SAN JOSE, Calif. — At 33, Jose Bohorquez made the leap from design engineer to chief executive thanks to some old-school and new-school networking. His grad school adviser at MIT introduced him to a professor who became a key partner in a startup that is exceeding expectations on the Indiegogo crowdfunding website.
The two formed Skulpt, a company building medical and fitness devices that look like smartphones. The key ingredient is electrical impedance myography (EIM), a novel technique developed by Seward Rutkove, a professor of neurology at MIT, for measuring muscle and fat tissue with relatively high accuracy.
Bohorquez was pursuing his doctorate in electrical engineering at MIT, where his adviser was working with Rutkove on prototype devices using the technology co-developed with researchers at Harvard and Northeastern University. After an introduction, the three started having weekly meetings.
"I wasn't directly involved, but I said they should commercialize the first handheld prototypes developed by a group of students," Bohorquez told us. He had worked as a design engineer in a wireless chip startup before going back to grad school.
Jose Bohorquez's Aim is no iPhone. It's a consumer device for measuring muscle and fat tissue.
In December 2009, he defended his PhD thesis. By April, the trio had snagged the first of several grants ultimately totalling $3 million from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and a handful of pharma companies interested in the technology. They gathered a dozen people and started work, initially on a medical-grade device for physicians.
The team was able to snag an exclusive license to two key patents the three universities held on the EIM technology. They are filing more than a dozen of their own on how they implement it in their so-called Aim device.
"Earlier this year, I realized it was time to do a consumer version, something we always thought about," Bohorquez said. "The fitness space has a lot of activity and heart trackers, where the underlying technology is just a little different, but what we had was unique."
That's when social networking came into the picture.