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ThingWorx: "Facebook for devices"
You know how Facebook works: friends, family, “friends” all posting a steady stream of What’s Going On.
Well, ThingWorx is like that - but with machines instead of people.
“We joke: the Facebook for devices,” says ThingWorx marketing director Chris Kuntz. “These are cars, these are buildings, these are appliances. They’re medical devices, they’re windmills, they’re bridges.
“There’s a lot of value in businesses securely connecting to and communicating with smart things.”
That’s where ThingWorx comes in.
Kuntz flips open his laptop and launches the ThingWorx dashboard.
There’s a map with dots scattered across the Northeast. It’s flanked by columns of short updates. Kuntz tells me I’m looking at the vending machine fleet of a theoretical company, Acme Beverage Co.
“This particular vending machine [is] blogging - it has the ability to use the Internet in the same way that people do,” Kuntz says.
That means it can produce its own Twitter-like feed of fault conditions, Kuntz says. “You know, ‘Hey, I’m jammed.’ Or, ‘The last customer that came up didn’t get any product out.’ ”
Such technology is nice when your company’s vending machine won’t spit out a Snickers bar; it’s invaluable when a pipeline in the middle of nowhere is telling you something might be wrong.
Kuntz says ThingWorx is going after manufacturing, trucking, energy, medical and mining firms looking to get on board with the impending “Age of Big Data.”
The goal is customizable, human-friendly information that business executives can act on - quickly and easily.
Startup success story
Kuntz wasn’t always with ThingWorx. Before June of 2011, he and two colleagues were known as Palantiri Systems.
Rochester-based Palantiri was founded in 2007 by John Canosa, an early leader in machine-to-machine communications.
But Palantiri’s startup success story - successfully navigating a happy acquisition - is the exception to the local rule.
Kuntz says Rochester’s risk-averse investment community is a major obstacle toward establishing a vibrant startup scene.
“What we heard all the time was, ‘That’s great, come back to us when you have 10 or 20 customers and you’re making a million dollars,’ ” recalls Kuntz. “Well, when we’re doing that, we’re not going to need funding. If we’ve done that we’ve successfully gotten past the hurdle.”
Kuntz says Palantiri Systems was essentially self-funded. It did have the benefit of being located in RIT’s tech incubator, which helped the company secure key business advice.
Still, Kuntz hopes other local startups have an easier path than Palantiri did.
“I see a lot of conversations starting to happen around web and technology startups,” Kuntz says of Rochester techies. “Hopefully they can get the resources they need - whether it’s angel funding or whether it’s just collaborating.”
The Palantiri arm of ThingWorx, which is based in the Philadelphia area, is still located in Rochester.
Kuntz says he’s excited to build ThingWorx, which was venture funded to the tune of $5 million last year.
But he also admits he might want out of ThingWorx - if it one day becomes a giant in the Internet of Things. Starting new things has its appeal.
“The cool thing about a startup is everyone knows why you’re doing something ... And that’s just fuel,” says Kuntz. “It’s 24/7 thinking about it, it’s exciting, it’s dynamic - I wouldn’t have it any other way.”