Written by Seamus Kelleher.
In a world where thermostats can be adjusted, cars started and lights turned off using mobile devices from thousands of miles away, it might be surprising to see the inside of a researcher’s laboratory. Scientific instruments are very disconnected, each being hooked up to its own computer and requiring time-consuming, manual operation and collection of data. Atumate in Cincinnati, Ohio, developed a tool to eliminate unnecessary inefficiencies in the lab by connecting devices through the Internet of Things (IoT).
“I worked as a chemist and would look back at the end of my day and realize how inefficient it was. Science is the foundation of innovation, but I was spending a quarter of my time walking to and from instruments to write down results,” said Olivier Lemaitre, CEO of Atumate. “Andrew Carl, our CTO, and I began brainstorming how we could make the machines work together to eliminate inefficiency, and we’ve been working at it ever since.”
According to Atumate research, an astounding 27% of a scientist’s time in the lab is spent walking to and from instruments to collect data manually. Atumate’s turnkey IoT technology untethers devices from their standalone computers and connects them all wirelessly. Instruments can then be monitored and controlled remotely, perhaps from an office, using a laptop, tablet or mobile phone. This eliminates the time-intensive process of physically walking from instrument to instrument and frees scientists up to focus on their work.
Lemaitre and Carl both have backgrounds in Chemistry, and their understanding of laboratory inefficiencies and complementary technological skillsets inspired them to build a solution. They debuted their technology at an AngelHack Hackathon, and were invited to present alongside 22 other startups at AngelHack’s Global Demo Day 2015 in San Francisco. There, Atumate won up to $100,000 in prizes and office hours in the renowned Y Combinator accelerator. The team chose not to accept the reward, however, instead favoring continued development at home in Ohio.
Atumate is a recent graduate of The Brandery’s 2016 class, a nationally ranked accelerator and southwest regional partner of Ohio Third Frontier. During their time in the accelerator program, Atumate was paired with global marketing agency LPK to develop branding and pitching messages, refine their technology and move the product closer to market. Atumate received an investment from The Brandery to facilitate further growth of their team and development of their technology.
“We worked closely with six mentors and two former Brandery graduates. That was an amazing resource because you’re getting advice from someone who’s been there and has the experience. It’s not every day that you get to strike up a conversation with other startup CEOs,” said Lemaitre. “You can’t just walk into the office of a successful CEO on a whim and say, ‘Hey man, I’ve got a few questions.’ We could do that at The Brandery.”
Atumate, is now ready to take on new challenges. The team plans to move away from its current pilot product, which it’s used to gain insight into the ways labs employed the technology, into a sellable product. Atumate is currently raising another round of funding to further accelerate their impressive growth, and plan to have a product on the market in the coming months. Lemaitre is excited to continue innovating in Ohio.
“I’m originally from Belgium, but went to school in Cincinnati and chose to make a life here,” said Lemaitre. “We have all of the resources we need and are glad to call Ohio home.”