First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Andrew O. Pratt: The health and safety of our colleagues and family are of the utmost importance. Prior to the pandemic, our team was regularly meeting in person, but as soon as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made recommendations for us to practice social distancing, we immediately stopped meeting. Unfortunately, one of our co-founders and his entire family tested positive for COVID-19 soon after we started working remotely. Luckily, he and his family are making a full recovery. As CEO, I decided to put the company on hold, since our co-founder fell ill and some potential clients went completely quiet. These times have been particularly hard on my family and I personally, as my fiancé’ and I had just got engaged and announced news of our first child in February. Having a baby on the way, due October 1st 2020, has created additional concerns for us as a family, but we are quarantined together and staying healthy.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded BrainChild
Andrew O. Pratt: BrainChild Innovation came to me in a vision just after a traumatic head injury. I envisioned a world where emerging technologies such as AI/VR/AR would significantly change the way we communicate and do business together. What started as a Virtual Office Concept, soon changed into an advanced Computer Vision/AI enterprise solution. Our initial concept required advanced technologies, a skilled workforce, and capital we did not have access to. What started as a grand vision, soon turned into a simple solution using existing image data and custom-tailored machine learning models to solve critical infrastructure problems rapidly. My passion has always been clean energy, engineering, and emerging technology, so it was an easy transition.
How does BrainChild innovate?
Andrew O. Pratt: I live in one of the most technologically innovative areas in the world, so it was imperative for me to attend professional networking events and develop a team. I quickly found an engineer from NVIDIA experienced with GPU’s and a Robotics Engineer PhD with a background in Path Planning and Object Detection. Our small team of three in 2016 innovated our first proof of concept, which was a simple application to automatically detect minor to major defects on the surface of wind turbine blades.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Andrew O. Pratt: Honestly, the pandemic stopped our business in its tracks. Prior to the pandemic, we were used to meeting in person, working on hardware and software to develop algorithms, and were regularly meeting with a prominent critical infrastructure inspection company in the area. I haven’t heard back from the inspection company since the pandemic started and our team is unable to meet together physically. As a startup, working remotely dramatically dropped our productivity and overall team morale.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Andrew O. Pratt: The choice to put Health and Safety first wasn’t difficult, but going remote has made working together as a team and being productive extremely difficult. I’ve learned that as a business owner, you have to be flexible and prepare for times when you can’t be in person together. I believe that even after the pandemic, businesses will start to focus on encouraging team building in a remote working environment. Ironically, our initial concept was the idea of creating an immersive digital office workspace to meet with colleagues and clients virtually. Looking back, it would have been a nice tool to present to the world today!
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and BrainChild in the future?
Andrew O. Pratt: Managing stress and anxiety has been difficult during these times since businesses and amenities are closed, and we stay mostly indoors. It’s given me time to study and learn new things and focus on myself and my family. The future is uncertain for the company, but I’m confident in our vision and hopeful that we will persevere. “Developing the Future” is our motto, and I don’t believe BrainChild Innovation is done yet!
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Andrew O. Pratt: We have a lot of competition these days, mostly from large corporations with massive resources, and also some startups are moving in this direction as well. For example, most civilian unmanned systems were not using object detection when we started, and now it seems like AI is their primary focus. Staying relevant in this industry will require us to partner with an unmanned systems manufacturer or critical infrastructure inspection company to co-develop this amazing technology.
Your final thoughts?
Andrew O. Pratt: We look forward to the future and what it holds for our company. Although times feel uncertain, we are confident in our mission and will continue to keep pushing our team and technology in the direction we believe it needs to go. If you are interested in what we’re working on and want to collaborate, please feel free to reach out to me directly at [email protected].
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