26 episodes

Welcome to Into the Forge, the Lemnos podcast interviewing hardware entrepreneurs to learn the stories behind their products and startups.

Into The Forge Eric Klein

    • Technology

Welcome to Into the Forge, the Lemnos podcast interviewing hardware entrepreneurs to learn the stories behind their products and startups.

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 7: Linda Pouliot of Dishcraft Robotics

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 7: Linda Pouliot of Dishcraft Robotics

    In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 3 Episode 7, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with Linda Pouliot, co-founder and CEO of Dishcraft Robotics, a Lemnos portfolio company. Dishcraft is revolutionizing commercial kitchens with robotics, computer vision, machine learning, and innovative design.

     


    What compelled you to start your hardware company?

    I am driven by two different things: I love applying a technology to a problem, and I really love making life better for humans. When I was a kid, I had to do housework. That was one of the tasks that my mother gave me. So when I was an adult and I realized you could use technology to solve vacuuming in this instant that was the thesis behind starting my first company—to make my life better and other humans better. When I started Dishcraft, it was pretty similar, there was someone from the restaurant industry that came to me and said, “I have 22 restaurants, I’m really worried about our labor staffing problem and I’m also really concerned about costs because minimum wage in California is increasing in 2020. Can you use robotics to solve some of the problems for my company?” I was interested enough that I put myself to work in a restaurant because I wanted to experience the problem myself. Then I realized technology could solve some of these issues, and we can make the staff and the workplace better. So it was the perfect calling to the things that really drive me.

     


    Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?

    My degree is in fine arts. I was a painter, but my first job was as an art director for a manufacturer. I loved seeing how things got made. Then I came to Silicon Valley 14 years ago, and met someone who said I’m going to build a robotics company. I had never had any experience in robotics, but I loved solving problems. This is the classic Silicon Valley story—how you can start as an artist and end up being a CEO of a hardware company.

     


    How did you decide what would be your first product?

    I was not from the restaurant industry, so we started by analyzing hundreds of hours of time motion studies to see what’s happening today in kitchens and where can we provide the most value. We asked certain questions. What roles are the hardest to fill? Where do operators need the most efficiency? Where could you improve safety and workers comp issues? What equipment exists today and where are opportunities to upgraded or improve it? Are there opportunities perhaps to create something more sustainable? We looked at all this and we looked for the most labor intensive repetitive task that would provide the most value for the kitchen. I can’t discuss yet what we’re building, but stay tuned for that.

     


    How did you decide who would be your mentors?

    I think mentorship is a two-way street, and you’re both looking to learn from each other. I think specific to Dishcraft because it was hardware and in the commercial kitchen industry, we needed to hit the ground running with people who really understood both those spaces. In terms of hardware, I reached back to a lot of people that I had worked with before. So for example, when I started Neato, Giacomo Marini became our first investor and board member, and is a great mentor to me because he had done many of the same things we were trying to do at Neato, and also today at Dishcraft. He had introduced the mouse to the United States, so he knew how difficult it is to create something new

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 6: San Gunawardana and Krassimir Piperkov of Enview

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 6: San Gunawardana and Krassimir Piperkov of Enview

    In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 3 Episode 6, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with San Gunawardana, co-founder and CEO, and Krassimir Piperkov, COO and co-founder of Enview, a Lemnos portfolio company. Enview uses massively parallel 3D computer vision and wide-area remote sensing to create the best maps in the world.

     


    What compelled you to start your company?

    San: A couple of things. I think there’s a really big element here of this chance to create something from nothing in particular. I’ve had the privilege of working for some great cultures and some less than great cultures as well. And the chance to kind of craft that from scratch was fascinating. I think the chance to also really solve some genuine problems, to use some quite fancy advanced technology, and bring it down to earth to solve very practical service problems is a meaningful thing to do. And I love to challenge myself. I feel like I’ve done some difficult things professionally. A start up by far is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, so it’s very much a fulfillment sort of thing for myself.

    KP: For me, it was to actually build something out of nothing. As a teenager, I had my own martial arts studio. It was a small little adventure, but I had the chance to actually build something out of nothing. I wanted that feeling back in my life. And it took me only 20 years to get that.

