Into The Forge

Into The Forge
By Lemnos
About this podcast
Welcome to Into the Forge, the Lemnos podcast interviewing hardware entrepreneurs to learn the stories behind their products and startups.
Latest episodes
Dec. 12, 2017
In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 2 Episode 4, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with Amir Hirsch, co-founder and CEO of Flybrix, a Lemnos portfolio company.   Why did you start your hardware company? How did you decide what would be your first product? We started thinking about building flying cameras. This was 2014. There was a lot of hype around drones at the time. So I entered into the drone space, intrigued by the opportunity first to make flying cameras, but secondly to explore pocketable designs and industrial designs that allow a drone to fold up. In that process, we were using Lego bricks for prototyping. We 3D printed these little connectors to hold the motor onto a Lego brick, and we were using the Legos as part of our way of exploring different industrial design options. We realized that we were sitting on top of a pretty cool product idea, and we decided that we would take that to market.   Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup? Before this startup, I worked for my co-founder Robb Walters, who started a company called Integrated Plasmonics. We were developing a small spectroscopy device towards the blood testing market, which we learned was probably not the best market to target. There was a lot of regulation to get to that market. But we learned a lot in the process about prototyping hardware: how much things cost and how far out your expectations are from reality. Before that, I had also worked on a nuclear power plant controller. I had built some high-end computing systems. My background is in electrical engineering. So I knew how, especially with the nuclear reactor, important it is to have really validated designs before you start to make it for a product.   What kind of engagement did you have with mentors, peers, or incubator colleagues early on? It’s important to ask your colleagues and friends. Talking with a lot of people early on, especially Eric and Jeremy at Lemnos, really helped me figure out what the right thing to do at the right time was. It also helps to talk to investors about what they are seeing. So it wasn’t just my friends who were saying that that sounds like a sensible idea, because investors know what’s coming on the edge of technology. Then you can figure out what thing you might be able to get traction on within the broader community of investors.   Why did you choose to work with Lemnos? Jeremy is one of my best friends; I’ve known him since MIT. I am the original Lemnos fanboy right here. I wanted to go through the program. I wanted to be part of this community and be able to see a lot of innovative technology happen up close. I think Lemnos’s strong suit is being able to pick founders who will make real technology. I’m really impressed with the technical skill in this building, and I would say that for anyone who is a serious electrical engineer or mechanical engineer interested in hardware, that Lemnos is the best place to go. I fantasize about working for half of the other companies at Lemnos.   What are the most important tools you use to make your product? The most important thing we’ve figured out is how to do prototyping. There are a number of different services where we can get boards made at different time lines. There are fast turn things in this city that will give us a board in three day
Dec. 4, 2017
In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 2 Episode 3, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with Jon Hollander, CEO, and Eric Gregory, VP of Engineering, of Seriforge, a Lemnos portfolio company.   Why did you start your hardware company?   Jon: My process was kind of unusual. I was at an art exhibition on mathematical knitting. This mathematician, she had knitted these incredible three-dimensional shapes out of yarn, Klein bottles, Möbius strips, all these really complicated three-dimensional curved manifolds. I thought that she had just reprogrammed this machine that they used to make fighter planes or racecars and just reprogrammed it to make these mathematical sculptures. I was talking to the artist and she’s like, “No, I did these all by hand. I think everything like that is made by hand, to be honest.”   I didn’t believe her. I didn’t really know too much about the field, so I went online and started looking for a YouTube video of this mysterious machine that was being used to make all these carbon fiber parts. It didn’t exist. It was General Electric making fan blades by hand—1,700 pieces of carbon fiber, 300+ hours to make these fan blades. I thought, “This is insane. This is a 21st century material. You’re literally making things that go into space and you’re doing it using the same skill set as 19th century, pre-industrial revolution craftspeople!” Where are the machines that they use to make these composite parts? I thought, “This would be an interesting problem to crack.”   Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?   