When Startups and Corporations Innovate Together, Everybody Wins

May 03, 2021

Arrow Electronics is one of those enormous global companies that might not be a household name, but you encounter us every day. We work with 180,000 manufacturers and service providers of all sizes to make the benefits of technology accessible to as many people as possible.

And Arrow started 2021 by agreeing to team with Techstars. The two organizations share a common purpose to make people’s lives better through the power of technology. 

It’s as if we can finish each other’s sentences.

  • Techstars says “Entrepreneurs can change the world.”  At Arrow, “We guide innovators to a better tomorrow.” 

  • Techstars says collaboration drives innovation. At Arrow, we believe innovation isn’t magic. It’s a skill set - and a mindset - that can be learned, including collaboration.

  • Techstars says great ideas can come from anywhere. Arrow operates in 90 countries. We see great ideas every day from every corner of the global tech ecosystem.

  • Techstars helps grow ideas into world-changing businesses. So does Arrow.  Our strategic direction is expressed as Five Years Out, a way of thinking about the tangible future that bridges the gap between what’s possible and the practical technologies that make it happen.

Arrow doesn’t follow a single recipe to help innovators bring their technologies to market. Here are just a few examples.


More than 2 billion people live on shaky ground worldwide. This Mexico City hardware and software start-up makes an affordable IoT seismic monitor for homes and businesses. The device detects earthquake tremors in real time and use cloud-based algorithms to interpret the raw accelerometer data crowdsourced from its informal network of thousands of sensors in homes and businesses. An alarm is dispatched through social media as well as to users’ smartphones on the Grillo app, offering people precious minutes to seek safety. 

Grillo sensors have generated more than 1TB of data since 2017 in Mexico, Chile, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica, including information from large earthquakes of magnitudes 6 and 7. Researchers from Harvard University and the University of Oregon are already working with this data, which will enable new machine learning earthquake characterization and detection methods. The data also will inform building codes, transportation, health care and emergency services.

Grillo was a finalist in the global Call for Code contest in 2019, which Arrow sponsors. In 2020, the Linux Foundation agreed to support Grillo’s open-source Early Earthquake Warning network. IBM, which founded Call for Code, provides Grillo with Cloud services and Watson analytics.  Arrow’s Mexico City branch provided a bill of materials analysis of Grillo’s original monitor to lower costs and improve procurement across the global supply chain. Engineers in Mexico now are working with Grillo’s founders to develop a new and more capable generation of monitors, as well as move production to a contract manufacturing facility in Mexico to provide closer collaboration and provide local jobs.

Unlimited Tomorrow

Ask founder Easton LaChappelle about his inspiration and he will tell you about wanting to help a 7-year-old girl he met at the Colorado state science fair when he was a student.  Her family had spent a staggering $80,000 on a new prosthetic arm – basically a mechanical claw – even though she might outgrow it within a year. 

Easton originally prototyped a practical and affordable prosthetic hand made with Legos, fishing line and electrical tubing. Within a couple of years, he had a sophisticated medical-grade model

So much more has happened in the decade since – a Ted Talk, a NASA internship, visits to the White House, awards and rounds of venture funding. 

Unlimited Tomorrow now has attracted $10 million in funding and employs seven people. But its value proposition hasn’t changed since that science fair – New waves of technology will help develop better, more affordable prosthetics for people with limb loss or limb differences, especially kids.

His new product TrueLimb is 3D printed to increase production, reduce cost, and provide rapid replacements. They are custom-made to exact size using scans of the client’s opposite, full-sized limb. A microelectronics package mimics muscle contraction. Animatronics provide natural motion. Machine learning helps the limb gains precision, dexterity, and range. It self-regulates grip and force so it can pull open a stubborn door or crack an egg equally and without a mishap. And it is sculpted to the client’s skin tone for a natural appearance. Price: Less than $9,000 per unit.

Arrow has worked with Easton since his high school days. He joined Indiegogo to crowdfund a new design and prototyping. On Indiegogo, Arrow provides engineering expertise and supply chain services in a certification program to help participating entrepreneurs take their ideas to market. The Arrow Certified Technology badge lets backers know that Arrow engineers have verified that your design is feasible for manufacturing.

Since then, Arrow has continued to provide Easton’s growing company with engineering, BOM analysis and component sourcing, among other services.

Now Arrow has joined Easton in his latest campaign – the Unlimited Tomorrow Global Initiative - to fund and produce limbs 10,000 limbs for people worldwide who cannot afford to buy prosthetics. The first-year goal: 650 limbs at just $3,000 apiece. With Arrow’s help, he’s already raised enough money through this nonprofit initiative to make the first 200 limbs.


Every hotel room is a little bit different – climate control, lighting, clock, music, charging station. CIRQ+ CEO and co-founder Yoni Deros and his team originally developed an intelligent control station that would turn guest rooms into smart rooms – with Arrow’s help.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic spread globally.  Not only did sanitizing rooms of all kinds become an immediate question – how clean is clean?  - but protecting the health of custodians and housekeepers became a concern as well.

Deros’ company has accelerated the development of a new idea – an IoT robot that remotely disinfects rooms. Controlled wirelessly, the CIRQ CLEAN unit  circumnavigates a space, dispensing a consistent, uniform electrostatically-charged disinfectant on surfaces and areas that might be missed through manual cleaning or UV light methods. With its Smart Thermostat and HVAC controls, the robot circulates fresh air to further control airborne pathogens. When it is finished, housekeeping or custodians can enter the room to complete their work.

Arrow is assisting with the robot’s commercial engineering, component sourcing and production ramp-up to advance the cloud-based platform that powers the robot. Arrow has drafted Native American-owned contract manufacturer Tooh Dineh Industries Inc. to be the first to assemble the product in Arizona. 

Hotel chains originally were the original target market and prototype testing occurred in guest rooms in the Phoenix area. But now schools, hospitals, long term care facilities and other venues are interested as conditions improve and communities reopen.

CIRQ+ expects to deliver CIRQ+CLEAN units in the second half of 2021.