By Sophia Zhou
MIT graduate Samuel Shames, one of three co-founders of Embr Wave, spoke about his journey of designing a product and starting a business, during A-block Monday, Nov. 20 as a part of Entrepreneurship Day.
Shames began the presentation with the invention of Embr Waves, a wristband that delivers personalized thermal waves which help adjust your thermal temperature to a more comfortable degree.
Made of a ceramic tile containing bismuth-telluride, the wristband is a sleek silver bracelet powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. When turned on, electricity runs through the wristband and sends thermal sensation to the skin, cooling or heating the wrist depending on which button you press. This triggers regions of the brain that control pleasure and thermoregulation and balances the body’s natural response to temperature in just a few minutes.
According to Shames using the wristband is similar to holding a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day or dipping your toes in a pool on a cold day.
“The wristband was designed for use in everyday life and people spend, on average, 90% of their day indoors, so while the wristband cannot replace a jacket, it can help to regulate temperatures in a cold office building,” said Shames.
Shames invented the Embr Wave in Oct. of 2013 “just in the context of a student project and nothing more,” said Shames. Working with three other MIT students, Shames and his co-founders entered a technology innovation competition and ended up winning.
As a prize for winning, their invention was featured in the MIT newsletter, which publicized their invention to the world and opened the floodgates of requests from people all over the world who wanted to buy their product. It was at this point that the three students were faced with the decision of what to do with their invention.
“We suddenly had to think about ‘Who is our customer?’” said Shames. “People want to be our customer, people want to pay money for this product.”
After some thought, the three decided to start a business with the product they had designed. “We had 3 things: a community of people working together, customers who wanted to buy the product, and a problem we wanted to solve,” said Shames.
Upon making the decision, the team discovered that starting a business is much harder than they first believed. Throughout the presentation, Shames reiterated the idea of pushing through adversity and expecting the unexpected.
“If you asked me at the beginning how long I thought it would take for us to start up, I would have said six months. Now, it’s been four years,” said Shames.
In these four years, the team has shrunk the original prototype to fit on a wrist, held product trials, redesigned the wristband, and created a product that is ready to enter the market. This past October, Embr launched a successful Kickstarter campaign which drew in 31,000 orders of the Embr Wave. According to the website, orders are slated to be shipped out in February 2018.
With the growth of the product also came the growth of the team. “It takes a team to make this all work,” said Shames. “The most exciting part about all this is finding people to work with us every day and help us improve.”
According to Shames, the main goal for the future is fulfilling all the orders and growing sales. While “everything before was proving we could do it,” now the company hopes to grow its sales and show that it can not only garner interest but more importantly, bring in consumers and revenue.
As a final piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, Shames encouraged students to be bold and daring in their pursuits.
“The key to starting a business is really being curious about the process and put yourself out there,” he said. “Maybe it’s been done before, but why can’t we try to do it again?”
by Laura Schmidt-Hong
Serial entrepreneur and Babson College student David Zamarin spoke about his nanotechnology company, DetraPel, and his experiences founding his own business as part of Entrepreneurship Day Monday, Nov. 20 C-block in the auditorium.
Senior Matteo Greenberg began by introducing Zamarin and his company, explaining that the flagship product of DetraPel, a hydrophobic liquid repellent spray, “uses nanotechnology to repel almost anything,” from water to mud, “off of almost any surface.”
Zamarin first described his childhood growing up in Philadelphia, noting his elementary school experiences selling headphones at flea markets and making thousands of dollars in one summer—an early sign of his interest in business. This interest continued as he created companies providing shoe cleaning and valet services in his late teens.
During his sophomore year at Babson, Zamarin said, he again “gravitated to entrepreneurship,” participating in internships and a University of Pennsylvania entrepreneurship program, which, he noted, has “gotten me to where I am today.” At the program, Zamarin developed a lotus leaf-based, water-repellent formula for a spray with which to coat shoes, he said.
Entrepreneurial endeavors are “simply solutions to problems,” he explained. For Zamarin, the problem at hand involved seeing his shoes become dirty and not having access to a quality product to prevent that—other such products on the market at the time, he explained, were carcinogenic or dried white, thus making them ineffective.
Through independent chemical engineering research and entrepreneurship skills, he was able to perfect his product and, in February 2014, launched the DetraPel spray. Since then, he said, the company has expanded to a team of six and has released seven more related products.
“We’re in a different position than ever before,” Zamarin said, as he and other members of the company are to soon appear on television and bring their product to the attention of general consumers, as opposed to businesses, who comprised the majority of their past customers.
After describing his business and its products, Zamarin opened up the presentation to audience questions. He discussed the challenges of working as an entrepreneur, his approaches to finding business partners, the process of applying for patents, and the importance of finding and maintaining connections with mentors.
Ultimately, Zamarin said, creativity and a clear vision are vital to entrepreneurial success, and “you’re only going to get out what you put in.”
by Tali Falk-Judson
Krenar Komoni, CEO of Tive, a local start-up company, discussed his experiences as an immigrant to the United States and building a start-up tech company during D-block Monday, Nov. 20.
Tive produces small tracking devices that help companies track their packages as they are shipped to stores, according to Komoni.
“My father-in-law used to be on the phone all day, trying to track down his truck drivers as they drove cross country, so I built a small device, just a few wires and circuit boards, and attached it the bottoms of some of his trucks,” Komoni said. “Every week I would tinker with it until I had an actual product.”
Komoni explained that he received funding for his product from a venture capitalist firm called Bolt and used the money to launch his company.
“With that money, we’ve been able to market to different big companies,” said Komoni. “We most likely won’t be successful for three years at the least, but patience is the only way to get things done.”
“Creating a business is never easy, but it’s important to keep on going and remember that success takes time,” Komoni added.
by Rose Bostwick
Entrepreneurs Rajia Abdelaziz and Ray Hamilton, founders of the start-up Invisawear, spoke about their experiences founding their business G-block in the auditorium for Entrepreneurship Day Tuesday, Nov. 20.
Abdelaziz began by asking,“What would you do if you or someone you love was attacked?” She went on to explain that every 90 seconds, someone in the United States is assaulted. Usually, she said, people are not able to call the police, and even if they do, police often have no way of locating them. Abdelaziz and Hamilton plan to solve some of these issues with their company Invisawear, where they have merged jewelry and Bluetooth technology to notify emergency contacts in case of a dangerous situation,
Hamilton then spoke about how he and his partner used their backgrounds as electrical engineers and software developers to create Invisawear, calling it a “discreet, easily accessible, and stylish” product. So far, the pair has designed chokers, keychains, and bracelets with pendants containing a hidden button to press in case of danger.
The inspiration the project came from the pair’s time at UMass Lowell, where Abdelaziz noticed that in one of her clubs, “As it got darker outside, attendance would decrease. Women didn’t feel safe walking back from dorms at night.” Abdelaziz searched the Internet for a device to stay safe, but said that “everything I could find was a big ugly panic button.”
Both Hamilton and Abdelaziz emphasized the difficulties of starting a business, including legality issues, building a team, and convincing investors to fund their product. Despite this, the company has won awards and received impressive media attention.
“We never intended to start a business; we didn’t go to school for entrepreneurship,” Hamilton said. “You never know what each day could turn out to be, so keep an open mind and always work hard.”
“If I can help save just one person, that would be more meaningful to me than taking a job at one of the top companies in the world,” Abdelaziz said of turning down a lucrative job opportunity from Google. “It was one of the best life decisions I ever made.”
Invisawear products will officially be for sale this January.