You know the saying ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’? Most would agree that this is sound advice. Yet startup Mesomat, ignored that age-old wisdom, and it appears to be paying off. Not many young companies would abandon early success and pivot to take their business in a new direction, but this is exactly what Mesomat did.
With a signature product featuring stretchable conductive fibers acting as sensors, Mesomat initially focused on the wearables market, including smart personal protective equipment (PPE), performance wear, and health care. But then the team saw a bigger opportunity with smart tire technology, and have since developed a complete cloud-based solution featuring their proprietary sensors, electronics, and software.
As Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer Paul Fowler notes, “The hardest stage for any business is early on. We knew our innovation was scientifically sound but needed support and guidance to validate our ideas, develop an effective go-to-market strategy, position our product, and learn to pitch our company. We were fortunate to have been provided with all of this during our early stages when we participated in a business pitch competition.”
Mesomat first met Innovation Factory, parent accelerator for the Centre for Integrated Transportation and Mobility (CITM) in 2018, when they entered LiONS LAIR, a regional pitch competition. They were named a finalist, gaining access to a wide range of business advisory support and services, and eventually won the competition. Fowler credits their participation in the competition as enabling the company to establish a solid base which they have used to build upon.
Fast forward five years and Mesomat is poised to take advantage of huge opportunities in the evolving tire market. The potential for their technology solution goes beyond the personal vehicle market and can be used commercially across a wide range of industries. “Two factors impacted our decision to pivot industries: we could see that automotive manufacturers were increasingly looking to integrate connected technology components within new vehicle builds; and also that the information extracted from tires, the only part of a vehicle in direct contact with the road, was quite basic. We knew our technology could address this significant gap and decided to focus our product development on building a true smart tire.”
Today, Fowler leads Mesomat’s business and operations groups while Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Kari Dalnoki-Veress, is the company’s technical and scientific lead. As a professor of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University, Dalnoki-Veress brings extensive research experience and knowledge, and it was in his ‘squishy physics’ research lab from which the idea for Mesomat emerged. When the team discovered that some materials exhibit sensor properties when bent, twisted, and stretched, they knew they were onto something.
As an accelerator focused on transportation innovation, CITM knew it could support Mesomat during their transition from the wearables market to the automotive industry. In addition to resources, programs, and funding opportunities specific to the transportation sector, CITM also provided connections and introductions to leaders and stakeholders within the industry.
As vehicle manufacturers rush to market new models that are increasingly electric and autonomous, suppliers who can provide the components, processes, and systems enabling this shift are in high demand. Smart tires are critical to this evolution and Mesomat knows that. Their sensor technology platform captures real-time data, allowing manufacturers to see patterns, predict behaviour, and optimize product performance.
Considering the number and types of vehicles that exist today, the applications for Mesomat’s sensor technology are significant. Beyond people and goods movement, consider the number of industries requiring heavy-wheeled equipment. Imagine being able to collect, store, and analyze performance data, and what this could mean for decision-makers, manufacturers, and those responsible for improving performance and reducing costs.
Until recently, tire manufacturers primarily captured temperature and pressure data from sensors. Mesomat sensors directly measure how the tire is deforming in real-time and this type of data collection provides information about load, tire lifetime, and tread patterns.
As Richard Dunda, Director of CITM notes, “Mesomat is an exciting company because they have a unique technology that fits a high demand market. They are quickly establishing themselves as a leader in the smart tire market because manufacturers have been looking for this type of sensor technology. Credit to them for leveraging appropriate resources to launch a company, identify a new and bigger opportunity, and then effectively pursue it.”
Today, Mesomat is in discussion with every major tire manufacturer globally, have doubled their revenues over the last year, and are hiring consistently to grow their team. The depth of research and scientific expertise among those on their advisory board and staff is also impressive. While the company is venture capital backed, Mesomat is largely customer-funded, a unique position to be in as a young company.
Mesomat is proud of its Hamilton, Ontario origin, and leverages local resources wherever possible. For example, electronic components are designed in-house and sensors are manufactured in Hamilton. Every employee within the company also has a McMaster University connection, either as a researcher or graduate.
Mesomat may have its sights set on the tire industry but the company knows that there is huge potential for its sensor technology platform in other sectors. If you can scale a technology that captures data, you can identify trends and patterns, and make predictions to help optimize performance, reduce costs, and increase shelf life. Imagine doing that commercially in sectors such as air travel, mining, and construction.
Current tire sensors are limited, and Mesomat’s solution allows intelligent data gathering in real-time.
With speed and agility, they shifted their focus to smart tires, and seem primed for success with their innovative and complete sensor technology solution.