Anishaa Nenawati posted an articleHaptX received a $1.5 million grant to create a full-body haptic system. see more
Sep 29, 2020, 10:31am, Forbes
Today, HaptX, Virginia Tech, and the University of Florida won a $1.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop the first program to bring force feedback to upper and lower limbs in virtual environments, ForceBot. Founded in 2012 by Jake Rubin and Dr. Robert Crockett, HaptX started with a vision they strikingly captured in an image of the full body haptic system Rubin envisioned for virtual reality (VR). The company has taken a serious detour through reality, productizing haptic gloves for VR and robotic telepresence. After turning practical, and doing another round of funding based on its growing enterprise business, they are going back to the future with this announcement.
ForceBot is a four-year project to develop an exoskeleton for commercial and enterprise applications using HaptX’s microfluidic touch feedback technology to simulate virtual objects. The NSF grant will be distributed between each company to contribute individual components to ForceBot, and then the resulting IP will be used for commercial products. In the project, VR and robotics are hand in hand towards building a full-body haptic exoskeleton rig. The rig will increase force feedback on the human body for users in virtual environments. HaptX’s contribution to the project is finding the commercial uses for the rigs, in addition to the use of HaptX Gloves products in the rig. Jake Rubin, CEO and Founder of HaptX told us that in the short term they have always, “built towards the company’s original vision piece by piece, performing R&D on each segment of the full system while simultaneously narrowing down what has the most short term commercial potential.” The grant brings things into a full circle, with plans to use the exoskeleton to create prototypes of a product for the future.
This exoskeleton will be designed to mimic real-world forces such as weight, texture of objects, shape, and terrain. Dr. Alexander Leonessa, Principal Investigator, Virginia Tech stated, “we’re excited to create a system that increases immersion for VR users in applications requiring intensive body motions like sports and industrial skills training, gaming, emergency response, and many others.”
How we interact with the virtual worlds we occupy is one of the central questions of VR. This thought regarding HaptX was included in my first book, Charlie Fink’s Metaverse. With the HaptX full exoskeleton, the rig will be able to use mechanical arms with gloves [as seen at CES 2020] and actuators attached to each leg will simulate the haptic feedback from walking, running, and climbing stairs. The company is trying to establish itself as more than a glove company. Regardless of the success of the ForceBot, the worst-case scenario is still a product that fulfills the company’s original vision in some capacity. Rubin left us with this statement, “immersion and fidelity are wanted in the market and HaptX is not going to stop until we get there.”
This story was written with Brandon Cloobeck.
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Anishaa Nenawati posted an articleAn Interview with Brianna McDonald on how to successfully raise funding during the pandemic. see more
Despite a worldwide pandemic, entrepreneurs and investors continue the quest to uncover emerging-market drivers and opportunities. At Keiretsu Forum, we have funded nearly all of the companies this year that have participated in our (now virtual) online investment forum, with a continuous flow of due-diligence packages completed or syndicated new deals successfully closed.
We strongly believe there will be a V-shaped recovery for 85 percent of the economy; already there are favorable market indicators such as a stabilized and appreciating stock market. Available capital and liquidity also remain abundant. Companies that have significant demand drivers associated with COVID-19 are raising capital fairly quickly and efficiently in large amounts. Technology also remains an area of continued interest with a high quality of deal flow.
A silver lining is we expect to see leaner, more efficient, and more focused companies moving forward, ready to take advantage of a market recovery. If you’re considering funding or in the process now, here are seven steps early-stage companies can take to become more attractive to investors.
1. Strengthen the balance sheet by closing outstanding commitments, and explore venture debt and lines of credit.
Companies should exhaust every opportunity to generate additional working cash flow without taking on additional liabilities. One way is to convert lines of credit or venture debt into expanded cash flow. Likewise, companies with inventory will want to increase stock, even though there might be volatility in inventory drawdowns and/or potential supply chain challenges. To do such, close any existing sales or partnerships because they can provide additional flexibility and cash where applicable. For example, Palarum offers a product for hospitals that prevent falls and just completed key pilot studies. It recently concluded a three-year purchase letter of intent from a key customer, which is leveraged to acquire additional financing that covered the cost of the product rollout.
2. Negotiate with vendors/landlords/others to reduce or defer costs.
On average, our portfolio companies are negotiating reduced rates cut at nearly 50 percent. If no reduction is available, look to get two or three free months deferred to the end of the lease. You might be surprised at how easy it can be to negotiate favorable terms. Replacing a tenant is a high-cost landlord who wants to avoid for otherwise high-quality growing companies.
3. Immediately variabilize costs/shift to equity-based compensation where it makes sense.
A great way to reduce cash burn is to increase option pools and/or create more equity-based incentive compensation in the form of stock options available to executive team members. Less cash-out equals less cash burned! Equity-based compensation is tied to milestones and is considered a variable cost.
4. Slow down payables, including maximizing payment schedules against terms and conditions.
This is another case of “Ask and Ye Shall Receive.” Negotiate longer payment terms, and/or purchase upfront or in bulk. That can drive substantial price reductions and savings of as much as 50 percent.
5. Take swift action to cut costs and reduce burn rates — earlier decisions are rarely regretted.
Where are you focusing your marketing spend? Where are you focusing on your business development efforts? Is that spend really realistic going forward? Is engineering fully focused on where it should be? If not, cut back as much of that discretionary spending to further reduce the burn rate. Look at ways you can be a more efficient customer-focused organization versus a market-focused one.
6. Focus on revenue generation, reorder priorities, replan the road map to emphasize the top line.
Maximize the top line and get healthy around that line of business. Start by replanning the go-to-market road map, with a focus on the core values and core customers that maximize survival. Oftentimes companies try to do lots of different things, but in reality, there are only one or two things they do really well. Everything else is a distraction that drives excess costs. Focus on the customers who have money and will have significant demand for your product or service. Then make sure to take really good care of them!
7. Get in line now for government support/non-dilutive funding (e.g. DoD, NIH grants), etc.
Most companies have probably filed for PPP funding; if not, do so immediately, but there are other opportunities for government funding. Many of our life sciences and health care technology portfolio companies, such as XYZ, have applied for DoD and NIH grants administered via the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
Article2015 accomplishments see more
Keiretsu Forum Northwest is delighted to be recognized by several major news source publications for their 2015 accomplishments. As a collective, Keiretsu Forum Norwest region oversaw the funding of 57 companies with over $43.5 Million in angel investing. We are honored by the recognition of this accomplishment and grateful to the following news sources for their coverage of our success. Check out the articles featuring the Kieretsu Forum Northwest investment collective.