After operating in stealth mode for about two years, First Resonance, a company founded by former SpaceX engineers, is finally showing the world their software toolkit designed to let manufacturers make things using the processes employed by their former boss.
It is a suite of software products that can allow more versatile production processes and one that can manage the pressures of remote monitoring brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic for companies producing hardware in the age of social distancing.
“Our first few customers really grew using [the software] and facilitating that at home factory workflow,” said First Resonance co-founder Karan Talati.
The software that First Resonance has developed allows manufacturers to coordinate their workflow processes. “This is really driven off of us being in that driver’s seat at SpaceX and working with our counterparts in manufacturing and refurb,” Talati said. “Underlying it all is a data platform that allows these companies to make use of insights to improve their designs as well as their manufacturing processes.”
On the process side, that means reducing waste, and making the manufacturing of goods more efficient. But the software — and the information it’s collecting from manufacturing — can be used to inform better design decisions and the upstream product development process, Talati said.
Already the company’s tech is being used by a crew of cutting edge manufacturers including Phase Four, Joby Aviation and Iron Ox.
Admittedly, the program fits best for businesses who are implementing new development processes and capabilities and do not have much legacy infrastructure to begin with. Talati said that part of the reason why Tesla and SpaceX were able to achieve the cost savings they have is through the redesign of systems to work more flexibly and respond to input coming from the product line. “That’s how we were able to achieve the order of magnitude cost reduction that is the Falcon 9… applying data upstream and feeding that data back and embracing that chaos.”
Many manufacturers rely on processes that are overly rigid and need to be untangled, Talati said. Big aerospace, military, and car manufacturers are now acquiring or collaborating with new manufacturing startups to take advantage of the experience and versatility provided by these firms. Talati pointed to Boeing’s purchase of the Millennium Space System and the contract that Hermeus earned to build a hypersonic Air Force 1 aircraft. Talati said, “We really evolve through enabling that new culture of agile manufacturing.”
The business currently has six clients (most of whom signed in June and July) and charges per seat as a service model in conventional apps.
Local Los Angeles investors, including Fika Ventures, Wavemaker, Stage Venture Partners and Village Global, have raised under $2 million from First Resonance.
According to research from the analytics firm Markets and Markets provided by the company, the Los Angeles-based company has extracted talent from SpaceX, NASA, Lexus, and other aerospace and automotive manufacturers and is addressing an evolving industrial software market that could hit $14.9 billion.
Much of that demand is being driven by the diaspora of SpaceX talent into the broader aerospace and defense and manufacturing ecosystem, said Talati. That’s also a great selling point for the company when it makes its pitch, he said.
“That makes it quite easy for us… there’s a very easy way for us to say, ‘That thing we were working on together… Well… We’re doing it at the kind of unit economics where you don’t need a billionaire CEO to finance it.’”
The lessons from SpaceX around empowering individuals and giving them connectivity into the system, enables the company to continue to innovate on its iterative products, Talati said. And First Resonance is providing a toolkit other companies can use to bring that mindset into their own manufacturing.
“We invested in First Resonance because the founders Karan and Neal are uniquely qualified to build this company thanks to their experience at SpaceX and Uptake Technologies,” said Mikal Khoso, Associate, Wavemaker Partners, in a statement. “The digitization of manufacturing is a long-overdue revolution in an industry full of outdated technology and methods. First Resonance is building the factory operating system for modern manufacturing, helping hardware companies build 21st-century products in a 21st-century fashion.”
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