An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Alex Reed, the co-founder and CEO of Fluence Analytics, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Fluence Analytics – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
Our CTO, Mike Drenski, our chairman, Dr. Bill Bottoms, our CSO, Prof. Wayne Reed, and I started the company as a spin-out from Tulane University research, which resulted in a number of patents. We exclusively licensed this intellectual property and set out to develop products based on the ideas discovered at Tulane. We partnered with large chemical and pharmaceutical companies that we had worked with on the research side at Tulane. We operated very lean, utilizing customer funding, government grants, and a little seed funding for more than four years before raising our first round of institutional venture funding, which was led by Energy Innovation Capital in April 2017. We have subsequently raised capital from strategic investors like Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings and JSR Corporation corporate venture groups, both out of Japan, and have been actively scaling the company since then.
The problem we are solving is that there is currently very little real-time data on material properties gathered during polymer manufacturing. Our technologies provide this data to manufacturers and researchers so they can optimize their processes by enhancing product yields and quality, while reducing costs.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
Our biggest hurdle has been developing complex hardware and software products that require interdisciplinary skill sets and longer development cycles. Securing sufficient capital to grow quickly has also been a challenge. Finally, there is much risk aversion in larger established industries, like chemicals, for adopting new technologies quickly. It requires a lot of validation and proof points.
What does the future hold for Fluence Analytics?
We continue to enhance our product offering by making investments in adding new sensors and building out more advanced software capabilities for analytics and process control. We have partnered with financial investors and strategic investors from all over the world and plan to continue to deploy our products in the U.S. and internationally.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in New Orleans?
It is a very small, tight knit, and supportive community of entrepreneurs. We’ve seen some specialization in certain skill sets and need to continue pushing to grow others. There is a healthy level of early stage capital relative to the number of deals.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Have a passion for what you’re doing because it is going to be very hard. Find mentors that have built successful companies and have triumphed through failures. Listen and learn from their experience as much as you can, if you’re a first-time entrepreneur. Learn from your mistakes because you are going to make a lot of them. Define roles well and try to fill them with the best people you can find that complement your skills and buy into your vision. Get really good at telling the story and communicating your vision to different audiences (customers, employees, investors, partners). Finally, learn to listen but filter advice since you will have the best view of the business at all times.