Where Industry Meets Innovation

  • Contact Us
  • sign in Sign In
  • Sign in with certificate
mit campus

Resources

Search News

  • View All
  • ILP News
  • MIT Research News
  • MIT Sloan Managemet Review
  • Technology Review
  • Startup Exchange

News

April 4, 2020

BROWSE NEWS RESULTS

71 Results | Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Last | Next
 
StartupExchange
January 29, 2020

Silverthread, Inc.: Improving software health for economic impact

Dan Sturtevant is CEO and co-founder of Silverthread, the leader in software economics helping executives take financial control over complex software assets.
Silverthread, Inc. is a software economics company—not a code quality company or a systems architecture firm. CEO and co-founder Dan Sturtevant is very clear about the distinction. In contrast to many of their competitors, who tend to stress code quality measures and only speak to technologists in an organization, Sturtevant and his team diagnose the technical health of systems from an economic standpoint, bridging the gap between business-focused executives and the technical side of an enterprise for better collective decision making. “We like to think of ourselves as focused equally on the health of a system and providing a deep understanding of software development performance so that business managers can make better decisions across that boundary,” he says.

Studies show that fifty percent of the money an organization invests in software might be wasted. The notion that software is eating the world is perhaps more apt today than it was when venture capitalist Marc Andreessen first coined the phrase back in 2011. However, due to the perception that software is the realm of specialized practitioners alone, senior managers often rely on technical experts, and call it a day without taking the time to understand the direct link between the technical health of their system and the economic implications for their company.


Dan Sturtevant,
CEO, Silverthread


However, as organizations move towards greater reliance on highly complex software to cope with technological change, dialogue between both sides of the house is essential for a healthy and economically sound ecosystem. “Right now, it’s difficult for the CFO and the system architect to communicate effectively,” says Sturtevant. “We can quantify the relationship between the technical architecture of a codebase and its economic impact so the CFO and the architect can have productive conversations about how much money should be spent improving the technical health of their system so they can be most effective as an organization.”

Silverthread’s CodeMRI® Platform allows organizations to translate software health metrics from both an architectural health standpoint and from a code quality standpoint into quantifiable business metrics centered around software economics (revenue generation, cost reduction, and optionality for new businesses). Given a new codebase, Silverthread ingests that code into their platform and runs it through predictive models to provide a clear understanding of the technical health of the system and the economics of working in that particular system. In an enterprise with a portfolio of 100s or 1,000s of codebases under development, Silverthread’s models can help executives make informed financial ROI-based decisions about which projects are in good shape, which codebases should be refactored, and which systems to scrap. The promise of Silverthread’s approach is that subjective opinion can be replaced with data-driven models, significantly improving long-term business performance.

Their platform also has the ability to tap into and calibrate models of management systems (e.g., version control systems, issue tracking systems) and use machine learning for more refined adjustments and to improve predictive models. In addition to the fact that Silverthread’s tools measure their own ROI by design, recently added capabilities include the ability to deconstruct current software problems and to set controls and rules to prevent new problems—sending an organization on a path of improved technical health and improved economics for the future, measuring both along the way.

An essential tool in the Silverthread arsenal is its growing data vault of 7,000 systems, which allows Sturtevant and his team to give customers a well-rounded view of their codebase while explaining how their system measures up from an industry perspective. “One of the things to understand, is that all of the codebases we see have technical health challenges of one kind or another,” says Sturtevant. “Software has only been around for 50 years, and no one has figured out how to do it perfectly. People need to know that we’re all in this together. In terms of technical health, being able to see where you sit relative to others is important as an organization grows.”




Since starting up, Silverthread has expanded beyond its initial contracts with the Department of Defense—including a 3-year deal signed in January of 2018 with the US Air Force to deploy the CodeMRI® Platform across various mission critical programs—to work with companies across industries in multiple verticals, including healthcare, automotive, aerospace, and medical devices. “Very often, we work with organizations that have complex systems with the potential to do great good and to do great harm if they malfunction,” says Sturtevant.

Customers use Silverthread’s technical assessments not only to predict defect density and developer productivity but also to assess the risk associated with shipping products that have the potential to cause real damage. “Several people have used our assessment to get a better handle on what their risks are and then used our tools to help them fix those systems to mitigate those risks,” he says.

Silverthread recently used predictive analytics to help one of their customers sift through a challenged large legacy codebase to determine waste in order to make the case to secure funding to pay down technical debt before completely eliminating health issues in their codebase. Not long after, Silverthread came in and reassessed. Their findings included a threefold increase in productivity. “Their customers are much happier with their performance since going on this journey with us,” says Sturtevant.

Sturtevant says they’ve also begun assisting with due diligence during the mergers and acquisitions of software companies. For example, Silverthread has partnered with Synopsys to create a new Design Quality Audit (DQA) service being used by large multinational corporations and private equity firms.

Silverthread’s technology is based on 15 years of research and development at MIT and Harvard. Sturtevant, who earned both his MS in engineering and management and a PhD in engineering systems from MIT, has more than 20 years of industry experience as a software architect and engineer, manager, and developer. His domain experience spans data analytics, computational simulation modeling, cryptography, virtualization, Linux supercomputing, and the fusion of satellite data. However, it was while studying systems design at the Institute that Sturtevant met his PhD advisor, Alan MacCormack, and Harvard Business School professor Carliss Baldwin, both of whom had been developing new ways of measuring the technical health of software systems.

Sturtevant found that their automated techniques of measuring the health of codebases were highly predictive of the challenges that he faced earlier in his technical career. “When I started working with Alan and Carliss, we began statistically connecting technical health measures to business outcomes.” Specifically, how technical health relates to things like defect density and developer productivity, and how that impacts agility, risk, waste, and cost. Recognizing the demand for their work, Sturtevant, MacCormack, and Baldwin joined forces with former MIT researchers and serial entrepreneurs Sunny Ahn and Michael Davies, to commercialize their technology in 2013.

Now a team of 20, Silverthread joins the ranks of STEX25 having helped more than 100 commercial and government customers gain visibility into their software design quality, quantify risk, understand cost of ownership and risk consequences, fix systems, and drive economic results from better software decisions. “It’s a real honor to be invited to be part of STEX25,” says Sturtevant. “We’ve grown a lot in the past five years. We’ve gotten good proof points, both in the DoD and in industry, demonstrating that executives have a real appetite for better understanding the health of their codebases and how they impact the economics of their organization. It’s great to have that kind of validation.”
StartupExchange
October 29, 2019

Cellino Biotech: Disrupting regenerative medicine

Cellino Biotech CEO and cofounder, Nabiha Saklayen delivers state-of-the-art stem cell therapies with laser-based cell manipulation.
The regenerative medicine space has experienced tremendous activity in recent years. In 2018, the field saw investments of $13.8 bn worldwide—a 73 percent increase from 2017. The combination of advances made by biologists in stem cell-“code” manipulation combined with the efforts of companies developing stem cell-derived therapies has brought to light new possibilities for palliative and curative care. Recently approved by the FDA, CAR-T cell therapies demonstrated up to 94 percent remission rates in some severe types of cancer. “It’s an inspiring time,” says Nabiha Saklayen of Cellino Biotech. “We’re finally getting to a point where we might be able to cure diseases altogether.”

