We’re wrapping up an eventful couple of months at ProAxion:
Our system is now installed at 4 beta customers, spanning various industrial applications from plastics extrusion machines to data center cooling tower fans
Of the 130 applicants to the NC IDEA awards, we were one of the 9 finalists (but weren’t one of the 6 to receive a grant, rats)
We’ve established key relationships with subject matter experts in machine vibration and predictive maintenance; these experts will help us improve our system and bring great value to our customers
We are particularly excited to announce last week’s milestone–we have received our first financial investment, from noted Triangle angel investor and advisor (and Silicon Valley veteran) Mark Easley!
I first met Mark when I demonstrated my PharmAssist prototype at the IBM IoT Design Challenge in December 2014. Once Justin and I started working on ProAxion, I invited Mark to be one of the first people to see our product, and he has been exceptionally helpful along the way. We are honored to have Mark as a core part of our team and feel fortunate to have such an accomplished advisor to help guide us on this journey!
We have some important milestones planned for first quarter of 2016 including establishing a scalable Go-To-Market strategy and converting our beta customers to paid customers. We expect to raise a Seed Round of equity-based financing sometime in Q2 2016. In the meanwhile, we are raising a small amount of capital to help us accomplish our Q1 objectives. If you (or someone you know) is an accredited investor who might be interested in participating in this exciting journey, please get in touch!
In the meanwhile, I hope you had a rockin’ Hanukkah, and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to boot.
I am pleased to unveil the product I’ve been working on for the past couple of months: ProAxion!
ProAxion is “a ‘check engine’ light for manufacturing facilities”. It saves manufacturing plants money by predicting and preventing failures of critical production equipment. And it’s cheap and easy to install.
As you may know, factories are filled with “rotating equipment”: pumps, compressors, fans, mixers, rollers, etc. These things wear out, and eventually fail. And when the failure is a surprise, entire assembly lines can be shut down for weeks while repairs are performed.
The ProAxion system uses low-cost, wireless, battery-powered sensors to monitor vibration on motor housings. This vibration data is transmitted instantaneously to the cloud, where our software analyzes patterns in that data over time. When our software detects anomalies that indicate a coming failure, it alerts factory managers so they can prepare–ordering parts, arranging for repair personnel, etc.
Fewer unplanned equipment failures = less revenue loss due to downtime = a more competitive manufacturing business.
We’ll be demonstrating this system for the first time on Tuesday, September 15 in downtown Raleigh at the following events:
CED Tech Venture Conference
Raleigh Convention Center, 9am – 6pm
registration is $250 and up (but call me if you’d like to come, and I might be able to make arrangements)
This past weekend, I participated for the first time in Triangle Startup Weekend. It was a tremendous experience–essentially a 48-hour “lock-in” (minus time to go home and sleep) at American Underground in Durham. The ~50 participants (mostly strangers to each other) pitched their own ideas, formed teams around the 9 ideas which garnered the most votes, and spent the rest of the weekend creating a Minimum Viable Product and business-case presentation for each one. The weekend ended with presentations to a panel of 4 judges.
I joined Amanda Heironimus’s “Wandergram” team. The product idea in one sentence: A smartphone app that helps people plan real live trips based on photos they see on social media. Amanda and I were joined by teammates Stephen and Caroline… none of us knew each other before the event, but we worked together really well and had a great time helping each other do our best work.
One of the most surprises to me was that I ended up not writing any code. As the only software engineer on the team, I figured I would be coding madly to get together the best possible actual smartphone app I could assemble by 4pm Sunday. But, based on advice from mentors around lunchtime on Saturday, we decided that we would be better off spending our effort on an app mockup rather than an actual functioning app. (My software engineering experience was still useful in determining what functionality was actually feasible, and thus appropriate to show in the mockup!)
Another surprise was the constant drumbeat of “validation”, “validation”, “validation” we got from the mentors. Meaning that it was more important for us to gather data supporting our contention that our product would be useful to some demographic segment(s), than for us to build a product that the judges themselves would like. Many thanks to my friends who took our survey on Saturday, in response to my Facebook pleas. 🙂
I spent most of the time assembling the app mockup using atomic.io (oh, and teaching myself to use atomic.io, and finding atomic.io in the first place, among all the other app-mockup tools I had never used before). Happily, the mockup functioned nicely during our presentation, giving a good idea of what a sorta polished version of the app would act like, and the judges were impressed enough by the presentation (including the demo) to award us second place.
Now that I’ve had a few days to breathe (and catch up on sleep), I need to figure out if the idea is worth pursuing as a startup business. Watch this space for developments.
No matter what happens with Wandergram specifically, I met so many great people with great ideas and great energy. I suspect that I met my next co-conspirators at the event. I’m just not sure yet which ones they were.
It’s a 7-day “smart pillbox”, which uses WiFi to report the exact time when each day’s medication has been taken. It works in conjunction with cloud-based software I wrote that alerts the patient (and/or caregiver) about missed doses by flashing lightbulbs in the house and/or sending text messages. Full details, and a video of it in action, can be found at http://www.pogerlabs.com/pharmassist .
It’s an idea I came up with specifically for the Design Challenge, so I hadn’t originally intended to productize it… but the response has been quite positive, so I’m in the process of sussing out the market now. There are a few related products already in the marketplace, or coming soon; I’m noodling over some unique features I might be able to implement that would make it a successful consumer product.
In the meanwhile, I’ll be demonstrating the device again at the NC Regional Internet of Things event in Durham, NC on Tuesday, January 20. If you like connected gadgets, I encourage you to come see PharmAssist and the other demos that will be presented!
VigiPen: insulin injection and glucose level tracker
Withings: a wide range of devices, well-designed and well-marketed
And then there was this one:
Zensorium Being: “The only wearable that continuously tracks your mood, heart rate, activity and provides advanced sleep science insights.” The person at the booth said that it tracks mood based on heart rate. I wonder if it can detect skepticism?
In addition to all the home automation systems I saw battling it out at CES last week, there were the home health monitoring systems. They generally use the same communications layer as the home automation systems (some combination of WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and/or Z-Wave). The differences seem to be:
a focus on monitoring (sleep patterns, heart rate, etc.) rather than actions
supposedly a higher bar in terms of information security
OnKöl (Their angle: made to be completely remotely administered by caregivers, rather than Granny; just ship it to Granny’s house and you can set it up remotely. Also uses cell networks for its cloud connection, rather than assuming high-speed internet.)
It seems odd to need a completely parallel infrastructure to deliver packets to/from these wireless devices, separate from the one used for home automation… but it may be that HIPAA privacy rules (and the like) mandate this.