15 Mar 2021

Get to Know Human Dynamics, a Business Track New Venture Competition Team


With the New Venture Competition (NVC) finale right around the corner (tune in March 30 at 6:00 pm), we wanted to learn more about team Human Dynamics, a business track participant. Their patent-pending drone robotics solution for food plants aims to offer cost savings and improve the efficacy of daily cleaning and sanitation processes.

Team members: Michael Mancinelli (MS/MBA 2021), Kaz Yoshimaru (MBA 2021), Tom Okamoto (MIT), Julia Chen (MIT), and Takahiro Nozaki

What inspired you to start your company?

We were frustrated with stagnation in worker safety improvements in the US. Our team is equipped with experience in robotics and controls and we wanted to make workplaces safer through applied robotics. There is still a lot of room for improvement, both in terms of safety and operational efficiency in large incumbent industries such as construction, real estate, utilities, and manufacturing.

How has the Rock Center helped with your entrepreneurial journey? Are there any other HBS resources you have utilized?

The Rock Center, through the Rock Accelerator (RA), provided us with capital to prototype our hardware-based solution and file patents. Perhaps more importantly, they have connected us to a nearly endless stream of amazing Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR) and Venture Capital Partners (VCP)—we try to meet with as many of these amazing people as possible. They keep us grounded and focused, while helping us balance next steps with our big vision. The RA program also provided us with relevant, tailored guidance in the form of our mentor and CEO of Xtalic Corporation, Tom Clay (MBA 1997), and an opportunity to get to know two other fellow ventures closely. In addition to the Rock Center, Human Dynamics has benefited from an independent project with Professor Jim Matheson, HBS’s expert on tough technology ventures and teacher of the curated capstone courses in the MS/MBA program.

How have you been preparing for the competition?

We have been conducting pitch practice with EiRs and VCPs, while keeping a list of their questions. Although we are in the very early stages and have many unanswered questions, we want to ensure that our pitch deck clearly conveys what we do know. The best way we’ve found to do this is by practicing with real people. We are also continuing to develop the business through the identification of engineering requirements, formalizing our pilot projects, and laying out a fundraising plan.

What part of the NVC journey has been the most helpful for your team?

NVC has been a forcing mechanism for our team, committing us to a beachhead market for our technology. Since last summer we’ve conducted over 100 customer interviews in a wide variety of heavy industries, each with their own specific needs and different pros and cons. NVC gave us a deadline and the encouragement to make decisions. We are focusing on food manufacturing sanitation and are really excited about the impact we can have.

How did you go about creating your competition pitch? Do you have any advice for someone looking to create their own pitch?

We created our NVC pitch after a two-week team immersion in early January. For the first week we focused on validating our concept with customers by following a process detailed in Sprint, by Jake Knapp. In the second week, we took those learnings to mature our solution, developed 12-month and five-year financial models, and scoped market analysis. We presented this information to a handful of VCs to get their reactions and suggestions, and used that information to craft the pitch we submitted for NVC. It is hard to re-create that two-week experience, but the main piece of advice is to be willing to get feedback early and then iterate on your pitch.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

The entrepreneurial journey is tough. You will constantly be pulled and pushed in different directions. You will be told to focus on next steps and then in the same day you will hear you have to prioritize your long-term vision. Advice is plentiful and conflicting, so you’ll need to synthesize it and make your own decisions. This is made easier with a core team that you trust, who all share the same level of commitment. As first-time entrepreneurs, we’ve found that the journey is easier together and we can fill in each other’s blind spots. Lastly, get to know your co-founders very well. It pays dividends to ask the tough questions upfront and ensure incentives are aligned.

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