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Tampa virtual reality company makes the finalist list for SXSW Pitch

Margie Manning

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Verapy, a Tampa company that builds virtual reality games for physical and occupational therapy, could get a chance to make a pitch to investors at one of the country’s largest and best-known technology gatherings.

Verapy was named an alternate finalist for SXSW Pitch, a marquee event at the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals in Austin, Texas on March 9 and 10.

From the first SXSW Pitch in 2009 to last year’s event, 453 companies have been showcased. More than 71 percent have received funding, with combined funding in excess of $5.43 billion, and 16 percent have been acquired by established leaders like Google, British Telecom, Huffington Post, Apple and others, a news release said.

Jonathan Truong

Verapy was launched two years ago by Jonathan Truong, CEO and chief creative executive, based on his own experiences with physical and occupational therapy. He had meningitis and a stroke as a child, and he’s had five surgeries due to sports-related injuries and other diagnoses.

Now a student at University of Tampa’s entrepreneurship program, Truong wanted to use his own pain points to address a lack of innovation in therapy programs.

“I thought about games and the hot commodity of virtual reality, and put the two together to create Verapy,” Truong said.

Jonathan Truong (left) and Tad Svendrys, co-founders, Verapy

Truong and his business partner, Tad Svendrys, met at a Startup Weekend in Tampa. Svendrys, with 18 years of corporate experience, left his job to focus full-time on Verapy.

The company has been self-funded by Truong and Svendrys, who is chief financial officer and chief operating officer. The technology currently is in beta trials with local clinics.

Verapy’s games are based on physical and occupational therapy protocols.

“As patients play the games, we collect biometric data so that therapists can view their progress,” Truong said. “Our goal is to have about 75  to 100 patients for the 45-day trial.”

He expects to wrap up the beta trial before the SXSW Pitch, and to make the clinics fully paid customers.

As an alternative finalist, Verapy will get a chance to make its 60-second pitch if another finalist in the augmented and virtual reality category doesn’t show up.

Still, Truong, who originally is from Texas, is looking forward to the opportunity to meet others in the virtual reality industry and network with investors at SXSW.

Three other Florida companies also made the list for SXSW Pitch:

BehaviorMe (from Gainesville) has created Software-as-a-Service that enables therapists to increase the independence of kids and young adults with autism and developmental disabilities.

Bioverse (from Miami) uses blockchain to ensure that investments in biological and genetic discoveries are generating capital gains for indigenous communities, local government and ecosystem restoration initiatives.

Millebot (from Orlando) designs and builds a modular digital-manufacturing platform within shipping containers.

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