Search Results for: Byron Porter


Lloyd Yates, MBA ’22, knew in high school that he wanted to be an entrepreneur.

“It stemmed from my father,” a physician who went into private practice and also started opening other businesses, he said. Yates saw his father succeed not only for their family, but also for others.

“If I could create some jobs, I think it would be a very fulfilling feeling for me,” he said.

Yates was one of four Olin students and alumni who participated in a roundtable discussion on October 27, when Poets & Quants announced that, for the second year in a row, Olin claimed the top spot as the best MBA program for entrepreneurship.

John Byrne, Poets & Quants’ editor-in-chief who moderated the discussion, commented, “I think the best part of entrepreneurship is generating meaningful employment for others, frankly.”

Yates founded men’s clothing accessory site Tylmen while he was an undergraduate. Tylmen’s direct-to-consumer line of accessories includes ties, pocket squares, belts, scarves and even face masks that double as pocket squares.

How Olin supported their startup ambitions

The panel also included Tova Feinberg, MBA ’22, cofounder of S.T.L. Loaves; Byron Porter, MBA ’20, founder and CEO of HUM Industrial Technology; and Shannon Turner, MBA ’18, founder of the Maria Lida Foundation.

The video event featured a discussion of how Olin supported them in their startup efforts.

Turner said she was drawn to Olin because its curriculum offered options to focus her studies on social entrepreneurship. Her foundation is a nonprofit  dedicated to promoting self-sustaining economic development in Alausi, Ecuador, her father’s hometown.

“I’ve always felt extremely blessed to get the education that I’ve received in the States and have always had a passion to use that education to get back to my roots,” Turner said. She started the Maria Lida Foundation after she graduated almost two years ago. “We’re trying to use education and vocational training and tourism as vehicles for economic development in the area.”

Said Byrne, “I’m loving the fact that we have a social impact person on the on the crew here, because it just shows you the variety, the diversity of startup activity in business schools and particularly in Olin.”

The foundation recently began providing a business consulting program for the local indigenous community.

“Tourism has taken a big hit, unfortunately, during this time,” Turner said. “Something that we can help the local community do in the meantime is maybe promote tourism to the domestic population as people start to kind of move around within the country.”

‘I gave it a shot’

Porter said he had no intention of becoming an entrepreneur.

“I was hoping for a nice, cushy general management job when I entered business school,” he said. Then he talked with a good friend who’d spent 15 years at multinational conglomerate General Electric before he became an entrepreneur. Porter’s friend encouraged him to reconsider his goals. “So I gave it a shot.”

Just four or five months into school at Olin, Porter decided to start a company.

The first attempt evolved into a second. HUM “was a pivot,” Porter said. Using “vibration analysis” and machine learning software, Porter created a monitoring device about the size of a deck of cards to track railcar movements and anticipate necessary maintenance—before a big accident happens.

“This is  predictive maintenance,” he said. “Right now, the rail industry is on a reactive maintenance cycle.”

Porter said he can’t say enough good things about Olin faculty and classes. “I’m still in touch with a least a half a dozen professors.”

Yates said Olin “has been super helpful” with his startup.

“There’s definitely a multitude of different funding resources, different professors who are looking to help me grow and scale” his business, “whether that be with marketing, with strategy, with operations. And it’s been really fun. Well, fun and rigorous, taking these core MBA classes.”

The sweet spot

Feinberg, a passionate foodie who founded an e-commerce bakery business, said she applies what she learns at Olin to her startup.

“It was very hard for me coming from a food and beverage background, seeing a lot of these restaurants shutting down left and right,” she said. Then she lost her bartending job while she was studying for grad school.

She decided to open an e-commerce business based on Amish friendship bread. “The best way to someone’s stomach is through sweets.” Feinberg currently delivers in St. Louis and ships loaves to other places.

At Olin, she has made strong connections with her peers and students in the class ahead of her, she said.

“They’re really cheering me on and really spreading the word” about her breads “and buying them, and tasting and giving me constructive feedback, as well.”

Also, Doug Villhard, academic director of Olin’s entrepreneurship program, “has been truly amazing,” she said. He is cheering her on, as well. Feinberg recently entered the Skandalaris Venture Competition, which provides mentorship to new ventures and startups to ready them for commercializing their idea, launching and pitching to investors.

“I’m learning how to do the executive summary and going for the seed money so I can really grow this business,” Feinberg said.

At one point, Byrne asked a question from the audience: “Since business school costs quite a hefty sum for most students, how did you reconcile that with your desire to become an entrepreneur?”