Whether it’s making human cells to test drugs or for use in replacement therapies, the crux of the matter is how to produce human-like tissues that behave like the cells in our body. According to Saklayen, typical industry approaches continue to rely heavily on classical biology. “We are perhaps the first to apply a laser-based approach, combining it with the other important pieces—biology, stem cell differentiation, image-based processing, machine learning, and biomaterials,” says Saklayen.


Nabiha Saklayen
CEO & Cofounder,
Cellino Biotech


Saklayen insists you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone doing stem cell therapy using the unique combination of technologies developed by Cellino. At present, the Cambridge, MA-based startup is applying their novel technology to retinal cell therapies, an area where early clinical trials are demonstrating the promise of stem cell-derived retinal sheets to restore vision. Cellino aims to play a significant role in curing diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, and is projected to affect close to 200 million people by 2020.

Despite the success of early-stage AMD trials, Saklayen points out that the industry faces significant challenges. For example, effectively manufacturing high-purity sheets that integrate seamlessly into the eye has proven particularly challenging. So too has ensuring single-cell precision so that every cell has reached maturity. However, the Cellino platform uses the latest advances in image-based learning to track the cell differentiation process. By targeting single cells for genetic activation, or even removal—if, for example, a retinal cell isn’t differentiating properly, and is becoming an unwanted cell—their system ensures functionality by guaranteeing cell maturity. “We address a huge unmet need in the industry,” says Saklayen. “We’re bringing single-cell precision to regenerative medicine.”

Saklayen started Cellino in 2017 with her former lab partner from Harvard University, physicist and nanomaterials expert, Marinna Madrid. Looking to build out their team on the engineering side, Saklayen and Madrid turned to serial entrepreneur and MIT Sloan Alum Matthias Wagner. “Matthias has tremendous industry experience,” says Saklayen. “As an early-stage startup, we’ve made a lot fewer mistakes thanks to his presence. We’ve made significant progress in a very short period of time. The team is a core part of Cellino—it’s what has brought us to this point,” she says.

Despite the notoriously competitive nature of the local startup scene, Cellino has found no shortage of interest from Boston’s top talent, including women, across company roles. Saklayen recalls a colleague asking how she managed to find female scientists to join Cellino, a stark reminder of the often-conspicuous absence of women in the technology realm. “The reality is that they find us,” says Saklayen. “It’s a very powerful experience to have the type of company that people want to be a part of.”




With seed funding raised from MIT’s venture, the Engine, Cellino now joins the ranks of STEX25, further strengthening their ties within the MIT ecosystem. “We’re working actively to build partnerships both locally and globally, and STEX25 gives us an even larger, more prominent platform to do that,” says Saklayen. “Having the support of the team at the Startup Exchange is incredible as we keep pushing forward.” Thanks in large part to Wagner’s presence, Saklayen has been able to leverage the considerable force of the MIT ecosystem. “The leadership of MIT is phenomenal, how they’re thinking creatively, guiding academics into the entrepreneurship lane. Much of what we’re doing at Cellino wouldn’t be possible without the support of MIT.”

In order to build out Cellino’s groundbreaking technology, Saklayen recognizes the importance of working with companies leading the way for stem cell therapies. At present, they are in meaningful discussions with top pharma players and some of the larger biotech enterprises pioneering the regenerative medicine space. Cellino’s business model positions them as manufacturers for companies that will commercialize their novel therapies. “It’s critical that we work with experienced partners capable of commercializing our product,” she says.

In fact, on her journey from scientist to CEO, Saklayen says her biggest takeaway has been recognizing the fact that to truly advance the state of stem cell therapies and curative care, it is essential to move the Cellino technology towards therapeutic applications. “Doing high-quality partnerships that are meaningful and push real products towards the clinic is the number one priority for Cellino,” she says.

“The next year for Cellino is all about solidifying our technology and data in the retina space,” says Saklayen. With a five-year-plan to move beyond small organ applications like the retina, Cellino already has large volume applications in the pipeline. And because their system is based on a machine learning platform, it won’t be long before they’re manufacturing these tissues without human involvement. “As the system grows and builds, we want to start moving towards larger volumes. The problem we’re solving of being able to make human tissues and cells in an automated, cost-effective manner is going to be a gamechanger for the entire industry.”
StartupExchange
October 15, 2019

BlinkAI: Machine learning brightens the scene

Neural network techniques can dramatically improve low-light imaging for smartphones and smart cars.
Why can you see everything in a darkened room far better than your smartphone camera?

The camera’s optical sensors actually detect light much more efficiently than your eye does, but your brain is doing much more sophisticated image processing, explains Bo Zhu, co-founder and chief technical officer of BlinkAI Technologies in Boston.

Founded in 2018, BlinkAI provide algorithms to dramatically improve image reconstruction, especially under low-light conditions. “We use machine learning to enhance the sensor performance in visually challenging conditions, extending the range of what a camera can see and detect in the real world,” says BlinkAI chief executive officer Selina Liying Shen.

“It turns out that systems with predictive ability, which understand what they're about to see, can rely on much less information and still provide very accurate images and videos,” Zhu says.

Selina Shen, CEO & Cofounder




Bo Zhu, CTO & Cofounder


An MIT Startup Exchange STEX25 company, BlinkAI is talking with potential partners who have applications in smartphones, autonomous vehicles, security and other markets. In many cases, BlinkAI’s software solution may prove much cheaper than alternative options in sensor hardware.

Perceptual learning about light
Blink AI technology is built on Zhu’s postdoctoral work at Harvard in the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, where he applied machine learning to reconstruct medical images based on less-than-ideal data from devices such as computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners. The research was published in Nature in 2018 and described how a method called AUTOMAP can take “noisy” imaging data from these machines and still come up with very clear high-resolution images for radiologists to accurately read and diagnose.

The AUTOMAP approach is similar to a human cognitive process called perceptual learning. “Starting at birth, your brain trains itself how to see—how to interpret these raw noisy signals that are coming in from the retina,” says Zhu. “Certain visual features like edges or patterns or textures come up over and over again. Your brain has this amazing predictive ability to very efficiently encode this data, and therefore it doesn't need that much information to create a clear image.”

BlinkAI was founded to commercialize this paradigm more generally in digital imaging. “We put a brain behind the camera sensor so it has more predictive power, improving the performance of the sensor five- to ten-fold,” he says.

“Today’s image signaling algorithms fail in low light conditions, where the particularities of the image sensor and its very complicated noise profiles become very important, and the traditional algorithms just aren't adaptive and sophisticated enough to handle each sensor in the best way,” he says.

“With AUTOMAP, we train up a neural network to optimally process the raw frames that are coming in from the optical sensors in each individual camera model,” Zhu says. “We’re really able to hone in on the particularities of individual camera models, whose designs and manufacturing processes can be very different. We learn the very complicated noise properties that are contaminating the signals that you care about. And we can disentangle the noise from the signal with that understanding, so that our output is much clearer.”

Solving this problem with BlinkAI software will be cheaper than with more expensive sensor hardware. And the demand for the approach is growing rapidly as cameras are being deployed in ever-expanding numbers in all sorts of devices and vehicles. Their optical sensors often are getting smaller and smaller, to fit into more compact cameras and lowers costs. That means the sensors pick up even less light, which is even more of a problem because applications still expect to work with very high-resolution images. “So every pixel has less light intake, and that’s a real problem in dark conditions,” Zhu says.




