Olivier Lemaitre loved studying chemistry at the University of Cincinnati. But when he actually became a chemist at Q Laboratories in South Fairmount, he found himself spending 25 percent of his time walking from lab to lab, making sure instruments were running and set up properly.
“I thought that was a huge waste of time and energy,” he said. “It limited what we could do every day.”
That’s the real-life problem that Atumsoft LLC, the Ohio company he incorporated in August with Andrew Carl, Brad Conyers and Fontana Ruark, is designed to solve.
How does it work?
Atumsoft replaces the computer associated with each instrument with a device that sends information chemists can check using any smartphone, tablet or laptop. It will work with any brand of instrument, so it doesn’t require replacing instruments to adopt.
“A lot of labs don’t want to spend millions on solutions,” Lemaitre said. “We’re cheaper, simpler and we don’t require any retraining.”
How did Atumsoft get started?
Lemaitre, 23, and Carl, 25, who live in the same Blue Ash apartment complex, met and became friends as UC students. They both became disillusioned with real-world chemistry, and Carl left the field to become a software developer.
With help from Conyers, a computer engineer, and Ruark, a graphic designer and Carl’s fiancée, they took the idea for Atumsoft and entered a “hackathon” in Covington in July. After spending 24 hours refining the idea, they took it to the judges and won the event, which was put on by AngelHack, a San Francisco-based company that runs such events.
Winning the hackathon earned them a spot with AngelHack’s HACKcelerator, a 12-week, virtual, pre-accelerator program in competition with startups from around the world. Atumsoft was one of 22 companies whose leaders were flown to San Francisco for the concluding demo day, at which they presented before an audience of 300 people.
“That was probably the hardest week of our whole lives,” Lemaitre said. It was an entire week of 15-hour days practicing their sales pitch for the business. They won two prizes: an investment of up to $100,000 from Lab360, a San Francisco-based hardware incubator, and counseling from YCombinator, one of the world’s most successful business accelerators.
Do they have any other investors?
When they returned to Ohio, they raised $40,000 from family and friends, enough to enable them to quit their jobs in November and work full-time on the business. “I think quitting our jobs was more nerve-wracking than being on stage with 300 people (watching),” Carl said.
How will the business make money?
They haven’t decided that yet. Models under consideration include charging for the devices or charging a monthly user fee. They believe the market for the product is at least $1.4 billion a year.
Do they have an office?
They just moved into the business incubator at HCDC Inc.’s Hamilton County Development Center in Norwood. Some people have asked them why they don’t move to Silicon Valley, Carl said, “but why would we do that when we have everything we need here.”
Cincinnati has a great, growing startup community, Lemaitre said, and the cost of living is relatively cheap. “I think 40 grand in San Francisco would last about a week,” he said.
It’s a play on words involving Atum, the Egyptian god of creation, the atom, the basic building block of matter, and “soft” for computer software.
Finding more laboratories that will allow them to install their solution and help them work out the bugs. (It’s too expensive to buy their own lab equipment.) Also, they plan to recruit investors for a seed round of investments in February and March. They plan to pitch Feb. 10 for Greater Cincinnati Venture Association’s breakfast event at the Braxton Brewing Co. in Covington.
What’s owning your own business like?
“The easiest thing to do is be discouraged,” Lemaitre said. “Any number of times you look at something and think, ‘Wow, this may be the end.’ You just have to realize it’s not.”
Get in touch