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Balloon Fiesta pitch event lifts 3 startups

Perspective Components co-founder and CEO Erik Strobert, whose company won the first-place, $10,000 prize at ABQid’s Balloon Fiesta Pitch competition. (Courtesy of ABQid)

Perspective Components Inc. won the first-place, $10,000 prize at ABQid’s Balloon Fiesta Pitch competition, offering a gusty boost for what the local startup calls the smallest gimble in the world today.

Perspective Components was one of eight New Mexico-based startups that pitched products and services Oct. 3 to local and out-of-state investors at the ABQid business accelerator’s second annual balloon pitch event. The investors judge the pitches at the competition, which is exclusively limited to local startups to offer them exposure and networking opportunities to help lift their sails, apart from cash prizes that include $1,500 for second place and $500 for third.

The first-place winner also gets a free balloon ride in the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s first mass ascension during opening weekend.

Perspective Components breezed to first place with a novel design for gimbles that it says can immensely improve the efficiency of smartphone cameras and imaging systems for small drones.

Gimbles are pivoted support systems that allow something to rotate on a single axis, holding the object, such as a camera, firmly in place despite turbulence, yet still permitting it to move in many directions. Today’s rotational camera systems use gimbles to keep them sturdy but flexible, integrating hardware for the gimble itself with software for remote control on things like drones.

Perspective Components created a tiny gimble system to firm up smartphone camera stability, paving the way for much more quality photos and videos, said company co-founder and CEO Erik Strobert, a University of New Mexico chemical engineering graduate.

“I was frustrated about spending $1,000 on a smartphone and yet the quality of videos was still bad,” Strobert said. “They’re handheld devices, and the shaking disrupts the professional quality of images.”

To solve the problem, Strobert united a team of mechanical, electrical and software engineering colleagues to help build a tiny gimble system.

“We created the world’s smallest gimble,” Strobert said. “It’s smaller than anything on the market today and made to work with a handheld system. It provides the same quality performance of much larger, smarter, traditional gimbles.”

Strobert launched the company in November 2017 when starting graduate school. His team worked for nearly two years to prototype the system, integrating novel hardware and software.

“In essence, it’s a motorized positioning system for a camera to remain stable when moving while allowing for precise manipulation to move the camera however one pleases,” Strobert said. “Our goal is to continue reducing it to integrate it directly into smartphones and add on camera accessories for users with a full suite of software features. We also want to create lightweight gimbles for drones, which would improve their efficiency because the heaviest part of drone camera systems are the gimbles.”

The company hopes to eventually build small gimble systems for satellites as well.

But to do all that, Perspective Components needs funding. It’s pumped about $100,000 in self investment and contributions from friends and family into the company to date, and it’s now seeking a $2.5 million round of seed funding.

Strobert has made frequent trips to the Silicon Valley and places like Utah and Colorado, both to seek venture capital and to build corporate relations with camera module manufacturers, hardware development specialists and former executives in the camera market.

The $10,000 it won in the balloon pitch will help continue those efforts. But perhaps most important, the competition allowed Strobert and his team to network with more investors, providing critical contacts as it seeks funding.

“We’ve done a lot of traveling to meet with venture capitalists, business accelerators and corporate executives, and that’s raised considerable interest,” Strobert said. “But the balloon pitch allowed us to establish a lot more good connections with both local and out-of-state investors. It gave us exposure we haven’t had before.”

The pitch competition provided that same exposure for the seven other participating startups, said ABQid Executive Director T.J. Cook.

“Perspective Components and some of the other companies say they’ve had follow up calls and conversations with some of the investors at the event,” Cook said. “It’s helped to connect those local companies with potential backers.”

Legacy Concierge, which offers software as a service to remove the electronic footprint of people who pass away, won the second-place prize. Schola Inc., which offers an online platform to match children with the best schools, took third place.

The annual event is helping to highlight New Mexico’s startup momentum.

“Eight quality companies participated,” Cook said. “It shows the traction we’re getting with our local startups here.”

Strobert’s balloon ride, which included his partner and their six-year-old daughter, offered an extra kick

To winning the balloon pitch.

“We’ve never done it before,” Strobert said. “It was a great experience for all of us.”

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