Lantos Technologies and MIT’s Doug Hart Aim for Encore to Big Exit at Brontes

9/30/10

Shahid Azim met me at the front door of his new 3D ear-canal imaging startup, Lantos Technologies, earlier this week. The walls were barren, and the space was mostly devoid of furniture. But when I peeked through one of the office doorways, I spotted the Cambridge, MA, startup’s academic founder, Doug Hart, who is way cooler to have in your office than fancy furniture. Azim, the firm’s co-founder and CEO, would probably agree—and so will lots of consumers if the firm succeeds in its goal of transforming the way hearing aids, audio headsets, and other devices are customized to fit a person’s ear canal.

Before starting Lantos last year, Hart, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, co-invented the 3D oral imaging technology behind Brontes Technologies, which St. Paul, MN-based 3M (NYSE:MMM) bought for $95 million in 2006—just four years after the Lexington, MA-based firm’s founding. Now, at Lantos, Hart and his fellow co-founders are trying to commercialize a first-of-its-kind 3D imaging technology for the ear canal, much like Brontes did for inside the mouth. The Lantos team also consists of Federico Frigerio, one of the inventors of the Brontes technology, who is a co-founder and chief scientist of the new company. Still, Brontes is a tough act to follow.

Azim, who began working on the Lantos business plan while earning his MBA at the MIT, is following a similar path to one that the Brontes co-founders Eric Paley and Micah Rosenbloom took to make that company a winner. He’s laser focused on developing the firm’s technology for the hearing aid market, just like Brontes initially aimed for the dental market. Yet Azim appears to have his own style. Brontes’s founding CEO, Eric Paley, has the hard-charging confidence of an NFL coach. Azim seems to have a quiet confidence, more of a 007 type. (And Azim’s deep British accent seems suitable for voice-overs in commercials for luxury sedans or expensive gin.)

When I asked Azim whether he feels pressure at Lantos to provide an encore to the success of Brontes, the CEO said: “It sort of cuts both ways. In a way, Brontes presents a live demonstration of real-time 3D imaging in a medical space where it solves a very similar problem. In a way, it helped us tell our story that basically we are solving the same problem, but for a different industry.”

Helped by the commercial success of Brontes (3M is now selling its imaging system to dentists), Azim and Hart were able to raise … Next Page »

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