Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey, Aaron Grant – Thalmic Labs

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Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey and Aaron Grant are the co-founders of Thalmic Labs, the makers of the MYO, a motion and gesture control armband that uses the muscles in your forearm to control digital technologies over Bluetooth.

Hack

Try constantly sharing sales number when you launch to give prospective customers that extra social proof they may need to go ahead and place an order/pre-order. We did, including telling customers which “number” they were to order.

Genesis

We became entrepreneurs having just graduated from the University of Waterloo since we had an idea that we wanted to bring to life. We moved into our office literally a week after finishing our last classes of undergrad.

Motivation

Applying what we learned in the Mechatronics Engineering program to something that could change the face of computing was the real motivation behind starting Thalmic Labs. All three of us (the founders) love tackling challenging problems with big impacts, and this was a chance to do it. Even before we settled on working on MYO, the three of us had already decided that upon graduation we would start a technology company in some form, rather than taking a job or pursuing further studies.

Funding

In June, we announced the closing of our Series A funding round for $14.5 million, led by Spark Capital and Intel Capital. Prior to that, we were funded by local angel investors, and even further back self-funded off student and credit card debt. One thing we learned while going through the process of securing institutional financing is the importance of staying in the driver’s seat through the process and moving along all the players according to the company’s timelines—it’s easy to let things drag on or get off the rails if the process itself isn’t carefully managed.

Traction

We decided to launch a YouTube video with a wide variety of use cases for MYO. The video went viral, getting millions of views and significant press coverage over a very short period of time.

Obstacles

Since we’re a hardware company, we faced (and continue to face) challenges on both the engineering and business levels: supply chain, quality control, distribution, and financing all this. One big challenge we faced was a technical one—existing sensor technology that picks up muscle activity signals wasn’t suitable for our application, so we spent over a year developing our own brand new sensor.

Drive

We often think about the fact that we’re solving challenging problems to create something that could change the face of computing. The three of us get to wake up every day and work on some of the coolest technology we can imagine, alongside an amazing team of people. There really isn’t anything else we’d rather be doing. Our stress relief outside of work is athletics for all of us—we’re doing several triathlons together this summer.

Caliber

Dedication, great mentors, and a compelling product and vision certainly contribute to the progress we’re making. It’s important to note that we still have a LONG way to go before nearing what we would consider ‘success’. We’re still in the early days. If we had to narrow it down to a specific reason that we’ve been able to get this far, it’s that we’re a highly resourceful group and we continue to pound away at challenges we face day in, day out.

Reflection

We don’t place a lot of value on looking back and thinking “what if we had done x instead of y” – instead we try and focus on looking forward: with the situation today, and what we know today, what choices do we have from here? Obviously, our learning from the past factors into the “what do we know today” part of the equation.

Etc.

Early on, when it was just the three founders and we had no funding, we met a great industrial designer that we were hoping would join our team. We drew a life-size picture of her on a whiteboard wall and took of photo of the three of us plus her, then sent it to her in an email titled, “there’s something missing” (photo attached). In the end, the photo unfortunately didn’t win her away from other opportunities…

 

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