When Harvard University student Francisco Aguilar walked into the school's Innovation Lab (I-Lab) in 2012, he had a groundbreaking idea. Aguilar wanted to create a product that would aid first responders and military personnel who need to reach dangerous or otherwise inaccessible spaces. The concept: place six omnidirectional cameras into an indestructible ball that can be tossed down a hole or around a corner to illuminate the space, allowing users to see exactly what's there on their smartphone and react accordingly.
To help patent this idea and get his company—Bounce Imaging—off the ground, Aguilar turned to WilmerHale, which had lawyers stationed at the I-Lab the day he walked in.
In 2011, Partner Bill Lee and several of the firm's corporate attorneys worked with Harvard to develop and launch the facility, and the firm is still involved. "We hold weekly office hours, provide seminars and advice to startup entrepreneurs, supervise law students as they advise young entrepreneurs, and work with business students to help them build their companies," explains Director of Outreach and former Corporate Partner Wendell Taylor. Aguilar is one example of an entrepreneur who has truly benefited from such guidance.
"Francisco and his team are incredible technology innovators," says Taylor. "Francisco thought up every aspect of Bounce Imaging, and is now hiring staff and expanding the technology. He gave up a consulting job to run with his dream. For us, it's great to see a young entrepreneur with an idea for unbelievable groundbreaking technology find success, including having his product named among the best new inventions by TIME, Popular Science and CNN, among others."
Former WilmerHale attorney Mike LaCascia initially worked with Aguilar to incorporate Bounce Imaging, and Partner Peter Dichiara led the charge on IP strategy, coordinating all provisional patents. When LaCascia left the firm, Taylor jumped in on the corporate side, and currently Partner Mick Bain and Associate Dan Park advise the client as well.
Taylor and LaCascia provided additional support to Bounce Imaging when the company participated in MassChallenge's global accelerator program and startup competition in 2012. Bounce Imaging was named a Gold Winner in the competition that year, and Aguilar credits the WilmerHale team as "amazing MassChallenge mentors."
"We helped with the friends and family round of financing, where the company raised $1 million from angel investors and Francisco's friends," says Taylor. "Bounce Imaging recently closed its first Series A financing for $1.75 million, and a manufacturing strategic investment deal for another $300,000 so that a third party can now produce the product."
Today, Bounce Imaging is testing a prototype of its product with five New England police departments and has started taking pre-orders after being named one of the hottest products at the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention—the largest gathering of law enforcement in the world—by Law Officer Magazine.
Bounce Imaging is also working with two rapid technology deployment offices at the Department of Defense to see where its technology can be deployed at the federal level. In addition, the company has received requests from public and private entities around the world, including a major industrial safety player in Japan.
"Bounce Imaging will now go through the government contracting and export control process to make sure its product can be sold throughout the government and around the world," explains Taylor.
As a result of the firm's work and the team's ingenuity-the revolutionary stitching process they've developed for the system could have application well beyond throwable cameras—Bounce Imaging will soon move out of the I-Lab and into its first leased office space. The next step, according to Taylor, is to raise Series B financing of $10 to $20 million to expand sales and enter new markets such as industrial safety and firefighting.
In addition to connecting with firm attorneys at the I-Lab, Bounce Imaging is a participant in WilmerHale's QuickLaunch Program, which combines alternative fee structures, mentoring and education to give qualifying startups the legal advice they need to get off the ground and grow their business.
"Bounce Imaging is a QuickLaunch success," says Taylor. "We were able to support Francisco when he didn't have the resources, and he is so appreciative that we stuck by him. He's one of our best ambassadors at the I-Lab, providing numerous referrals to potential clients."