Founder Friday

Founder Friday: George Popescu and Mihai Dumitrescu of Lampix

Welcome to Founder Friday, where we learn about the people behind the Highway1 startups.

Today we talk to the co-founders of Lampix: George Popescu (CEO) and Mihai Dumitrescu (CTO).

HWY1: Tell us a little about your background.
GP: I was born in Romania and grew up in France. I have a master’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from Supélec, as well as one in nanoscience from the University of Paris South. After coming to the US in 2003, I studied 3D printing and digital materials at MIT before starting multiple companies — a few in fintech, one in exotic sport car rental, plus a craft brewery.
MD: I was also born in Romania. After studying computer science in Germany, I returned to Romania and started a company in the computer vision space that’s still running.

Where did the idea for this business come from?
MD: From need, basically. I was growing increasingly unhappy with the way we interact with paper documents and the physical objects around the typical desk. The screen and keyboard are very old-style interactions, yet we interact with objects naturally — there’s some missing link at this intersection that I wanted to explore. At the time, I was involved in software development for a document management company, which is why our earlier Lampix use case examples have to do with documents.

I met George at a TEDx event in Bucharest where we’d both given talks. Mine was on next-gen UI, and his was about how to start a company, coincidentally.

GP: Mihai showed me what he was working on and I was wowed, but he wasn’t quite ready to start a company. About six months later, it started looking pretty good, so we decided to get going. I went to Romania and we made a lot of progress in about two weeks.

How did you find out about Highway1?
GP: I was on F6S looking for an accelerator and ran across Highway1, and noticed that it’s focus is hardware. While we both have experience with startups, I hadn’t built a hardware company before, and I felt that it was very different from building a software or finance company (not to mention a brewery). So we applied, and it’s exceeded our expectations.

What’s your biggest surprise or key learning been thus far at Highway1?
GP: That crowdfunding is probably one of the most misunderstood tools out there. It’s great for some companies at a particular stage doing particular stuff; for everyone else it’s pretty much the kiss of death.

What are your goals while you’re at Highway1?
GP: When we first saw the program, we were a bit optimistic in our thinking that we could start manufacturing in six months. Now we’ve learned what reasonable goals and timelines look like. At present, our goals are to identify the right application and users for our device, and in tandem come up with the right product design and function to cater to that particular usage. It’s both a widening of the field of view and a refocusing simultaneously.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in hardware?
MD: There are so many different ways you can do the same thing. In software, the optimal ways are in some sense closer together. In hardware, there are so many more factors to consider, from the design itself to the way a robot places a chip on your PCB. If you do something different in the design, you might influence something 45 steps down the process that cuts the price in half. Getting a holistic view of the entire process has been very interesting.
GP: I also think hardware has many more constraints than software: not only do you have to contend with your device’s firmware, but also the rules of physics, shipping, manufacturing, even time itself. To transport a software product from California to New York takes one second. To transport a hardware product that same distance takes two days and $7 at minimum. There are many more constraints and risk factors in producing hardware, but those things also make it more defensible and valuable.

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Highway1, a division of PCH, is the premier hardware startup accelerator, located in San Francisco. We look for great hardware startups, with an exciting business idea and a compelling prototype. We help you design products that deliver real value to customers, that are delightful to use and that can be manufactured at scale.
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