SkyFounder Spotlight: YC Chen of SkyTeam Infinite Uptime
This week’s spotlight is on SkyTeam Infinite Uptime co-founder YC Chen. Infinite Uptime provides an IoT platform that automates predictive maintenance for industrial machines, with an initial focus on the manufacturing industry.
Q: What problem does your startup solve?
A: Unplanned downtime.
As our name suggests, we aim to create uptime for manufacturing industries. Our product is a sensor module that can be attached to any machine, similar to a fitbit for the machine. You can attach it to the machine, and start monitoring how the machine is doing. Not only that, but we can predict when the machine will fail. The idea sounds very useful, and how that translates to real value is we help eliminate unplanned downtime in factories. For manufacturing industries, downtime is the biggest pain point. If you think about it, whenever a machine fails in a factory, you need to shut down that machine, and therefore the whole production line. For manufacturers, their margin is really low, so once the machine stops running, it starts bleeding into their costs. The machines are supposed to be up and running 24/7 – and therefore maximizing their profit.
This is a very important pain point for them, and we are able to predict when the machine will fail and plan accordingly. Before the failure happens, you can act and eliminate unnecessary downtime. Once the failure happens, you can send in a technician right away to fix the machine.
Q: What led you to create Infinite Uptime?
A: My family used to manufacture auto parts in Asia. Growing up, I was always in the factory. This is the problem I lived and breathed every day as a child. I came to the US for high school, did my undergrad in business, and it was during school that I met my co-founder. He’s doing his PhD in Mechanical Engineering and he’s also from Cal.
We have a very similar background – his family is also a auto parts manufacturer. This a painpoint that we both saw. Furthermore, for his PhD, he researched vibration and sound to predict failure in machines.
Q: Has Infinite Uptime changed over time?
A: Originally, we started looking at machining, but then we realized that it’s too niche of a market to go after, it’s very small, and there are much more different applications that we can look into with our technology, including pumps, turbines, compressors, motors, etc. There are much more motors and pumps in the world than there are machining centers.
Q: What have been some of the biggest successes or milestones that you’ve achieved?
A: We took our idea into the LEAN Launchpad class. When we were doing the class, one of the interviews that we did was with Carl Bass, who is the CEO of AutoDesk, and he was really interested in what we were doing, and he was especially interested in what my co-founder’s research was on. It was really him that convinced us to take this opportunity onto the next level, and he became an angel investor.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
A: The biggest challenge has been to handle all the demand and traction that we’re getting. There are so many customers asking for our products and our solutions, but because we’re such a small company, and there’s not even 10 of us, it’s really hard for us to handle. Hopefully that can be solved after we finish this round of funding, so we can expand quickly to handle all the traction that we have.
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Our goal is not a quick exit. We think we’re onto something and we think we have a real business. We’re looking to build a real company. Hopefully, in five years, we’re still around, and we will continue to grow our company. If the time is right, then hopefully IPO as well.
Q: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
A: The work that I do. Being excited that we’re going after something big, and that we’ve been getting traction and we’ve been getting investment. That’s pretty exciting.
Q: How did you hear about SkyDeck?
A: Before coming to SkyDeck, we were in the CITRIS Foundry, and they mentioned SkyDeck. I also came to the open house, and that’s when I met Caroline, and I realized that there is no equity, and no fees, which I was pleasantly surprised by, so I asked, why not? Additionally, the wealth of resources, access to potential partners or customers and beautiful office space made us gravitate towards the opportunity
Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to start a business?
Execution. Planning is nice, but building a company is about execution. You have to actually do stuff. You shouldn’t be afraid of doing.
You can dream, but dreaming is not the same as doing.
Q: What is your team motto?
Infinite Uptime. We’re always up.
The company name actually reflects the company culture really well. We work like crazy. We’re always up. We make things happen