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engines, Azim said. Hart and his lab worked on perfecting the technology for the ear for the better part of the last decade. In recent years, the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT awarded the group a $50,000 grant to investigate commercial applications of the system.
Azim was introduced to the technology through a program at MIT called I-Teams that gives business students the chance to develop strategies for commercializing technologies from across the renowned school’s campus. “I spent the spring of 2009 working on this, and I felt it was a product and the opportunity was exciting enough that I committed to it full time,” Azim said. He’s not a first-time entrepreneur. Prior to his studies at MIT’s Sloan School, Azim was the founder and CEO of an IT services firm called The Braintree Group, which he and his partners sold to the global outsourcing company Touchstone Communications in 2008. The terms of the sale weren’t disclosed.
Lantos sees opportunities for its 3D imaging technology beyond the hearing aid market. Azim talked about the potential use of the technology for customizing earphones for people at retail stores. The military might be interested in using the technology to customize earplugs for service members who work in noisy environments like the deck of an aircraft carrier. He also mentioned the potential use of the technology for diagnosing ear conditions, but he declined to provide specifics.
“I think it’s exciting,” Hart said, “because we are beginning to understand that we may be onto something bigger than we realized.”
Hart said that he is also enjoying the more active role he is taking at Lantos. The firm’s office is a short walk from his lab at MIT, where he is still a full-time professor. MIT allows him to spend up to one day per week working with the startup, he said, and he’s developed a greater appreciation than he had at Brontes for the creativity that goes into developing a business strategy. (His photo also landed in the New York Times business section in a June article about MIT’s success in moving inventions such as Lantos’s toward the market.)
“The thing that I’ve been so shocked with is the level of interest from the outside public,” Hart said. “With Brontes, we were having trouble getting people to understand what we were trying to do. The custom-fit head set or improving hearing so you can hear your grandkids excites people.”
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