ADATech: Pioneering a new era of entrepreneurship at Northeastern University

Aug 2, 2023 | Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Spinout, Startup

Northeastern spinout, ADATech, is an avant-garde startup pushing the boundaries of AI-infused design augmentation. Seamlessly integrating advanced artificial intelligence, ADATech reimagines the design process, igniting a wave of inspiration and entrepreneurship among the Northeastern research ecosystem. 


Photo by Adam Glanzman/ Northeastern University

ADATech’s revolutionary platform harnesses the power of user data and predictive analytics to reshape the very landscape of design. Empowering researchers with the ability to assess customer sentiment, evaluate designs, and generate unparalleled solutions, ADATech emboldens them to create products that resonate profoundly with their target audience. With a transdisciplinary team of experts spanning artificial intelligence, engineering, design, and new product development fostering an environment where entrepreneurial aspirations flourish. 

With Tucker Marion, Associate Professor at D’Amore-McKim School of Business and the College of Engineering at Northeastern University, among its leadership, ADATech combines cutting-edge technology with entrepreneurial vision. Marion has over twenty years of experience in product design, development, and commercialization, including leadership roles in startups. Having answered questions about ADATech’s journey and aspirations in the realm of design augmentation, Marion’s provided insights into the company’s success. 

Q: Could you share with us your journey as one of the leaders of ADATech? What inspired you to embark on this entrepreneurial endeavor? 

When we applied for the National Science Foundation grant, we did not anticipate starting a company, at least initially. Based on our interactions with outside industry partners, we began to realize that some of our technology that is the most ready for commercialization could have a real impact in the short term. So, we decided to see what could be done to prove this potential quickly. It was at this point we applied to be a Northeastern Impact Engine, with a very specific focus on developing a prototype.  

Q: In terms of impact and reach, what does ADATech aspire to achieve in the realm of design augmentation? 

Simply, we want to use a suite of technologies that are integrated together to change the way the front-end of product development is done. We will make it more efficient and effective using augmentative design technology. We aim to improve and enhance the design effort through a better understanding of user needs and novel ways to engage AI during the design process. We aim to enhance, rather than replace people in the design process.  

Q: As a startup originating from NSF-funded research, what were the key factors that led to the establishment of ADATech as a separate entity? 

The startup ecosystem within Northeastern. We transferred smoothly from the Impact Engine into Center for Research Innovation, leveraging an Impact Engine grant to develop our first prototype. This initial funding was instrumental in advancing the project and securing the Spark Grant. By seamlessly transitioning from one grant to another, we were able to maintain momentum with our team of developers established under the Impact Engine. The availability of funds to compensate these developers, who played a crucial role in translating research-based algorithms into a commercial application, has been pivotal. This funding has allowed us to continue to move forward and develop prototypes that show real value to industry. These prototypes, by getting positive, real user feedback, de-risk potential investment, which is key to raising funds.   

Q: How has the support from Northeastern University’s CRI contributed to the growth and success of ADATech? 

CRI has provided key sources of early seed funding, allowing us to hire developers and designers. This helps translate academic research into functional platform elements. CRI also provided an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR), which has been helpful as we network, decide on next steps, and develop our technology roadmap. Finally, CRI has provided important resources for submitting patent applications, developing financial models, and site branding. 

Q: What are some of the unique challenges that ADATech faced on its journey towards success, and what strategies did the company employ to overcome them?

We had challenges at the beginning finding the right resources to work within our limited budget. With some insight from colleagues at NASA, we were able to find a resource which specializes in pairing part-time developers with ventures that need very specific technical expertise. This allowed us to complete our deliverables and get a prototype in the hands of our lead partner in January.   

Q: For researchers and PIs at Northeastern interested in entrepreneurship, what opportunities does ADATech offer to collaborate or get involved in advancing the field of design augmentation? 

We are always looking for bright people to help realize the vision. Right now, we are looking for individuals to assist development of a new generative API for 3D computer-aided design.  

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start a venture? How can they navigate challenges and seize opportunities in this evolving landscape? 

From my perspective, it’s all about doing what you can to ‘move the ball down the field.’ What can you do to develop a series of demos to show the value proposition and vision. Each successive step forward de-risks the potential investment.  

Q: Could you share any significant achievements or noteworthy milestones of ADATech or any information you would like to add? 

Endowed with grant funding from Northeastern University, ADATech has firmly entrenched itself within the institution’s thriving entrepreneurial tapestry. Acclaimed as a Northeastern Impact Engine and bestowed with Spark Funds from the Center for Research Innovation, ADATech emerges as the vanguard, inspiring and shepherding the next generation of entrepreneurial trailblazers at Northeastern. 

ADATech plans to raise pre-seed investment in the fall of 2023 and start its journey outside of Northeastern. We could not have gotten to this point with the help of the Northeastern entrepreneurial ecosystem. 


In essence, innovation knows no bounds at Northeastern University, where entrepreneurship thrives, and groundbreaking research paves the way for a future of limitless possibilities. Together, Northeastern University and ADATech are revolutionizing the world of innovation, where ideas take flight and dreams become reality. Embark on this transformative journey and let your entrepreneurial spirit soar to new heights. 

Written by Yash Wadhwa