By Péralte C. Paul
Who hasn’t experienced the frustration of having a tool or appliance with a worn or broken part that needs replacing? But without the exact part or model number, the best description you can give is that it’s a thingamajig that’s supposed to help do the whatchamacallit.
Jewel Burks was on the receiving end of those calls working in sales management for a major parts distributor. “I did get those calls from customers who needed parts or had received the wrong part and I wanted to find a better way to help people find parts they needed,” Burks said.
And the idea hit her: Partpic. The nearly two-year-old Atlanta startup she co-founded and where she serves as chief executive allows people to find the parts they need by taking a picture with their mobile device.
Partpic is the most recent company to be accepted into the Advanced Technology Development Center’s (ATDC) Select program. The company’s proprietary visual recognition technology matches the image with the proper part and it gives the consumer the name and product specifications. That reduces error rates and, going a step further, Partpic also locates the distributor that carries the needed part for purchase.
“We’ve been building the technology for the past year and a half,” said Jason Crain, co-founder and chief operating officer. “We’re working with suppliers, distributors, and retailers as we build the database.”
For now, the company’s focus is on fasteners — those parts that hold things together. But the long-term strategy is to expand that database to include all replacement parts.
The company has received plenty of attention. Earlier this month Partpic announced it raised $1.5 million in seed funding from angel investors and venture capitalists. The company also won a $100,000 investment in May from AOL founder Steve Case during his Rise of the Rest tour.
The South By Southwest Accelerator Showcase also gave Partpic the best Enterprise and Smart Data Technologies award at this year’s event, which came with a $4,000 prize.
As the company looks to grow, it sought to become part of ATDC and join its Select program. ATDC, one of the nation’s premier technology startup incubators, is a program of the Enterprise Innovation Institute, Georgia Tech’s chief economic development arm. Startups designated “ATDC Select” receive targeted attention through one-on-one coaching from Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs), experienced business owners who guide these companies through critical growth stages. Select companies also get access to other ATDC and Georgia Tech business development programs.
“ATDC is thrilled to have Partpic join the Select program,” said Jenny Bass, an ATDC community catalyst who advises Select companies that have a manufacturing focus. “Their technology is revolutionizing the way component parts are bought and sold in industrial and consumer applications alike.”
Burks said Partpic is especially interested in the potential of ATDC’s Industry Connect and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs to help her company and to provide a direct connection to Georgia Tech talent.
Industry Connect strategically links startups with Fortune 1000 companies. SBIR is a federally funded initiative that supports innovation through competitive grant awards.
“There’s a huge benefit to the Industry Connect program because it’s helpful to have a way to make those connections with the large companies,” Burks said. “Our technology is very research-intensive, so working with SBIR will be important, too.”