Hamburgers, Coffee, Guitars, and Cars: A Report from Lemnos Labs

6/12/12Follow @wroush

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about 10 percent of their founding equity. (Conrad and Zelman say they aren’t yet able to reveal who’s backing the accelerator financially.)

The main goal of the Lemnos Labs curriculum is to help companies with hardware ideas build working prototypes that they can show to investors interested in providing seed or Series A funding, says Conrad. Among other things, that means helping the startups avoid common pitfalls in the design process. “There is a lot that can go wrong in hardware, and we pride ourselves on making sure that our companies are going to look at everything, from the really technical stuff from designing for manufacturability and Underwriters Laboratories approval all the way up to what their packaging and instruction manual going to look like,” he says.

Here are brief reports on the four Lemnos Labs companies, based on their demo day presentations.

Blossom Coffee

A great cup of coffee isn’t just about the beans, says Blossom co-founder Jeremy Kuempel. It’s also about the brewing process. “We are able to brew the best-tasting coffee in the world because we control how it is brewed,” he says.

The Blossom Coffee prototype

The Blossom team, which includes mechanical engineers with backgrounds at places like Apple, Tesla, BMW, and NASA, has designed a tabletop single-serve coffee maker with an adaptable brew chamber whose temperature and pressure is computer-controlled to extract the most flavor from the particular variety of coffee bean being used.

“Every bean requires its own brew parameters to taste exactly right,” Kuempel says. Users of Blossom’s machine can download the right parameters from the company’s website. “We are bringing the Internet to coffee brewing, and it’s going to be amazing.”

Blossom plans to sell its machines first for use in cafes, then offices, then homes. It’s starting by approaching specialty coffee brewers like Ritual Coffee. “The response from baristas everywhere has been phenomenal, for the simple reason that our coffee tastes better,” Kuempel says.

Momentum Machines

At a typical McDonalds, at least four employees are assigned to make hamburgers. Vardakostas says Momentum Machines’ prototype hamburger-making robot can get rid of three of these humans and all of the overhead costs (training, unemployment, worker’s compensation, etc.) that go along with employing them.

The prototype Momentum Machines hamburger-making robot

The prototype is a miniature assembly line, with one conveyor that carries patties through a gas grill and another that deposits lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles atop a bun. All the ingredients come together at the machine’s exit chute, which even wraps up the finished burger in paper. Everything is modular, so that parameters such as cook times, the selection of condiments, and the thickness of the beef patties can be swapped out depending on a restaurant’s menu. Vardakostas says such a machine would have been too expensive to build a few years ago, but that … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • TK3

    All these ideas sound like they could work in the real marketplace, not counting government regulation/interference, and I wish them luck.

    “III%”

  • James Robert Deal

    Fast food companies will automate whether worker wages are raised or not, and corporate profits will rise. The demand for workers is multi factoral. Automation will lower the need for minimum wage workers, but workers with more money to spend will increase the need for minimum wage workers. Humans will always be needed in face-to-face jobs. Businesses can adapt by raising prices. Workers have no way to adapt. In 1968 the minimum wage was worth $10.69 in today’s dollars. The poor make less than they made 46 years ago. They should have have to bear the burden to maintain business profits. Wages at the bottom must be raised. The issue is how much and how quickly. Do you believe there should never be an increase in the minimum wage? Do you disbelieve in the whole minimum wage concept? You have been hanging out with right wing Republicans too much. Fortunately, there are some Republicans who believe in paying people enough so that they are not dependent on welfare. Wall Mart pays low wages by mooching off government. Mike, you do very well on health issues, but on the minimum wage issue, your approach lacks nuance. Why do you say nothing about the poor quality of fast food? You are a natural food and natural health advocate. Why would you be supporting low wage employers so unquestioningly? http://jamesrobertdeal.org/minimum-wage/

  • CT Yankee

    James Robert Deal — No I do not believe in Minimum Wage! It is an artificial construct forced on the economy, and ultimately one doomed to failure. As you noted the comparison to 1968 dollars is one of the MW’s weaknesses. It always invites a comparison, but that comparison is *ALWAYS* incomplete. to wit: How much did a Smartphone cost in 1968 dollars? What about Cable TV?

    In 1968 most businesses were closed on Sundays… Why? Religion? Or just the slower pace of life? Just say’in…

    FWIW, I don’t pay my employees minimum wage, it would be an insult to their skillsets. However, I expect a lot more from them than any MW employee could ever be expected to provide. But, should I want to hire an extra pair of hands to perform some menial task, I must evaluate the burden of paying that person over $10/hr (including the cost of taxes & benefits) vs skipping that task altogether. Guess what; the job goes unfilled.

    That’s the ‘beauty’ of the Minimum Wage! It keeps me from ever having to interact with unskilled, low-skilled, and inexperienced workers. It provides a convenient barrier that lets my human resources people only deal with people that have somehow managed to ‘acquire experience’ at someone else’s expense. I let Walmart & McD’s train kids at government expense until they boil over with resentment, and then hire them at the low end of my scale because their minds are indoctrinated with the concepts of ‘entitlement’ until they either succeed or fail miserably, and move on to the next company, because this is the age of ‘Failing Upward’.