By Nick Phelps
For BG Magazine
LOUISVILLE — Whether you are in a meeting, on a date or tailgating, one of the first things you notice about another person is likely their teeth. A smile is someone’s first introduction, and having a strip of white pearls gives off a more polished appearance.
Americans spend more than $1.4 billion on over-the-counter teeth-whitening products each year. This exuberant expense often comes from millions of Americans trying the “quick fix” after several years of poor oral health maintenance. Many fear dental exams and dread sitting in the dentist’s chair.
Local start-up BEAM Technologies, founded by Alex Frommeyer, Alex Curry and Dan Dykes, believes its BEAM Brush, the world’s first smart toothbrush, can help reverse the trend.
The average person brushes his or her teeth for only 46 seconds, according to BEAM Technologies, but is 50 percent more likely to brush for two minutes by simply using a timer. To gain full benefit, dental professionals say two minutes is the ideal amount of time to brush with fluoride toothpaste. The Bluetooth chip inside the BEAM Brush communicates with a free smartphone app that summarizes performance in real time. BEAM is partnering with “Kiip,” a full-scale rewards program, to give users incentives to enhance their oral health.
“We are a rare breed right now on a national scale. A hardware startup in the health tech space is unique, and we are doing our own production as well, which really sets us apart,” Fromeyer said. “I truly believe our model will be replicated, especially in the maker community, so our company will likely be working to lead this movement with a wider array of health hardware products with biosensors, etc.”
BEAM Technologies wants to monetize the consumer’s time by offering incentives to consistently enhance oral health by simply spending two minutes in the morning and two minutes in the evening with the BEAM Brush.
The company’s complete ownership of the development process is one reason that BEAM Technologies received an invite from RockHealth, a San Francisco seed-round incubator, one of the nation’s top health-focused accelerators. Frommeyer and his partners, however, are committed to staying put and growing their company in Louisville.
“The University of Louisville has been very supportive, as we were one of the first student-run tech companies,” Frommeyer said. “Entrepreneurs I met at Stanford and other places don’t have the same community connection we do here. We have 50 mentors we could call on who would help us at the drop of a hat, purely because they want to see homegrown companies do well.”
The BEAM team is primed to launch and excited to introduce an affordable product that will grow personal awareness of oral health, improve the health of its users and build a community of BEAMers that will be rewarded for four minutes of daily brushing.
Frommeyer, Curry and Dykes are from Northern Kentucky, but the three did not meet until they attended the J. B. Speed School of Engineering at UofL together. Going into their senior years in 2011, the trio formed INVEN LLC that was focused on the development of the Intellidontic File, a reimaging of the endodontic file used in root canal procedures. Upon graduation, they jolted right into their entrepreneurial efforts and were determined to develop and grow their business.
After more than a year, Frommeyer and his team identified an idea that would stir an abrupt change, he said.
“We saw an opportunity, and within six hours, we knew what the right move was. We pressed pause on INVEN, and the next day we were 100 percent focused on the BEAM Brush,” Frommeyer said.
The team has been developing the BEAM Brush since fall 2011 and plans to begin shipping the company’s first orders in December.
The team credits the ability to drastically change direction and leave hundreds of hours of hard work behind to the trust, rapport and honest relationship they share – something they have gained over six years as friends and three years as co-workers. They set expectations early and constantly reinforce them. It is apparent that their relationship and ability to forge ahead is firmly cemented; they used very little outside help in the development of the BEAM Brush. Each of the partners has skill sets that complement the others well. Curry led the BEAM Brush approval process through the FDA and other regulatory bodies, as well as intellectual property development. Dykes designed the brush, the electronics and the website. Frommeyer leads the core business development.
“We controlled the process, and this is very rare for a start-up company,” Frommeyer said. “We have run it lean, saved money by doing it ourselves, and in return, now have the experience so that when we scale up the operation quickly, the three of us are in full understanding of what needs to be done.”
Politicians, business leaders and educators throughout the region are emphasizing the need for entrepreneurial spirit and innovative efforts, and BEAM Technologies is one example of young professionals who are taking action, according to Bobby Ferreri, executive director of EnterpriseCorp at Greater Louisville Inc.
“BEAM represents a powerful trend of ubiquitous ‘smart’ devices that merge hardware, software and data aggregation to create consumer-centric devices that can assist in decision-making,” Ferrerri said. “Alex and his team’s vision and creativity are met in equal measure with their ability to create relationships and their conviction.”
The three partners believe their product will change the consumer’s everyday routine, resulting in healthier lives and happier people. The brush is available online at beamtoothbrush.com.
BG Magazine is a publication of The Lane Report. Nick Phelps is vice president of business services at Your Community Bank in Louisville.