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Autism Speaks 2015 Autism Investment Conference: Day 2 in Boston

Companies showcase investment opportunities in gaming platforms and employment/support services to meet needs of autism community
March 11, 2015

Today in Boston, Day 2 of the Autism Speaks Autism Investment Conference (AIC2015) featured more investment opportunities in innovative products and services to meet the growing needs of the autism community.

“Having all of you here today, discussing how you are investing in products and therapeutics, enables us to share what you’re doing with those in power," said Autism Speaks President Liz Feld, in opening the day’s presentations and panel discussions. "We’re going to take the conversations that we’re having here today to Washington.”  

The day’s Company Showcase sessions focused on gaming platforms, employment and support services. The afternoon also included a special presentation on federal and state incentives for investment in autism services and employment. (More on individual presentations below.)

The day’s keynote speaker, David Berry, is a partner with the venture capital firm Flagship Ventures. Prior to Flagship Ventures, Dr. Berry earned his MD from Harvard Medical School and his PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He currently serves on the Leadership Council of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Dr. Berry shared his perspective on the landscape of investment opportunities in autism-related therapeutics and services.

Watch Dr. Berry’s full keynote address below.


Gaming Platforms

Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks’ executive vice president for programs and services, moderated AIC’s newest Company Showcase, on electronic games designed to help those affected by autism strengthen their social and cognitive skills. Presentations included:

Cuong Do, co-founder of Identifor, pitched his company’s app and web-based game designed to help individuals with autism and their families identify and strengthen abilities and motivations.

Watch the Identifor presentation below:

Katie Hench, chief executive officer (CEO) of Infiniteach, showcased her company’s approach to improving autism education through technology and training. Infiniteach’s first iPad app –Skill Champ – helps teachers and parents customize digital lesson plans for students with developmental disabilities.

Ofer Atzmon, of Compedia, showcased an interactive software game for children ages 5 to 10, designed to help them understand how people express emotions and how to better express themselves to others.

Discussion panelists for the session included Rajesh Anandan, of ULTRA Testing, and Nancy Weinstein, of MindPrint Learning.

Employment Opportunities

Leslie Long, Autism Speaks’ vice president for adult services, moderated the AIC Company Showcase on businesses that capitalize on the strengths of employees on the autism spectrum. Presentations included:

James Emmett, of James Emmett Consulting, described his pioneering work in developing employment services for people with disabilities – including autism – for major corporations including Walgreens, Best Buy, Office Depot, Pepsi and UPS. (See video clip below.)

Rajesh Anandan and Art Schectman, of ULTRA  Testing, described the success of their business model integrating employees on the autism spectrum into software-testing teams.

Dave Friedman, founder and CEO of AutonomyWorks, highlighted the positive results of his marketing company’s autism-supportive approach to hiring, training and managing adults on the spectrum.

Gerry Maurer, CEO of Birch Family Services, discussed how his agency developed programs and services that address the evolving needs of adults with developmental disabilities including autism. (See video clip below.)

Panelists for the session included Andy Traub, of NODA, and Krystal Odell, of Pennreach.

Services Showcase

David Kearon, Autism Speaks’ director for adult services, moderated today’s session spotlighting businesses providing services that enhance function and quality of life for those with autism and their families. Presentations included:

Michele McKeone, founder of Autism Expressed, showcased her company’s interactive learning system for teaching real-life applications of electronic technology to students with autism.

Aaron Rakow, president and founder of College Steps, showcased his company’s college-support services for students on the autism spectrum. These services include assistance in designing individualized college plans and autism-awareness workshops for college staff.

Todd Kozikowski, co-founder and CEO of Yabidu, presented his company’s web-based tools, designed to promote the active participation of patients and their families in the healthcare process.

Eric Peacock, general manager of MyAutismTeam, pitched his company’s social network and online support group for parents who have children with autism. Learn more about MyAutismTeam’s partnership with Autism Speaks here.

Panelists for the session included Leo Junquera, of Microsoft; Aaron Rakow, of College Steps; Michele McKeone, of Autism Expressed & Digitability; Todd Kozikowski, of Yabidu; Gianna Hitsos, a singer, speaker, actor, self-advocate (and college freshman) on the autism spectrum; and Eric Peacock, of My Autism Team.

The day after AIC2015, Google & Autism Speaks hosted a “Pitch Playground,” at Google’s nearby campus in Cambridge, Mass. Ten autism-app developers competed for a total of $50,000 in prize money. Find out who won - and how their winning apps can serve the autism community - here

Read our coverage of AIC2015 Day 1 here.