Instrumental was launched in 2015 by two former Apple mechanical engineers. After working on products like the iPod and Apple Watch for the past six years, they were well versed in the production quality control process: You got on a plane to Asia and had a look for yourself.
CEO and co-founder Anna-Katrina Shedletsky said that after logging thousands of air miles in 2015, she and co-founder Samuel Weiss left Apple with the idea of replacing on-site inspections with a software solution, meaning engineers could perform quality control. without leaving their offices.
“We are building software that allows our customers to collect data, do smart things with the data to make changes to their [manufacturing] lines, and the reason customers buy it is because it accelerates their ability to bring great products to market, and improves their product margins by reducing waste,” she said.
The solution they developed includes several key elements. First, they simply collect the data that manufacturers collect as part of their normal testing process. Using a phone as an example, Shedletsky said this could involve testing the camera or antenna to make sure they’re working properly.
While that data is valuable, it doesn’t tell the full story without seeing what caused a potential problem. So they turn their gaze to the assembly line in the form of a high-resolution camera to capture key aspects of the product development process in search of anomalies, which usually signal a problem.
She said this data is really so valuable to engineers when they combine the two data sets and apply a machine learning model to uncover the biggest problems, displaying the test results and the photos together in one dashboard so they can solve problems. able to find and solve them faster. †
“So they can use Instrumental to find out that they have problems, and then they can use Instrumental to automatically figure out what’s causing it,” she said. As customers identify issues that matter to them, it helps train the company’s machine models, which should then become better at finding the most critical issues over time.
It is important to note that the customers are not the production facilities, but the brands they hire. So far, the approach has attracted companies such as Honeywell, Motorola Mobility and Bose. In total, they are involved with 30 clients working on 50 programs in 10 countries. Furthermore, Shedletsky reports that it is a tacky product, meaning customers do not tend to leave once they start using it, with a net revenue retention of 150% in 2021.
The company has 75 employees and plans to add more with the new cash injection to fuel further growth. She said the startup is taking a hands-on approach to building a diverse workforce.
“We’re doing a number of things to make sure we have a fair hiring process that ensures people join the team who are mission-driven and culturally additive,” she said. “We really structure our interviews around four competencies we’re looking for, rather than brainteaser questions.”
They also give candidates a chance to provide a work sample to prove they can do the job regardless of background or school, and they work hard to attract diverse candidates at the top of the funnel. She said they’ve also built a diverse leadership team, which can help attract more diverse candidates, something she said she definitely noticed while working as an engineer.
The new Series C investment was led by BAM Elevate with help from existing investors Canaan, Root Ventures and Eclipse Ventures. The company reports that it has now raised more than $80 million.