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UCSD ‘Lab to Market’ Startup Attracts Investors, Makes Sales

UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management has notched a first success story from it’s “Lab to Market” course.

Polka, a technology company, was launched two years ago by M.B.A. graduate Mike Kirkwood to help patients maintain their health records.

Polka developed four iPhone applications , “My Health,” “If Found,” “Close Call” and “My Emergency Info” , which provide tools to create and manage complex personal health information.

Two cost $2.99 and two are free.

The company’s iPhone applications synchronize data with a Web portal that allows users to keep personal logs and share real-time information with their medical team.

Kirkwood filed patents and started marketing the product as part of his Lab to Market course.

The company has attracted $820,000 in five venture funding rounds, said Kirkwood, adding he has three full-time and three part-time employees.

Apple’s App Store has reported close to 300,000 downloads of Polka applications , the vast majority free applications.

Such penetration has allowed Polka to gather feedback from customers to enhance services and rollout new Apps.

For example, the “If Found” application, which secures personal information in case the iPhone is lost, was developed from feedback on the “My Emergency Info” App.

“If Lost” is now one of the top 10 downloads on the App store, said Kirkwood.

“My Emergency Info was interesting to them, but the epiphany was that if your phone is lost, My Emergency Info wouldn’t help,” he said. “So they asked us to solve that problem.”

The next App rollout may be for doctors to view patient records on the iPhone.

“There’s a natural set of services that surround free and low-cost options,” he said. “As we listen to customers and do the things that make it easy to manage their records, we think we can get $50 per user per year.”

The free App is the “penetration point,” he said.

From their free Apps, Polka has been able to upgrade users to subscription-based services, and has found people will pay more just for cosmetic upgrades.

“Users will pay a bit for more personalization,” he said. “We can capitalize on that. We decided to listen to customers when they tell us they’ll pay us for something.”

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Defense Conference Returns: The largest state-of-the-art warfare and technologies event on the West Coast returns to the San Diego Convention Center on Feb. 11-13.

At West 2009, senior military leaders and defense industry experts will tackle the theme, “Defense: Reset, Redesign or Reinvent?”

The 18th annual conference is expected to draw more than 10,000 attendees and 400 exhibitors. It covers hot issues facing the military, including cyber challenges, leadership and shipbuilding.

The event is open to the public and admission is free. Attendees can see, touch and try out the latest communications, homeland security, biometrics and defense technologies.

On Wednesday, Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command is the morning’s keynote speaker, followed by a slew of experts.

On Thursday, David Hartman, former host of “Good Morning America,” moderates a breakfast discussion, called “China: Friend or Foe?” with two renowned experts on China.

Six panel sessions will cover the latest policy and technology issues such as “Force Structure: What’s the Right Balance?”; “Cyber Challenges: What Keeps You Up at Night?”; and “Straight Talk from Warfare Commanders.”

West also includes a job fair by the Military Officers Association of America.

On-site registration is available beginning Feb. 10. For details and a complete schedule of events, visit west2009.org.

The event is hosted by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International and the U.S. Naval Institute.

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Digitaria Organizes Sports Clients: Local marketing and technology firm Digitaria Interactive created a division to cater to sports clients called Digitaria Sports.

The division will bring together Digitaria’s more than 20 existing sports clients, including the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, International Speedway Corp., and the Seattle Sounders FC, which is Major League Soccer’s newest franchise.

As part of its Jan. 26 launch, Digitaria Sports announced a new major client, AVP Pro Beach Volleyball. Digitaria Sports will help drive the organization’s digital strategy, including a new online site for beach volleyball fans that offers real-time content such as breaking news, rich video content, live statistics, fantasy games and a new online store.

Founded in 1997, Digitaria represents some of the largest brands in the world, including ASICS Shoes, Best Western International, CBS, Cobra Golf, Comcast, FOX, Gateway, Gordon Rush, Hasbro, KCET Hollywood, NBC Universal, Qualcomm, Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Marketing, and WPT Enterprises.

Send technology news items to Ned Randolph at nrandolph@sdbj.com.

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