CEO of Aerospec Technologies, Lance Li, is coming back to MassChallenge as a 2020 Boston Alumni in Residence (AiR). During his time in the 2019 cohort and after, he and his team have learned a lot and want to give back to the community by sharing their lessons. In this Q&A, Lance shares his experience with MassChallenge Boston and advice for current founders.
Elevator Pitch: Aerospec is a technology startup that develops AI driven software to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy. Built around a team of industry experts and supported by Aerospec’s proprietary AI algorithms, our cloud-based platform synthesizes aerial data acquired by drones and asset specific information and provide valuable, geo-referenced analytics and reports. Based on client’s field testimony, our solution reduced their operational costs by up to 50% and increase efficiency by up to 90%.
Q: What are some early stories you encountered that helped you understand the pain point you’d like to solve?
A: We worked hand-in-hand with field technicians in solar farms across the U.S. to understand their pain point in identifying single points of failure amongst millions of panels, all manually. It’s unfathomable how much manpower is required to inspect a solar park that expands thousands of hectares under blazing sun, not to mention electrical and fire hazards while in the field. A fast, reliable and cost-effective solution was desperately needed by the industry.
Q: How has MassChallenge impacted the future of your company?
A: MassChallenge has elevated Aerospec’s corporate image to a new level, especially in the New England region. In addition, we were able to be an active part of MassChallenge Boston’s community, even after our cohort, by becoming a part of the AiR 2020.
Q: What were your most valuable learnings from going through a MassChallenge accelerator program?
A: Network is a critical component of survival and eventual success. MassChallenge, with its global network of mentors, investors, and peers across all industry verticals, offers a one-of-a-kind platform for startups like us to reach out, connect, validate our product, seek advice, and make sales pitches to potential investors. It is very difficult to replicate such a program anywhere else in the country.
Q: What advice would you offer a founder that has been accepted into the program?
A: I'd say definitely attend all the relevant sessions/meetings as much as you can, ask questions, seek mentor advice since MassChallenge has a great network of mentors. A practice tip, MassChallenge has partnership deals with a lot of service providers, e.g. AWS, definitely leverage those, you can save tens of thousands. Other than that, focus on growing your company/business, that will determine your ultimate success.
Q: Why are you returning to MassChallenge as an AiR?
A: Aerospec benefited tremendously from MassChallenge as a cohort member, and we feel obligated to give back to the community while we can since we are located in Boston. On a more practical level, having a physical presence in MassChallenge continue to give us the opportunity to conduct business, raise exposure level, and participate in MassChallenge marketing events which can all benefit Aerospec as a whole.
Q: What value do you see the AiR role bringing to this year’s cohort founders?
A: I’d say the most obvious one is practical advice from those of us who just went through the same process last year. We benefited from our predecessors but still made mistakes along the way. By sharing our experience with this year’s cohort founders, they may find value in some of the things we have done, and at least save time in making decisions, locating resources, and navigating startup paths.