June 1, 2022 BACK
Presenting This Month:
CamDo Solutions Inc.
Featured in this issue:
Alex Bertelli, Founder of HavenLock
This month we have three presenters. Below is a brief summary of the companies presenting on Wednesday. Then you'll find a profile of a founder, Alex Bertelli, and a member of the Pasadena Angels, Anil Jha.
Startups Presenting Wednesday, June 1st
COMPANY: PreFix Inc.
Presenter: James Bilodeau, CEO
PreFix is a tech-enabled service that eliminates the hassles of home ownership, saves homeowners up to 50% off home maintenance costs, and creates a data-driven “operating system” for the home.
COMPANY: CamDo Solutions Inc.
Presenter: Todd McCann, CEO
CamDo Solutions Inc. has developed a Computer Vision system to allow General Contractors to reduce workplace accidents & deaths by more than 50%. We save lives in construction, which accounts for 20% of all workplace deaths.
Vancouver, BC, Canada
COMPANY: Meallogix, Inc.
Presenter: Tedd Stearns, CEO and Cofounder
Meallogix set out to change the industry and reinvent how meal prep businesses should be run with our revolutionary all-in-one software platform. Packed with features from the front-end E-commerce shopping cart, to the back-end Kitchen OS™, we're ready to automate and grow this market with the best tools curated for meal prep!
San Diego, CA
Founder Profile - Alex Bertelli Set Himself Up For Success
When asked if he still flies helicopters, Alex Bertelli told me flat out, “Nope.” He’s been there and done that. After 10 years of combat flying with the elite Night Stalkers, after dropping special ops warriors in hot zones and watching countless RPG’s sail across his windscreen, he’s not interested in risking life and limb for a bird’s eye view of traffic on I40.
But a lot from his military days has carried on into his civilian life. Protecting people is still the mission. Instead of a Chinook, the vehicle is now HavenLock. Before he left the military, but while stationed in the states, Alex’s neighbor suffered a break-in. Someone kicked the front door in while Alex was home next door. It was a nice neighborhood, and the experience kind of shocked him. It made him realize how vulnerable typical doors are. And, it tickled a memory from his tours of duty. He’d seen how enemy combatants had barricaded their doors by welding bars across the bottom. Inspiration struck.
Alex always seems to be set up for success in the next thing by his success in the last thing. His college success and ROTC ranking put him 11th out of 4,500 nationwide, which enabled him to call his shot, which was aviation. Most years the Night Stalkers don’t take anyone directly out of flight school. Applicants need a few years of seasoning to get accepted to the 160th Special Ops Aviation. But, Alex was accepted because of his performance in flight school. And, ten years in the military set him up for a full ride to business school at UNC, during which time he developed his business plan for HavenLock.
There’s another thing about Alex - he's somehow gotten two decades of work done in the last ten years. During business school, he was also working for the Tennessee Dept of Economic Development recruiting businesses to the state. Later he managed operations at Amazon and, later, pricing at Asurion while starting HavenLock on the side. He’s also taught at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler business school and sits on a corporate board. And now he's focused full time at HavenLock, where he's overseen materials science engineering, product development, manufacturing, marketing and more.
At first glance, that might seem to conflict with the “mission focus” veterans are famous for. But, in reality, it’s the ability to bring mission focus to bear that allows changing from one project to another while staying on target to accomplish the goal. Multiple responsibilities is the reality, and the ability to focus enables Alex to hit his marks on mission after mission.
HavenLock has been a major education in itself. The seemingly simple concept led down an arduous material science path. They tried metal, piano wire and many forms of plastic. Too brittle, too weak, too this or too that. Finally they found woven tubular nylon. It took three years of development to get the right materials, and then another year to work out the kinks.
Late in 2019 they started to stand up manufacturing in China. COVID scrambled supply chains and shipping. But their partner in China was capable. They brought relationships with Dupont and 3M, which helped with initial product development and with continuous improvement. The result is a product that is significantly better now than when they began manufacturing almost three years ago.
But the big differentiator for HavenLock has been certification. That was a strategic choice Alex committed to early. It’s been tremendously difficult. Initially, UL wouldn’t even consider it. Alex has had to identify and pursue other certifications one at a time. Every component has to be tested for fire, toxicity, water, heat, cold, etc. After years of submitting samples, answering questions, taking feedback and making adjustments, last week was the big milestone. The Department of Homeland Security Safety Act program gave HavenLock their letter of completeness, which signals legal liability protection for manufacturers of qualified anti-terrorism technologies. This certification has taken 2 years to get and is one of the most difficult.
Back in 2018 Alex was on Shark Tank, but the producers wanted to focus only on the residential product. Right now, their commercial product is getting a lot of interest and attention. DHS certification will be a huge enabler for HavenLock in the commercial space. And, because “Night Stalkers don’t quit,” I wouldn’t bet against Alex.
Anil Jha on Water and Life
Most readers will know Anil Jha as an expert in water purification who joined Pasadena Angels two years ago. He’s been an engineer and an executive in several water technology companies, including his own, and he holds 130 patents on water technology (you can Google them).
That story is painted in broad strokes on LinkedIn for everyone to see, but very few know the story of how he arrived in the U.S. and came to be in the water industry at all. And almost no one will have heard of the story of how he met his wife, broke his relationship with his father and then repaired it from 12,000 miles away.
