George Sun of Nextiles Answers Four Questions for Founders
Nextiles is a materials science company that quantifies human movement by merging sewing technologies with flexible electronics
1. Tell us about the journey since Nextiles’ launch.
Nextiles’ mission is to reinvigorate the textile market and reestablish the sewing industry as the next transformative force for technological innovation. The core technology of Nextiles was inspired by the Founder’s work at MIT during his PhD in biological engineering and material science. Through his work, he saw the limitations and potential opportunities in material science research and electronics, and was inspired to push the boundaries of bioelectronics and wearable products. The inspiration came to realization from working at Puma, after learning that contrary to its name – wearables – were just electronics disguised as pods fixed onto clothing. Therefore, the ambition of Nextiles since the start of its founding is to instead create circuitry directly into fabrics using sewing technology and semi-conductive fibers and threads. Since then, the company has been a proud member of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), showcased at MaterialConnexion, and has partnered with several sports, fashion, and government institutes to build new smart textile products.
2. How are you applying transformative technology to create a positive impact?
The goal of Nextiles is to create a seamless platform for users to quantify and measure their activity and health – be it for athletics, injury prevention, rehabilitation, etc. The motivation stems from the Founder’s experience in physical therapy and realizing that despite the immense technical innovation in medicine, physical therapy and sports medicine still rely on subjective, observational feedback. Likewise, the best wearables only provide a fragmented glimpse of a person’s health, using disparate data from accelerators and gyrometers to guess someone’s activity. Instead, Nextiles embeds these same sensors within fabric, and more so creates novel mechanical sensors for stretch, bend, and pressure sensing to 3-dimensionally capture body position and pose in real-time. This data is machine-learned to educate and provide insights on a user’s activity, and provide data-backed insights for metrics such as injury prevention and workload. The company has grown beyond physical therapy, and now into professional sports, aiding some of the top athletes of the world. The technology also has immediate application in bedding for sleep analysis, furniture, and infrastructure (carpets, car seats, walls, etc.) to improve ways humans interact and engage with their surroundings.
3. What has been your biggest challenge as founder, and how have you learned from it?
The biggest challenge was finding and creating the right team and company culture. External challenges and pressures are chronic, with many companies facing the same stressors – financial, team conflicts, burnout, etc. But what defines a company, and especially Nextiles as a company, is our ability to rebound, respond, and react to pressures and being able to rely on the team to support one another. We built a friendly and welcoming company environment, eager to ask questions, and more eager to learn from others and intake feedback. Whatever hurdles we face as a team, we inevitably overcome with great learnings.
4. What role has Newlab played in helping you advance Nextiles?
Newlab added a human element to what most people think of technology and its innovation – esoteric, blackbox, linear. What technology is instead is the combination of creative thinkers, those unafraid to ask questions, and people using resources in extremely creative ways. Newlab gave us the initial equipment, space, and community to establish ourselves as the technological leaders in sewing and wearable innovation. All of our products are made locally in New York – with Newlab as our epicenter. In a way, we are standing on the shoulders of giants by being here.
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