Said Feinberg: “There’s always that lingering thing in the back of your mind about money, money, money. And there’s no doubt that this program is intense as far as financials.” But the school is “really there” for students, she said, plus financial aid and scholarships are available.

“It’s about your passion. If you’re really passionate for your business, you go for it.”




Ryan Richt and Byron Porter

Two alums of WashU Olin’s MBA program nabbed $50,000 awards from Arch Grants, which provides non-equity funding to early stage companies committed to moving to or growing within the St. Louis area.

Byron Porter, MBA ’20, won a grant for his startup, Hum Industrial Technology, featured in the 2019 edition of Olin Business magazine. Porter’s company is described in Arch Grants’ news release for having “developed a wireless sensor system for freight railcars. Hum’s technology combines low power, wireless communications, geospatial tracking, and predictive analytics to make rail shipping transparent and reliable.” (Related story on the Olin Blog here.)

Ryan Richt, MBA ’08/BA ’08, also received a grant for his company, Well Principled, described as “an A.I. management consultant that optimizes marketing and supply chain strategy for major CPG brands and retailers. (Related story on the Olin Blog here.)

Of the 173 companies Arch Grants has funded, about 25% have had founding team members affiliated with Washington University.

The two entrepreneurs were among 19 Arch Grants recipients announced at a virtual gala on October 28—the eighth year the grants have been awarded. Arch Grants’ 2020 cohort includes companies moving to St. Louis from cities around the country, including San Francisco, Minneapolis, Charlotte, and several others.

In addition to the funding, each winner receives pro-bono and heavily discounted professional services from respected local firms. In turn, the startups commit to operating their business from St. Louis for a period of at least one year.

Arch Grants receives hundreds of applicants annually and involves members of the St. Louis community with expertise in industries, business, entrepreneurship and academia judge two rounds of presentations toward the results.

With the expansion of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Arch Grants committed to award at least five grants over the next several years to startups engaged in using geospatial or related technologies.

HUM was one among seven in this year’s Arch Grants cohort that will contribute to the growing Geospatial Sector in St. Louis. See the complete list of Arch Grants recipients here (filter the list by cohort).




Byron Porter was intentional about the name of his young startup. “In an industrial operation, a hum is good,” Porter said. “It means everything is working and there are no surprises.”

With HUM Industrial Technology, Porter is taking that hum to the next level. Using “vibration analysis” and machine learning software, Porter has created a monitoring device about the size of a deck of cards to track railcar movements and anticipate when that rolling stock needs maintenance. In an industry where accidents are rarely small, Porter says ditching 40-year-old technology can solve three problems.

First, by monitoring vibrations—the hum—in railcar wheels, bearings and track, Porter’s sensors and machine-learning technology can gauge in real time potential maintenance issues and even estimate how long before a failure. Porter notes that the industry has experienced 125 incidents related to wheel bearing failures since 2015, resulting in $250 million in related expenses. In contrast to Porter’s real-time, smart technology, railroads today rely on “hot box detectors” spaced 20 miles apart that mea-sure when wheel bearings are overheating. “By the time a bearing is hot, it’s already failed,” Porter said.

Second, HUM could improve the predictability of shipments—a chronic problem. “You’re prepared to unload on a given day, you have a crew scheduled,” he said. “But when the train does arrive four days later, you’ve wasted four days paying a crew for each of those days because you thought the train would arrive.”

Finally, Porter says his innovation could improve safety in the compact, busy and notoriously dangerous railyards where manufacturers receive goods. A more sophisticated, real-time system using machine learning could create a clearer digital map for operators to monitor railcar movement.

“I’m an engineer, and engineers like to solve problems,” he said. “You see people get hurt and operational headaches and you think there has to be a better way. Because I can see a better way, I want to make that happen.”

THE FACTS

Startup Stats

  • Established as an LLC on April 12, 2019, and developing as a bootstrap operation at this point.
  • 4 million railcars are in operation globally.
  • 40-year-old technology tracks railcars and monitors for maintenance issues.
  • HUM applies machine learning and “vibration analysis” to anticipate maintenance issues and track rolling stock.

Team

  • Byron Porter, MBA ’20Founder, CEO and lone employee right now

Competition Participation

  • Third-place, receiving $2,500, in the April 17, 2019, Skandalaris Venture Competition
  • Recipient of a $1,000 grant from the Holekamp Seed Fund

More information: humindustrial.com