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October 18, 2017 | Tom Ballard

News is all positive for Chattanooga’s Variable Inc.

Variable(EDITOR’S NOTE: With “Startup Week Chattanooga” celebrating entrepreneurship in the city, here’s another article on one of its technology companies.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The latest news is nothing but positive for the team at Variable Inc. in Chattanooga.

During a recent visit to the city’s INCubator, the Hamilton County Business Development Center (BDC), we had a chance to get a quick update from Greg Compton, Variable’s Chief Operating Officer.

The company just executed an agreement with Sherwin-Williams, the 150-year old Fortune 500 company best known for its paints, coatings and related products. Starting in late October, Variable will begin shipping a Sherwin-Williams-branded version of its Color Muse device that, in concert with an app on a smart phone, can scan and match colors.

“You’ll see our products out there under the Color Muse brand but also white-labeled like the one for Sherwin-Williams,” Compton said. “We expect to have an install base of 100,000 users by the end of the first quarter of 2018.”

The base version of the device is available for online purchase for $59 (click here) and via Amazon Prime, and the app is available through Apple’s App Store and Google Play (click here).

Variable was founded by George Yu in 2009, drawing on his knowledge of sensor technology from work with both the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and NASA. Now, eight years after starting the company, it is poised to exit its long-time home in the INCubator.

“We are taking the 7,500 square foot building being vacated by MRO Inc.,” Compton said. Ironically, MRO is a former INCubator client that has already outgrown the space it moved into after graduating from the BDC.

A five-year veteran of Variable, Compton oversees production. He says that 90 percent of the company’s current work involves paint and color sensors. Yet, there are a few legacy projects, including one he described as an “over-engineered thermometer.” The second generation device, which is unbreakable and waterproof, is used by grocery stores and commercial kitchens.

As he looks to the future, Compton says “the real magic is in the software,” so he believes Variable’s future is as a software company. “Eventually, the device will be embedded in your smart phone.”

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