Midwest entrepreneurs solve problems. And not problems like “How to make noodle soup” but problems like “How do we make industrial chemistry labs more efficient.” Granted the later problem isn’t as sexy (or as tasty) as an app that tells you how to make miso but it’s a real problem. It’s also the problem Olivier Lemaitre and Andrew Carl decided to tackle.
Both founders share a background in chemistry and have worked as chemists. While working at Q Laboratories, Olivier noticed that 25% of his time was spent walking from one machine to another machine to collect data.
“I would just walk from instrument to instrument to other parts of the lab which is a huge waste of time and at the end of the day I was tired from all that walking,” Olivier, Atumsoft CEO, said, “Andrew had been teaching me a lot of programming and we had a very complementary set of skills so we decided to bring this huge, big thing called IoT to the antiquated chemistry world.”
And that’s exactly what the pair did along with Fontana Ruark, Atumsoft’s Chief Creative Officer and
Brad Conyers, Atumsoft’s Chief Operations Officer. But their journey from chemists to founders of an IoT company with their sights set on revolutionizing how chemists work all started with a hack-a-thon in Covington, KY. Andrew, Atumsoft CTO, had been introduced to #StartupCIncy via an internship with Lisnr. After going to a couple of community events, Andrew was hooked.
“I’m mainly to blame for getting Olivier into this,” Andrew joked, “While I was interning at Lisnr I started going to events and after my internship I wanted more. So I started going to hack-a-thons in places like Las Vegas and San Francisco and I did pretty well – placed in the top ten in all of them”
But, when Andrew won a hack-a-thon all he got was a congratulations and some kind of prize. The 2015 AngelHack held at UpTech changed all that. After he and Olivier took home first place at that event, the duo was immediately accepted into the 12 week HACKcelerator program culminating in a Global Demo Day in San Francisco.
“We only found out that we were going to Demo Day week in the beginning of October,” Olivier explained, “AngelHack started with a few thousands teams and they narrowed it down to 50-60 teams for the HACKcelerator and from there they cut down to 22 teams that eventually went to San Francisco.”
So after 12 weeks in the HACKcellerator Olivier and Andrew were off to San Francisco to participate in AngelHack’s Global Demo Day and things didn’t get off to a great start. Olivier recounted the first time they presented their pitch for feedback. He had heard stories about teams that ranked so low they were told to completely restructure their pitch before presenting at Global Demo Day.
“We pitch on the first day, Monday, and the comments we received were not the greatest,” Olivier said, “They were mostly variations of ‘You’re not there yet and we’re not going to tell you to trash your whole pitch but you’re not that far from it’. We were crushed and almost went home in tears. But we just went back to the hostel and spent the night picking ourselves up and putting our pitch back together.”
Over the course of the next two days in a cramped room with 20 other teams, Olivier, Andrew, along with Fontana and Brad who stayed in Cincinnati and helped the pair after their full-time jobs, spent 14 hour days iterating and refining their pitch. They even had help from their mentor, Brian Powell, Strap’s CTO, who joined the them on the trip to San Fran after winning AngelHack’s 2015 mentor of the year. By the time they were ready to pitch, their hard work had paid off.
‘On Wednesday they took us to a room team by team to comment on our progress,” Olivier said, “And they actually told us we were one of the most improved teams. We went from a 2 out of 5 to 4.5 out of 5 and we would have got 5 out of 5 if we presented better. I had literally finished writing the pitch a minute before we went up so I thought we did pretty well.”
When it finally came time to pitch at Global Demo, Andrew and Olivier killed it. So much so, they took home up to $100,000 in funding from Lab360 and got to participate in office hours with Y Combinator. It was a grueling experience for the Atumsoft team but they came through the other side with a strong pitch, an amazing company and a little bit of walking around money.
Since their big win at Global Demo Day Andrew and Olivier have quit their jobs and are now working on Atumsoft full time. And, despite advice to the contrary, the two founders and their team plan on sticking around #StartupCincy.
“We’ve had at least 10 people tell us we’re crazy for sticking around Cincinnati,” Andrew remarked, “The thing about other ecosystems like San Francisco is whatever you do, you’re just another person. I love the fact that in Cincinnati we can be part of a growing ecosystem. We get to actively work with other people in the community to make a change. That’s really cool.”
Andrew and Olivier’s journey from chemists, to fans of startups, to founders of their own startup embodies the bravery it takes to walk an entrepreneurial path. They are also the embodiment of a Midwest entrepreneur – resilient, fearless and focused on solving real problems with practical solutions. We’re excited Atumsoft is a part of our community and we’re all expecting big things from their team as they continue to grow and develop their company.