It has been a while since the Levaté team has posted an update on our blog! If it's any consolation, while we've been hard at work it also hasn't been terribly interesting work. We wrapped up the summer Sooner Launch Pad accelerator program we were involved in and have been taking a brief hiatus since then- both Ethan and Dillon had weddings to attend, which is also a natural excuse for a bit of a vacation!
We'd also like to welcome Andrew Stewart onto the Levaté team! Andrew just graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering and is working for Northrop Grumman in Oklahoma City. He was part of the inaugural Levaté intern team that invented the lift during the Spring 2014 semester, but was unable to continue working on it as he already had his job lined up. However, he happily has joined the startup team as the Levaté Social Media Manager! So all the great content you see coming out of Levaté's Facebook page and Twitter account is thanks to him. He's barely been on the job for a week and we already have over 100 twitter followers, which is fantastic. Welcome to Levaté LLC, Andrew!
If you haven't seen Dillon discussing some of the lessons learned from the new company's 10 weeks in the summer accelerator program, you can take a look at the video here. It's a good recap of the big gains we were able to make over the course of the summer.
Looking forward from here, the big focus for us will be on moving forward the building of Levaté. We were hoping to have a new prototype up and running for our end-of-the-accelerator presentation. Well, that didn't go according to plan exactly. Ethan, our CTO, made a heroic attempt to get it ready in time. He had welded together what should have been a fantastic telescoping aluminum support structure that would house the pneumatic cylinders and also provide a stable base for the lift. What we weren't expecting was that welding the aluminum tubes would warp them slightly and keep them from telescoping properly!
It is sobering for us to know that we still have a lot of work to get done before Levaté can be in the hands of users, restoring their reach. From the enthusiastic response from the wheelchair community we know that this is a device that will help tens of thousands of people across the United States. Now we are faced with the difficult task of delivering on the vision we've developed over the past 7 months.
One possibility we're considering is working with an engineering consulting or design firm to accelerate the product development. We have a conversation scheduled for the week after next (once the entire team is back from vacations and weddings) with a possible partner. The idea here is that we would work with the design firm, describing exactly what Levaté needs to be able to do. Working within the constraints we provide and using concepts communicated by the prototypes and drawings we've made of the lift thus far, they could bring decades of industry experience to bear and build a fully-functioning prototype in a fraction of the time it would take us, as recent college graduates. They would also potentially deliver the engineering drawings necessary to take the lift to a manufacturer and get them built! So you can understand why we're intrigued by this possibility. We are not sure what the cost would look like for a service such as this, but I don't doubt that it will be fairly significant. It is a tradeoff we'll be considering a lot over the next few weeks. And if you know of any resources we might be able to turn to- engineering expertise with pneumatics and the like- please don't hesitate to let us know! We'd love to chat with a friend or a contact if you think it would be useful for us.
Look back here for another update in a week's time or so. Until then, enjoy the weekend and take care!
PS: As a bonus, here's a video of the accelerator crew (4/5 teams that were launching businesses) meeting on Thursday, July 30th to hold each other accountable. We each spend a minute or two covering what we've accomplished in the past week, and what we'll be working on in the next two weeks before our next "biweekly" accountability check-in. Levaté goes last in the video in case you want to skip forward to us.