St. Louis startup wants to help you cut the cords

Posted by on May 8, 2015 in Featured Stories, Innovation Tuesday | 0 comments

Attention road warriors: your days of schlepping through airports toting luggage packed with the laptop, AV cables, power cords and flash drive you need to deliver your PowerPoint presentation soon may be over.

Two graduates of Milwaukee’s Marquette University who have set up shop in the T-Rex incubation hub in downtown St. Louis are taking the next steps in developing a mobile application that allows users to present PowerPoints and interactive whiteboards from a tablet or smartphone, wirelessly, to another display.

The FocalCast application was created by Narsys, LLC, whose CEO Devin Turner says the idea came to him four years ago. “It always bothered me,” said Turner, who worked as a structural engineer at NASA while a student at Marquette,“that we have all of these smart phones and tablets and we still need to be hitched to cords to give a presentation. The phone you have in your pocket has more computing power than the rocket that went to the moon. Yet you still need a cord to connect it. It’s ridiculous. So we set out to solve the problem.”


Hear FocalCast’s Devin Turner (l) pictured with CTO and Co-Founder Charlie Beckwith, on KMOX Radio/St. Louis

As shown on the company’s website FocalCast software works with Chromecast, Apple TV and Miracast devices such as the Microsoft Wireless Adapter and Samsung Smart TV’s. By wirelessly connecting directly to a projector or external display, users are able to cut the cables and remove the need for laptops and other networking equipment.

Turner says the business community is the first of two groups the app is targeting. “Sales folks in particular live and die by the PowerPoint.  They’re presenting them all the time and they never really know what the situation is going to be at a remote location. They want to be completely prepared for all of that and not have to lug all of that extra tech – clickers, laptops, adapters and power cables — with them.  And if they’re going to a client’s location to make a presentation, typically those clients aren’t always willing to give out their wireless passwords. We offer FocalCast bundles that include Chromecast or Apple TV’s and VGA adapters so you can take wireless connectivity with you in your pocket wherever you go. So we view that as a very good solution for that as well.”

The other target audience for FocalCast is academia.

“The app is perfect for professors who are moving from classroom to classroom and don’t want to lug a laptop with them, or don’t want to have to download files on the computer in the lecture hall – they can just bring a tablet with them.  I was a guest lecturer for an engineering class and I actually got to use FocalCast to teach a bunch of classes which was awesome.”

Turner, along with FocalCast Co-founder and CTO Charlie Beckwith, came to St. Louis after being accepted into the Spring 2015 cohort of Capital Innovators, the St. Louis-based tech accelerator that awards $50,000 to startups in return for an equity stake.

The Capital Innovators award is the latest in a string of successes for the two Class of 2014 Marquette graduates. A year ago, Narsys won the $50,000 Trailblazer Capital Start-up Entrepreneur Investment Prize and the $3,000 Gimmal Group Outstanding IT Prize at the Rice Business Plan Competition in Texas, which is billed as the world’s richest and largest business plan competition.

For the summer, the FocalCast team has settled in St. Louis, although a final decision on where the team will ultimately plant its roots, says Turner, hasn’t yet been made.  He says FocalCast no doubt will end up locating closest to either its major investors, or clients.

“The beautiful thing about being a lean startup with a small team is that we’re pretty easy to relocate,” says Turner, who notes his only real possessions are an air mattress and a surfboard.

Wherever the team locates, it’s a sure bet they won’t be lugging around excess laptops, AV cords, and power cords, thanks to FocalCast.

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