Student startup keeps cars ‘FIXD’
Company surpassed Kickstarter goal, device to be on market in coming months
The check engine light suddenly flashes and immediately the driver is overcome with worry. How serious is the problem? Is it OK to drive? How much is this going to cost to get fixed?
These questions are now easily answered thanks to FIXD, a device developed by a team of students from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
FIXD gets plugged into a car’s diagnostics port, just underneath the steering wheel. The device connects a car to a person’s smartphone via Bluetooth. It explains the cause for the check engine light, diagnoses the seriousness of the problem and provides repair estimates. The sensor also delivers updates on when the car needs repairs and regular maintenance.
“We are helping drivers understand more about their cars,” said John Gattuso, the company’s CEO and a senior in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering.
The startup surpassed its $30,000 goal on Kickstarter and is seeking seed round investors.
An Android version of the app is scheduled to be on the market by November and the iPhone version is expected by March, said Rachel Ford, a senior in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering who handles the company’s business development and investor relations.
“What we’re doing now is extremely different from our technical engineering classes,” Ford said. “We would not have been able to do any of this without the startup classes and programs Georgia Tech offered us.”
Ford, Gattuso and Kevin Miron, a recent Tech graduate, began working on the sensor last spring through a new course called Startup Lab. The class teaches students to channel their ideas into startups and covers everything from customer discovery to creating sustainable businesses.
FIXD wasn’t the group’s original idea. They first created a device for women to make self-breast exams easier to complete on a regular schedule. But after interviewing about 80 women, they realized this wasn’t a feasible idea for a startup. Instead they switched to a diagnostic tool for cars.
The students turned down internships with other companies this summer to continue working on FIXD. A fourth student – Rikin Marfatia, a senior in the School of Computer Science – joined the team.
The team was one of eight that completed Startup Summer, a new 12-week Georgia Tech internship for students who want to launch startups based on their own inventions and prototypes. Each team was paired with a mentor, assigned workspace and given $15,000 to further develop their ideas.
The summer internship and spring course are part of an Institute-wide initiative to foster and support entrepreneurship among undergraduate students, said Raghupathy Sivakumar, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering who is involved in the initiatives.
Students retain all equity in the startups.
“Tons of other Georgia Tech students have ideas for startups,” Gattuso said. “They just need to be pushed off the ledge to try and do it.”