This Boulder tech startup is the solution to a real life problem
Tangram Vision came out of trying to solve a sensor integration problem
Co-founders Brandon Minor and Adam Rodnitzky worked together at Boulder-based Occipital–a provider of computer vision technology–before starting Tangram Vision.
At Occipital, the pair recognized integration issues with users of the company’s sensors. Robotics companies “were having a hard time putting our technology into their products,” Minor says. “It wasn’t just Occipital’s sensors that these companies were having problems with, it was every sensor on their system. That’s what Tangram came out of: trying to solve this real sensor integration problem, this pain, for all of these companies.”
Minor and Rodnitzky teamed in 2020 to develop a platform to ease this pain. Named for the children’s puzzle with seven polygons that combine to form a square, Tangram Vision currently has five employees. “I got the name because you can do a lot of things with sensors,” Minor says, “but at the end of the day, it’s all a distinct set of parts.”
In a Nutshell
Tangram Vision launched its software platform in June 2021. “What we’re shipping right now is an improved calibration experience that can cut a process that’s currently two days into a couple hours, or a process that’s currently a couple hours into a couple minutes,” Minor says. “This is the seed for the platform. We’re going to go into more sophisticated data pipelining and plug-and-play sensor systems. We’re not offering any of the sensors directly, but we’re augmenting what’s already there on these platforms.”
Some companies spend a year or more working to integrate sensors, Rodnitzky adds. “Every sensor manufacturer approaches their software differently; there really is no standard that they work from,” he says. “It’s hard to keep them running optimally and properly, so we’re building software that will monitor them, basically correct them, and – at the very least – let you know when you need to correct them so everything’s working as it should.”
Tangram’s platform can act as “a foundational layer” in robotic systems, says Alex Iskold of 2048 Ventures, the New York-based lead investor in the startup’s pre-seed round in late 2020.
“You can effectively normalize the data that goes into the brain of any robot,” he notes. “When you think about the world of APIs and the world of data, having standards is critical.”
Minor was one of the founders of Colorado Robotics, a trade group “working to bring together robotics companies on the Front Range,” he says. “Our activity got a little slow during COVID, but we’ll probably be starting things up here soon again. There’s a lot of amazing people doing amazing stuff.”
Robotics and transportation are the two key markets. “Our earliest partners are all in service robotics,” Rodnitzky says.
In the longer term, autonomous vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) represent an even larger market, he adds. “All those sensors also need calibration and integration,” Rodnitzky says. “Closing a deal with GM, who knows how long that takes, but that’s the holy grail.”
Smart cities are another opportunity. “The more data you want, the more sensors you’ll have,” Minor says. “We’ve had some inbound interest from smart city companies that have the same problem roboticists do.”
Tangram Vision closed on $1.5 million in pre-seed funding in late 2020. The round was led by 2048 Ventures with Trucks Venture Capital and Dynamo Ventures, but the fledgling company’s founders aren’t pursuing more outside investment for the time being. “We will eventually, but we really don’t need to in the near term,” Rodnitzky says.