     


    Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?

    San: I come from a background of aerospace engineering, working satellites, airplanes.

     


    How did you decide what would be your first product?

    San: In some ways when we first started to look at the problem, that solution space included hardware potentially. We knew there was a lot of dollars being spent on inspection of infrastructure and energy assets, largely done from the air. That was something that initially going into it, you would look at the physical hardware of the aircraft. The helicopter is a very natural thing to go and replace, and naturally that’s where we also started looking. When you actually get into it though and spend time understanding what is the pain and the challenge and the opportunity, it turns out that, yes, the hardware is one difficult part that needs to be solved. However, the analytics, like what do you do with the data that comes off the hardware, became a much more interesting and challenging problem. And that’s where we ended up focusing.

     


    How did you decide who would be your mentors?

    KP: One of the reasons why I moved to the Valley was to surround myself with people that are closer to the start-up ecosystem and don’t think that starting a company is weird. From day one, we wanted to get some advisors and mentors, and we found that in you at Lemnos. You and Helen and Jeremy have been super helpful with advice, and we also actually interviewed specific people to be advisors, start up advisors for us. We subsequently hired someone who’s been with us for three years now. We meet with him on a weekly basis and that has been super helpful. We needed somebody with a lot of start up experience who could be a voice in the room to short cut some mistakes that founders often make. Someone who has been there, done that, started a few companies, and could also make us better at leading teams.

    San: In many ways it’s per

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 5: Dave Gustafson, Omar Khan, Garrett Larsson of Rhombus

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 5: Dave Gustafson, Omar Khan, Garrett Larsson of Rhombus

    In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 3 Episode 5, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with Dave Gustafson, Co-founder and VP of Hardware at Rhombus Systems, Omar Khan, co-founder and CTO, and Garrett Larsson, Co-founder and CEO of Rhombus Systems, a Lemnos portfolio company. Rhombus leverages AI and computer vision to offer video security systems unlike anything else.

     


    What compelled you to start your hardware company?

    Omar: We were itching to start a company right after our company got acquired by Sophos. It was called Mojave. We were bringing basically firewall to the cloud. Once that got done, in the process we saw that people wanted to bring in more hardware to the cloud. That’s where we saw a few opportunities. We learned there’s a missing opportunity where the camera market is growing a lot in the consumer space, and nothing has been done in the enterprise space. That’s where it started all happening. Garrett and I got together, started discussing out things, and that’s when we saw that we can do a hardware company. Then we found Dave with the hardware expertise to help us do that.

     


    Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?

    Dave: I’ve been doing hardware my entire career. I was at Frog Design and the nice thing about that is to bring a design sensibility to an engineering task. After that I was making drones for the commercial sector for mining, construction, agriculture, those kinds of things. That’s definitely a very intense hardware situation, which has to do with safety and reliability, but also imaging. So, taking some of the specialized imaging that happened on drones and moving it to the different kind of specialized imaging that we’re using for security cameras now, has been an interesting process.

    Omar: My research background was all embedded systems. But my actual experience after college was all security-related, ranging from web application security to mobile security to cloud firewall. So, it was just a gel of all those things that I think worked out pretty well. Even though I hadn’t worked on a hardware company before, it was intuitive enough to work on embedded systems going forward.

    Garrett: I probably echo Omar. Barely touching hardware, maybe doing a little bit of embedded systems. When we were first starting up, just the idea of having hardware was daunting. What I’d say for first time founders out there, even though it was daunting, coming from a technical background, doing some of the embedded stuff before, some of the firmware stuff, it wasn’t as daunting as it seemed. And it probably helped also to get a co-founder right away that had hardware experience to pave the path a little bit.

     


    How did you decide what would be your first product?

