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Episode 12: DSM USA Invented Wearable Technology Revolutionizing Worker Safety

Gabe Glynn - Startup Stories DSM

August 31, 2018

By Gabe Glynn’s own account, he has had a winding entrepreneurial career. Twelve years ago, after 11 years in retail, Glynn set up his first company in Greater Des Moines (DSM) inventorying peoples’ personal belongings.

Swapping a service for software

The company, Asset Protection Specialists (APS), evolved into a turnkey franchise focusing on high net worth individuals in partnership with insurance companies to better protect the consumer. Fast forward two years and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were blossoming. So, Glynn got to work creating a piece of software that pulled prospects from the social platforms. A Des Moines Business Record profile later, he had people reaching out to him to license the software within hours. The same day the story published, he visited his attorney and began the process to create a new company.

Within six weeks the new startup, Adstringo, passed more than three years of APS revenue as Glynn sold licenses to the software for “tens of thousands of dollars.”

“It organically blew up around me and here I was at this crossroads of how much energy and effort do I put into APS and how much energy and effort do it put into this software?” Glynn told Startup Stories DSM podcast host Mike Colwell.

Glynn was able to sell APS to a franchisee and it’s still going today.

Initially focusing on social media, the new company received inquiries from clients looking for web design solutions. So, they partnered with Slash/Web Studio and in 2010, the two companies combined. The company was sold in January 2015.

“Really what I’ve been able to do over my career with technology is understand how things work and be able to go into a boardroom and talk to somebody from a business sense and hear their problems and how can we architect something that is going to solve this problem,” Glynn said.

Interest in manufacturing

Glynn then shifted gears on to mobile development at a time when the iPhone was still relatively new. He also started the Advanced Manufacturing Podcast having been influenced as a child by the experiences of his father who at the time worked as a machinist making large scale printing presses for the newspaper industry. With the help of some secondhand equipment from his church, Glynn taught himself to podcast.

It wasn’t long until other websites were syndicating the podcast episodes or featuring clips from it. An email from General Electric stating they were a fan of the podcast offered him the opportunity to tour the conglomerate’s work around the country. Beginning in New York City, he went on industry tours around the country which culminated with dinner with the then CEO.

Right place, right time

During a visit to a manufacturing facility, Glynn noticed the workers were being audited by OSHA with a device to check decibel levels. And that got him thinking.

“I started asking questions. What is governed by laws and regulations? What other environmental conditions do you need to test for? What are the things that impact your employees’ productivity, health, safety and happiness?” Glynn said. “I really started to get a bigger picture of how the environment conditions can play such an important role of the lifestyle of a worker in a workplace.”   

Glynn says traditionally environmental conditions are tested in aggregate. His newest company, MakuSafe, tracks the constantly changing environment that can impact workers’ health, safety and happiness. It keeps apace of sound, lighting, air quality and humidity in real time. It also monitors slips, trips and falls.

It’s a tool that Glynn says could potentially help 20 million skilled workers in commercial agriculture, logistics facilities and manufacturing facilities.

MakuSafe began in early 2016, with a beta product tested in late 2016. The wearable technology has some smart software behind it that incorporates machine learning. The five devices first tested created seven million data points in a month.

“I was focused on how do I make lives for guys like my dad easier? He’s not a data scientist, he’s a safety manager,” Glynn told Startup Stories DSM. “How do I handle his paperwork process and OSHA filings? How do I give him better insights?”

Glynn has gone full circle is now back partnering with the insurance industry, but he says this time it was by accident. In 2016, a Des Moines Register story profiled the company and it was only then when a contact through the Global Insurance Accelerator told him he was revolutionizing worker compensation that it dawned on him to partner with insurance industries to help them reduce risk.

DSM-based MakuSafe has since attracted a significant amount of capital. Glynn says getting educated and attending the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Raising Capital Seminar really helped.

Hear the stories of other small business and startup business owners in the community in The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub or sign up for the Small Business Resources newsletter to stay connected for information about upcoming events, other resources and the latest announcements in the small business community in DSM.