Jon: Growing up, my family had a small aluminum foundry, so it was aluminum die casting, giant presses and furnaces in a machine shop. I grew up around machine tools and factory manufacturing processes, at least on the metal working side. We were always mechanically facile. I studied electrical engineering in college, and I went to law school as well. But I always like building stuff on the side. I bought a CNC mill and made widgets and things on the side just for fun.   Eric: Like Jon, always a tinkerer. Always built a lot of small things, mostly electronics. I tinkered a lot. Even my background formally is software. I’ve always dealt in the hardware/software realm.   How did you decide what would be your first product? Eric: When Jon started down this process, I kind of watched from the sidelines. I was really intrigued. It was in early 2014, when he called me and said, “I need to show you what I’m working on.” He showed me the CAD models of this machine. I said, “God, does this really work?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “That’s fantastic. This is something I would leave my job over.” Through that year, we worked on the idea together. We actually dove into the business because we really wanted to understand the market and make sure we weren’t creating a technology that didn’t have a place. We convinced ourselves that there was a real need for this. And by fall, I said, “I need to do this,” left my job, joined Jon, and we founded the company.   What kind of engagement did you have with mentors, peers, or incubator colleagues early on?   Eric: Fortunately, we have good
Nov. 28, 2017
In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 2 Episode 2, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with Kavodel Ohiomoba and Andy Kittler, co-founders of FieldVision, a Lemnos portfolio company that builds an autonomous camera that automatically films any team sport.   Why did you start your hardware company?  Kav: My background was in sports and tech. After I graduated from college, I worked for a company that built a sort of “Moneyball” for various NBA teams. Our first client was the Golden State Warriors, and they have this unique blend of cameras. Those cameras track the XY coordinates of every player and the XYZ of the ball. I took that data set and said, “When Stephen Curry goes left of the ball screen, here’s what he scores, and when the Warriors run a small small with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, here’s what they do”. That was my foray into computer vision and technology. After that, I had this idea to bring that down to the youth level. The only way to do it was hardware and here we are.   Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?  Kav: Never an official hardware product. I bought Zigbee components, took them out to a field, and tried to use the Zigbee protocol to figure out locational data based on where I was. I tinkered with things and played around with various hardware stacks, but never even thought about fully building a hardware drive before this.   Andy: As a kid, I kind of built my own desktop and did some of those various weekend trips to RadioShack—just building kind of random stuff. I also had some experience at a hardware-software company called Theatro, which I helped start. We built a communication device for retail store associates, but I really didn’t have exposure to the hardware side of that development process.   How did you decide what would be your first product? Andy: I had been working at various startups and also been a coach for both youth and college lacrosse. When Kav started to speak to me about what was possible with computer vision, how we could build this camera, and what we could do with it, I immediately knew from coaching that there would be a huge impact on what coaches would be able to do for the teams in terms of development. But I also knew that there would be a lot of use for parents.   What kind of engagement did you have with mentors, peers, or incubator colleagues early on? Andy: We’ve worked really hard to build an advisory team where that has a deep set of experience in cameras, hardware, and manufacturing, which also includes Lemnos. Part of what led us here is that we knew that we wanted to fill that founding team gap with some deep experience. I’ve built out a bench that we feel like does that.   Kav: We have a set of advisors that we essentially approach every month or two, give them a pitch, tell them the story, and give the update around where we currently are. For us that’s been an incredible way to test our thesis and to validate our thinking and to incorporate feedback. We found folks who like sports, who are interested in the product natively. Our most key advisors, the Dean of Engineering at Wash U, started three or four computer vision companies, and he used to work for the New England Patriots. So he had this natural affinity to the idea and was more tha
Nov. 16, 2017