Building the markets
BlinkAI, which has raised $2.5 million to date, was named an MIT STEX25 company this spring. “It can be hard as a startup company to reach out to big corporations,” Shen says. “But the STEX25 program provides a very deep relationship with numerous corporations, and our connections with these corporations are speeding up the overall process of engagement.”

Among potential clients, the startup is talking with a number of smartphone manufacturers. “Right now, cameras often become the primary competitive advantage for smartphones, and our ability to offer much better low light and video photography is important,” Shen says.

Other opportunities are opening up in automobiles, whose manufacturers are quickly adding cameras to deliver advanced driver assistance capabilities, and readying designs to deliver fully autonomous vehicles a few years down the road. “Our technologies will enable cars to perform better in low-light settings, as well as visually challenging environments such as rain, snow and fog,” she says.

“As more and more of these sensors are being placed on vehicles, there are real safety concerns that begin to pop up,” Zhu says. “The importance of clear images becomes more critical as we begin to have self-navigating vehicles that rely upon good images to make decisions that are often life or death.”

BlinkAI also expects better low-light images to aid navigation in drones and other types of vehicles, and to enhance a wide range of visual security systems.

“We’ll find many ways to use machine learning to enhance the sensor performance in visually challenging conditions, and help establish the next generation of intelligent imaging sensors that amplify the critical perception capabilities of future devices and vehicles,” Shen sums up.
StartupExchange
September 30, 2019

MIT Startup Exchange Announces Fall 2019 Additions to STEX25 Accelerator

MIT Startup Exchange is pleased to announce the addition of five companies to its roster of STEX25 startups. New additions to the program include: Cambridge Crops, Lightelligence, Prescient Devices, Profit Isle, and Uncountable.
MIT Startup Exchange is pleased to announce the addition of five companies to its roster of STEX25 startups for its Fall 2019 cohort:

Cambridge Crops (A new kind of protection for all kinds of foods)
Lightelligence (Accelerating AI at the speed of light)
Prescient Devices (Solving the fragmented IoT challenge)
Profit Isle (Uncover hidden profitability with analytics software solutions)
Uncountable (AI Platform for Material Development)

“Our industry partners tell us that MIT Startup Exchange is one of the most effective channels for connecting them with emerging tech startups,” said Executive Director of MIT Corporate Relations Karl Koster. “STEX25 startups exhibit the high-caliber talent and cutting-edge technology that are hallmarks of MIT. Corporate ILP members continue to engage in advanced discussions and multiple partnerships with these startups.”

STEX25 is a startup accelerator run by MIT Startup Exchange featuring 25 "industry-ready" startups. MIT Startup Exchange adds startups to STEX25 on a roughly quarterly basis, from among more than 1,700 MIT-connected startups. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings by the MIT Industrial Liaison Program’s (ILP) industry liaisons. STEX25 companies collaborate with ILP corporate members through targeted Startup Exchange workshops and showcases, exhibits at ILP conferences, and other events tailored towards industry.

“For the startups that participate, STEX25 provides access to the right potential corporate partners, and at the right level, to senior executives who can make yes/no decisions on moving forward with pilots, and customer agreements. Our ability to impact new tech is clear, and is something that we consistently hear from current and past STEX25 participants,” said MIT Startup Exchange Program Director, Marcus Dahllöf.

Jon Garrity, Cofounder & CEO of STEX25 alumni company Tagup, said: “We acquired major new customers and development partners through the many conferences, founder events, and bespoke ILP member presentations Startup Exchange organized for Tagup. ILP and Startup Exchange have provided more high-value introductions than I can count, and we consider ourselves lucky to be part of their ecosystem."

Dahllöf continued: “Regarding our most recent startups, we continue to be impressed by the innovativeness of MIT founders. We expect them to make a significant impact across a number of industries. Their technologies are broadly applicable and have the potential to revolutionize how big companies operate.”



About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.

StartupExchange
August 13, 2019

RightHand Robotics: Automated piece-picking solutions

Lael Odhner is cofounder and CTO of RightHand Robotics, the Somerville-based robotics company streamlining fulfillment and logistics with automation.
“The problem with picking is, at its core, tied to geography,” says Lael Odhner. Odhner is cofounder and CTO of RightHand Robotics, the Somerville-based startup at the forefront of the new e-commerce automation revolution. Modern day fulfillment and distribution centers are massive structures, spanning up to one million square feet. And while there are a multitude of reasons why these centers have found a home in places like rural Ohio and the Chinese countryside, the low cost of real estate in these areas sits high on top of that list. If you’re looking to save money building a warehouse the size of multiple football fields, choosing a location where real estate is cheap would seem to make sense.

However, staffing these new mega-warehouses is proving difficult. According to Odhner, it’s very much a case of demand outstripping the supply of labor in sparsely populated areas (or even densely populated urban areas, as Amazon’s recent trend of erecting specialty fulfillment centers in city centers proves). “One of the great dilemmas for retailers running fulfillment centers is that they have work that people would rather do, and they have work that is still necessary despite the fact that no one wants to do it,” says Odhner. Very often, that work is unskilled labor like picking and placing.


Lael Odhner
Cofounder & CTO,
RightHand Robotics

E-commerce is expected to be the largest global retail channel by 2021. Chinese e-commerce sales hit $354 billion in 2016, accounting for 17 percent of total retail sales in the country. Meanwhile, by 2020, e-commerce sales are projected to surpass $600 billion in the US, and are expected to account for 16 percent of total retail sales in North America.

The geography problem, combined with double-digit, if uneven, industry growth rates, is resulting in significant pressure on digital retailers to keep their fulfillment centers staffed so products get to consumers on time. “One of the ways retailers can reduce turnover among employees is by automating hard-to-fill positions,” says Odhner. “That’s really where we’re starting, basic pick-and-place tasks. We believe that robotic picking offers a solution that has the potential to make everybody happier.”

Odhner earned his SB, SM, and ScD in robotics and mechanical engineering from MIT. “I came to MIT back in 1999, and I stayed as long as I could. I loved it,” he says. At the Institute, he developed a fascination with the human hand. Specifically, he became interested in “how to produce artificial muscles dense enough to articulate something as complicated as the human hand,” with its 27 independently moving bones.

After graduation, Odhner spent five years at Yale University, working with future RightHand co-founders Leif Jentoft and Yaro Tenzer to develop high-performance, low-cost robot hands for DARPA. Despite exceeding DARPA expectations, Odhner, Jentoft, and Tenzer were interested in pursuing other avenues for their new-found technological breakthrough. “We realized pretty quickly that the real applications for our technology were not military in nature,” he says. In 2012, the team entered their robotic grasping technology in the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, making it to the semifinals of the products and services division.

That same year, Amazon acquired Kiva Systems and its fleet of robots for $775 million.
Founded in 2003 by industry pioneer and MIT alum Mick Mountz, Kiva Systems’ key innovation involved portable storage units and mobile robots dedicated to moving inventory around fulfillment centers as needed for human pickers and placers. Mountz has been credited with creating the market for robotics in e-commerce—by 2025, the global warehouse robotics market is projected to hit $6 billion—and his sale of Kiva to Amazon left a technology gap in the market while pointing the way for roboticists and internet retailers alike.




