Former SpaceX engineer’s startup punches ticket to Synapse, announces investment

It has been a whirlwind 24 hours for former SpaceX engineer Tim Balz, who now leads Melbourne-based Kalogon.

Not only did the company punch a ticket to be a presenter at Synapse Florida next month by impressing a distinguished panel of judges during an event in downtown Orlando Thursday night.

But the company also shared news Friday morning that it had raised $1.9 million for its medical-tech company.

SeedFundersOrlando led the round, with Sawmill Angel Network, venVelo and DeepWork Capital also joining.

Kalogon uses a combination of machine learning and “air cell technology,” which uses air pockets similarly to shock absorbers, in its smart wheelchair cushion design.

The technology aims to increase comfort and blood flow for those using wheelchairs by adjusting the cushion and giving control to users through a mobile app.

“We are on a mission to redesign wheelchair technology to help prevent these injuries and give wheelchair users the freedom to do what they love,” Balz said in a release announcing the investment. “This is the first step in our journey to revolutionize seating for everyone.”

Balz worked for SpaceX’s Dragon, Starship and Falcon 9 projects during a nearly 4-year stint with the space giant previously.

Through federal grants, Kalogon pushed its recent investment total to $3.3 million.

Last year, Kalogon landed a much smaller round of $200,000, which was also led by SeedFundersOrlando.

“They have demonstrated the ability to innovate and rapidly execute and have exceeded expectations,” SeedFundersOrlando CEO Dennis Pape said in the release.

But first, an event win for the team

On Thursday, the Kalogon team participated at the Orlando Economic Partnership’s TenX Tech event downtown.

As part of the event, eight startups met the community and presented to judges who would select a winner.

Kalogon, because of its win, will now have a stage to present at next month’s Synapse Orlando, a fast-growing tech event that returns this year. Orlando startup Overhead Intelligence won a crowd-based vote to also present there.

“Being able to be part of this community has been awesome,” Balz said in an interview with Orlando Tech News. “It’s a great opportunity to celebrate with people who have helped us get here.”

At Thursday’s event, hosted jointly by Orlando Economic Partnership and Orlando Tech Council, Orlando Tech Council chair and Blue Wave Resource Partners CEO and Founder Charlie Lewis said the Synapse tie-in was important to continue pushing the ecosystem forward.

Orlando Economic Partnership’s David Adelson during Thursday’s TenX Tech event in downtown Orlando.

“If your goal is to get funding, find talent and clients then you need to be as connected in this ecosystem as you can be,” he said. “Everyone in the ecosystem will be at Synapse.”

That’s why Christina Drake, CEO of the presenting startup Kismet Technologies, put her business up for consideration at the event.

The company has developed a safe material that provides long-term virus and bactria protections for surfaces, something that became increasingly important during the COVID pandemic.

Drake said the event was more general interest than others she has presented at but that this offered unique opportunities.

“It’s definitely different from a typical show we’d be at because you have a wider range of people here,” she said. “The types of questions you get are different. It makes you think more about your business. It gives you a much different perspective.”

For companies like Kalogon, it also sets up what could be a crucial appearance at Synapse.

“Kalogon’s technology has created an entirely new market in smart seating, with applications in wheelchair mobility and beyond,” said Ben Patz, DeepWork Capital managing partner. “We are thrilled to help get their groundbreaking technology to everyone who needs it.”