From Startup Idea to Working Prototype in 40 Hours? Meet Henry Wong

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.

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What Do I Bring to Startup Weekend

After attending Bootcamp you are probably wondering what to bring with you. You’ll need more than a laptop to make physical objects, so here’s a list of things we will have on site. Anything else you need for your project, that’s not included on the list below, you will have to bring with. We will refund you up to $100.oo PER TEAM so make sure you keep your receipts.

Before reading the list, we recommend you pre-install any software you may need (Arduino, CAD, etc.) for the event since WiFi can be unreliable at events.

AVAILABLE EQUIPMENT

LASER CUTTERS

Two (2) on site at LWIT, Saturday (all day), and Sunday (up to 3 PM).

  1. Maximum material size is 32” x 18”
  2. Materials: Wood (birch is best) or SandE from Home Depot
  3. 0.25″ acrylic at TAP plastics
  4. DO NOT get wood or acrylic that contains chlorine or glue meant for external surfaces.

SOLDERING

Teams who need to solder components onto PCBs.

  1. Use either lead free .032 or smaller gauge or 60/40 rosin core smaller than .032
  2. Use Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD or various free software with plugins that export to DXF (Draftsight, Inkscape, etc.).

3D PRINTERS

We’ll have a few 3d printers (various brands) and filaments on site that you can use on Saturday and Sunday. Liz Havlin will be around to help you print anything you need.

  1. FreeCad
  2. Get your files as .obj, .stl, .gcode
    1. STL is great since it can be sent directly to the printer
    2. Slic3r to generate gcode files
  3. Matter Control to find out how long it will take to print and how much filament

Instead of the 3d printer and the laser cutter, you can use cardboard cut-outs for initial prototypes to speed up development.

ELECTRONICS

Each team will be provided with one of these kits (more if we have supplies):

  1. Arduino Uno R3
  2. Intel Edison board
  3. BlueTooth shield if needed.

For consumables and other materials (plastic, acrylic, screws, wires, etc.) we recommend these local stores:

Vetco: 12718 Northup Way #100, Bellevue, WA 98005 – map

TAP Plastics: 12021 Northup Way, Bellevue, WA 98005 – map

Lowes: 11959 Northup Way, Bellevue, WA 98005 – map

Home Depot, Bothell: 18333 120th Ave NE, Bothell, WA 98011 – map

Fry’s: 800 Garden Ave N, Renton, WA 98057 – map

Radio Shack: 12543 Totem Lake Blvd NE, Kirkland, WA 98034 – map

Robot Mesh: 11251 120th Ave NE Ste 217, Kirkland, WA 98033

Tacoma Screw: 11200 120th Ave NE, Kirkland, WA 98033map

Ace Hardware: 6613 132nd Ave NE, Kirkland, WA 98033 – map

BOOTCAMP MATERIALS

Here are some of the materials that were presented at Bootcamp today for your reference:

Arduino

KiCad, Soldering, etc

Intel Edison – Rex St. John – Up & Running with Seeed Studio Grove Starter Kit Plus & Intel Edison

Intel Edison – Rex St. John – Getting WiFi with Intel Edison On Yosemite / OSX

Intel Edison – Rex St. John – Setting up Intel Edition with Intel XDK

 

OK. I’ve got it! Now take me back to the Kirkland Startup Weekend Makers Edition website.