Their semifinal berth in the MIT $100K competition caught the attention of several large retailers and robotics companies, as well as piquing the interest of Mick Mountz and former Kiva Systems CTO and MIT alum Pete Wurman. “Mick offered great advice about focusing our efforts on a company dedicated to grasping and manipulating everyday objects in the context of e-commerce order fulfillment,” says Odhner.

Today, Mountz sits on the board of directors for RightHand. “RightHand is picking up where we left off [with Kiva Systems],” says Mountz. “Customers saw products coming directly to operators for picking and packing and would ask: ‘Why don’t you also automate this step with a robotic arm and gripper?’ RightHand has, in fact, developed that solution—mastering the critical performance requirements of real-world distribution center environments.”

2018 saw RightHand close their series B round of investment of $23 million led by Menlo Ventures. GV (formerly Google Ventures) also got in on the act, as did Dream Incubator, Matrix Partners, and Playground Global. “It’s very exciting, says Odhner. “We now have the resources to really scale up this technology. We’ve just announced RightPick2, the second major version of our integrated picking system.”

The system Odhner refers to is a grasping appliance (robot arm) replete with customizable end effectors (including suction and fingers) to grasp and manipulate objects. They’ve also designed a complementary machine vision system capable of imaging containers of arriving goods. This integration of software and hardware provides the end-to-end piece-picking solution the e-commerce industry has been waiting for. “We’re seeing a big competitive advantage due to our ability to handle a wide variety of objects with a single robot,” says Odhner.

RightHand is currently engaged with a number of large US retailers and third-party logistics companies interested in designing the fulfillment centers of the future. They’ve also found traction abroad, for example, with PALTAC CORPORATION, a large Japanese pharmaceutical distributor with extremely precise cosmetic standards for their packages. “We’re looking for customers with the largest volume of retail goods we can find,” says Odhner. “We’re interested in companies trying to tackle their own problems with fulfillment or piece-level distribution. Our goal is to handle and distribute the stuff of the world.”



About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.

StartupExchange
July 24, 2019

DUST Identity: Linking physical objects to digital records—securely

Ophir Gaathon is cofounder and CEO of DUST Identity, the MIT spinoff using synthetic diamond dust to create a state-of-the-art supply chain authentication system.
Efficient supply chain management leads to lower costs, higher security, and a faster production cycle. However, as supply chains grow larger, more digital and more dynamic, they become more vulnerable to piracy, counterfeits, and cyberattacks. Due to the global and modular nature of modern manufacturing, asset owners lack full control of their supply chains. Consider, for example, the recent reports pointing to Supermicro’s motherboards and non-approved part injections by subcontractors.

Led by co-founder and CEO Ophir Gaathon, DUST Identity utilizes engineered nano-diamonds to create an unclonable identity layer on any object. The Diamond Unclonable Security Tag (DUST) ensures that trusted and verifiable components are used, and their provenance tracked across their full lifecycle. DUST Identity officially launched in 2018 with $2.3 million in seed funding. The round was led by Kleiner Perkins, with New Science Ventures, Angular Ventures, and Castle Island Ventures also contributing. “There is a real need for a new technology like ours that will ensure supply chain integrity and build trust,” says Gaathon. “We provide unprecedented visibility in both upstream and downstream operations, right down to the individual components.”


Ophir Gaathon
Cofounder & CTO,
DUST Identity


The DUST solution is composed of three parts. First, is a coating made of engineered nano-diamonds encapsulated in a polymer matrix. As this material lands on the surface of objects it creates a wholly unique, unclonable fingerprint or barcode to which data can be anchored. Next, a scanning device allows for authentication of this diamond DUST fingerprint. Finally, they’ve developed an authenticator application that typically exists on the cloud but can be utilized on-premise. “You can think of DUST as a credit card,” says Gaathon. “The point of sale is the scanning device, and then every transaction is verified by our clearing-house.”

Gaathon and his co-founders, Jonathan Hodges and Dirk Englund, began exploring the properties of diamonds for quantum applications at MIT. They discovered that as they made smaller and smaller synthetic diamonds, the quantum behavior of those diamonds began to couple with the environment. This characteristic allows nano-diamonds to effectively function as sensors. Working with Ed Boyden at the Media Lab, they worked on using these nanoscopic diamonds to measure neural activity. “That was a really exciting time for us, working together at MIT. You can think of a diamond as a way to hold quantum numbers at room temperature, which is really an amazing piece of physics,” says Gaathon.

DARPA liked the approach and decided to fund the work. With DARPA’s direction, the team started to look at the security threats facing supply chains—specifically, how electronic parts can jeopardize defense platforms and critical assets. When Gaathon and his colleagues began to work on supply chain security tools, they recognized that a wide range of security solutions existed on the market, from RFID and holograms to security ink tags and DNA marking. However, in most cases, these alternative technologies provide only batch level security, and they are expensive or hard to authenticate, or simply cannot fit on small form factors. Additionally, these alternative technologies are not scalable or globally distributable, nor do they provide clear tamper evidence.

Another benefit of DUST is that it is extremely durable, safe, and possesses a unique set of properties, such as the nano-diamonds’ quantum defects. In fact, when authenticating a DUST Identity marking, Gaathon and his team are actually examining unique atomic defects inside the diamonds that make up the identity. “There are no other material systems that we know of that possess similar capabilities,” says Gaathon.




DUST provides an unclonable physical identity for any object, regardless of functionality. This object-agnostic approach means Gaathon and DUST have been asked to tag everything from semiconductors and hard drives to rivets and screws. Gaathon cites hardware and electronic manufacturing companies that service multiple markets (e.g., defense, aerospace, medical, and automotive) as particularly attractive partners for the young startup.

But the potential applications don’t end there. Gaathon and DUST Identity view the world through a lens of innovation that examines pain points in various industries. For example, how to associate the value of an object by immutably connecting it to trusted data (e.g., verifying that a piece of art is genuine). Verification of the safety and reliability of objects (e.g., safety of food and pharmaceuticals) presents another set of challenges that DUST can address and have a significant positive impact on. Another use case, and one where DUST is finding the most traction these days, is security. “If you don’t know where your parts are coming from, and they are going into high reliability assets, whether that’s defense platforms, data centers, or critical infrastructure, you introduce tremendous risk to those assets—and those risks are coming from your supply chain,” says Gaathon.

Their partnership with German multinational software corporation SAP is an example of their commitment to maintaining the integrity of both the object being tagged and the data associated with that object. DUST Identity validated the interface between the DUST solution and the open-source Hyperledger Fabric blockchain for SAP customers. By design, blockchains are resistant to data modification because data exists in multiple locations simultaneously. DUST Identity provides the critical physical-digital binding between blockchains and the physical world. This ensures that trust between the two is never compromised. “The ability to interface with blockchains is mission critical for us because we understand that supply chains today migrate into that technology.”

At its core, DUST Identity is an asset-centric supply chain security company interested in bringing value to its partners. “We’re passionate about solving supply chain security problems,” says Gaathon. “We want to work with market leaders that understand supply chain requirements and have the ability to influence how they operate.” At present, the DUST team is engaged with partners across industries and sectors, including several Fortune 500 companies.



About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.

