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Unless your vehicle is less than 15 years old, it’s unlikely it has a rear-view camera with dashboard display built in. Rear-view / back-up cameras will be required on newly manufactured automobiles starting with the 2018 model-year, which leaves the vast majority of cars, over 200 million in the US alone,  without a camera or backup sensor. 80% of cars don’t have rear cameras or sensors, while 15,000 injuries occur per year due to slow-speed accidents (according to the NHTSA.) It’s worth noting that older-model cars are more likely to be driven by people most in need of reverse-visuals, such as new and inexperienced drivers, or those such as seniors with impaired ability to turn towards the rear of the vehicle while reversing.

In November 2014, 10 people, who’d met for the first time at Startup Weekend Kirkland, teamed up to find a solution for preventing accidents caused by vehicles without rear-display capabilities.

The Fensens Team at Startup Weekend Kirkland during judging final competition
The Fensens Team at Startup Weekend Kirkland

After-market technology is needed to close this gap. The team’s solution was a  wireless device for vehicles, using a universal standard mount on an easily-attached license-plate frame, returning visual, audible and tactile feedback to the driver’s smartphone (using Bluetooth technology.)

During the Startup Weekend over the course of two days, members of the Fensens team surveyed 120 people at local retail shops. They used social media and surveys to gather additional info. Of those surveyed, 82% lacked either a sensor or rear camera in their vehicles and all were willing to pay over $100 for an after-market unit.

I reached out to Henry Wong, who led the team and is also serving as a judge at Health Startup Weekend  in May for this interview:

Q: How are things going for the team and product now, 3 months later? What are your future plans?

A: Things are going well.  We’ve created a Fensens LLC, added marketing personnel, and have a subset of the original team working on improving the product and app as a version 2 minimal viable product.  We are in the process of filing a provisional patent from my original idea back in Oct 2014.  I’ve been invited as a guest speaker by Kirkland Chamber of Commerce in April to talk about the nature of being an entrepreneur and the startup experience.

Q: Competition is a given: what makes your model distinct from other aftermarket backup sensors on the market?

A: Our product and solution is unique because it is a first in class wireless sensor that can be easily installed and used in 5 min, on any vehicle, by consumers, without going through an aftermarket professional installer.

Q: How many jobs do you anticipate this product creating?

A: We’re not sure yet at this moment.  If it takes off, we will definitely need people to help grow and expand the success.  We’re focusing 1 step at a time.

Q: Are you considering a crowdfunding option for development?

A: Yes, the team is planning to do a Kickstarter to further validate the solution with our version 2 minimal viable product.

Q: Would you recommend Startup Weekend to anyone with an idea?

A: Yes, I would highly recommend Startup Weekend to anyone who has an idea or entrepreneur itch.  If you’re a person who watches Shark Tank and say to yourself, “I have an idea,” then Startup Weekend is a great place to start – it is like a mini-Shark Tank.  My original reason for doing the Startup Weekend was just to see and experience what startup is all about from ground zero.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think we were going to win 1st place out of a field full of talented people, especially our first time doing it.

The following originally appeared in the Startup Weekend Kirkland blog: 

How Does it Feel to Win a Startup Olympics?

No, I did not get rich but I am on cloud 9 – and that is priceless!
On November 14-16, 2014, I attended Startup Weekend Maker’s Edition at Kirkland, WA. I’ve had an itch to take some ideas in my brain and make it into a product/business. My reason for participating was to taste the start-up from ground zero, see what does it feel like, and for fun. I had no expectation going into it, and frankly I was not aware it was a competition till the second day. I thought it was just a group of random people working together to build something from scratch – and that experience itself is why I signed up.

About 140 attendees, 45 ideas pitched, and 15 teams formed. The top 3 winners were judged by a group of very successful panels in the technology industry.

No one on my team, including myself, expected we would win, let alone come in first place because there were also other great ideas, and talented people and teams.

To see the expression and smile on my team’s face when they announced “Fensens” as the 1st place winner was a truly unbelievable feeling and experience. I am still speechless, stoked, excited, happy, and smiling (big) this week. I am sure everyone on my team is having the same feeling too.

This past weekend has to be one of the best memorable experience in my life! I want to thank my team in believing in my idea and the product. We focused, executed, and nailed the pitch and demo. I hope to be on cloud 9 as long as I can from this weekend.

Fensens prototype

We asked Henry why he thought his team came first

My 17+ years of diverse experience in technology and consumer electronics industry really helped.  I had a well thought-out idea and product in mind and an understanding of the market for this product. Finally, I was lucky enough to have a really good team to execute the idea and the product.

The Fensens team:

Henry Wong (Founder)
Ben Foster (Engineering)
Mohammad Juma (Engineering)
Miki Nguyen (Management)
Charlie Yan (Mobile Development)
Phongsakorn Liewsrisuk (Engineering)
Jian Ma (Engineering)
Alex Ching (Mechanical/PCB)
Shanika Weerasundara (Marketing)
Ngoc-Khuyen (Quinn) Tran (Marketing)
Jennifer Commodore (Marketing)
Misaki Yamashita (Marketing).

Teams are what it’s all about. No one person can make a startup weekend project a success. As Shanika Weerasundara put it in a Facebook post: “What a remarkable experience! Total strangers coming together for 54 hours with a common bond, can create life long memories, team spirit, and products that solve problems that matter. Amazing vision and engineering and business prowess! Thank you Diane Najm – our coach, for your guidance on customer validation!”


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Brian Crouch