What a difference an audience makes. This time we had a live audience of almost three hundred people in two covid-safe demo day sessions. One could feel the energy in the room, sense the passion of the founders pitching. What a change compared to the pandemic empty chairs at the mid-way event!
Rewind more than two months. Three teams participating in our smart manufacturing cohort just got an investment from corporate partners Avnet and Panduit at the mid-way pitch event. Their collaboration with our startups has been exemplary and extremely rewarding to both parties: help in sourcing components, introductions to potential customers and participation in pilots.
The success of our demo days is the laser-focused approach on prototyping and pilots during the last months of the program.
Once the problem and customer were validated, the focus has been on building that first or second-generation prototype or the product design for manufacturability. It’s when the heart and soul of mHUB comes afloat: augmenting the startup teams with complementary designers and engineers — community members who help building or finetuning the prototypes.
Those prototypes form the basis of pilots with customers. Important to note here is that all pilots are paid deployments — it’s all about having skin in the game. If a customer really has a big problem and the startup has the solution, then there always is willingness to pay. Building the business model as well as the financial model (unit economics) early on, is key before any deployment.
This combination of prototyping and business modeling with the support of our broader startup community, corporate partners and the guidance of our seasoned mentors forms a cocktail for success.
Let me give a few examples:
Third Wave pilots their low-code platform with corporate partner Panduit supporting person and asset tracking. The platform using LoRaWAN technology allows easy Lego-like building of applications based on templates and services. Additionally, by year end Third Wave will have more than 1000 wearable devices deployed in the healthcare field using this platform.
Stroma, recently identified by Gartner as a leading Tech Innovator in Machine Vision, detects worker fatigue and dangerous operator positions tirggering alerts or outright halting of operations to save lives. Stroma got investment from both corporate partners to run pilots with their next generation product built at mHUB. A nice addition to the more than 600 plug-and-play devices currently in the field with some big-name manufacturers.
Compocket, miniaturizing instruments like oscilloscopes in pocket format for technicians and field engineers (literally the size of an AirPod case) is defining with corporate partner Avnet the next step — integrating signal monitoring modules directly in motors allowing improved remote diagnostics and preventive maintenance.
Ascent Integrated Tech is providing hazmat workers sensorial context and communication capabilities — information to understand the actual hazardous working environment. Ascent is successfully validating, and has pilots committed with 40 fire chiefs providing them exact knowledge of firefighter location, sensing air toxicity and offering quality communication.
JustAir deploys and maintains air quality sensors offering micro-scale insights at neighborhood level for all involved stakeholders — communities, government and polluters. Not only will data alert citizens and communities of unhealthy air but also inform those responsible for polluting (manufacturing plants or idling trucks) for meaningful action. It currently runs a successful pilot in Grand Rapids, MI and will be featured in an ABC documentary that airs early December.
Iothic is making operational devices in industrial and critical network infrastructures interoperable and securing the communication of data between those devices. The prototyping work has resulted in the P-Quant Relay device that can seamlessly be connected to existing PLCs in operational environments enabling secure communication through their Open IoT Security Protocol (OISP).
Maxwell Labs is building cooling solutions geared towards high performance computing cloud infrastructures where sensor data is analyzed. Their current pilot with a crypto mining data center shows dramatic reductions in operating temperatures resulting in potential multi-million-dollar cost savings for big data centers. Maxwell Labs has additional pilots lined up with big name chip vendors. Stay tuned!
Ant Robotics develops an AV with a unique coupling device that can autonomously pull or push carts and pallets in manufacturing plants. Not only can they reduce lost factory space due to temporary material storage but also reduce labor cost of workers pulling carts and pallets and avoid the need to build costly bridges or ramps needed for current robots. They saved more than $1M for their first customer.
Needless to say, that demo day participants enjoyed seeing and feeling these prototypes first-hand in our expansive prototyping workshop — the ideal place to mingle with hardtech entrepreneurs, investors and corporates. As one of the participants told me — it’s great to be here in person and feel the energy!
About the Author
Thierry Van Landegem, leads the inaugural IIoT cohort of the mHUB Accelerator, a program that fast-tracks hardtech startups on their journey to becoming a scalable, profitable and sustainable business. He is responsible for startup sourcing and evaluation, as well as program development and execution.