StartupExchange
July 1, 2019

Digital help for behavioral health

CompanionMx combines a mobile app with an AI-based platform to help clinicians help people with mood disorders.
“Mood disorder” is a mild term for a major problem in public health, which includes depression, bipolar disorder and other chronic conditions that worsen someone’s emotional state. These conditions are surprisingly common—for example, each year about 11 million U.S. adults suffer at least one major depressive episode—and the clinical monitoring that helps to avoid such episodes has been surprisingly unchanged for decades.

CompanionMx, an MIT STEX25 company, takes on this problem with Companion™, a mobile app-based service designed to help clinicians make smarter decisions for their mood disorder patients. Using AI-based algorithms built from MIT research, Companion measures and analyzes voice and cell phone metadata to quantify symptoms of mental health. These symptoms are then reported to clinicians.


Subhrangshu Datta
CEO, CompanionMx


Early clinical trials have shown that incorporating Companion into regular care for people with diagnosed mood disorders can make a statistically significant improvement in their care outcomes, says Subhrangshu (Sub) Datta, chief executive officer of CompanionMx. “We’re able to provide the right care at the right time from the right level of care provider for people with these disorders,” he says.

A second-generation spinoff
Companion’s core technology is derived from research on automated conversational analysis carried out at the MIT Media Lab’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, led by Professor Alex (Sandy) Pentland. In 2007 the technology was spun out into Cogito Corp., which has pursued two main opportunities. The first is in assisting agents in customer service and call centers, and the second is in behavioral health with Companion.

Much of the early funding for what became Companion came from the Department of Defense. In a first clinical trial at a Veterans Administration clinic in 2013, a prototype system performed well in monitoring veterans with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The National Institute of Mental Health supported further work with the next-stage Companion product, including a clinical trial at two Boston hospitals in which 73 participants with at least one symptom of PTSD or depression completed a 12-week field trial. Reported in 2017, the trial showed that Companion successfully predicted symptoms of depression and PTSD, and that participants were reasonably comfortable using the app.

When CompanionMx spun out of Cogito to fully commercialize the product in 2018, Datta joined as CEO with a personal mission. After Datta himself experienced an episode of major depressive disorder, he had been surprised and disappointed to see that caregivers were making their ongoing decisions based only on intermittent, qualitative self-reported scoring by patients.

In his career as an executive with medical device business units within large manufacturers, “the healthcare system that I knew is completely driven by data that is continuous, repeatable and reproducible,” Datta says. “I just couldn't believe that system didn’t exist for mood disorders. There's no reason for anybody to have episodes like the one I had. We should be able to manage it early so things don't escalate to that point.”




Details on disorders
Companion passively collects two broad types of data from the user’s cell phone, Datta explains. One is voice; the user is regularly prompted to record a quick “audio diary,” the program does not pull voice data from calls or other communications. The other type is passively collected cell phone metadata: call log, text logs and geolocation.

Next, Companion’s cloud service brings AI-based algorithms to quantify behavior health symptoms. Examining the collected audio diaries, “Companion is not looking at words but at speech patterns, which makes it extremely powerful, difficult to game and language-agnostic,” says Datta. “Similarly in phone metadata, it’s looking for patterns on the frequency, diversity and timing of interactions.”

The system’s proprietary AI driven algorithms convert this data into quantitative measures for four symptoms of behavioral health grounded in standard clinical practice: interest, social isolation, mood and energy level.

This information then is summarized in a dashboard delivered to clinicians (as well as the user). “The dashboard gives greater visibility to the user’s behavioral health symptoms on a continuous, repeatable and reproducible basis, so clinicians can detect worsening of symptoms early and do something about it,” Datta says. In a recent clinical study at a Harvard teaching hospital, clinicians used insights from the Companion dashboard to predict mania up to two weeks in advance—advance notice that could help to avoid hospitalization or worse outcomes.

Companion’s clinical component is designed to fit within a healthcare provider’s current workflow, with a social worker or behavioral health counselor periodically checking the dashboard. The social worker pulls in a psychiatrist at the appropriate time when needed, both ensuring appropriate care and improving resource utilization, Datta says.

Building partnerships for behavioral health
Because Companion acts solely as an advisory service for clinicians, it hasn’t required Food & Drug Administration approval. CompanionMx is now rolling out the service commercially.

In March 2019, CompanionMx was selected for the MIT Startup Exchange’s STEX25, an accelerator for “industry-ready” startups that are ready for significant growth. The company seeks to partner with technology firms, pharmaceutical companies and large organizations with employee wellness programs.

Companion’s ability to provide proactive remote monitoring of behavioral health symptoms has shown significant appeal for technology companies, Datta says. At Veteran Affairs facilities, for instance, “we could help open up a whole set of opportunities to really make a difference to address the scourge of suicide among veterans that's happening today,” Datta says.

His company already is working with one pharmaceutical firm, in a clinical study in which Companion acts as a measurement of efficacy for their firm’s treatment.

Among large employers, “mood disorders are a huge challenge that many are trying to address,” Datta says. “They’re looking for partners who can give them the ability to proactively help individuals who have already been diagnosed.” Organizations must, however, consider the organizational culture and commitment to help individuals with mood disorders, “because there often is stigma around it,” he says.

Over time, CompanionMx plans to expand and sharpen its software tools for addressing anxiety and stress related disorders. The company also wants to tailor Companion for both geriatric patients and adolescents—both populations in which depression is a major problem. “Suicide has become the number-two cause of deaths amongst college students today,” he points out.

Additionally, CompanionMx may provide services for people for whom behavioral health concerns are heightened by comorbid health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. “There are many opportunities on that front where we could make a big difference immediately,” Datta says.

Overall, such behavioral health services fit well in today’s quest for “value-based” healthcare among insurers, providers and government agencies. “There are clear outcome improvement and cost savings opportunities when you bring in true evidence-based care driven by objective measures grounded in a strong clinical foundation,” he emphasizes. “This we firmly believe will help us in our mission to ensure no one has a significant mental health episode ever again.”



About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.

StartupExchange
June 11, 2019

Archiving petabytes in pellets of DNA

CATALOG taps into DNA’s extreme density and robustness to meet the soaring demand for massive data storage and parallel computation.
Forget mere “Big Data.” Around the globe, we are generating data at an incomprehensible rate. By one estimate, we’ll create 160 zettabytes (trillions of gigabytes) annually by 2025. And this tsunami of data is now raising a previously unthinkable challenge.

“That’s a lot more useful data than we will have the ability to store,” says Hyunjun Park, cofounder and chief executive officer of CATALOG, an MIT STEX25 startup company.

CATALOG aims to solve this problem with a novel technology that employs the first known form of information storage on this planet: DNA.


Hyunjun Park
Cofounder & CEO,
CATALOG

In recent years, a number of labs have shown the ability to encode and store digital information in synthetic DNA. As odd as it may seem to use the molecule that captures biology’s genetic code for digital tasks, DNA offers compelling potential advantages. “DNA has incredible information density; you can store about a million times as many bits in the same volume as compared to flash drives or magnetic media such as hard drives and data tape,” Park says. “It’s also got an extremely long shelf life; DNA can last for thousands of years.”

The DNA data storage techniques demonstrated in labs, however, have been extremely slow and expensive compared to current storage technologies. One key bottleneck is the time required to synthesize the data-encoding DNA. CATALOG is bringing a distinctive technical approach to speed this process, readying a demonstration system for commercial service this year.

Based in Boston, CATALOG is looking for partnerships with large organizations who struggle with extreme data archival needs—and perhaps take an interest in even more radical technologies down the road to perform parallel computing in DNA itself.

Combining prefab DNA to encode data
CATALOG began with a connection in the lab of Timothy Lu, MIT associate professor of biological engineering and of electrical engineering and computer science. Park, who trained as a microbiologist and was working as a postdoctoral researcher, began talking with Nathaniel Roquet, who was finishing up a doctorate in biophysics.

Roquet was studying a class of enzymes called recombinases that can recognize and manipulate specific sequences within a longer piece of DNA. “These enzymes offer a way to change the state of a DNA molecule, so if you think about it, it is a way to store arbitrary digital information using those different states of DNA molecules, working in test tubes instead of inside of a cell,” Park says.

In CATALOG’s technology demonstrations, “a computer reads the binary data and generates instructions for our liquid handler to move around our premade short pieces of DNA, and combine them in combinations that represents the ones and zeros that we want to store,” Park says. Another machine then collects the encoded DNA molecules and concentrates them into pellet form. To retrieve the information, the pellets are rehydrated and the DNA molecules are read by a genome sequencer, in a method that is essentially error-free.

By midyear, CATALOG expects to complete a prototype machine that can encode about 125 gigabytes of information into DNA every 24 hours, “at a cost that's about a million times cheaper than what's been possible before with DNA,” Park says. The company will offer storage as a service to organizations interested in examining the technology. It plans another major milestone for a next-generation platform offering 125-terabyte-per-day encoding by 2022, as a fully commercial product.

Formed in 2016, the company has raised $10.5 million in funding to date. It faces competition from very large firms such as Microsoft as well as several other DNA synthesis startups. However, “CATALOG is in a unique position where we're positioned to make this a reality within the next year or two, rather than in five or six years,” Park says.




Partnering for pilots
In January 2019, CATALOG was selected for membership in STEX25, a startup accelerator within the MIT Startup Exchange that includes 25 “industry ready” startups that are prepared for significant growth. “The Startup Exchange has been really valuable for us in getting warm introductions to ILP member corporations that could become partners in the long run,” Park says.

“We’re looking for organizations with lots of data that are interested in long-term partnerships who can pilot our machine with us, to see how this totally new storage medium could fit within their data pipelines,” says Park.

Many companies in industries such as entertainment and petroleum production, and numerous government agencies, are faced with the need to archive gigantic amounts of data. “If you’re a large entity like these, you're already looking for a new solution for data archival,” Park says. The two current options are to maintain an inhouse tape library or to outsource the archive to a cloud provider. Both options are far from perfect, with limitations in storage capacity, high expense and serious concerns about the reliability of data retrieval over the years.

“Our partners will influence how we develop our software layer as well as the technical features in the final product,” Park says. “We want to have as many technical and business conversations with these partners as possible throughout the processes, so that we can build the right product around their needs.”

CATALOG is particularly interested in partners who are also intrigued by the possibility of taking an even more radical step into digital DNA computation. “Eventually, we want to be able to compute directly on data that's stored in DNA,” Park says. “We want to build an active information storage system, rather than something that just keeps data on the shelf forever.”

“Using other DNA molecules or enzymes, we could do highly parallel computation on a massive dataset in a way that isn't really possible with classical computing,” he says. “That could solve a lot of problems in computing that are difficult to solve right now.” This approach also could potentially save on computing costs, because it avoids the need to move data from storage into memory for computing and then back again, which demands a lot of energy.

“Our long-term goal is to bring computation to the data,” Park says. “Organizations that want to explore both DNA-based storage and computation could be an ideal match for us.”



About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.

StartupExchange
May 23, 2019

MIT Startup Exchange announces Spring 2019 additions to its accelerator, STEX25

MIT Startup Exchange is pleased to announce the addition of seven companies to its roster of STEX25 startups. New additions to the program include: Arbor Bio, BlinkAI, Cellino Biotech, Nara Logics, Secure AI Labs, Silverthread, Top Flight Technologies, Via Separations, and Zapata Computing.
MIT Startup Exchange is pleased to announce the addition of nine companies to its roster of STEX25 startups for its Spring 2019 cohort:

Arbor Bio (protein discovery for improving human health and sustainability)
BlinkAI (transformative AI solutions from sensor information)
Cellino Biotech (engineering cell therapies at light speed)
Nara Logics (synaptic intelligence for better decisions)
Secure AI Labs (secure analytics across healthcare)
Silverthread (improving software health)
Top Flight Technologies (hybrid energy power systems)
Via Separations (molecular filtration for industrial processes)
Zapata Computing (software solutions for quantum computing)

“STEX25 startups exhibit the high-caliber talent and cutting-edge technology that are hallmarks of MIT, and feedback from industry partners is that MIT Startup Exchange is one of the most effective filters for emerging tech startups,” said Executive Director of MIT Corporate Relations Karl Koster. “We continue to see strong interest from our corporate ILP members resulting in advanced discussions and multiple partnerships.”

STEX25 is a startup accelerator run by MIT Startup Exchange featuring 25 "industry-ready" startups. MIT Startup Exchange adds startups to STEX25 on a roughly quarterly basis, from among more than 1,700 MIT-connected startups. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings by the MIT Industrial Liaison Program’s (ILP) industry liaisons. STEX25 companies collaborate with ILP corporate members through targeted Startup Exchange workshops and showcases, exhibits at ILP conferences, and other events tailored towards industry.

“The selection process for STEX25 is increasingly competitive. We are fortunate to have strong nominators across MIT; from programs such as the Venture Mentoring Service, as well as from affiliate programs, such as The Engine. That said, more and more nominations are coming from founders of STEX25 graduates/alumni, as they have seen the incredible benefits of our program,” said MIT Startup Exchange Program Director, Marcus Dahllöf.

Dahllöf continued: “In our most recent cohort, we see strong representation of AI and tough tech startups, which might have a long product roadmap ahead. The commonality is a deep passion for solving problems that are hard, and where enterprise customers or partners can play a key role in commercialization. MIT faculty and PhDs continue to be well-represented within these startups.”



About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.

StartupExchange
May 21, 2019

Inkbit: The first 3D printer with eyes and brains

Davide Marini is the CEO of Inkbit Corporation, the MIT spinout that has developed a 3D printer that integrates a proprietary, first-of-its-kind vision system that enables feedback control operation and real-time error correction.
Not far from the banks of the Quabbin Reservoir lies the city of North Adams. It’s a place Inkbit’s CEO Davide Marini often visits during fly-fishing expeditions. It is home to MASS MOCA, housed in a formerly abandoned factory complex that once belonged to Sprague Electric Co. and before that to Arnold Print Works. The repurposed complex is a symbol of cultural and economic revival in this former industrial hub nestled in the Berkshires.

But evidence exists, in the form of abandoned and semi-abandoned brick buildings, of the economic downturn that impacted the area. Perhaps former paper mills and factories muses Davide. In these vestiges of a great manufacturing past, Davide sees the future. “My dream is to build out the factories of the future around Massachusetts,” he says. “We could create on-demand 3D printing factories that anybody could use with no need for upfront costs.” It is perhaps a grandiose dream, he’s the first to admit. But it’s a future you wouldn’t bet against if Davide Marini has decided it is worth pursuing.


