Seizing An Opportunity
Living in the fast-paced world of evolving mobile technology, two young Israeli entrepreneurs have invented what they hope will revolutionize the one device that they feel “got left behind” and seems to have missed the mobile revolution train: the printer.
Tuvia Elbaum and Matan Caspi, both 29 and students at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT), are the designers of the world’s first truly practical and operational mobile printer. Known as the Mini Mobile Robotic Printer and slated to be available to the general public in 2015, the printer—measuring 4 by 4 1⁄2 inches and weighing only a one-half pound —will allow students, business professionals and anyone in need to print their work from any location.
Elbaum said that he came up with the idea for a pocket printer “from my day-to day life.”
“I’m always working on the go from my smartphone, tablet and laptop in random places, and when I wanted to print something — a memo before or after a meeting, a term sheet, short contract, or even an essay for school — I had to run and look for a printer or wait until I got home or to the office,” he said. “When I went online to look for a portable printer, I only found printers that are either too big to really carry around or too small to print on a standard A4 page [size].”
When Elbaum noticed that all of the printers needed to have paper fed through the device itself, he thought, “Hey, why not put the cartridge on a robot and let it run around by itself, and that will allow the printer to be really small and yet print on any size of paper?”
Elbaum and Caspi were able to pursue their innovation after being accepted into an elite program at JCT known as the Friedberg Program for Entrepreneurial Excellence, which gives students the opportunity to advance entrepreneurial ideas from the “exploratory” to the “concrete” stages—offering them financial assistance, mentoring, workshops and more in order to help make their ideas become a reality.
The pair of entrepreneurs then formed a new company called ZUtA Labs Ltd. and launched a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, which according to Elbaum “succeeded in raising over 125 percent of what we wanted (more than a half-million dollars) and included some big names such as Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.”
While the pocket printer is still “a project in the making,” Elbaum said those who offered their financial backing “really wanted to be part of creating this product, which is incredible and [demonstrates] the true power of Kickstarter.” He hopes to “reward” those who contributed via Kickstarter by shipping them the first batch of the finished mobile printers in January 2015.
Also helping the entrepreneurs’ cause were rave revues the device received at the Microsoft Israel Corporation’s prestigious ThinkNext technology fair, recently held in Tel Aviv.
In terms of how the printer works from a practical perspective, Elbaum said it is “just like any other printer.” One’s mobile device, such as a smartphone or laptop, will “recognize it as a printer and connect through Bluetooth,” he said.
The printer features an inkjet cartridge that will last for more than 1,000 printed pages and a battery that allows for more than one hour of use per full charge. It is “designed to be used in the simplest way and offers the most simple user experience,” said Elbaum.
Shimmy Zimels, who heads the Friedberg entrepreneurship program at JCT, said that the venture of Elbaum and Caspi “is a great achievement” and that they “seized the opportunity we gave them” through the program.
Zimels — himself the CEO of SunDwater.com, an Israeli company that converts polluted water into clean water — said he believes that the Friedberg program, launched in 2012, “helped push [Elbaum to Caspi] out of the gate,” providing them with “the combination of the right team, the proper funding, the mentoring and the access they had to the electronics laboratories at JCT.”
“We were a small accelerator to help them start their business,” he said.
But Zimels repeatedly stressed that Elbaum and Caspi, not the Friedberg program, should be given the credit for the invention.
Elbaum said he and Caspi, along with the rest of the staffers at ZUtA Labs, have already come up with several additions to the printer and are working on designs for other innovative products. But in the meantime, his plate is full with the launch of the robotic printer. He said, perhaps only half jokingly, that on top of everything else he “still has one class to complete in order to graduate” from JCT.