Cortado Ventures
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Cortado Ventures


Investing in Hard Tech for Industry 4.0

Cortado Principal Susan Moring writes about our conviction backing companies innovating in hard tech

Exum — Denver, CO

Rethinking analytical tooling, starting with an innovative desktop mass spectrometer, the MassBox.

Figure 1: Traditional mass spectrometry devices in academic research settings. Clockwise from left: UC Boulder, South Dakota State University, UMass Amherst
  • Small size (2’x2’x2’) enables analysis to be done in house or in the field (or, perhaps, on an international space station 🛰️)
  • Proprietary LALI (laser ablation laser ionization) technology enables mass spec on any solid state samples in a single device. Previously PhD chemists would need to either cobble together multiple complex machines or transform their solid material into a liquid before analysis. Both approaches largely increase measuring time and make quantification of results incredibly difficult.
  • Better quantification results across the entire periodic table of elements
  • By implementing intuitive scientific processes, the user experience becomes as easy as using an app on a phone. Anyone can access and quantify what’s in their material to reduce cycle times and improve QA / QC and R&D.
Figure 2: Exum’s MassBox
  • Battery testing — EV sales have surged in 2021 — sales increased by 160% in the first half of 2021 and are on track to surpass 5 million units this year.[3] With the astronomical growth of EVs and other green energy markets comes the need for efficient quality control among battery manufacturers. With the MassBox, battery manufacturers can now quickly analyze samples to make sure the lithium is properly distributed throughout the battery without having to send them off for testing and wait several days for results.
  • Additive manufacturing — Another quickly growing market that can benefit from efficient solid-state mass spec is additive manufacturing (the industrial production name for 3D printing), a $12 billion market expected to quadruple by 2030.[4] Exum’s MassBox will enable in-house analysis of batch materials and end products for medical, aerospace, and other manufacturing use cases.

Access Optics — Broken Arrow, OK

Hiding in plain sight — the thriving 20-year-old optics manufacturing company in a Tulsa, Oklahoma suburb.

Figure 3: Access Optics Founder Bob Hogrefe a few of their precision optics products
Figure 4: A da Vinci Surgical System (left) and an up-close view of Access Optics products in an advanced single-port surgical robot.
  • Access Optics’ base business in minimally-invasive surgery will rebound with exceptional demand for endoscopes, endocouplers, and cameras as elective surgeries, deferred during COVID-19 are resumed.
  • A new generation of wearable devices like AR/MR/VR glasses is moving from the drawing board to the market fueling the need for micro-sized, highly precise optics and assemblies. Access Optics’ investment in state of the art manufacturing equipment will position it perfectly to address these requirements.
  • The transition to disposable endoscopes. According to a recent analysis from healthcare services company Vizient, the increasing cost-effectiveness of single-use endoscopes will lead to significant market growth (16.9% projected CAGR of disposable endoscopic devices between now and 2028) in an industry with 75 million procedures a year. Single use endoscopes reduce the chance of infection transmission between patients, which can cost a hospital up to $45K per endoscope-associated infection.[5] With years of relevant design and manufacturing experience and top-flight quality credentials, Access Optics is perfectly positioned to introduce single use imaging subassemblies and proprietary devices for the single use market.


At Cortado we look for outstanding teams capable of providing outsized returns in large and growing markets. Exum and Access Optics are hard tech companies that fit the bill with their innovative products, engineering and manufacturing expertise, and ability to capitalize on current market trends. Follow Cortado on LinkedIn and Twitter for ongoing updates on Cortado and these two recent investments.



This is the centralized page for all thought leadership of our early-stage venture capital firm that invests in ambitious, growth-driven companies, helping define Oklahoma and the Midcontinent's success story for generations to come.

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Nathaniel Harding

Managing Partner for Cortado Ventures and Young Global Leader in the World Economic Forum. Investor and advisor for tech startups, building a better future.