    Garrett: The first thing was we identified a space that we wanted to be in. Omar and I were doing a lot of enterprise stuff before. That was where we were comfortable. We’re not consumer guys. We’re not trendy like that. So we didn’t know what the next hot hardware item would be in that area, but we had this thesis in enterprise that there was a lot of archaic hardware that needed to be brought to the cloud. And then we got to this physical security space, and we felt like that kind of stuff should start happening on the enterprise. Then we started looking at the different things that go into physical security. We thought cameras

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 4: Jeremy Conrad and Conor Lenahan of Quartz

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 4: Jeremy Conrad and Conor Lenahan of Quartz

    In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 3 Episode 4, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with Jeremy Conrad and Conor Lenahan, co-founders of Quartz, a Lemnos portfolio company. Quartz identifies, tracks, and predicts everything that moves on a construction site, making construction measurably safer.

     


    What compelled you to start your hardware company?

    Conor: I spent some time working on some really large organizations. I spent some time working at small organizations, and I started to have that itch. I knew I wanted to get something started.

    Jeremy: I’ve always been building stuff my entire life. My first job out of college is building weapons grade lasers in the Air Force. That is when I really discovered I wanted to start a company. And after spending eight years as a venture capitalist, that part of me just got the itch to get back in the driver’s seat. What it comes down to is the ability as a founder to have an incredible impact and have decision-making capabilities.

     


    Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?

    Conor: I’ve always been drawn towards making things, it’s something I’ve always loved. I was a construction worker in the summers [during high school], and I really loved learning this is how you work with wood, this is how you build a house, this is how you set up drainage and a yard. And that went to a mechanical engineering degree.

    Jeremy: I certainly always had an interest, but I came into my own when I got to MIT. MIT has such an incredible set of programs to support undergrads to do projects. My first two years I worked on a satellite program. I worked on drones, I worked on a self-driving car for the Darpa Grand Challenge with Kyle who ended up founding Cruise, so my entire undergrad was really small teams building advanced hardware. Then going into the Air Force, where it’s very big hardware.

     


    How did you decide what would be your first product?

    Jeremy: When we started, we agreed we don’t want to be an R&D company, where we spend years in development. So we asked, “What is the simplest, easiest thing that we could get into market that helps build towards our long-term vision?”

    Conor: The way we got to this idea is that we went through 1500 really bad ideas first. We had the benefit of being able to set a couple months aside for doing fairly broad research into what direction we wanted to go. As we were doing all this research, construction kept jumping out. Construction is something that’s super important and people interact with everyday in their life. It’s one of the most inefficient and wasteful industries on earth, and there are incredible strides to be made in the industry. We found a path that involved six months of development work to getting something that went into the world, got us real answers, and had us interacting with customers.

     


    How did you decide who would be your mentors?

    Jeremy: There are two core groups and one are the investors. Lemnos was our first investor, and being able to work with the entire Lemnos team has been a key part of this company’s development. The other set of people is founder peers. I forced Conor early on. I said, “You need to meet more people who are at our level or one to two years in front of us.” Because whenever something goes wrong, like

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 3: Jason Gates of Compology

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 3: Jason Gates of Compology

    In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 3 Episode 3, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with Jason Gates, Co-founder & CEO of Compology, a Lemnos portfolio company. Compology provides web-based container monitoring software for waste haulers to streamline operations, enhance customer service and simplify analysis.

     


    What compelled you to start your hardware company?

    My co-founder, Ben, and I went to high school and owned a small company together. We made t-shirts. In our first professional careers, I was working in the waste business in New York City, managing the waste coming off of large construction projects, and Ben was working at Adidas, helping the design of new athletic gear and using sensing technology to help improve those designs.

    Working in the business, I saw that there were some inefficiencies in the way that the waste industry operated. A lot of things were done on spreadsheets, index cards, and corkboards. It was an industry that was longing for some technology. With the cost curves of remote connectivity coming way down, battery technology improving, and improvements to capabilities with cameras, Ben and I thought, “If we’re able to put sensors inside dumpsters to monitor things like location, fullness, and content, we could have a big impact on the industry.”

     


    Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?

    My co-founder and I wouldn’t consider ourselves the most technical founders, so we decided that we needed to win in other places, and that was finding the right fit, making exactly the right thing for what customers needed. And we figured that there’d be some really smart people that would be able to help us design the best way to make that happen on the back end. Ultimately, we took the approach of, “What is the fastest, cheapest, lightest weight way to test our hypothesis?”

     


    How did you decide what would be your first product?

