceeded the odds and achieved rapid growth with the help of strategic partnerships with leading universities and organizations.
  • The company aims to detect food contaminants before they reach consumers, and has developed a simple and highly accurate test that provides results in less than one hour.
  • Three key lessons can be learned from Hypercell’s hypergrowth: recognizing when to leave an incubator or academic institution, proximity to other like-minded startups, and seeking collaborations in non-obvious places.
  • In its early stages, Hypercell partnered with the University of Georgia, which provided valuable resources and funding for research and development. However, the company eventually needed to move away from the university and become an independent startup.
  • The company found success at EnterpriseWorks, an incubator and innovation center of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where it had access to state-of-the-art lab facilities and a supportive startup ecosystem.
  • Hypercell also took advantage of non-obvious collaborations by participating in the Grow-NY Business Competition, which provided funding and mentorship opportunities.
  • Overall, these strategic partnerships and collaborations have enabled Hypercell to grow and succeed in a highly competitive industry.


The United States Bureau of Labor reports that 20% of new businesses don’t survive in the first year . The failure rate increases each year afterward until the 10-year mark. Agrifoodtech startup Hypercell Technologies – founded in 2021 with the goal of rapidly identifying, managing, and responding to biological contaminations – is beating the odds. Hypercell’s secret sauce? Their collaborations with leading universities and organizations like Grow-NY are helping them take innovative ideas and put them into practice. “What makes a startup successful is not just the quality of the idea, but the company you keep. Now more than ever, startups need to tap into strategic partnerships to help them grow and succeed, whether it’s investors, academic institutions or other businesses,” shares Hypercell’s co-founder and CEO Bruno Jactel. Hypercell’s idea? Use technology to detect food contaminants before they reach consumers with the goal of reducing food-borne illness. Hypercell ultimately created a simple and highly accurate test that provides results in less than one hour. Jactel explains that simplicity allows testing to be done on-site at farms or in food preparation plants. “This enables food producers to test more frequently and in a more targeted way so that sources of contamination can be identified quicker and to prevent the production of unsafe food,” says Jactel.

Turning the idea into a patented and award-winning product, Hypercell leaned on strategic partnerships with the University of Georgia, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and, most recently, the New York-based nonprofit Grow-NY, where Hypercell won the top prize of $1 million in funding and strategic mentorship at the 2023 Grow-NY Business Competition. What can we learn from a behind-the-scenes look at Hypercell’s hypergrowth? There are three lessons to take away.

Recognizing When To Leave The Nest

Hypercell was fortunate to secure funding early after its inception, thanks to its partnership with the University of Georgia. Jactel was approached by the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) to work with a team of researchers who specialized in infectious diseases to work on a rapid diagnostic tool. Little did he know that this research and collaboration with the GRA would lead to the development of Hypercell Technologies. “This discovery stage is not usually financed by private funding because it is too risky, and so institutions like the GRA as a public-private financial instrument were extremely valuable,” Jactel shares. Working with the University of Georgia gave Hypercell access to world-class scientists, motivated students and lab space – all critical components for providing proof of concept for the technology they were developing. Jactel continues, “We are fortunate to have been supported and financed by the GRA, dedicated to helping the Georgia state’s universities turn research into commercial products, and by the University of Georgia endowment as their first venture investment.” However, remaining under the University’s thumb had limitations, particularly because the school’s mission is teaching, researching and publishing rather than building startups. Plus, conducting research typically requires more time than a startup needs to meet its financial obligations. The Hypercell team ultimately benefited from the University’s encouragement for a technology transfer so it could move away from being based in an academic institution and thrive as an independent startup. While Hypercell’s partnership with the University of Georgia was undoubtedly a catalyst for the development of their technology, the team recognized when it was time “to leave the comfort of the University incubation cocoon” and blossom into a full-fledged startup.

Proximity To Other Like-Minded Startups

Hypercell found its first official home as a startup at EnterpriseWorks, the incubator and innovation center of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. The collaboration has been instrumental to Hypercell’s success in a multitude of ways, including:

  • Collaborating with world-class scientists at the University of Illinois that accelerated Hypercell’s program;
  • State-of-the-art lab facilities at a reasonable cost; and
  • Proximity to an ecosystem of like-minded startups with mentoring capabilities and support within the EnterpriseWorks incubator.

The power of proximity is not to be ignored, and the collaborative synergy that emerges is what often propels startups like Hypercell toward success. The close proximity with other startups at EnterpriseWorks, for example, allows for the cross-pollination of ideas and shared challenges and experiences, all of which contribute to Hypercell’s growth. The incubator’s startup ecosystem offers camaraderie, where entrepreneurs can learn from each other’s successes and failures. “We’ve been a great peer community of entrepreneurs and technology experts working together and sharing their experiences and expertise,” says Laura Appenzeller, executive director of the University of Illinois Research Park. “That type of innovation community fuels new discovery and better outcomes for translational science.” Hypercell Technologies wins $1 million at the Grow-NY business competition with a simple, highly … [+] accurate on-site test to detect food contaminants before they reach consumers. Hypercell Technologies

“Partnering with the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana has provided Hypercell with immense support, including access to low-cost lab supplies (due to the University buying power), access to shared lab equipment (avoiding major capital investments), access to a wide array of scientific experts (both University and other start-up company staff), and a very effective incubator program at EnterpriseWorks which included training programs, support for government grants and assistance with hiring,” Jactel adds.

Look For Non-So-Obvious Collaborations

Jactel encourages startups to look for collaborations in not-so-obvious places. For Hypercell – this meant applying for the Grow-NY Business Competition. Grow-NY is a food and agriculture startup challenge focused on enhancing the emerging food, beverage and agriculture innovation cluster in central New York, the Finger Lakes and the Southern Tier. Three hundred and twenty-three food and ag startups from 49 countries and 32 states applied to compete, and the top 20 were chosen as finalists, receiving individualized mentorship, introductions to resources and a network of potential partners in upstate New York. The 20 finalists pitched their businesses to a panel of judges and shared their work with over 1,000 attendees at the Grow-NY Food and Ag Summit. Hypercell went on to win the competition – winning $1 million in prize money and further access to mentorship opportunities. “The prize money and innovation ecosystem in upstate New York will help us grow faster and more sustainably,” explained Jactel. He continues, “New York state is the fourth largest producer of milk and milk products in the nation, which represents sizable commercial opportunities for a small company like Hypercell. Additionally, the fact that Cornell University administers the competition excited us about the potential to work with Grow-NY.”

The Bottom Line

The bottom line? Funding is the bottom line. Smart collaborations are an excellent enabler for startups to have access to much-needed resources and funding opportunities.