Asterra team
The Asterra team outside the firms new location in San Diego. Image from company Twitter feed

Israeli-based technology startup Asterra says it has moved its San Diego offices to larger digs on La Jolla Village Drive close to the Westfield UTC mall and UC San Diego campus. The earth observation company said in a news release that the move allows the company to continue its ongoing growth.

The company has developed technology that uses radar beamed from satellites to detect costly and destructive water leaks. Officials say the technology has saved its customers more than 170 million gallons of drinkable water over the last five years. 

Recently, Asterra received an innovation award for its technology from the American Water Works Association. The company noted that auto manufacturing center Toyota City, Japan, has used its technology.

Asterra also said that it is undertaking a new project with the San Diego County Water Authority.

* * *

Meanwhile, San Diego ID verification company MiTek has acquired HooYu, which is located in the UK. According to a news release, the acquisition was made to enhance MiTek’s use of biometrics to counter fraudulent digital activity such as money laundering and identity theft. 

MiTek noted that money laundering is on the rise because of limited oversight of new digital currencies. Plus, the imposition of new economic sanctions will most likely increase the need for security with accounts and transactions.

Using biometric technology is a good way to ensure firms aren’t doing business with sanctioned parties or passing along “dirty money,” a spokeswoman said.

The United Nations estimates that up to 3% of the world’s gross domestic product — or nearly $2 trillion – is laundered each year, according to the announcement. 

HooYu says its technology melds ID document validation, online profile analysis, geo-location, facial biometrics and identity confidence scoring with traditional database checks and sanctions screening.

* * *

La Jolla medtech startup Cari Health has won the fourth annual San Diego Angel Conference’s pitch contest, which was held online last week. The company emerged from the 90 that entered the competition earlier this year.

Hera Biotech, based in Texas, and ReJoule, based in Signal Hill, won second place slots.

Cari, developing a wearable remote monitoring system to keep patients on their prescribed medications, received $300,000 in funding at the annual gathering, while Hera Biotech and ReJoule each received $100,000 in funding.

The conference said 75 angel investors, had contributed $6,000 to $100,000 each to create a fund for the event and then evaluated 90 startups over a three-month period to determine which were most likely to succeed.

The conference says it partners with more than 20 organizations in San Diego’s startup ecosystem. Major sponsors include vteamsUSD Knauss School of Business, Mintz, Clearpoint Agency, SDSUFirst Republic BankCoeptus Law and UC San Diego.

* * *

And here are the results of another funding competition that benefits San Diego’s diverse businesses.

Local accelerator CONNECT ALL @ the Jacobs Center and Union Bank have announced the winners of their fifth annual pitch competition, with entrepreneurs taking home $26,000 in grant money.

The online competition featured nine community entrepreneurs — all participants in the center’s accelerator program, which serves low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs in partnership with the city of San Diego.

This group is the accelerator’s fifth class, of which two-thirds are women-owned. The competition was the final component of the program, and it comes after four months of business development and mentorship activities.

The four winners are women-owned startups involved in education, childcare, afro-mixed hair care and baking.

The first-place winner, startup elevatEd Classrooms, is focused on educational consulting and professional development services to K-12 schools, districts and other youth organizations. elevatEd received a $10,000 cash award. Jaclyn Sarnese is the owner.

Second-place went to Village Kids Early Childhood Community, which provides childcare. Michelle DeJohnette is the entrepreneur behind the business.

 Braid Street, which specializes in protective hairstyle services, hair-care courses and styling products for the Afro-mixed population in San Diego under the leadership of Soely Sanchez, won a third-place prize of $2,500.

For the first time, a fourth-place grant of $1,500 was given to founder Amaya Ford for her Mya’s Catering Company, a bakery that makes homemade desserts. The other participants received $1,000 prizes.

* * *

Local e-commerce startup Pack says it has raised $3 million in seed funding. Pack is developing technology using e-commerce platform Shopify that allows entrepreneurs to easily set up online stores.

New York City seed-stage investor Alpaca VC led the round with participation from Culver City-based Cuts Clothing, as well as several angel investors.

According to a release, the company said the funding round comes after growing revenue by more than 100% for the last two consecutive years.

“We have been building tools for developers and marketers that make storefronts easy to implement and manage,” said Cory Cummings, a co-founder and the top executive at Pack. “This capital will accelerate the delivery of our low-code platform users to build powerful front-end (stores) that allow brands to communicate with customers.

* * *

A  federal court in San Diego has ruled in favor of Escondido-based Stone Brewing in a trademark dispute that was filed four years ago.

Stone said it filed the lawsuit against MillerCoors (now Molson Coors) for illegally using a registered trademark in rebranding its Keystone beer as Stone. 

Molson Coors sold more than $1.7 billion of its beer under the Stone brand, the release said.

 The three-week trial took place before U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez and an eight-person jury.

Stone Brewing is the nation’s 9th largest craft brewer, but produced only 0.5% the beer volume produced by Molson Coors.

“This underdog win is a victory for every craft brewery that prides itself in independence, valuing quality over all else,” a spokesperson said.

“They will put the ‘Key’ back in ‘Keystone’ ending their hostile four-year co-op of the Stone name,” Stone co-founder Greg Koch said. ” Molson Coors threatened our heritage, but we stood up to that threat. Cheers to our legions of fans, friends and supporters who believe in the good that craft beer brings. This is your win too.”  

Tom York is a Carlsbad-based independent journalist who specializes in writing about business and the economy. If you have news tips you’d like to share, send them to