At age 16 Anil walked out of a jetway into JFK airport and took his first steps in America. Because luggage with wheels hadn’t been invented yet, he hoisted his 40 lb trunk and lugged it to the ticket counter for a flight to Boston. In Boston, he asked around about a subway and then made his way to a train station and got on a train to Lowell Massachusetts. It had been a long day, and the two hour train ride put him to sleep. He would have ended up in New Hampshire if Lowell hadn’t been the last stop. He dragged his luggage to the dark, empty platform at 9pm and looked around.
It was completely abandoned. He was far from home, had no idea where anything was, and barely had any money. All he knew was that he needed to get to Lowell Tech. A solitary cabbie asked if he wanted a cab. The only other thing he knew was that he didn’t want a cab. He’d been told they were expensive and likely to rip him off. “No, I need a bus,” he said.
“There’s no more buses now.”
“I’m going to Lowell Tech.”
“Come on. I’ll take you.” And he did. To this day, Anil can’t remember if he paid him.
At Lowell Tech, Anil struggled. He was translating everything from English to Hindi and back again, and he quickly realized that he was overmatched. It was painful, but he decided to drop out. He enrolled at Wentworth College, at the time a junior college, where he pursued an AS.
It was unexpectedly different. Courses were more practical and hands-on. Anil grew up with servants in India. At Wentworth, he was using tools he’d never touched before. He wouldn’t realize it until years later, but the experience was incredibly useful, because it gave him an appreciation for the practical side of using and maintaining equipment.
He lived at an international house with half a dozen other students from around the world. Every Friday there was a dance, and every Saturday an ethnic dinner. When it was Anil’s turn, Indian food was served and he was the waiter. A stunning blonde sat down next to him one night and struck up a conversation.
She had escaped Hungary with her family. They paid guards at the border to show them the safe route through the minefield. That’s how they got to Yugoslavia, and from there they tried to settle in Austria and then Australia before making their way to New England.
Anil and Stefania hit it off and became inseparable. Soon they were living together. Then Anil’s father called with good news. He’d found a wife for Anil. You can imagine how awkward that conversation got. Anil explained that he’d found his own candidate for a wife. That didn’t go over well. His father insisted. Finally Anil had to explain that they were expecting a child. That went over even worse. His father disowned him right then.
But, his grandfather loved Anil dearly and convinced his father to travel to the U.S. for the wedding - it was his son, after all. Reconciliation had begun. Shortly thereafter, Stefania delivered a baby boy, the first of two, and all was forgiven.
But when it came to school, Anil had a problem. His family couldn’t send him any money. He finished his AS degree and was ready to pursue his BA back at Lowell Tech, but he had to work and go to school in the evenings. It took six years to finish his degree while working days. It took him eight years to get a four year degree, but he had also created a family at the same time. Things were looking up.
The degree enabled him to get a job in engineering at Ionics, and after 8 years, at Millipore. He was part of a team that developed and patented an electrodeionization process. Patents piled up. A few years later he was a VP at Siemens developing a salt-free water softening process. The technology was promising, but Siemens wasn’t interested in the residential market. Anil offered to license the technology and commercialize it. After some negotiation, the company consented, and Anil, who had worked for decades at larger corporations, struck out on his own to start a new company.
He moved to California, because that’s where the startup funding is, and pursued his venture: HydroNovation. After 4 years, they’d developed the product, but before they could even launch it, he was bought out. His first startup had a successful exit, and now he had a taste for startups.
He became a mentor to engineering entrepreneurs at Wentworth Institute of Technology, which had itself graduated to a four year university. Besides coaching aspiring entrepreneurs from Wentworth, he is also mentoring water-industry entrepreneurs through Imagine H2O. They put him in touch with Aquacycl. He talked to the founder, Orianna Bretschger, who has a PhD in Materials Science from USC, and they geeked out on water technology. It took about 15 minutes for him to realize that she was on the right track. She quickly realized that he should be on the board. So he is (on the board) and on several other boards. And, he’s investing with Pasadena Angels.
But all that was apparently only an interlude while Anil queued up his own next startup. He’s raising money for it now and planning his return to the startup crucible. He confessed that startups can be challenging, but his eyes sparkle when he describes the incredible feeling of satisfaction one can get from successfully building a company from scratch. From little Wentworth College sprouted a career and a family that has spanned continents, and Anil is giving back while forging ahead.
Anil's wife Stefania Jha, granddaughter Amelia Jha, and granddaughter Jeckie Jha with Anil on Grandparents' Day.
May '22: Discotech (Ian Chen) and Gary Awad
April: Sashee Chandran, Seatrec and Susan Marki
March: Yezin Taha, Spine Align and Jamie Bennett
February: Phoenix Gonzalez, Repurpose and Marcus Filipovich
January: Ksenia Yudina, BeTheBeast and Larry Uhl
November '21: Roy LaManna, TotSquad and John Keatley
October: Dr. Chorom Pak of LynxBio and former president Al Schneider
September: Luk Network, Brandon Cavalier and Nancy Dandridge
July: Electrum, Jose Gomez and Julie Pantiskas
June: Ready, Set, Food, Dr. Mirianas Chachisvilis and Joseph Pitruzzelli
May: MagicLinks, Christopher Hussain and Janice Orlando
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Dave de Csepel
Chairman, Pasadena Angels