Founder Friday

Nathan Levine of Fishbit

Welcome to Founder Friday, where we’ll learn a little about the people behind some of the companies doing their thing at Highway1. Today’s founder is Nathan Levine of Current Labs.

Everyone likes aquariums, but they’re surprisingly hard to manage; not everyone has the know-how to keep ’em running.

This was Nathan Levine’s problem: an aquarium enthusiast since childhood, he poured effort and money into maintaining an array of beautiful tanks, then returned home after studying philosophy and statistics at the U of Florida to find one of them devoid of life.

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It wasn’t exactly his dad’s fault — you try maintaining a complex sealed ecosystem in perfect health for years with no training sometime!

Levine filed this away in his mind as it came time to join the working world. Eight years later, he found himself in Chicago as a software developer when the urge to play with something other than code came calling. Levine remembered his roots and headed for a hackathon with an idea that would become FishBit. “It’s a connected set of always-on sensors that monitor integral water parameters (pH, salinity, temperature and ammonia) in aquariums accessed through our mobile and web apps. We combine individual and community-sourced tank data to highlight tank trends and prescribe intelligible actions to make tank maintenance more proactive.”

Levine’s idea ended up winning the hackathon. “That was enough validation to convince some friends to keep working on this with me as a side project. Over the last six months, that traction has been enough to go from a side project to us quitting our full-time gigs to take this on.” But what would that entail, exactly? Levine learned about Highway1 in a conversation with Obama for America’s Harper Reed, who introduced him to Brady Forrest.

Highway1 turned out to be the ideal next step for Levine and his team. “Because hardware was out of my wheelhouse, I knew I had to work with others, and I got lucky that some of the smartest people I knew and have since met have wanted to be part of it all.

The team’s really come together with some brilliant people, and the goals have gotten gradually bigger and more complicated. We’re a big team and have been able to accomplish most of them, but when there’s something we aren’t qualified to do, we’ve been reaching out and either finding a way to work with someone who is or learning what we need to make it happen — Highway1 has been great at facilitating this, too.”

Speaking of goals: “With FishBit we want to make it easier for people to maintain and manage their aquariums, no matter if they’re a tank dabbler or a reef junkie, and in the process expand the market and the number of people who can enjoy the hobby.”

No more college grads coming home to find a dead tank where life once thrived! But it doesn’t stop there: “Our ten year plan is about getting extraordinarily good at letting people manage these kinds of closed aquatic ecosystems that currently require a ton of time, money, effort, and knowledge. We want to bring our technology to not just aquariums but to pools, urban aquaponics, and aquaculture farms.”

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