Six startups, six industries and endless possibilities for the future.
That was the kind of optimistic energy exuding from a selection of founders at “Founding the Future Of…,”
a Moogfest program hosted last Friday by ExitEvent's
editor, Laura Baverman
. Their companies couldn’t have been more different, but there was one common ground uniting them—a home base in the Triangle.
Innovators from all over the world have gravitated to this region to make businesses out of their ideas, and the resulting startups are doing as cutting edge of innovation as what happens in Silicon Valley, Boston or in global startup hubs. ExitEvent chose these six founders because they epitomize the trend.
In front of an audience at Moogfest, they shared stories of big dreams, hard work and determination as well as support from local universities, NC IDEA grants, accelerators and more. Most admit they've exhausted every opportunity they could find in the region.
And according to Doug Kaufman, CEO of TransLoc, the Silicon Valley investors once begging him to move to California are now investing millions in his Research Triangle Park-based company and asking him to stay put.
Below, learn about these founders' plans to reshape their industries:
Future of Transit
Kaufman's transit tech firm TransLoc initially developed an app to track bus locations in real time. But the 11-year-old company is now working to develop a mobility network that unifies the country’s transit systems. This would weave together all types of transit (bus, Uber, train, etc.) to help users find the best way to get around, all while providing important data back to transit agencies.
Future of Construction
bioMASON CEO Ginger Dosier, an architect by trade, moved to the Triangle from Dubai to bring to life an idea to grow more sustainable bricks for home and building construction. The startup, which just opened a factory in Research Triangle Park, uses microorganisms to make cement that can be used in construction in the form of bricks. Rather than making the bricks themselves, Dosier and the bioMASON team are training licensees on the biochemical process so they can replicate it in their own domains.
She left the audience with this: “Concrete is the second most consumed substance in the world…and we want to pave the world in biocement, starting with bricks.”
Future of Consumer Product Manufacturing
Aly Khalifa, owner of Raleigh-based Designbox, stepped up to the podium with a homage to 20th century inventor Richard Buckminster Fuller, who coined the phrase “design science revolution,” a notion that nature can drive manmade design. Designbox feeds off of this idea, creating a home for inventive culture that can lead to an exciting, viable output. The business provides a range of design-centered services for clients, from strategizing brand positioning to launching products. Lyf Shoes, Khalifa’s other business, utilizes 3D printing and upcycling to make stylish, assembled-on-demand footwear that is also 100 percent recyclable. Embedded in each shoe’s heel is a device that captures the wearer’s movements and so, after a period of time, customers can sell that pair back to the business to be recycled. Then an assembly facility will analyze the data from the tracking device and manufacture a new and improved pair of shoes to better fit the customer’s lifestyle.
Khalifa concluded stressing the importance of sustainability in consumer and product manufacturing.
“Whatever we put out there, we have to be able to take back,” he said.
Future of Sound in Media
According to Anish Chandak, that punching sound heard in many action movies is not produced from a real-life punch—it’s actually the sound of someone in the studio breaking celery.
“Sound effects are very far off from how things actually happen,” he noted. But Carrboro-born Impulsonic, of which he is CEO, uses simulation technology to create more realistic sound effects that will match the environment presented in video games and virtual reality. It also uses audio technology based on physics to take into account players’ positions in the game so the surrounding audio travels with them through the virtual landscape.
Chandak predicted a movement away from manual control of sound and toward automation for the future of sound in media. His company, fueled by years of research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, intellectual property and SBIR grants, will make it happen.
Future of Design
Gart Davis and his partner, Stephen Fraser, founded Spoonflower in 2008 when Fraser’s wife wanted a particular polka dot printed onto fabric. She searched online for a platform that would allow her to do so and found no real results. So Davis and Fraser, who met while working at then-startup Lulu, jumped on the opportunity to fill that empty space with Spoonflower.
What looks to consumers as a simple website for people to design, print and sell their own fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap, is actually a pioneer globally in the field of digital textile printing.
Producing about 2,000 unique fabric items a day, the Durham startup executes a printing process that uses water-based pigment inks and dyes. It allows for individuals to design and print even just a yard of fabric at a time without requiring huge inventories, a process that is helping to fuel the Etsy and DIY movements.
With $25 million in funding secured last year, the company is expanding its global presence with a second manufacturing facility in Berlin. It also has a few internal startups experimenting with custom fabric design and manufacturing.
Future of ADHD Treatment
Jake Stauch began his Neuro+ presentation with a few facts. Twelve percent of all U.S. children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and 1,620 more kids are diagnosed with ADHD everyday. Stauch recognized this as a problem and saw gaming as a fun way to improve ADHD kids’ attention skills. So along came Neuro+, a dragon-themed computer game that comes with a headset that detects electrical activity in players’ brains. The headset tracks their performance so they can see how they’re improving. The better kids perform in the game, the further they’ll advance through its storyline.