View as webpage, click here.
Business Record innovationIOWA Weekly | February 14, 2019
MākuSafe closes on $2.85M, prepares to launch devices in 2019
By Kate Hayden | Staff Writer
MākuSafe prototypes lined up from original (far left) to the most recent detachable device and armband (far right). The device will be tweaked just slightly before commercial launch, enlarging the small sensors and adjusting overall size. Photo by Kate Hayden
Three years after founding, MākuSafe, a technology wearables company focused on workplace safety, closed on a $2.85 million seed round in December.

That launches what its staff promises to be a busy year for the wearable safety device company: Five pilot testing programs have finished or are underway, with 120 industrial workers currently trying out the armband system, and MākuSafe has arranged with partners to begin another pilot program in the second quarter of 2019. By the third quarter, MākuSafe will launch its safety devices commercially; already, the company says it has more than $4 million in contracted sales.

"We’ve been testing in the field with earlier generation hardware for a couple of years now and collected millions of data points," said Tom West, Strategic Relations Manager for MākuSafe. "This will be an opportunity for us to field-test our go-to-market product."

"We have just a small number of workers wearing our devices, but it gives us an opportunity to really find out how the devices work in the real world, get feedback from potential customers, and then really look for opportunities to help make a safer workplace for those companies," West added.

Safety is the driving mission of MākuSafe, co-founded by CEO Gabriel Glynn and CTO Mark Frederick. The company, which has its offices at Maple Ventures, creates a two-piece wearable hardware armband that gathers environmental data, such as location and motion speed, and auto-records near-miss accident indicators.

When a workplace accident happens in an industrial facility, the typical claim is reported by the National Safety Council to be about $46,000, West said.

"In the United States, in excess of $1.2 billion is paid out in workers’ compensation claims every week," West said.

In the MākuSafe system, each employee is given their own armband and checks out a wearable sensor from a MākuSafe base station when they arrive at work. That sensor collects data associated with the worker’s environment throughout the day -- location, time, trips or falls -- and automatically reports that data to the system cloud throughout the day, before employees check the detached sensor back into the base station at the end of a shift.  

Through the MākuSmart online portal, company managers can then view predictive data gathered by workers’ armband sensors to identify recurring near-misses and any environmental factors causing workplace risks -- whether there are an uptick in workers tripping at a particular location, for example. Those collected data points can assist managers in determining what causes the near-miss accidents, such as a growing crack in the facility floor.

The team is working with its second generation of the hardware device, with five previous prototypes developed over time with assistance from a team of engineers in California.

EMC Insurance, a lead investor in MākuSafe, is partnering in the pilots to see how MākuSafe’s armband sensor could inform or affect policyholders’ workers compensation insurance plans.

"Every day in America, over 20 million workers go to work in manufacturing, logistics facilities, shipping, receiving warehousing ... and commercial agricultural facilities," Glynn said. "We’re focused on those workers. They all share something in common -- they’re located inside a building, they have a physical location. … Those are high-risk jobs that tend to be the most dangerous."

Iowa is also a hotbed of manufacturing and commercial agricultural jobs in the country, Glynn said.

"There’s over 6,000 manufacturing companies in the state of Iowa. There’s obviously a lot of logistics facilities; we’re at the crosshairs of Interstate 35 and 80," Glynn said. "We thought focusing on those folks that we have a lot of access to and knowledge of makes a lot of sense before we look at some of the other verticals. There are still about another 20 million American workers that go to work in oil, gas, forestry, construction and mining, and other areas that are also high-risk."

Many of the smaller companies in these industries don’t have full-time safety managers who can get the insight needed to prevent accidents, Frederick said. For the companies that do, safety managers have struggled to make the near-miss reporting process simple enough that workers take time out of their shift to complete it, while receiving enough detail to understand where, why and how the incident happened.

After surpassing the capital goal of $2 million in MākuSafe’s last round, the staff expanded from three to six, and the company has plans to hire again soon.

"There’s a variety of ways that we can approach scaling to market and … depending on where those relationships end up will really dictate what our scaling looks like," Glynn said. "That old saying -- ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.’ So finding a partner that allows us to look at the longer-term vision of how do we take this to the corners of the earth, where there’s workers everywhere that could use this thing."

Share the love

Forward the FREE innovationIOWA newsletter to your colleagues, and spread the word! Sign up for innovationIOWA here, or learn more about becoming a Business Record Insider here.

See something we missed? Send tips, leads, corrections, etc. to

‘Virtual caucuses’ among new proposal by Iowa Democratic Party
The Iowa Democratic Party is taking public comments after proposing a new caucus plan that would offer virtual caucuses for registered Democrats, starting during the 2020 Iowa caucuses. The proposal, outlined in the 2020 Iowa Delegate Selection Plan, would allow registered Democrats to participate in one of six virtual caucuses "by phone or smart device," according to the party. Virtual caucusgoers would also be able to rank up to five choices for president. The full proposal, which also includes changes to IDP candidate realignment, recounts and the release of caucus night information, is available online.

