DRF company: Candelytics on 3D data, military

The Candelytics team enjoys time and fish tacos at the beach after a successful demo for the Coast Guard and other maritime agencies in San Diego. From left: Clark Yuan, James Parker and Bryan Lee. Courtesy of Bryan Lee.

Dorm Room Fund welcomes Candelytics, which makes 3D data more accessible, intelligent, and impactful. Co-founder Bryan Lee, a former Army helicopter pilot, talks about his foray into entrepreneurship and DRF’s newest portfolio company. You can reach Lee at bryan@candelytics.io.

Tell us about your team.

My co-founder, James, worked for a firm that designed wireless technology for the intelligence community. Our third co-founder, Clark, was once an active duty army officer. He served as a military intelligence officer and continues as a reserve officer with the Army’s Futures Command.

In addition to being former and current graduate students between Harvard and MIT, I knew James and Clark individually. Over the summer of COVID, we realized we were applying to the Defense Innovation Accelerator separately. Since there was mutual interest and complementary skill sets, we came together before the program and applied as one team. Of 24 startups, we won the accelerator.

What’s Candelytics?

We see a Coast Guard case study on your website. The study focused on using Candelytics’ data to track illegal smuggling. Why this defense problem?

When the Coast Guard boards a suspected smuggling vessel, they’re trying to uncover where drugs, weapons, illegal fishing or even victims of human trafficking may be hidden. Right now the Coast Guard is accomplishing this national security task manually with tape measures, pens and paper. This process is inefficient as well as time and labor intensive.

There’s $65 billion worth of illegal drugs that flow into North America every year from the maritime domain, but the Coast Guard is only able to stop 9% of it. There’s a huge workflow efficiency pain point we believe they can address through technology.

We’ve demonstrated our prototype at a Coast Guard base by scanning one of their own vessels as if it were a smuggling ship. Then we showed them the model that points out the nooks and crannies where things could be hidden. This summer, we’re progressing to operational testing and evaluating a contract with the Coast Guard (the equivalent of software paid proof of concept) where we will apply this technology on a real world suspected smuggling vessel alongside the Coast Guard.

What advantage does your team have to build this startup?

Within the military, you have advanced technology but it’s also a huge bureaucracy. And traditionally, bureaucracies are slow to innovate at the speed of startups. In the last few years, there’s been that recognition from the Department of Defense. That’s why they’ve tapped groups like us, a small startup, to field technologies that can make an impact in the national security space. The U.S. military is certainly well-versed at developing new technologies in conventional ways, specifically within their own R&D elements and among large prime contractors. But, more and more, the innovation comes from smaller scale companies that can move faster than these bureaucracies.

How does your time in the military translate to your role as a co-founder?

Why the name Candelytics?

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This article first appeared on DRF’s blog.

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