The Molecule Decoder that Fits in Your Pocket

Castor Ventures sat down with Dror Sharon CEO of Consumer Physics, a Castor portfolio company. Consumer Physics is the developer of SCiO, the world’s first pocket-sized connected micro-spectrometer.

Dror Sharon explains how his education at MIT prepared his entrepreneurial mindset and helped him identify an opportunity for an innovative solution to learn about the makeup of material.

Dror Sharon and his company Consumer Physics are on a mission to empower businesses and consumers with material sensing capabilities easily, quickly, and affordably. The solution: SCiO, the world’s smallest, most affordable near infrared (NIR) spectrometer. Applications include agriculture, animal feed, food and beverage, manufacturing, pharma, and more.

The SCiO sensor pairs with SCiO smartphone apps and connects to a cloud-based database of material fingerprints. Consumer Physics offers businesses and developers a platform that enables them to design their own molecular sensing models and mobile applications for personal and commercial use.

What led you to be an entrepreneur?

Having grown up on a farm, I always had an entrepreneurial bent. My passion for technology and solving technical problems, combined with my childhood experiences, brought me to apply to MIT Sloan. The exposure on and off-campus at MIT to tech entrepreneurship, role models, and mental models and frameworks naturally helped me transition to starting a technology company.

What was the inspiration for Consumer Physics?

I was sure that a product like SCiO existed already. But when I searched for it online and could not find it, it gave me the idea. The genesis was my time at MIT, where my search for good, affordable food led me to Russo’s natural grocer in Watertown. Making the trip from Cambridge almost every week made me realize that I was probably not the only one who is curious about the stuff that we eat. From there, we started expanding the vision.

What was the biggest challenge at Consumer Physics?

Overcoming the initial technology barriers and showing people that what we were saying is possible was initially the greatest challenge. It is hard for people, other than the most forward thinking, to imagine the world as it will be with a totally new device / product. We were very fortunate to be backed by great early stage investors.

How is Consumer Physics doing?

We are now at the stage where we’ve de-risked the technology and commercializing the platform is the key. The first business we are developing is on the enterprise side, monetizing SCiO as an ultra-portable lab tool. The initial vertical is Food & Ag, since this is where NIR (Near Infrared sensors) has been used for many years; more specifically Animal Nutrition, which is a $500B industry. We launched with Cargill earlier this summer and expect to continue signing up customers as we scale the business.

On the consumer side, we are focusing on supporting our partnership with Analog Devices, who is ramping up a next-generation sensor that is smaller and more affordable.

We announced the first hardware OEM partners earlier in 2017, and we expect to see the initial products out in 2018.

Castor Ventures is a network of MIT alumni investing in MIT-connected businesses. If you would like to learn more about investing alongside MIT alumni, click here.

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