What's happening with Olnaire, a Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch winner

Thursday, May 28, 2020

photo of athulya nambiar

In Winter 2020, Olnaire emerged as one of the winners in the Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch competition. We met up with Athulya Nambair, the founder of Olnaire and current Nanotechnology Engineering student. Athulya took us through her experience in the Problem Pitch, joining the Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) program, and where Olnaire is going next.

You started Olnaire because of an important problem you saw in the world. Can you tell us what that problem is and how you found it?

The problem I chose to work with was sexual violence against women when I started off and then I chose to focus more on India because, well, that’s the country I’m from. So, I wanted to do something that hit closer to home and really understand the root cause of the problem in the place where I come from before I expanded out. That’s how I came to interact with it, and reading news articles as well.

How was your experience with the Quantum Valley Investments® Problem Pitch competition?

I’ve been through the competition twice. Both times were very different because the energies were very different, at least my energy was because I was just starting out, I was still figuring things out, I was not 100% sure of what I was doing and what exactly to present. I was still figuring my way around campus as well. The second time around, I felt a lot more confident and more secure in what I was presenting. I started to learn how to make that distinction myself by gaining more knowledge and doing the best I could while pitching, talking or otherwise. In the end, I think that made all the difference in how I presented myself the second time versus the first time around. Doing the Problem Pitch competition helped me gain a level of confidence and it really helped me grow my network and helped me work on something I was passionate about.

Now that you’ve won funding from the competition, what’s next for Olnaire?olnaire company logo

Right now, we are incorporating very soon. We actually won another pitch competition, it was the E Launch Pitch, and I won $5,000 in grant money so I’ll be incorporating very soon. Olnaire will be working on R&D, developing our product, reaching out and growing our network for the next few months. Right now, we’re in the design stage of our idea, we’re coming up with some concept sketches and we are working on figuring out what materials we want to use and interviewing customers just to really understand exactly how we can help.

Right now, you’re in the Enterprise Co-op (E Co-op) program, how has that experience been?

It is pretty amazing. I’m figuring out all these milestones I need to get to. When I started out, I barely knew what I was doing. With E Co-op, there is so much structure, so much guidance and they tell you to set goals for yourself and accomplish them. After you do that, you make a habit of it and then it’s easy to keep momentum going.

What would you want to say to someone who may be considering E Co-op?

I think E Co-op is really useful. If you have an idea that you just have to get out there, that you have to do, that you have to share with others, then do E Co-op. If you have an idea, whether it’s world-changing or not, E Co-op is the place where you really get to start seeing where your idea stands in the real world. They really get you to engage with people and now I really have an understanding of where this is going to go. A lot of that blur from the start is starting to clear up and I can see the road ahead, which is a lot nicer.

You’ve got a team working with you, is there anything you think people should know about working as part of a start-up team?

I think the number one thing in a start-up team is being flexible because there are times when everyone will have to work on something related to marketing or finance. But there are other times when everyone has to go “ok, this is what our concept test will look like, this is how we have to promote something”. So, I think that it is really important that we understand everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, be flexible, move around and actually interact with everyone without being too stuck on thinking “this is my role so I’m only going to do this”.

We’re in an odd time at the moment and so much is happening remotely. How has your experience been working remotely?

Remote work is actually not the worst. Obviously, I would prefer if everything was in person. But remote work has made it easier for me to figure out my own schedule and take breaks as needed instead of trying to automatically coordinate some weird schedule where everyone can meet up or one that everyone can do. It allowed me to take more control over what I’m actually doing in terms of the company or in terms of studying. So, it’s actually giving me a chance to figure out what works best for me before I’m kind of forced to dive into some schedule that is forced on me.

Where do you see Olnaire going in the future?

In the future I want us to continue to focus on important problems, whether we continue to focus on non-lethal weapons or sexual violence or if we even venture out into other things. But right now, we want to focus on creating the best wearable self-defence technology and getting that to as many people who need it, and after that we can see where it goes. But hopefully we are able to reach as many countries as we can and help as many people as possible.

As one of the Quantum Valley Investment® Problem Pitch winners, what would you want to tell someone who is interested in applying to the competition?

Honestly, just go for it. The first time I was about to do it, I was so hesitant, I had to be forced by my friends and family to do it. Now, coming out of the process, it was so worth it. Even if I was losing, I still got to gain as much information as possible on something that I really care about, and it really opens your mind to how many important problems there are. If you’re thinking of holding back or your scared, just go for it. There’s so much you can gain from it.

Please support Olnaire on our social media channels and keep an eye out for us. Honestly, just follow your dreams. I know it sounds cliché but if you have an idea, then go for it, present it and talk about it so you can get validated. Even if you don’t get validated, it’s still helpful.

If you want to be one of the future Quantum Valley Investment® Problem Pitch winners, applications for the Spring 2020 competition are open! Applications are open until June 7, 2020, and we want to hear about your important problem!

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