Success story: N5 Sensors
Early DC I-Corps company N5 Sensors raises $1 million for microscale environmental sensing
N5 Sensors Inc., an early DC I-Corps cohort company developing smart, microscale, wearable sensors to detect gas, chemicals, and additional environmental conditions for a variety of applications, completed a financing round of $1 million.
The round included a $300,000 investment from the Maryland Momentum Fund, as well as funding from Blu Venture Investors.
“We plan to leverage this funding to accelerate the commercial release of our products, scale-up manufacturing, and expand our business team,” said Abhishek Motayed, Founder and CEO of N5 Sensors.
N5 Sensors’ core technology is a tiny chip with multiple microsensors that can detect different chemicals and gases, as well as temperature and humidity. The company’s chip can be embedded into both wearable and smart devices for a broad range of applications, including hospital and home safety, first response, industrial and petrochemical detection, and military use.
Based in Rockville, Md., N5 Sensors entered an early cohort of DC I-Corps to plan a path forward for bringing its technology to market.
“DC I-Corps was very helpful in terms of customer engagement,” said Motayed. “For a first-time entrepreneur, learning about the customer discovery process and product-market fit was invaluable. It has continued to be beneficial as the company matures.”
Following I-Corps, Motayed enrolled in AccelerateDC, a venture mentoring service offered by DC I-Corps for post-I-Corps ventures, where he received additional mentoring and support.
N5’s current product focus is on compact, wearable chemical detection systems for industrial safety and military use cases. The sensors, worn on a belt clip, arm band, or fixed to a shoulder strap or badge, detect common gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia, as well as chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals found in warzone or relevant military operations.
Motayed developed N5 Sensors’ technology jointly with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) while serving as a research faculty member in the Institute for Research in Electronics and Applied Physics (IREAP) at the University of Maryland. N5 licensed the technology from the university.
Motayed launched N5 Sensors in 2012 and left the university in 2015 to focus full-time on growing the company.
N5 Sensors was awarded two separate, two-year Maryland Industrial Partnerships (MIPS) grants to work with university faculty on further developing its product. The company also secured Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) support through the Maryland Innovation Initiative (MII), Joint Technology Transfer Initiative (JTTI), and NIST – Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program (N-STEP). In 2016, N5 Sensors completed an $800,000 seed round of funding led by Blu Venture Investors. The company has also received $4 million from government contracts and awards.
N5 Sensors employs 15 people.
In the long term, N5 Sensors plans to develop digital system-on-chip gas detection solutions for consumers, according to Motayed. These could include embedding the company’s chips in devices such as smartphones and thermostats, which could then detect and monitor both indoor and outdoor air quality, along with gases and chemicals that affect the well-being of everyone.
“This program is intended to solve a very difficult problem: going from science to a customer.”