Sam Guilaumé of Aryballe: “Don’t be afraid to take risks”

Don’t be afraid to take risks. As I mentioned earlier, I learned this lesson very early in my career when I made the decision to acquire a competitor. Growth is not possible without taking the appropriate risks. As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam […]

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Don’t be afraid to take risks. As I mentioned earlier, I learned this lesson very early in my career when I made the decision to acquire a competitor. Growth is not possible without taking the appropriate risks.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Guilaumé.

Sam is responsible for the overall strategic direction and investor relations for Aryballe. Prior to Aryballe, Sam was the co-founder and CEO of Movea, growing the company to the leading motion sensing technology and eventual acquisition by InvenSense, the leader in inertial sensors for consumer electronic applications. Sam brings over 20 years’ experience in the microelectronics industry to the Aryballe team.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m an engineer by training, but my true passion is entrepreneurship. Early in my career as an engineer, I enjoyed the work but was frustrated by the lack of collaboration. I craved more human interaction. That’s what drew me to become an entrepreneur. It combines my lifelong interest in technology with my passion for people. Once I made the decision to pursue entrepreneurship, I set a goal for myself to start my first company before I turned 40 years old. I was involved in my first startup at 39 years old and I’m proud to say that I have been involved in five different startups.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

As most entrepreneurs can attest, there are several moments — especially as you’re just starting out — when you second guess big decisions that you’ve made. When I co-founded my first startup with Yanis Caritu, who now serves as Chief Software Officer of Aryballe, we made the bold decision to acquire a competitor very early in the company’s growth. It was a risky move that we worried could backfire, but the risk paid off. While it’s always important to take a measured and balanced approach as a leader, it’s equally important not to be afraid to take risks that will ultimately provide value for your team.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

At Aryballe, we developed digital olfaction technology that captures odor information to help organizations apply data-driven, actionable insights to all aspects of the business. Digital olfaction mimics how our brains identify and differentiate between odors. Objects release odor molecules in response to energy variation or biological processes. Digital olfaction binds those odor molecules to biosensors to capture a unique odor signature (like a fingerprint for an odor). Once the odor signatures are detected, software then compares it with a database of previously collected, annotated and analyzed odors. The software acts like our memory bank, which our brains rely on to correlate individual smells to life experiences and learnings and classifies the odor accordingly.

Our patented olfactory sensor detects, records and recognizes odors to help companies improve user experiences across a range of real-world use cases. In the automotive industry, for instance, digital olfaction can assist manufacturers with objective, consistent odor data to ensure car materials meet customer standards or signal early warning signs of component malfunction. In the food and beverage space, digital olfaction can empower manufacturers to ensure odor defects are not transferred from packaging materials to products, validate the consistency of raw materials during delivery, and reduce development time by using olfaction data to characterize new formulations. These are just a few examples of the possibilities of digital olfaction. In the absence of digital olfaction, companies often rely on human panels, which are expensive, subjective and prone to error.

How do you think this might change the world?

For decades, scientists have struggled to accurately measure the human sense of smell, which is inherently subjective. The sense of smell is based on a collection of experiences and memories that create a visceral reaction to an odor. By removing the subjectivity behind smell, Aryballe technology gives businesses an objective way to understand and identify smell without being influenced by personal preferences or experiences. This unique capability holds the promise of transforming entire industries, especially those that have traditionally relied on human panels for odor analysis — a notoriously costly and subjective process.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Any technology that handles data, whether it’s product-related or personal data, has a responsibility to safeguard that information. While cutting-edge technologies like automation and AI have given rise to unprecedented innovation, the risk of exposing customer data is extremely high. At Aryballe, we recognize that olfaction data is intimate and consists of personal information that must be protected. We are proud stewards of our customers’ data.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Throughout my career, I have been involved in a number of startups that combined human senses with the power of data. Before I helped found Aryballe in 2014, I worked with a startup that focused on fusing data from motion sensors with sound and sight. During my time at this startup, I realized that we were missing a critical human sense that is often overlooked in business: smell. It is critical because this sense can help convey emotions. That’s when Tristan Rousselle, founder & deputy CEO of Aryballe, approached me about developing technology that could effectively mimic the sense of smell. In 2018, we released our first product, the NeOse Pro, at CES Las Vegas, where it won a CES Innovation Award.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

