What if I told you, your college path didn’t have to be a linear progression? What if I told you, you have the ability to go out and create something on your own? What if I told you, the conventional after graduation plan doesn’t have to apply to you?
“Accelerate changed my mindset for the future. When I came into college, I thought I would go through my classes, graduate and go into business for someone else. I never knew I could start something for myself.”
Ron Chau, BEET ‘17, is one of many students who is exposed to real world possibilities through Accelerate. Soon, he will graduate from Wentworth and embark on a new journey in augmented reality in Portland, Oregon. But this wasn’t always the plan for Chau. In fact, he never saw it coming. To understand how he got here, you have to start at the very beginning of his Wentworth career.
“It sounds bad, but I applied as a joke, just to see if I got in. The plan was to go to nursing school but after I got into Wentworth, I had a decision to make, I was given a real choice.”
His decision was to enroll as an Electrical Engineering Technology major and start on a new path at WIT. During his freshman year he was paired up with a mentor who did something Chau wasn’t exactly prepared for.
“He signed me up for Accelerate and said ‘okay, let’s go to the space.’”
Without having much time to contemplate whether or not he wanted to be involved, Chau found himself at Accelerate and started feeling an itch that wouldn’t soon go away.
“The idea of really starting something for myself was sparked at Accelerate. It was an itch I had to scratch to see if it was really something I wanted to do. I never knew about the possibility of that before.”
At Accelerate, Modular Branch System was formed and worked on a project centered around IV tubing. Chau, having been a nursing assistant at Boston Children’s Hospital for several years, saw a problem that needed to be addressed. Working the late night shifts, he often found himself silencing IV alarms when the tubes were accidentally disconnected.
“As a patient, you’d be sleeping, then your IV alarm would go off, I would come in and silence it and then in an hour, it would go off again. It just wasn’t an ideal situation.”
The team pitched at the 2014 Fall pitch event at Accelerate and received $2,000 in funding. The majority of their product could be made with 3-D printing so they were able to put most of their dollars towards other facets of the business.
One of those areas was marketing collateral and design. Chau had been following a company, PRINTandGRAIN, on design blogs and knew if he had the opportunity, he wanted to work with them.
“It was perfect timing. They were always booked up with orders but as soon as we got our funding, they had an opening and we were able to connect with them and get the logo and initial branding we needed.”
Unfortunately, by the Fall of 2015, Modular Branch System had stopped innovating together. With team members graduating, it became clear that not everyone was on the same page in terms of commitment. In the Spring of 2016, Chau started feeling regret that PRINTandGRAIN’s work was not being utilized. So, he decided to reach out to the owner, and see what kind of redesign could be done.
“I was doing a lot of software based engineering, heading in the direction of open source and wanted to have my own logo based off of the design for Modular Branch. I asked Mike if he could adjust the logo we had created for Modular Branch and he asked if we could talk on the phone for 30 minutes to go over exactly what I was looking for. 30 minutes turned into 3 hours.”
Before he knew it, Chau was on a flight out to Portland, Oregon. He met the team and got a better sense of what exactly this potential partnership would look like. When he returned home, before he made a decision, he talked to the one person who he knew would give it to him straight.
“I asked my best friend what he thought. I’ve come to him before with situations like this and he always plays the devil’s advocate. But this time it was different. He smiled and was excited and didn’t have anything negative to say. That’s the first time he has ever done that in our friendship so I knew I had to take the chance.”
“This whole path wouldn’t have existed if it wasn’t for Accelerate,” Chau says. “I did my internship at Amazon and I probably would’ve ended up there or moved to San Francisco to work for a prominent startup. Accelerate started and suddenly this whole new path opened up and I knew if I went out and got a really comfortable job, I would probably end up regretting it forever.”
Things are really interesting for Chau now as he nears his graduation date. While he is still enrolled at Wentworth, he is finishing his senior year on independent study and moving across the country to start up in the world of augmented reality at the end of this month. The goal of the startup is to become a player in the space and provide open source software so that everyone can have access to it.
“This is something I never really would have considered for myself. It’s super exciting that this is an opportunity and that it’s real.”