Davide Marini
Cofounder & CEO,
Inkbit


Davide obtained his BS in Industrial Engineering from Politecnico of Milan and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. While working as a researcher developing nanomaterials for bio-applications, he cofounded Firefly BioWorks, a startup that introduced a new multiplex diagnostic platform based on micro-fabricated particles that are individually encoded. Firefly was acquired by British research tools maker Abcam in 2015.

Not long after selling Firefly, Davide was introduced to MIT Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Wojciech Matusik, who had been working to combine the fields of artificial intelligence and manufacturing. Matusik’s long-term goal is to develop fully automated fabrication systems capable of learning from their mistakes and improving over time. As a first step towards that vision, Prof. Matusik wanted to endow 3D printers with eyes and brains.

Marini and Matusik, now CEO and CTO at Inkbit, and their team developed a 3D printer with an integrated ultra-fast optical tomography scanner that surveys the topography of each layer immediately after deposition, so the printer can correct any discrepancy with the expected geometry. “We have built the first 3D printer with eyes,” says Davide. “It is a qualitative, fundamental change in the way 3D printing operates.”

At the most basic level, Inkbit’s platform is more accurate and reliable than existing 3D printers, and it has the ability to integrate external components, such as electronics, inside 3D printed parts. This is possible because the printer’s vision system allows it to see and print around existing objects. But perhaps the most important aspect of Inkbit’s 3D printer is the enabling power of its vision system beyond pure feedback control. “Once you have a machine with eyes, it is the first step towards having a machine that learns,” says Davide.

Imagine you want to make a product with intricate geometry, such as a microfluidic device for diagnostic applications, using a challenging material that has a tendency to shrink after printing. How do you obtain the desired geometry? Current 3D printers have to be meticulously calibrated, and even then, the manufactured parts often do not match the input models. Inkbit’s integrated vision system, on the other hand, volumetrically scans the product as it is being printed. These data are used to train a machine learning algorithm that incorporates material-specific behavior, such as shrinkage or warping, into the instructions sent to the printer. This allows accurate and repeatable printing of parts that are faithful to their desired geometry.

Initially supported by DARPA and the National Science Foundation, Inkbit’s first investor-backed round of funding came in December of 2017 from The IMA Group, a multinational company based in Bologna, Italy, that is the world leader in the design and manufacture of automatic machines for the processing and packaging of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and food. The potential for a more sophisticated form of drug packaging for specific drug delivery applications is what drew the attention of the Italian multinational. The IMA Group remains Inkbit’s largest shareholder to date.

Johnson & Johnson is also one of Inkbit’s strategic partners. The company approached Davide and his team with plans for a medical device. The object in question was too complicated for traditional methods of manufacturing due to an intricate geometry and the fact that it needed to be personalized for each individual patient. The team at Johnson & Johnson was impressed by the fact that Inkbit’s integrated vision system provides digital replicas of every object made. The digital twin ensures 100 percent quality control and traceability, a game-changing innovation for devices that undergo the vigorous scrutiny of FDA approval.




Because 3D printing is a broadly applicable technology, Inkbit is developing partnerships with leading companies from a variety of industries, including aerospace and defense, integrated electronics, athletic apparel, and even cosmetics. Their ideal customer falls into two categories: organizations looking to introduce new products that can’t be manufactured by traditional methods and those interested in disrupting the prototyping process.

“With our printer we can go from prototyping to short-run production, and all the way to volume manufacturing, on the same platform,” says Davide. “No other machine on the market today is capable of volume manufacturing of multi-material parts that are ready for end use.”

The traditional model for 3D printing companies is well established. Put simply, sell printers, materials, and software. On the other hand, with Davide at the helm, Inkbit is focused on working with customers to develop and launch new and disruptive products. This business model goes far beyond printing on demand. Inkbit aims to fully exploit the flexibility inherent in 3D printing, from the design stage to prototyping and full production. In collaboration with customers, they have developed novel biocompatible and high-temperature materials and even helped redesign products to maximize the power of additive manufacturing. “We want to offer a complete solution, where a customer can come to us with nothing more than an idea, and we help them iterate by rapid functional prototyping all the way to production,” he says.

Davide sees a trend towards on-demand remote manufacturing and an open-materials model that provides manufacturers the ability to purchase materials from a variety of sources. “I can envision a world where 3D printing capabilities are distributed,” says Davide. “Anybody with an idea will be able to upload a file and start testing a product and even launch it in the market with minimal capital.”

In many ways it’s a return to the world of the artisan. “My dream is to bring personality into high-volume manufacturing. In the future we will no longer think of brands but of the person who has designed the product. 3D printing can place the power of manufacturing into the hands of the individual.” And that dream begins with Inkbit and the innovation ecosystem powered by MIT. “Being a part of STEX25 is a great honor,” says Davide. “MIT has created an amazing community of entrepreneurs, engineers, and visionaries. In many ways it is starting to feel like how I picture Florence at the time of Michelangelo and Brunelleschi. The atmosphere is incredible."



About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.

StartupExchange
April 19, 2019

Distilled Identity: Solving identity problems in financial services with data driven AI

David Shrier is founder and CEO of Distilled Identity, an MIT spinout that aims to improve financial inclusion and tackle widespread structural issues within the financial services industry.
As CEO of Distilled Identity, David Shrier is using machine learning, biometrics, and AI technology to solve some of the biggest problems in the financial services industry. It’s what brought him to the Institute, and it’s what led him to found Distilled Identity in 2017. Specifically, he started the MIT spinout to address the fact that 3.5 billion people around the world currently have limited or no access to the financial system.

Financial inclusion is a key enabler for many of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals and is essential in supporting overall economic growth. In fact, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests adoption of digital finance could promote financial inclusion, benefiting billions of people, and adding $3.7 trillion to emerging economies alone.

But how do you include someone, if you don’t know who they are? Having pinpointed digital identity as essential to unlocking financial inclusion, Shrier and Distilled Identity are using an AI-driven data science called Social Physics to solve structural problems around identity in financial services.


David Shrier
Founder & CEO, Distilled Identity


Invented and developed at MIT by Shrier’s co-founder at Distilled Identity, Professor Alex Pentland, Social Physics is a new way of understanding human behavior based on the analysis of big data. It forms the basis for everything Distilled Identity does, including their core technology, Predictive Identity, which is delivered in a software as a service model. Shrier says, “We’re now able to identify people to create better identity profiles and credit models, help governments identify citizens properly to better deliver services to them, as well as predict what people are going to do with their money, and help financial institutions lend to them with confidence.”

For example, Distilled Identity is looking to use better identity profiles to solve the $330 billion dollar per year false-decline problem that plagues the financial services industry. Here in the US, your credit card works approximately 99 percent of the time. However, once you leave the country, the approval rates for a valid transaction decrease drastically. Shrier cites a country like South Africa, where the approval rate for legitimate customer transactions hovers around 27 percent. Why? Because of an inability to verify identity.

“We’ve had conversations with the leading credit card networks in the world and they, like we, think false decline is a major problem. It’s important for driving payments and inclusion, and it’s important for helping prosperity in emerging economies as well as helping the economy in developed markets.” Distilled Identity believe they can take card-not-present false declines from 12 percent to near zero percent in developed markets and from as much as 73 percent to near zero percent in emerging markets. And major credit card companies agree. In fact, some of the largest credit card companies and financial institutions around the world are turning to Shrier and his team for solutions to their structural financial services problems around identity.