There are numerous use cases for digital olfaction. To demonstrate the real-world value of digital olfaction and spur widespread adoption, we have focused on three main tenets: affordability, size and ease of use. Unlike other eNose technologies that are often expensive and cumbersome, our low-cost universal odor sensor is smaller than the size of a paperclip and can seamlessly be integrated into a customer’s existing processes, whether it’s on the manufacturing floor or in the R&D laboratory.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

While most eNose companies focus heavily on hardware, Aryballe’s intuitive software is the backbone of our technology. We rely on its strength and effectiveness to help our customers understand how they can derive actionable and reliable insights from digital olfaction. We also provide customers with an unprecedented level of transparency into how our sensor and software suite works.

Aryballe believes that smell is integral to the human experience — and we focus on raising awareness for how smell impacts us every day. For example, earlier this year, we announced the 2020 Odor of the Year, the smell consumers most popularly associated with the year 2020. Our online poll found that most consumers (60%) associate hand sanitizer with 2020. In addition, the survey explored how odor shapes consumer behavior. 88 percent of survey respondents reported that smell can negatively or positively impact their purchasing behavior, citing anecdotes ranging from rotten produce in a grocery store to overwhelming fragrance in a department store.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve had the privilege to work with many talented individuals throughout my career. One of the most inspiring people that I’ve had the chance to work with at several different organizations is Yanis Caritu — my co-founder at Movea and Aryballe’s Chief Software Officer. Yanis has held various senior technical roles at startups in the electronics industry and he is incredibly smart. Despite his accomplishments and intelligence, he is very humble and an impressive leader. As the leader of our software and data-ware teams, Yanis is committed to creating an intuitive and easy-to-use solution for our customers and he is dedicated to communicating the value of digital olfaction standardization. At Aryballe, we are fortunate to have many people like Yanis who make our company what it is today.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe that anyone who is in a position of power has a responsibility to respect and value those you lead. As CEO of Aryballe, I have tried to live by this principle and foster a community where everyone is valued and recognized for their contributions. This principle is often lost in the fast-paced grind of startup life, but it is something that we have always focused on at Aryballe. I’ve learned that when you create a space where everyone is respected, innovation thrives.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Don’t be afraid to take risks. As I mentioned earlier, I learned this lesson very early in my career when I made the decision to acquire a competitor. Growth is not possible without taking the appropriate risks.

Hire the right people for the job. While it may be tempting to take short cuts by making quick hires when your business is growing rapidly, take the time to find the right people. Your business is only as strong as your team.

Don’t be afraid to surround yourself with people who are smarter or more experienced than you. I have learned this first-hand as CEO of Aryballe by leaning on the expertise of my colleagues who have different backgrounds and strengths as me.

Don’t let the momentum slow down. It can be very tempting to take the foot off the gas pedal when your team has enjoyed a major success. Inspire your team to continue striving towards the next milestone.

Empower your team through trust. Trust is a key driver of both professional growth and business success. I’ve worked with many of the same individuals across the five startups that I’ve been a part of and I have always trusted my team to do the right thing.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Respect for others is critical to business success. I have tried to lead by following this basic tenet at each of the five startups that I’ve had the honor of being a part of. By laying a solid foundation of respect, I believe that I have inspired others to do the same. In my experience as a leader, I’ve also learned that after you’ve found the right people for the job and communicated your vision, it is important to trust your team to make good decisions.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“What would you do if you were not afraid?” Early on in my career, I learned the lesson of not being afraid to take bold risks. Don’t be afraid to set lofty goals for yourself and your business. When setting goals, ask yourself, “If I didn’t have any fears or hesitations, what would I set out to do?”

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

While legacy eNoses and human panels are ripe with inaccuracies and subjectivity, a more modern, software-driven approach built around biomechanical sensors and machine learning delivers the reliability and objectivity required for deriving the repeatable insights that propel organizations forward. Digital olfaction provides businesses with the ability to digitally analyze and compare odors, enabling them to create new offerings, enhance existing products and stand out from the pack.

With the power to assess the strength of an odor, determine if it is pleasant, or what the presence of an odor signifies (new car smell, rotted food in a refrigerator, a cake that is done baking in an oven), modern digital olfaction takes the guesswork out of smell. By standardizing the sense of smell, organizations are able to apply data-driven, actionable insights to all aspects of the business.

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