N-Sense awarded $225,000 grant from National Science Foundation
N-Sense LLC, a cohort member of the Iowa State University Startup Factory, has been awarded a $225,000 National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant to conduct research and development work on a field mobile soil nitrate sensor for precision fertilizer management, Startup Factory announced Wednesday. N-Sense’s system, developed by a team of Iowa State University scientists, is based on mid-infrared sensor technology. The system can be attached to a nitrogen fertilizer applicator and used to modulate side-dress nitrogen fertilizer application rates as the applicator moves through a field. Once a small business is awarded an SBIR Phase I grant, it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II grant of up to $750,000. Small businesses with Phase II grants are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.

Two women to accept annual SBDC Iowa entrepreneurial awards Feb. 26
Two Iowa businesswomen will accept entrepreneurial awards by America’s SBDC Iowa later this month for their leadership as Small Business Development Center clients. Sara Winkleman, founder and owner of S&B Farmstead Distillery, is the 2019 Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur Achievement Award winner, and Staci Ackerson, owner of Shankland Insurance, is the 2019 Neal Smith Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner. Winkleman, of Bancroft, was called a role model in her nomination for women entering industries that are traditionally male-dominated. Ackerson, of Charles City, was nominated for her work to expand Shankland Insurance and rehabilitate the historic Charles City Western Railroad depot building to house her insurance office and provide temporary executive apartments and rental storage units. The two will accept their awards Feb. 26 in a ceremony during the Iowa Capitol’s SBDC Day.

IDx-DR expands AI retinopathy exams for diabetes patients
IDx-DR, an artificial intelligence system that detects diabetic retinopathy, is expanding to new health care settings since the FDA first cleared the AI system to go to market in April 2018, startup IDx of Coralville reports. IDx-DR is now in use in clinics focusing on endocrinology, internal medicine, diabetes education, community health, diagnostics labs and diabetes research groups. In October, the company announced a new agreement with ophthalmic device manufacturer TopCon to scale delivery for the IDx system for market.


These stories originally appeared in the Business Record's e-newsletters and weekly publication.
Sign up for our free e-newsletters to stay up-to-date all week long. Learn about membership here

Girls get tech. They just need others to believe it.

How do we get young girls into tech? New research by the Girl Scout Research Institute shows that girls might already be there -- adults just aren’t very good at listening to them. The results, reported by the New York Times, show that girls are more likely than boys to actively use tech to learn -- and that parents are more likely to give sons more digital freedom than daughters. The full report, "Decoding the Digital Girl," is available online.

IN OTHER NEWS: 15 years later, NASA representatives emotionally announce the ‘death’ of Mars rover Opportunity (WIRED); A new app interprets movies into American Sign Language in real time (FAST COMPANY); A podcast on the life of Mary Winston Jackson, NASA engineer, 'Hidden Figure' and longtime supporter of the Girl Scouts (STUFF YOU MISSED IN HISTORY CLASS).
ciWeek10 speakers navigated space, ice cream shops, the Bering Strait, digital fantasy worlds
By Perry Beeman | Managing Editor

If you are inspired to make the perfect Korean taco, travel in space, swim the Bering Strait, create legendary ice cream or create digital fantasy worlds, you could get more than a few tips from the speakers at the 10th anniversary edition of ciWeek.

The event, this year themed "Small Steps to Giant Leaps," returns to Des Moines Area Community College’s West Campus March 4-8. It’s open to anyone.

We interviewed five of the speakers in advance to look for inspiration that could help you in your own business.

Read more

MORE INSIDER CONTENT: See all Business Record Insider content and learn more about how to receive the weekly publication. Click here

Feb. 15: From Frantic to Fabulous -- W.D.M. Chamber Elevate Event
As a leader, are you barely surviving or totally thriving at work and in life? As you navigate this rapidly changing digital world, do your days feel disjointed, out of control and chaotic? Do you feel overwhelmed with the "shoulds," "gottas" and "must dos," along with too many interruptions to accomplish it all? Business strategist, executive coach, speaker and author Rita Perea will share new tactical success strategies from her latest book to help you.
WHERE: Sheraton Hotel, 7:30-9 a.m.
Read more

March 7: 2019 Ag Conference
Before long, the farmers will be in the fields for this year’s season. As credit departments prepare to assist these farmers, they are also looking for information that helps determine the current landscape as well as expectations through harvest and beyond.
WHERE: FFA Enrichment Center, 12:30-3:30 p.m.
Read more

View our full calendar to see the latest curated business and community events, or suggest an event.

Become an Insider | E-Newsletter Sign-Up | Calendar of Events | Contact Us | Feedback | Privacy Policy

Business Publications Corporation Inc.

515.288.3336  |  |

Contact the publisher:
Contact the editor:
Submit press release:
Advertising info:
Membership info:

Copyright © BPC 2019, All rights reserved.
Reproduction or use without permission of editorial or graphic content in any manner is strictly prohibited.

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign