Two cities that have become hubs for startup companies are trading one of their most valuable assets: entrepreneurs.

The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the city of Fort Collins, Colo., have partnered in a new program called Innovation Swap that will send an entrepreneur from one city to the other to network in a new market during a weekend this fall.

After a few weeks of various selection processes, the cities have chosen Tarian Orthotics of Charleston and E-flux of Fort Collins to trade places this fall.

For Tarian Orthotics, a Mount Pleasant-based company that develops custom braces for injury-prone athletes, the Innovation Swap is an opportunity to expand to a city that, like Charleston, has a highly active population.

Sam Houghteling, the industry cluster coordinator with the city of Fort Collins who helped organize Innovation Swap, said that's particularly why Tarian braces are a "natural fit" in Colorado.

"Colorado is a very outdoorsy and active state, so I'm very excited about getting a good group of people in the room with Tarian Orthotics to help them make some good regional connections here in Colorado," he said.

Beyond their shared interest in physical activities, Charleston and Fort Collins are also similar in population size, and their leading industries are related to manufacturing, technology and health care.

"The swap gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to present ideas to a new audience as well as ... exposure to a different entrepreneur ecosystem," said Megan Reilly, the entrepreneurship director with the Charleston Metro Chamber.

Plus, it can serve as an idea exchange between the two similar markets, Reilly added.

Retaining talent

Tarian Orthotics was established by Riley Csernica and Chelsea Ex-Lubeski last year.

After graduating with biomedical engineering degrees from Clemson University in 2012, Csernica and Ex-Lubeski quickly realized that their job opportunities in the Palmetto State were pretty slim, Csernica said.

Instead of taking their skills to a company out-of-state, they decided to take a riskier route that could potentially help them grow an entire industry.

"Clemson University is graduating I think 100 bioengineers every year, and none of them is getting jobs here," Csernica said. "State dollars are going to give these kids educations only to have them go off and better the economies and work forces in other states. So it became a real passion of ours to keep talent in South Carolina, and the only way to do that is if you take it upon yourself to build companies and build jobs for other people down the line."

They took an idea they worked on in college for a group project and developed the Tarian brace, a new type of custom-fitted shoulder and ankle braces that are not as demobilizing as traditional orthopedic braces.

The braces, which are developed with a 3-D printer, are designed to support an injured shoulder or ankle without limiting the person's ability to be active or play sports.

Csernica and Ex-Lubeski graduated in April from the Harbor Accelerator program, a highly selective incubator for startup companies offered by the Mount Pleasant-based nonprofit Harbor Entrepreneur Center.

Bracing for growth

Now, the company is selling the brace to an online medical brace distributor and they have recently drawn interest from sports medicine programs in the athletic departments of the University of Alabama and Florida State University.

The challenge, Csernica said, is getting new companies or orthopedists to invest in the new technology, which is why the trip to Fort Collins the first week in October for the Innovation Swap may be their most lucrative business trip yet.

"I knew that Colorado was a hot spot for health care research, especially in the field of orthopedics and sports medicine," Csernica said. "I would have been excited to have the opportunity to go anywhere, but really Colorado especially is going to be very valuable to what we're doing, so I'm very excited we got chosen."

Coming this way

E-Flux is a startup company based in Fort Collins that was established by biochemical engineer Julio Zimbron, who will visit Charleston from Sept. 19-21.

The company specializes in soil gas measurements using devices called E-Flux CO2 Traps, a technology developed by Zimbron and a team of researchers at the Center for Contaminant Hydrology at Colorado State University.

Its ability to measure petroleum biodegradation has put the devices at more than 35 oil spill sites across the country. The company leases the devices to industrial sites and provides analyses of the collected data.

"I have an engineering background, I don't have a business background. In the past six months I've been trying to learn more about business, and that's why these sorts of things are a great opportunity to see what other startups are doing," Zimbron said.

The chamber is still working with Zimbron to determine how his trip to Charleston will help E-Flux gain a foothold in this region.

"One of the critical things for me is to identify strategic partners on the East Coast who might be able to help me with distribution channels," he said.

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail