HMC INQ: The Mudd IncubatorNovember 15, 2018
About three weeks ago, I woke up to an email invitation for HMC INQ’s on-campus Demo Day that went out to the alumni listerv that I’m subscribed to:
HMC INQ, the Harvey Mudd College startup incubator, is having its Demo Day for alumni, students, faculty and staff on campus, and you are invited!
Created by Josh Jones ’98, Professor Gary Evans and a lot of helpful Mudders, HMC INQ is a 10-week intensive startup program based in Santa Monica that is only open to Harvey Mudd College graduates. Admitted startups receive $120,000, office space during the program, ongoing guidance from mentors, tons of legal and cloud services credit, invaluable peer support and weekly dinners with fantastic guest speakers.
I personally know very little about incubators, starting a business, and entrepreneurship in general, but I was excited for the opportunity to find out more. Read on to follow me as I learned more about entrepreneurship opportunities and Mudd and recap HMC INQ Demo Day and all the projects that presented!
HMC INQ Demo Day
The HMC INQ Demo Day started off with a reception (think: meeting people, chatting over food) let the entrepreneurs mingle with students and with each other.
Then we filed into the lecture hall where the event was being held, and we watched the premiere of the HMC INQ video as well as a version of Bruno Mars’s “Count on Me,” performed by Josh Jones ’98. Sing this to the tune of the chorus: “you can count on me like H-M-C, I’ll be there. And I know when I need it I can count on you like I-N-Q. You’ll be there. Cuz that’s what funds are supposed to do, oh yeah.” It’s still stuck in my head.
And then we got to the part we were all waiting for, the presentations by the second HMC INQ cohort. I was glad to see that some of the projects felt very Mudd:
- “we wanted this to exist, so we made it” (Mudders have this can-do, “if there’s a will, there’s a way” attitude; I think that’s something that small, undergraduate schools foster well, since students have access to the opportunities and resources they see around them)
- “the existing thing didn’t serve all people, and we are making things more equitable” (see the Harvey Mudd mission statement, which talks about the impact of work on society)
This Year’s Projects
Work Patterns: Google Analytics for Organizations (workpatterns.ai)
Dmitri Skjorshammer ’11, Moses Duncan ’12 and Praveen Shah, University of Pune ’88
Work Patterns helps alleviate problems with organizational structure and workflow that become harder to manage as companies expand. Using analytics, Work Patterns spots communication bottlenecks within companies and can help company track and analyze company culture initiatives. They hope this will help organizations become more effective and efficient!
Sura Medical: Connected Health for the Medicaid Population (suramedical.com)
Jon Engel ’99, Marja Engel ’00 and Noah Rosen, MIT ’93.
Sura Medical is a connected health app made specifically for the Medicaid population, which is underserved by the existing connected health apps. They’re working on care for chronic leg wounds using a moisture sensor, pressure sensor, and activity tracker combined with software that collects and analyzes the data. Sura Media helps people monitor their condition and also suggests behavioral interventions.
Pinwheel: Google Search for your Personal Network
Malous Kossarian ’12, Rich Skrenta, Northwestern ’89, and Jason Anderson, CalPoly SLO ’10
Remember that scene from the movie The Devil Wears Prada where Andy Sachs is given a binder full of people and told to remember their names and relation to her boss? Pinwheel would basically replace that. It integrates data from apps like Evernote, Eventbrite, Outlook, Box, and LinkedIn to help you find or remember that graphic designer from New York that you met at a gathering two years ago.
Rivet: 311 Everywhere
David Coats ’08
David joked that his company’s motto is “move fast and fix things” (a reference to the Silicon Valley mantra of “move fast and break things,” which has become less appealing since it was adopted).
Traditional 311 service doesn’t exist in all geographic regions, and people who live outside of cities are often underserved. They are a 311 service where people can send a text to (909) 939-9395 to report things like piles of garbage, potholes, or other facility maintenance issues. Rivet will send you follow-up texts to ask for a photo and to set a location. It automatically routes requests to that facility’s phone line, email, or ticketing systems so that a work order is created. And it’ll eventually be like Yelp for facilities, where facilities can be rated on their quality of maintenance.
Fun fact: David studied biophysics at Mudd!
ZAM Helmets: Custom 3D-Printed Helmets (zamhelmets.com)
Whitman Kwok ’97 and David Stoutamire, University of Akron ’89
Whitman’s son suffered several concussions while playing hockey, and that inspired him to figure out how to make helmets better. ZAM Helmets are 3-D printed to ensure a custom fit, and Whitman and David actually brought in a prototype to the event for us to look at! It was a lot lighter than I expected it to be, and it was really cool looking at how it was manufactured — the outside is glossy, but you can see the telltale ridged signature of 3-D printing on the interior of the helmet.
AWEARE Technologies: 10x Automotive Radar
Dan Hyman ’94 and Mark Hyman, CalPoly SLO ’94
Automakers need better sensing technologies to make self-driving cars more autonomous. Dan and Mark Hyman’s AWEARE technologies are a software and hardware package, featuring long-range detection that works in a slew of weather conditions and the elimination of issues like ghost images (made when radar reflects off of objects).
Bonus: I had a long conversation with Dan Hyman, Class of 1994, about how he still uses things he learned in the core curriculum. He appreciated that Mudd forces you to be good at a lot of different things, which in makes the Mudd experience itself challenging but has long-term benefits that he’s been seeing in the ~25 years since he’s graduated.
Xiara: System Security as a Service (xiara.io)
Jeff Taylor ’10 and Yoichi Sagawa ’11
Data breaches are a huge problem in our increasingly information-driven world. We hear news about security issues frequently, and many of those are preventable. The founders of Xiara saw that existing security monitoring software presented information in a way that didn’t necessarily help the security analysts do their jobs — to quickly identify the most prominent threats, understand how they are impacting the business/organization, and see what that looks like in the context of their entire infrastructure.
Xiara is reinventing how security threats are monitored.
BumbleBeast: Ultra Powerful Desktop CNC Machine (bumblebeast.co)
Hao Cao ’17 and Michael Muzio ’17
Many Mudders like to make stuff using the machine shop during their time here, and according to their website, “BumbleBeast was born of Hao Cao and Mike Muzio’s frustration at using the tools in the Harvey Mudd College (HMC) machine shop.” While Mudders are lucky to have a full range of expensive tools at their disposal (CNC mill, laser cutter, 3D printer, etc), they still need to develop expertise using that full range of tools. And for engineers and designers who don’t have access to all that stuff? It’s about $74k of equipment to invest in.
Bumblebeast is a modular desktop manufacturing machine that performs all the functions of those tools, but in one machine. Hopefully this will lower the economic and expertise barriers to prototyping!
Entrepreneurship opportunities at Mudd
The HMC Entrepreneurship Network (HMCEN) is “an informal social network designed to offer support resources for Harvey Mudd College students, alumni, and faculty who are engaged in entrepreneurial startups”. They are one of the sponsors of HMC INQ, and also organize regional meetups for entrepreneurs.
I also found out that there’s an entrepreneurship class that’s being taught on campus this semester! There are 40 students who are taking the course with Professor of Economics Gary Evans. One of these students is Sunny, a current senior who was kind enough to let me pick her brains about the class:
What motivated you to take the class?
I was motivated to take this class because it explores topics that are not traditionally covered in many economics classes. Academically at Mudd, we focus a lot on concepts and how they can be applied to different situations. In contrast, this class is entirely practical. We learn the concepts of entrepreneurship by developing our own startup ideas and hearing from current and former start-up founders.
What do you like about the class?
A big part of this class is actually creating your own start-up and pitching the idea to real venture-capitalists and entrepreneurs, some of whom are part of HMC INQ, Mudd’s own start-up incubator. In the past, startups originally developed in the class have gone up to participate in HMC INQ and are currently burgeoning startups. The fact that a small project started in one class can turn into a concrete prospect amazes me.
How has this class impacted what you want to do in the future?
I’m currently working a startup with my brother to help rice farms in Myanmar increase their crop yields. Hopefully, the knowledge and experience I’ve gained in the class will allow the startup to grow and become successful.