Ask any entrepreneur and they’ll tell you that starting a business involves overcoming setbacks and a whole lot of learning along the way.
That’s certainly true for Innomdle Lab. As innovative as their idea is, it caused them to go on a journey of discovery, product refinement and perseverance. But the company’s founder will attest to the fact that this period in the business’ growth was worth it. They now have a product that could change the way we talk.
As the first to be given that honor, the founder of Innomdle Lab was in uncharted territory. Although he had access to leading thinkers and experts at Samsung, nothing could have prepared him for what he would face when he launched out on his own as a separate company.
“I would have given up easily if I was on my own,” said Hyunchul Choi, the CEO of Innomdle Lab. “But I saw the efforts of other members for the product, so I just couldn’t give up. I never wanted to give up. I’m working way harder than when I was working for Samsung Electronics. It’s very tiresome, but I gained a lot through the process.”
The flagship product from Innomdle Lab is called Sgnl. Using unique body conduction unit technology, Sgnl enables users to take phone calls simply by placing their fingertip on their ear. And only the user can hear the conversation so they can keep their call private. They no longer have to pick up their phone to call – they can fit conversations into their busy schedules by making calls easily on the move. Driving this technology is a body conduction unit that looks like a regular watch strap. It connects to the user’s smartphone via Bluetooth and contains an embedded microphone that picks up the user’s end of the conversation.
Sgnl sounds as futuristic as it does convenient and the product has quickly captured the imagination of backers who rushed to support the product on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Innomdle Lab set a precedent here too. It was the first C-Lab company to successfully crowdfund their product this way. It was also one of the largest amounts a crowdfunding project from Korea has ever raised. The project now has an army of supporters who want to see Sgnl succeed.
Choi places a great emphasis on the importance of the C-Lab project and the opportunity he has been able to pursue that would have been much more difficult otherwise. He remains a strong supporter of the incubator/spin-off model to the point that he plans to replicate it in his own company. His door also remains open for other C-Lab spin-off companies who follow after him.
“Everyone here is very talented, but they are currently working for a small startup. They have to be rewarded for their sacrifices and ambitions,” said Choi. “I want to give my team members the chances to start their own companies and for Innomdle Lab to be an academy for them to acquire the necessary skills to do so. By doing this, we can create a medley of innovations that expands beyond my company. I want to keep creating new cycles of innovation.”
Choi was fortunate in that he had a lot of support at the spin-off stage from Samsung Electronics’ management. There were a lot of naysayers who suggested to Choi and the other C-Lab startups that this was simply another way to lay off staff. But one staff member put this assertion to an executive, who oversaw the spin-off initiative, directly in a meeting.
“I still remember his answer,” Choi recalled. “He said that Samsung Electronics cannot commercialize every idea, no matter how hard you work on the project. He saw many small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) or startups succeed based on those ideas.” Samsung wants to give chances to such brilliant ideas and the people who worked hard for the opportunities “and it would be even better if the entrepreneurs could build on the expertise they honed in Samsung,” Choi recalls the president saying. “If the spin-off companies survive for five, or 10 years in the jungle of competition, then Samsung would ultimately be contributing to the larger tech community. Wouldn’t that be a great way for large and small innovation companies to coexist?”