ecoATM Mafia

by Neal Bloom

By Sydney Schmall

Sometimes you never know how the creation of your passion project can shape an entire industry, but that’s just what happened with San Diego-based ecoATM.

Founded in 2008, ecoATM is a great example of how merging big data and big biology can create a very powerful outcome. Acting as an environmentally responsible company, ecoATM offers automated kiosks across the U.S. that recycle smartphones and other electronics. The kiosks scan the devices, use analytical software to calculate their value, and determine the kind of rebate to offer, all within minutes.

This innovative new idea took San Diego by storm and greatly impressed Outerwall, which acquired ecoATM for a whopping $350 million cash in 2013, making it one of the biggest deals in San Diego history.

ecoATM built a pretty impressive platform and had a notable leadership team, so let’s meet the founders and see where they are today.

Photo Courtesy: Edico Genome

Pieter van Rooyen, one of the co-founders of ecoATM and a serial-entrepreneur, has a very extensive resume in the world of tech. Some of his most notable projects, besides ecoATM, include: founder and CEO of Zyray Wireless, co-founder of Vita Sense Technologies, co-founder of Truvian Sciences, and his current role as CEO/founder of Edico Genome. While ecoATM was acquired for $350 million in 2013, van Rooyen saw prior success in 2004 when Zyray Wireless was bought by Broadcom Corp. for $100 million.

Most recently, Edico Genome was acquired by Illumina for $100 million. Edico’s DRAGEN Bio-IT Program uses field programmable gate array (FPGA) technology and proprietary software algorithms to both reduce the data footprint and time to results. Amazon Web Services and other cloud software began using Edico in 2017, rapidly scaling their business and providing a platform for biomedical institutes to utilize their software.

Fun Fact: In October of 2017, Edico partnered with Amazon Web Services and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to successfully process 1,000 whole pediatric genomes in two hours and 25 minutes. This impressive project won the team a Guinness World Record for the fastest time to analyze 1,000 genomes.

Photo Courtesy: REUTERS/Mike Blake

Mark Bowles, another ecoATM founder, began his career in the wireless tech industry and eventually transitioned into biotech. Early in his career, Bowles co-founded Panorama Designs, a MAC clone company, and the first to focus on a portable computer design. The team included some of the original Apple employees that designed the very successful first generation of PowerBook laptops. Shortly after its inception, Panorama was purchased by Motorola Computer Group for about $4.25 million. Two years after the acquisition of ecoATM, Bowles and van Rooyen continued their partnership in 2015 and founded Truvian Sciences. Originally known as Salveo DX, Truvian Sciences develops liquid biopsy technology for use in diagnostics. Also a serial entrepreneur and chair of the San Diego Venture Group, Bowles is determined to bring more funding to local startups through his personal contributions and advocacy efforts.

In a recent interview with Fresh Brewed Tech, Bowles explained his passion for entrepreneurialism and helping the local tech scene. “I am always happy to share my knowledge about creating companies, because that is what I know best; I have done this for many years now. For me, it’s not about the money, but rather it’s about helping local entrepreneurs establish their dream,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur is one of the more noble things you can do because you create jobs and solve problems, providing value to many people. That’s why I enjoy training more people, to create socially responsible companies that make the world a better place. It’s our responsibility to transfer our knowledge to the next generation.”

Other ecoATM key players included:

Drew Spaventa, a UC San Diego MBA graduate, was one of the original investors in ecoATM. When the company sold, he continued his entrepreneurial journey and started a venture fund called AKS Capital LLC to further help San Diego companies gain funding. He then went on to fund Edico Genome, served as a founder of Truvian Sciences, and most recently founded Singular Genomics.

Tom Tullie, CEO, was part of the original ecoATM team. Since then, he has continued his work here in San Diego by investing and running startups. He created his own investment company called Tullie Investment Corporation, served on the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego, was Vice Chairman for the EvoNexus Incubator, and is now on the board of directors for the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology.

Ryan Kuder began his entrepreneurial journey at a young age before becoming the VP of Marketing and Communications of ecoATM in 2012. Since then, he’s been heavily involved with Techstars, the widely-known global tech incubator, and now serves as the managing director of Techstars Anywhere, the first fully remote accelerator.

Josie Kamrath, the original Deployment Coordinator of ecoATM, went on to work for companies such as Outerwall, MaintenanceNet, and Cisco. Kamrath now serves as an associate at FusionX Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund based in San Diego that focuses on recurring revenue opportunities through design, manufacturing, or go2market strategies.

Randy Erman began his career as a software engineer, and eventually became the Director of Product Marketing for ecoATM. After years of experience in tech, he recently started his own venture, Focal Wellness Inc., which focuses on creating a solution to prevent and recover from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

While the majority of the original founders and team members of ecoATM started their journeys in tech and mobile, many transitioned into the world of biotech. More importantly, the story and development of ecoATM and its leaders is a prime example of innovative entrepreneurs who believe in the San Diego startup community and are devoted to growing the local tech industry.

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