Meet the team
Serge Didenko, CEO (PhD Computing 2018)
Omer Elfakir, Founding Partner and Researcher (PhD Mechanical Engineering 2015)
Get in touch
By Omer Elfakir
Blocks is building a sensor platform for the workforce of the future in the form of a modular wrist band. Plug-and-play sensors around the wrist enable the collection of biometric, environmental and other kinds of data with a device that is 100% tailor built for each client, whatever their sector. Contextual data insights such as worker location in an emergency, their proximity to hazardous substances, biometric information related to their health, and real-time actionable metrics from surrounding equipment, can be compiled and processed to significantly improve safety and productivity. There is no solution available in the market today that is able to serve all of these needs, which vary from one client to another.
Blocks was initially only a consumer facing device – a modular smartwatch that enabled users to customise the features that they needed according to their own unique lifestyles, by connecting together a selection of modules that each housed their own sensor. While examples of modular technology already exist, it had never been applied to a wearable, which in itself was a budding market that we wanted to disrupt with a product that had never been seen before – our aim was to make technology personal again. It was only when we started researching and speaking to the industrial sector that we identified a much larger opportunity and market for our technology, which we are gradually shifting towards.
Our original founding team were all from Imperial and were a combination of friends, students that we had met through the University’s Entrepreneurs Society, and in one case a student that one of us taught! We have advisors that we met through our investors and their networks, who are experts in our field and that has been instrumental to our company’s development.
The Enterprise Lab has been an incredible space for our team to work from at various times, and also for hosting meetings with our investors and other potential partners. It’s great to be part of the eco-system, meeting other startups and expanding our network, as well as contributing to the Lab’s programmes.
We are currently in the process of pivoting our business to developing wearable solutions for industrial applications. This is involving a lot of meetings, reach-outs and research to determine the biggest opportunities that would allow our company to grow further, but we are finally making some great progress in locking down a couple of agreements. Our aim is to complete deliveries to all of our initial customers, before focusing predominantly on our new strategic direction.
Our biggest successes to date have been; developing an incredibly complex product, made even more challenging by its modular design, starting from a few 3D printed blocks to a designed-for-manufacture prototype; building a global team, with members in the UK, US, Germany, Ukraine, Hong Kong and Taiwan and last but not least raising $1.6 million on Kickstarter to bring our idea to life with an amazing community.
A big challenge we faced was losing our original manufacture due to their own internal restructuring, and we’d spent over $1 million getting our device ready for production. We did eventually find a new manufacturer, and turned around a new prototype with them in just four months. Another big challenge was when our largest software partner got acquired by Google, and we were left to develop large parts of our device ourselves. We ended up hiring more developers to help us along the way, who have been absolutely fantastic. These set-backs have meant that shipment to our initial customers has been delayed, but we are still working towards fulfilling all of our orders to them in due time.
Our advice to anyone thinking of starting a business would be from the very beginning of your ideation process for a new business, think very hard about your value proposition to your customers, and how big that group of customers will be. Then develop multiple ideas for your product that would allow you to deliver on that proposition, and focus on the routes that minimise complexity, risk and cost, while maximising your speed to market.
We are seeking new users of our device to grow our company further, as well as bridge financing from strategic investors to help us complete our transition to a provider of industrial wearable solutions.