Welcome to Season 2! In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 2 Episode 1, I talk with Noah Ready-Campbell of Built Robotics, a Lemnos portfolio company. Built recently announced $15 million in Series A funding to get its autonomous track loader to market.   Why did you start your hardware company? I grew up in rural Vermont and worked for my dad pretty much every summer. I did a lot manual labor, construction, carpentry, and carpenter’s assistant kind of work. When I was thinking about robotics, I thought, “Maybe there’s a way to bring robotics into construction in some way, shape, or form.” In our vision for the company, we automate heavy equipment to make construction safer, faster, and more affordable.   Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup? No, we first came up with this idea for an e-commerce business. It was called Twice, and the idea was basically to be an online secondhand clothing store. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do next, it was clear to me that I really wanted a business where technology was the core. I decided that robotics was the one for me because it felt like it was maybe a little bit further outside of Google’s sweet spot. I’d studied Computer Science in school and got a Master’s as well, but I’d never done anything in robotics. I just started learning. I probably spent six months just reading about robotics, talking to people, and then refreshing myself on “Oh, yeah. That’s how an electric motor works.” I was definitely intimidated by hardware at first. The thing I realized is that for most hardware businesses, the core of what they’re doing is actually still software.   How did you decide what would be your first product? I really needed to, again, roll up my sleeves. My parents live in rural Vermont. I rented a 15-ton John Deere excavator, and I said “Hey, mom. You’ve always said you wanted to have a pond. I’m going to dig you a pond.” So I spent a week on this machine. I put 77 hours on it. I started to understand what are the areas where a robot could be helpful. Then I traveled around the country talking to every excavation contractor that I even tangentially knew—a lot of like uncles, fathers-in-law, and friends of mine. I got a lot of really good feedback.   What kind of engagement did you have with mentors, peers, or incubator colleagues early on? I think there are two dimensions. One is industry expertise. For us, that’s hardware, robotics, perception software, construction, excavation, etc. Then there’s general company-building stuff, which is how you run a fundraising process, what are the legal ins and outs here, etc. I think that since I had done another company before, I felt a little bit more comfortable in the general company-building stuff, but I had a lot to learn on the robotics side of things. That’s actually one of the big reasons I wanted to work with Lemnos. You’ve got a reputation as being the hardware seed stage fund in Silicon Valley. I wanted to work with you so that I could kind of see around corners based on the pattern recognition that you guys have.   Why did you choose to work with Lemnos? The Forge that you have at Lemnos, it’s a little thing in some wa
Sept. 11, 2017
Welcome to the ninth episode of Into the Forge, the Lemnos podcast talking with hardware entrepreneurs about the journey, tools, and lessons that shaped their startup and product. This is a special “lost” episode of Into The Forge, originally recorded in late August 2014. My guests were Shireen Yates and Scott Sundvor, the founders of 6 Sensor Labs, now Nima. If you have questions or comments about this podcast please send us an email! Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes here.
Jan. 4, 2016
The eighth episode of Into the Forge, the Lemnos Labs produced podcast interviewing Makers to learn the stories behind their products and startups. Today’s guest is Adam Ellsworth, the founder of 8-Bit Lit and leader in the hardware entrepreneur community. If you have questions or comments about this podcast, send email to [email protected] Eric Klein […]
June 3, 2014
Welcome to the eighth episode of Into the Forge, the Lemnos podcast talking with hardware entrepreneurs about the journey, tools, and lessons that shaped their startup and product. Today’s guest is Adam Ellsworth, the founder of 8-Bit Lit and leader in the hardware entrepreneur community. If you have questions or comments about this podcast, please send us an email! Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes here.
May 19, 2014
Welcome to the seventh episode of Into the Forge, the Lemnos podcast talking with hardware entrepreneurs about the journey, tools, and lessons that shaped their startup and product. Today’s guest is Dave Merrill, co-founder of Sifteo, creators of the award-winning interactive game system. If you have questions or comments about this podcast, please send us an email! Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes here.
April 16, 2014
Welcome to the sixth episode of Into the Forge, the Lemnos podcast talking with hardware entrepreneurs about the journey, tools, and lessons that shaped their startup and product. Today’s guest is John Stanfield, co-founder and CEO of Local Motion, who are developing car-sharing technologies for commercial auto fleets. If you have questions or comments about this podcast, please send us an email! Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes here.
March 31, 2014
Welcome to the fifth episode of Into the Forge, the Lemnos podcast talking with hardware entrepreneurs about the journey, tools, and lessons that shaped their startup and product. Today’s guest is Cheryl Kellond, founder and CEO of Bia Sport, who is creating an iconic sports brand for women. Their first product is the Bia Sport watch. If you have questions or comments about this podcast, please send us an email! Subscribe to this podcast in iTunes here.