ACORN Cryotech co-founder, Steven ten Holder, spent his childhood as a self described introvert. As a teen, he found himself deeply interested in the literature and research of the great bio-scientists of our time and was fascinated with the science behind human life and how we die. His early interests inspired him to start ACORN Cryotech and dedicate his life to studying and creating new ways to preserve, sustain, and help improve human life.
ACORN, an at home cryopreservation service, is the first of its kind. The service has created an easy, non-invasive kit to help people freeze and preserve their young, healthy cells, which can then be utilized in life and healthspan extending technologies.
Gene therapies, organ regeneration, and stem-cell technology are predicted to completely change the future of healthcare and the ACORN team is proud to be leading the way in both the development of those technologies and the future of a cell-based, health conscious society.
So why cryotech?
As a genetic engineering student at the University of Waterloo, Steven knew the value of cell preservation and wanted to figure out the best methods for doing so. Much the way blood banks store and preserve blood cell donations by freezing them before transfusions, Steven had the idea of testing this preservation method with other cell samples such as urine, cheek, and hair cells. He was excited to test his theory of preserving other cells at different temperatures and for different periods of time, however, he wasn’t able to complete the project with the resources he had access to but he knew this was an experiment he wanted to try going forward. Eventually, Steven was able to get his hands on the right equipment to test cryopreservation (a cell freezing process typically −80 °C using solid carbon dioxide or −196 °C using liquid nitrogen). This allowed him the ability to discover that other types of cells can in fact be frozen, preserved, and utilized for health research and other life extending technologies that are under development and resulted in to the development of ACORN and his dedication to the genetic cryopreservation of human cells to improve and extend human life.
Today, ACORN Cryotech resides at Velocity and has secured funding and support from investors and science partners as well as from YC Fellowship, Communitech, Creative Destruction Lab. In 2016, ACORN also received a $30,000 grant and $10,000 in mentorship through AC JumpStart.
In addition to the funding, Steven was blown away by the value of the mentorship:
“As a science-based company, I went into those mentorship meetings open-minded, but not really understanding how marketing could help us as we developed prototypes and did our research – but I admit, it changed everything. Learning about sales and marketing and how to reframe our approach helped us to source materials, equipment, build our prototype, reach out to folks, get investors and continue to elevate our entire business. The mentors have experience and are willing to work with your specific business to unveil how they can best guide and help us. It has been such a pleasure working with them, and we are grateful.”
After completing the AC JumpStart program the Acorn team were able to build a prototype, get a group of beta-testers, secured valuable investments, and are bringing on new staff, making them a team of five. They are now preparing for a move to Toronto to work out of the Johnson & Johnson Innovation space called JLABS.
Although they are headed to Toronto, one thing is clear, their hearts will always be in the Waterloo tech ecosystem “Without this region and programs like AC JumpStart,” Steven reflects “my dream wouldn’t have happened, and our company would not be where it is today – simple as that.”
Stay tuned for more on Acorn as they prepare for the product launch in 2018.
AC JumpStart is made possible by and investment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and is delivered in partnership with Conestoga College, Laurier, and the University of Waterloo.