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Lumen Autumn 2017 Issue
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Start-up gurus offer mentor support

Don and Michelle Perugini

Don and Michelle Perugini
Don and Michelle Perugini are life and business partners – two gifted research academics and entrepreneurs who love nothing better than taking a great idea and turning it into commercial success.

The two University of Adelaide graduates transformed their first business, ISD Analytics, from a start-up to an international tech company which they sold to global business group EY in 2015.
During the transition, they became executive directors in the company and made another discovery – their real passion is in the start-up community.

And that’s great news for young academics attempting to capitalise on their own brilliant ideas. Both Don and Michelle are now offering their considerable expertise as mentors to help kick-start new tech companies.

“Our real interest is in driving these very new and advanced technologies and building them from the ground up,” says Michelle. “We quickly missed the excitement.”

While Michelle and Don’s early specialist fields are quite different – Michelle is a medical scientist while Don focused on defence research – both became experts in advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.

They used this expertise in launching ISD Analytics with its groundbreaking software that can predict consumer behaviour to support business
decision-making.

Late last year they launched a new venture, Presagen, which uses advanced artificial intelligence technology used in defence to support business automation.

At the same time, they are donating their services to the University’s Adelaide Enterprise program where they are assisting with various commercial-ready ventures.

“We’re really interested in building companies from new innovations and through the University of Adelaide we have access to hidden gems of world-class research which can be commercialised,” says Don.

“It means we can mentor people who just need a little bit of confidence and guidance to get out there and commercialise their research. When we started ISD we relied very heavily on our mentors and now we’re trying to give something back.”

Among their most recent mentoring successes are Dr Jonathon Hall and Dr Melanie McDowall.
Jonathon and Melanie’s 'Life Whisperer' technology took out two of the top awards for medical innovation and research commercialisation at Australian eChallenge, which is run by the University’s Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC).

Life Whisperer provides non-invasive image analysis to help improve embryo selection for couples attempting to have children through IVF.

Don and Michelle have formed a partnership with Jonathon to commercialise the technology.
“I was previously involved in translational medical research so it fits very well within the embryology application,” says Michelle.

Don and Michelle are also mentors in the United States accelerator program Techstars which is opening its first Asia-Pacific operation in Adelaide.

“This is one of the biggest accelerator programs in the world and will run from July to October,” says Don.

Read more about eChallenge

Story by Ian Williams

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Kelly Brown
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