Meet TZOA. This start-up found that there is a real need in today’s society for us to be able to monitor the air quality and pollution in the world around us. By combining optical technology with a UV sensor they found a way to create a device that is both effective and appealing to general users!
Read on to find out more details about their project, the hurdles they have faced and the advice they give to any aspiring innovators!
Company Name: Tzoa
Product: Tzoa Enviro-Tracker
Number of Founders: 2
- What problem is your project trying to solve?
Imagine being able to see air pollution on a map, similar to weather and traffic data. The problem we are trying to solve is a lack of geographical air quality data. Governmental organizations have built air quality monitors that cost tens of thousands of dollars, but this is not a scalable solution, and now they need supplementary monitoring from low-cost sensors. This would allow us to identify sources of pollution and understand how pollution affects us from a public health perspective, helping save lives.
The EPA documents this problem here:
- How does your solution solve this problem in a new innovative way? Does it rely on other previously developed technologies?
We attempted to solve this problem by designing a product that would appeal to the average person, so that we could collect data as quickly and widespread as possible. We decided to position ourselves in the popular ‘wearable technology’ category, which includes step-counters and heart rate monitors like Fitbit and the upcoming Apple Watch.
Existing technology did not allow us to make an attractive device because air quality sensors were physically too large. We used proven optical technology (laser light scattering), but we discovered a unique way to miniaturize our sensor while still remaining accurate. We also added a UV sensor to compete with the Netatmo June device which had gained popularity.
Our solution needed to connect to a smartphone so that we could use the phone’s GPS location services to create crowdsourced maps of the environmental data our sensor collects. The smartphone is also where we display the information we collect.
- What was the spark that started the idea for this project? What steps did you have to take (or are taking) to make it a reality?
Both founders had a personal experience where they were exposed to air pollution, and we were aware of the negative effects. We had a genuine interest in purchasing a small reasonably priced air quality monitor, but quickly realized it didn’t exist. We decided to explore this opportunity.
We met relevant people in the space by attending events and became experts on the subject of air quality monitoring. It became obvious what we wanted to detect and what technology would be best-suited. This process took 6 months and was a part-time intensive endeavour.
We realized that the commercially available sensors using the technology we wanted to use weren’t good enough. There is usually a barrier behind every good opportunity, but it is a blessing in disguise because it is the reason your idea hasn’t been executed on. We quit our jobs, borrowed money, and hired skilled engineers to build our sensor.
- What has been the most rewarding part of the process?
Seeing the project come together and having people start to believe in us and bet on us has been very rewarding. Interacting with customers who love our product and the social cause behind it keeps us going. The most rewarding part has been being in a position that challenges you every single day.
- What has been the most difficult part of the process?
Taking the initial risk was a difficult step, but it is way easier when you are young. What is most difficult is staying balanced, both within your company, and between your company and your personal life. Also there has been a constant pressure to move as quickly as possible to release our product. At first you will think you are the only one with your idea, and then other companies will start to appear, some as far along as you. If this doesn’t happen, you probably don’t have a good idea.
- What advice would you give to youth who are interested in entrepreneurship?
Coming out of high school, I didn’t feel like I had any unique skills or experiences, but youth are actually in an interesting position. Youth are closer to the trends, and they are better at identifying what businesses will be big in the future. Use that to your advantage and trust your instincts.
I would recommend listening to podcasts like ‘How to start a startup’ and books such as ‘Lean Startup’ by Eric Reis. Go to events, learn how to code, and keep an eye out for competitions and opportunities.
Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions!
To find out more information about this company and their technology check out:
firstname.lastname@example.org, www.mytzoa.com, http://kck.st/1wSioIj