Have you ever wished there was a sensor on your sliding glass door so your pets can go in and out as they pleased, instead of making you their butler? Someone has invented that very product, and it was an El Dorado Hills company that helped that inventor turn an idea into reality.
“I like to say ideas are the easy part,” says Sam Miller, chief executive officer of Ansync Labs, which specializes in product realization. “Turning that idea into a real, working thing and putting it on a pathway to market is the fun part. That’s what we do.”
Miller founded Ansync Labs in 2001, following a stint at Intel. The company started with just him sitting at an ugly green metal desk at home in Folsom, where he designed circuit boards and the software to run them. Today he’s got a team of 30, and a client list that includes a “large Folsom tech company,” national medical device manufacturers, and soon to-be household names like Wayzn (the automatic pet door people).
“What Sam actually created is an engineering playground,” says Tyler Clark, Ansync’s director of finance and business operations. “Every day, we get to make new and interesting things that could change the world, using all the engineering disciplines and a touch of our own creativity.”
Their specialty is helping product creators in the “Internet of Things” sector, although they can be a good starting place for almost any idea. That said, it’s worth noting that throughout the years, they’ve developed a reliable set of criteria to determine whether a product will be successful.
First is the question of whether the product creator has a good business acumen or can align with someone who does. The popular mantra that “great chefs make the worst restaurant owners” also applies in the world of product realization. Next is a question of funding. Is there enough to get to market, or only to get a prototype that will woo investors? Both are feasible but require different strategies, and creators should expect to spend five or even six figures before selling their first unit.
“The third question is this: is it interesting?” Miller says. “No one wants a better toaster, but if your idea might be a good element of a science fiction story and you know who your customer is, then we can employ the engineering and initial manufacturing strategies to get your product off the ground.”
Ansync Labs doesn’t take on every project, but even if something doesn’t mesh with their niche, they’re happy to point creators in the right direction. They do that as a reflection of a longstanding desire to invest in the community. When COVID-19 hit, the company leveraged its supply chain resources to provide masks for local health care workers, and even helped fabricate a new kind of “intubation box” that was provided at cost to local emergency rooms.
The company is also currently working with an Oak Ridge High School team to develop a specialized internship program for students interested in engineering.
“We really want to create opportunities for local young people,” Miller says. “We’re proud that we’ve helped students who were delivering pizzas find a fulfilling career, here at home, in sophisticated design.”