When Nikola Labs spun out from Ohio State in 2014, the startup was focused on wireless power transfer technology — moving electricity from point A to point B over long distances without wires. Three years later, the company began exploring how its system could be evolved for the manufacturing industry, and since then, Nikola Labs has made the official transition toward continuous monitoring for manufacturers, with its rebrand to AssetWatch.
“We originally named our company after Nikola Tesla, who was the pioneer for wireless power,” Executive Chairman and Co-founder Will Zell said. “We serendipitously stumbled into our sensor-based condition monitoring for manufacturers, and as we dove into that application and market and saw the potential to help create value, we began our evolution away from wireless power towards a company built around serving manufacturing organizations with our system.”
AssetWatch speaks to exactly what the startup pivoted toward, the monitoring of assets and mitigation of asset risk, but the monitoring offered by the startup focuses on eliminating costly downtime as well. Traditionally, manufacturing has been reactive to equipment breakdowns and failures, but AssetWatch is helping the industry take a more proactive approach with its technology.
“Facility operations have to calculate for and expect unplanned downtime,” Zell said. “We can remove that burden and return that time and cost to top-line production and bottom-line profit. We believe the future of manufacturing maintenance is proactive, and in that culture, you need tools that will help with the prediction of failure and prescribe action steps to take.”
Zell compares the startup’s proactive approach to a cardiologist conducting a preventative EKG for a patient. To help manufacturers predict and detect issues more efficiently, AssetWatch’s sensors provide facilities with equipment data that can be used to resolve issues before they lead to unexpected downtime.
“We have vibration and temperature sensors that capture critical data,” he said. “We look at the entire asset infrastructure within a facility through our cloud-based platform, and our team of condition-monitoring engineers advise our customers on action steps. Our goal is to help our clients move past the reactive maintenance model of waiting for an asset to break down before fixing an issue.”
Although the company has rebranded, AssetWatch’s core values haven’t changed. Now, the startup is even more passionate about highly technical engineering, and it’s eager to attract talent from local schools such as Ohio State and Otterbein University. Throughout the company’s recent pivot, a key differentiator in its success has been the economic investment and resources Ohio has to offer.
“We’re passionate and optimistic about our ability to help foster an ecosystem in central Ohio that spins out great tech companies,” Zell said. “The resources here in Ohio have provided meaningful funding and investment for high-growth startups like ours. For us, that community support in the early stages has given us incredible momentum forward.”