(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of articles profiling the teams participating in the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s inaugural “The Works” accelerator. The teams will pitch their ideas on September 21 during a “Demo Day” at Scripps Networks Interactive. For more details, click here. Registration deadline is September 16.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
One of the early licensees in a technology transfer initiative announced last October by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is participating in the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s inaugural “The Works” accelerator.
And, just for good measure, it is one of the six finalists that will also be pitching the next day for $5,000 during Knoxville’s fourth annual “Start-up Day” set for the Bijou Theater.
Daniel Lawhon moved to Knoxville about five years ago to enroll at the University of Tennessee and found an opportunity to accelerate two key personal goals thanks to something called “Start-Up NASA.”
“It’s always been my goal to look for start-up opportunities and solve problems,” Lawhon says. After licensing the technology from NASA, he launched AirFlare, a company dedicated to providing an easy-to-use device to take metabolic measurements.
The undertaking is also something that will help Lawhon meet a personal goal.
“The main thing that drove my interest in this technology was my own goal to reduce my weight and get healthy,” he says. “If I could track myself accurately, I could make better life decisions.”
AirFlare is pursuing an aggressive schedule to launch the portable fitness tracker that can personalize an individual’s workouts, diet, and fitness plans based on their metabolism. With this technology, individuals can determine whether they are burning fat or carbohydrates when working out, at what pace they should be exercising for maximum athletic performance or weight loss, and whether more recovery time is needed.
Lawhon says the target market for the device would include marathon runners and other high-end athletic competitors as well as individuals who regularly use heart rate monitors.
AirFlare’s schedule calls for a quick three- to six-month product development schedule that will include an improved user interface and smaller prototype.
“Their (NASA’s) version was already extremely portable,” Lawhon said. “We are making it more useful for the consumer. You will be able to pop it on, take it off, and have usable measurements.”
He has 500 Beta testers interested in using the device once the new prototype is available which he hopes will be by this December. In an ideal world, he would be manufacturing the devices in large quantities by mid-2017 at the latest.
“My biggest challenge is locking down resources for development,” Lawhon says. As such, he’s considering a crowdfunding campaign.
Lawhon follows a number of individuals who have commercialized technologies developed for the national space program. They include products such as memory foam, freeze-dried food, cochlear implants, firefighting gear, and infrared ear thermometers.
As Lawhon pursues his plans, he echoed what many of the entrepreneurs in “The Works” said about the experience.
“The tech skills and advice is great, but having the ecosystem and community around you is special,” he says.