We are always asked the question of the story of what on earth got into our minds to start Modjoul and what was the story behind it. The funny thing is that it didn’t take much thought, just a good idea we were all in. Eric Martinez and I worked together at AIG. He in fact was my sponsor as part of the Women’s Executive Leadership Initiative. When we left AIG, we were in touch on a potential sensor business to solve for employee workplace injuries. I remember Eric sent me a draft business plan and asked me to take an edit on it, and it made me realize how possible creating a sensor solution for workplace safety could be. I sent back my turn on the business plan and strongly suggested why don’t we get started. Eric had been in contact with top engineers who helped us formulate the original thesis of solving for employee injury.
But first things first, we needed to find an office, hire employees, and we needed to develop a prototype. We picked an office above the local pizza parlor. 105 Sloan Street, photographed here.
Our original office – 105 Sloan Street, Clemson, SC
Next, we needed to hire team members and assemble the office. That happened fairly quickly and we had employee 1 and 2. Itmenon Towfeeq and Shridhar Kalkarni. While they came to Modjoul as new engineers, they learned quickly that opening a business means cleaning the new office, setting up furniture, and of course trying to get started on the business concept – a wearable device that would detect an employee’s motion, location and environment. This is Itmenon and Shridhar two years later, after having already created our first generation product, the SmartBelt, that was in market. They also learned how to sell at trade shows.
Tables and chairs were assembled while initial designs were being developed. The early wearable resembled a Power Ranger’s belt, bulky with many sensors, but it worked. We were seeing sensor values and starting to detect motion.
While product development was core to our success, so was reaching out to our network, talking about what we were doing, understanding what the market was needing in this space, and refining our message after each discussion. Those relationships were the most important part of the journey because they referred us to their friends and colleagues.
We ordered a count-down timer for when our wearable would be in production, a cow bell to celebrate every sale, and t-shirts to share with clients. We started to realize that we had taken a product to market in a period of 1.5 years. That product was not without its issues. Oh, there were many. We definitely had embarrassing moments and even with them, we had clients who stayed with us and believed in our vision. That actually was quite humbling and is something we will never forget. That support made us know we were on the right track.
We welcomed new clients who eventually became our friends. Those clients helped us think more widely about our platform, our product features and use cases, and the future of where our product might need to go.
Starting Modjoul four years ago was probably one of the single most important career decisions I have ever made, I would assume that Eric would say the same. We bet our chips on ourselves and on our fantastic team, and it was the best bet we could have ever made.