“We want to be the operating system of identity, credit, fraud and financial services globally,” says Shrier. “That is what success looks like for us.” At present they are in final negotiations with a top-two credit card network, with a $120 billion insurance company, and are looking to partner with governments interested in incorporating their analytics into their electronic identity systems and financial institutions with $5 million to $50 million assets under management.

Shrier refers to what they do as Biometrics 3.0. If Biometrics 1.0 is a fingerprint or facial scan, and Biometrics 2.0 is basic behavioral recognition, Biometrics 3.0 is a much more complex system. “Biometrics 3.0 is a combination of techniques that includes behavioral, physiological, geospatial temporal analysis, and other biometrics in an adaptive Bayesnet. It’s a very complex artificial intelligence system where the different models of behavior talk to each other.”

With a more robust, stronger identity, Distilled Identity builds apps on their platform, including a predictive credit app that is 30 percent to 50 percent more accurate than existing credit scores obtained from traditional consumer credit reporting agencies. They’ve also built fraud prediction apps that identify where fraud is happening today as well as predicting where fraud might happen three months into the future.

A glance at the Distilled Identity founding team bio page reads like a who’s who of heavy hitters specializing in FinTech, big data, and quantitative analytics. The experience housed under one roof is formidable.




Aside from developing a new social science and being a serial entrepreneur, co-founder Alex Pentland is the founding faculty director of the MIT Connection Science Research Initiative. He is also a global thought leader on big data, AI, and digital privacy who currently advises AT&T and the UN Secretary General. Forbes has called him one of the “seven most powerful data scientists in the world.”

Co-founder Alex Lipton was Managing Director of Bank of America Merrill Lynch for 10 years, and is widely regarded as the foremost authority on quantitative analytics. He is a Connection Science Fellow at MIT Media Lab and Visiting Professor of Financial Engineering at EPFL.

For his part, Shrier has developed $8.5 billion of growth opportunities with C-suite executives for Dun & Bradstreet, Wolters Kluwer, Ernst & Young, GE, The Walt Disney Company, AOL Verizon, and Starwood, as well as private equity and VC funds. He councils the government of Dubai on blockchain activity and established the world’s first FinTech and blockchain programs at MIT and Oxford.

Now that Distilled Identity has been named a STEX25 industry-ready startup, Shrier takes a moment to reflect on the importance of a program like ILP: “As a lecturing and Managing Director at MIT, ILP was a tremendous collaborator, getting some of our best ideas into the hands of member companies. And It’s a fantastic resource for global 1,000 companies looking for the great innovation of the future. Now, as the CEO of a STEX25 company, I’m thrilled to have ILP as a partner to help navigate the dialogue with those large, complex organizations.”



About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.

StartupExchange
March 26, 2019

Procter & Gamble-Nara Logics partnership leads to breakthrough for Olay Skincare


Jana Eggers
CEO
Nara Logics

When Procter & Gamble (P&G) wanted to innovate in a crowded market, they turned to a nimble tech startup in the MIT ecosystem: Nara Logics. The result was an Edison Award for Innovation and a Constellation Group Supernova Award for Digital Transformation. The collaboration also led to a doubling of Olay’s ecommerce conversion rates, and gave the brand a platform to engage millennial consumers. Importantly, it helped reduce a key pain point for skincare shoppers—confusion at the shelf—by helping them choose products tailored to their individual needs.

In 2015, P&G was seeking fresh ways to develop its latest product in a skincare market dominated by increasingly tech-savvy customers expecting ever-greater levels of personalization in their shopping experiences.

“We went looking for the best and the brightest,” says Damon Frost, P&G Beauty Chief Information Officer (CIO). “We needed a team capable of truly complementing Olay Skin Advisor with a state-of-the-art recommendation engine.” The decision to engage the services of Nara Logics would prove fortuitous in P&G’s quest to harness the potential of data-driven marketing powered by cutting-edge artificial intelligence.

“You’ve probably heard that AI is a black box,” says Nara Logics CEO Jana Eggers. “Well, ours isn’t. This is one cutting-edge aspect of our technology.” Eggers refers to this as providing “The Why’s” or the reasons behind the recommendations. Nara Logics’ Synaptic Intelligence Platform, inspired by recent research in biological neural networks, quickly merges disparate, siloed data to provide recommendations for decisions that are easy to understand for enterprise and consumer alike.

In fact, this ability to provide “The Why’s” was noted time and again by P&G customers during the pre-launch testing phase as an essential aspect to their appreciation for Olay Skin Advisor. On the strength of a 90 percent approval rate for recommendations and products, it was no surprise that P&G moved from proof of concept to a worldwide launch in such a short period of time.

“P&G is really well known for their consumer testing, so to have them validate our platform’s ability to provide hyper-personalization, and then see such a successful global rollout—that’s big for us,” says Eggers. To date, Olay Skin Advisor is available in countries throughout Asia, Europe, and North America and has amassed over 5 million visits from women around the world.

While Nara Logics’ AI platform is supporting Olay Skin Advisor around the world, Eggers insists that maintaining offices in Cambridge, MA and being members of the MIT innovation ecosystem is an important aspect of how Nara Logics operates. “We’re proud to be affiliated with MIT Startup Exchange and the MIT innovation community in general. Our exposure to Fortune 500 companies through the Startup Exchange has been extremely beneficial.”

“If you’re invited to be one of the companies that gives a presentation to industry members of the MIT Industrial Liaison Program [ILP], it’s always a relevant conversation. ILP programs and events are high quality and productive for us,” says Eggers.

For their part, ILP member P&G sought out a recommendation engine and emerged with a groundbreaking partnership. “After a global search to identify a company leading in their field and a perfect match for this project, it’s no surprise that we wound up partnering with a startup in the MIT innovation pipeline,” says Kevin McCarthy, P&G Associate Director, Global Business Development/Startup Innovation.

Now that P&G and Nara Logics have teamed up to bring the world the first successful application of AI to skincare personalization, they’re expanding on their partnership, initiating new innovation projects together, which means that other personalization platforms like Olay Labs and Gillette’s Shave Advisor are benefitting from the Nara Logics platform.


About MIT Startup Exchange, STEX25, and MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP)
MIT Startup Exchange actively promotes collaboration and partnerships between MIT-connected startups and industry. Qualified startups are those founded and/or led by MIT faculty, staff, or alumni, or are based on MIT-licensed technology. Industry participants are principally members of MIT’s Industrial Liaison Program (ILP).

MIT Startup Exchange maintains a propriety database of over 1,500 MIT-connected startups with roots across MIT departments, labs and centers; it hosts a robust schedule of startup workshops and showcases, and facilitates networking and introductions between startups and corporate executives.

STEX25 is a startup accelerator within MIT Startup Exchange, featuring 25 “industry ready” startups that have proven to be exceptional with early use cases, clients, demos, or partnerships, and are poised for significant growth. STEX25 startups receive promotion, travel, and advisory support, and are prioritized for meetings with ILP’s 230 member companies.

MIT Startup Exchange and ILP are integrated programs of MIT Corporate Relations.