Using research and development from the University of Washington, MarqMetrix is marketing a technology that allows users to identify products at the touch of a probe.
What:MarqMetrix, a Seattle startup that spun out of the University of Washington.
Who: Co-founder and CEO Brian Marquardt
UW history: Marquardt started as a researcher at the UW in 1998 and is now the director of the Center for Process Analysis and Control and senior principal engineer in the Applied Physics Lab.
Creative process: In 2004, Marquardt created the Raman BallProbe, a device that when coupled with an optical sensor allows a user to touch a product — say, coffee, pharmaceuticals, oil or a diamond — and identify it. “It gives you a fingerprint of a sample,” he said.
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How it works: Raman technology uses light and vibration to measure the chemical composition of a sample. That process historically involved equipment that costs more than $100,000 and required highly trained experts. But, as Marquardt (the Marq in MarqMetrix) explains it, the touch interface he created takes the “scientist out of the science,” allowing anyone to use it.
How it helps: Usually, when testing a sample of, say, cookie dough on a production line, the sample would go to the lab first. During that process, however, millions of unsuitable cookies may have been produced if the lab finds the sample to be bad. Incorporating the probe into the production line enables real-time quality control, saving the company time and money.
Spinning out: Marquardt said he knew the probe could help many industries in a production environment. So he created MarqMetrix in 2012, bringing in his co-founders Scott Van Vuren and Jack Donohue to help with the business side. The company licensed the probe technology from the university.
Quote: “I always wanted to do something bigger and better,” Marquardt said. “I still enjoy my time at the UW, but I always wanted to take this to be a commercial company and show that the things we were doing (at the UW) had value.”
The numbers: The three founders together own 100 percent of the company, which they say is profitable. They are now actively seeking outside investment to accelerate product development. They have nine other employees.
Consumerization: The goal is to get the Raman touch technology to the size of something that will fit on a smartphone. That way anyone could use it — to check the fatty acid in a salmon fillet or to see if a diamond is in fact a diamond.
— Coral Garnick