    We started with a thesis that the waste and recycling industry, as a whole, could benefit from the use of better technology.

    We spent a lot of time going out, riding on garbage trucks, meeting with regulators, meeting with waste generators, asking about what pain points our end customers have. We were able to distill that down and find that the logistics of collection was a really good place to start.

    We looked at small waste containers that you would see next to a bus stop. We looked at liquid waste, like used cooking oil coming from restaurants. Ultimately, we ended up deciding that the municipal solid waste –garbage, recycling, organics—was going to be the launch point.

     


    How did you decide who would be your mentors?

    My view on mentors started as being somewhat transactional—that I needed something, either for myself or for the company, and there was somebody else out there who had a wealth of knowledge on the topic. So I sought those people out to answer a very specific question for me. What I think is really helpful is to reflect and say, “What are the pieces of my own self that I’m missing that having some mentorship would help complete?” Recognizing and being upfront with yourself about what you don’t know, opens the door to getting that answer as quickly as possible.

     


    What have you gained from working with Lemnos?

    We started working with Lemnos when it was just my co-founder, Ben, and I. The stage of the business we were at was finding

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 2: Idan Beck, CEO and Co-Founder of Dream OS

    Into the Forge Podcast Season 3, Episode 2: Idan Beck, CEO and Co-Founder of Dream OS

    In each of our podcasts, we ask top hardware entrepreneurs the same 10 questions to better understand the challenges and best practices in starting a hardware company. In Season 3 Episode 2, Lemnos’s Eric Klein speaks with Idan Beck, CEO and co-founder of Dream OS, a Lemnos portfolio company. With Dream, VR meetings and collaborations are more human, dynamic, and responsive than anything previously possible.

     


    What compelled you to start your company?

    Entertainment applications in VR are clearly amazing, but wouldn’t it be great if you could just look at a [physical object] and then interact with it or if there was some kind of way to do that?

     


    Had you worked on hardware projects before this startup?

    I’ve been obsessed with graphics since I was 12 or 13. I wrote my first 3D engines when I was in high school. I wanted to do the startup thing… When I started my company, my first company Incident with the gTar and later Keys. I left Microsoft, I was working out of my parents’ garage in Cupertino and just building this thing. Legitimately just sending parts to Quick parts, getting boards fabbed, soldering. This was a very complicated product, even though it looked like a guitar it was a mixed signal DSP system. We had four or five microprocessors running simultaneously. It was a really complicated piece of hardware.

     


    How did you decide what would be your first product?

    The product that we released in October, manifested in the middle of this year. This product comes from my experience of flying to China every other week. In the beginning, we were talking a lot about making something that really leans on the strengths of Spatial. We liked immersive technology like AR and VR, and we believe as a company, the strength of those is in connecting people, allowing people to do things together across large distances but it feels like you’re right next to each other. I think everybody today is starting to really appreciate the importance of remote working, distributed working, and I think that’s only going to continue and become a more of a standard, as the technology stacks available to companies continue to evolve and improve.

     


    How did you decide who would be your mentors?

    I would consider Charles Hudson not just an investor, mentor and advisor, but also a deep friend. When I came back from China and I was ready to do Dream, I came to him. I barely had a team at the time. Since then, he’s been nothing but supportive.  I’d say Charles Huang as well. He was my first investor with gTar, and when I was trying to figure out how to do Dream, I was working out of his office.

     


    What have you gained from working with Lemnos?

    It was Jeremy who brought me in. Jeremy has now left Lemnos to start Quartz, which is really cool. I’d known Jeremy a long time, and we had a lot of mutual respect, having worked in the IoT hardware space for a while.

     


    What was the road to your first round of financing?

    N/A

     


    What has been the most surprising thing about the manufacturing process?

    Early on I was doing hardware with Dream. I built a complete schematic. I thought we’re going to have to build the entire stack. I’m not convinced that we’re not going to have to do that one day. But at the time I had built a full schematic. I even got bare metal graphics working on the chipset.

     

    ol start="8"

Customer Reviews

Papychampy93 ,

Great podcast!

Great podcast!

Top Podcasts In Technology

Listeners Also Subscribed To