From Outer Space to a new Technology Space – Inside an IoT start-up as it Counts Down to Launch
Tech start-ups are dominated by twenty-somethings high on enthusiasm but low on experience. So what does it look like when an experienced electronics engineer leaves corporate security to form his own IoT-focused company?
Pascal Nsame spent years at IBM, including stints on NASA’s first Mars Rover project, which is still in operation after 12 years (something no Mars Rover has ever done); the world’s most energy-efficient supercomputer project ranked #1 for more than 10 years; the memory sub-system of the IBM Watson Project, which was the first to compete and win against a human opponent in the Jeopardy question and answer quiz; and he’s named inventor or co-inventor on a host of patents.
Speaking to Pascal it’s clear he’s got both enthusiasm and experience by the bucket-load. You can sense he’s on the verge of something big.
Pascal talks animatedly about what motivated him to launch Kardinal Microsystems, how it ended up becoming the first company in Zuken USA’s Startup Partner Program, and what his priorities are at this stage of development.
How long have you been working on your idea?
I started working on the technology enabling our soon-to-be-announced product for about a year before involving others. Once I felt confident about the solution and readiness level I moved to product phase and reached out to others. I then formed Kardinal Microsystems, Inc. and built a team to bring the solution to market.
What can you tell me about your company’s technology?
Kardinal develops autonomous IoT platforms that help people and companies interact securely with their environment. We lead the market with an Autonomous Sensor Node technology, which gives electronic devices self-organizing sensing capabilities. These capabilities are critical to the emerging IoT ecosystem and they’re designed to easily integrate into new product categories. That’s about all I’m able to tell you at the moment, I’m afraid! We’re a privately-owned company with five employees on deferred compensation like most start-ups, and based on milestones achieved and the amount of client interest we’ve had so far we’re expecting to take on five more early next year as we prepare to launch. We’ve just made the job specs live on our website.
What did you do before starting Kardinal?
I’ve been in the industry for 20 years; 14 of which were at IBM in various roles. I had the chance to work on some ground-breaking projects there, but the highlight was probably developing the ASICs going into applications from mobile technologies to high performance computing servers and storage solutions, which helped IBM maintain its number one position for many years. That means most of my experience is in embedded technology.
My background is electronics all the way with specialization in physics, math and computer software engineering.
What was it like going it alone after so long at IBM?
The prospect of starting something new from the ground up was really energizing and refreshing. When I started thinking about it, IoT was starting to emerge and I realized it was a good place to focus my energy. It drove me to hone the technology and start my own company. Now what motivates me is the potential benefit our technology could offer society.
What made you choose Zuken’s CR-8000?
I started off evaluating all the tools on the market and quickly narrowed the list down to four. Then I started on an extensive evaluation of each tool, ranging from a few weeks to a few months. In the end it was clear that Zuken’s CR-8000 was the only option for us as no other tool does complete chip-package-board design with as much product focus, which is critical for our innovative technology and product roadmap. I was extremely impressed with the feature-rich capability, ease of use and breadth of technology offered with the Zuken toolset.
How did you end up joining Zuken USA’s Startup Partner Program?
The other deciding factor in going with Zuken was that we had a sense of a partnership from the outset, which made a real difference to me, and I felt encouraged by the Zuken team. This led to pioneering the Startup Partner Program (Zuken’s new program aimed at early to mid-stage companies developing electronic-based products) it made perfect sense to join.
We have a very aggressive roadmap and a clearly-defined set of features, so I knew we’d be pushing both the tool’s and the vendor’s capabilities. The only way we can achieve our goals is to work as a team to find solutions to those unpredictable twists and turns that crop up in the journey from design to production.
So we decided to take the journey with Zuken to help guarantee our initial success, because they also invested in our project. When you’re working in a small team with tough goals every member has to be pulling 100%, and we definitely feel that with Zuken.
What would you say to others looking at a partnership model?
I’d encourage them to consider partnership, particularly if they’re working on something challenging in a new technology space. It’s a win-win for both the company developing the product and the tech partner, like Zuken. They get to share our success and break barriers themselves in the revolutionary area of IoT on something that has the potential to transform the market.