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The Accidental Start-up: From Research Team to Start-up Founders


Anna Mowat '18
Anna Mowat '18

My team and I did not so much decide to create a start-up, as we accidentally stumbled into the concept of one. Having started purely as a scientific research project run out of Hamilton’s physics department, we were all much more familiar with thermodynamics than with what a marketing plan is; we still are.

Over the course of a year we had developed a model that accurately measured the heat loss of a home given only the information the average homeowner would know and have access to. In plain English: you’re most probably using at least 30% more energy heating your home than you need to, and we can figure out how you can reduce your heating bills.

We believe that our technology should be available to anyone who is interested on saving on their bills. So when we saw the poster advertising Hamilton’s 2017 Pitch Competition we thought, “What the heck, lets enter. It’s not like we are going to win.” Fortunately, we were wrong.

The pitch competition and Meacham Woodfield gave us the support and validation to make the leap from research team to start up founders. A week after the competition our team sat down around a table in the ground floor of the science center and began the creation of Hestia Technologies.

Ahtesham Khan 17’ is our Chief Technology Officer and has built most of our mobile application. Leo Kell 17’ is the Chief Data Officer. Leo builds, codes and maintains our data servers. Brady Bruno 17’ works as our Chief Engineering Officer and designs and codes our software so that we communicate effectively and accessibly with our customers through our user interface. Professor Seth Major is our Chief Scientific Officer; in charge of keeping up with the science and running further studies. And I am our CEO.

We are a start-up team that has worked together for the past year and a half. For the first year, we all worked part time on the start-up. My other four teammates have full time jobs and I had two theses to complete. For the past two months I have been working full time on Hestia and have the next year to do so.

What we do is not glamorous. Over the last two years we have boot strapped our company on $4000 dollars, each contributing hundreds of hours of sweat equity. Until our software is released on the apple app store in about two months or so, we do not know whether anything will pay off.

ALUMNI CAREER ADVICE

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We do this because we are a team. We believe in the value of our technology. We want to have a positive impact on our world.

So if you are dappling with the idea, the possibility, of creating a start-up, here is my advice: find a good team. No one’s success comes purely from within themselves.

Learn from others, ask for help, help your teammates, admit when someone has a better idea, speak your mind, and, most importantly, always share a good laugh.


Anna Mowat 18’ is from Edinburgh, Scotland, and grew up in Hong Kong. She graduated from Hamilton College with a double major in Physics and Environmental Systems. In 2017, she and her team won first place in Hamilton’s Pitch Competition with her team’s start-up, Hestia Technologies, a software-based company that helps homeowners reduce their heating bills through physics based modelling and informational feedback tailored to the customer.

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