- Tell us something about yourself, your background
I am the grandson of Portuguese immigrants on both sides. They were from the Azores. My great grandfather was a “governor” in the Azores but he gave that up to start a life in America. My grandfather was the oldest of 3 and was required to work to put the youngest through college. He started a cleaning company which has been my family’s for over 40 years now. He had a son, my uncle, who grew the business to 20M a year in 2006 to now. My uncle passed away in May of 2020 at just 46. It was with my uncle that I partnered with and started Purifad – our robot UFAD cleaning business (comes . I went to one of the best High Schools in the country, Bishop Hendricken then went to college at Bryant University, a business school in Rhode Island and graduated with a Management degree. I was really into Mock Trial and was the President of the Mock Trial team from my sophomore year of high school on through to college. I was supposed to go to law school until I was bitten by the entrepreneur bug with this idea in 2012.
- Tell us about the product you invented with a brief explanation:
Our product is the world’s first and only Robotic Cleaning & Inspection system designed to clean and maintain complex Raised Access Flooring systems. Our patent, US20120260944A1 is titled “Vacuum Cleaner and Vacuum Cleaning System and Methods of Use in a Raised Floor Environment.” Essentially there is not another company in the USA or internationally that can make a Robot to service raised access floors – we are a first (and only) mover. We are fully protected and patented in the USA, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland, Japan, Canada, Spain, France and Italy. Our product is 30x faster than the human alternative – where it takes a person 7 years to cleaning a 2M sqft building, we can do this in just 6 months. We clean at a rate of 1,000 sqft an hour as opposed to just 36sqft an hour manually.
- How/Why did you start inventing. What set you off?
When they say necessity is the mother of invention, they were not lying. We started building this robot because we could not fathom going back to the customer and telling them we had failed. We were able to find a robotics team out in Poland that had won a few recreational competitions out there and were a new start-up looking for opportunities in the USA. With a language barrier and only Skype as a means of communication – in 6 months we were able to get a robot out to Rhode Island, but it was terrible. 3 more months of tweaking and it was perfected! I joke and say it took 9 months for my baby to be born. We have not had to make any structural changes since, even as the robot has surpassed 1.5M total square footage cleaned so far. Our terms with the Polish team were that we had to own 100% of the rights to the entire invention for us to proceed – they agreed to this and the rest was history.
- How did you get from idea to finished product?
One day Fidelity Investments in Rhode Island had a multi-million dollar, LEED Certified Platinum building in Rhode Island – 400k square feet. They had a major problem with their HVAC system. To achieve LEED certification, they installed a “green” HVAC system called an Underfloor Air Distribution System. This system pumps heat & air conditioning through a crawlspace below the floor of a building below people’s feet, rather than through ducts above their heads. Building occupants change the airflow through vents in the floor and below within the cavity, there are zero ducts. It is a more efficient system, however, over time the GSA has been quoted to say that floor cavities can become contaminated.
Fidelity had called every engineer they could find and actually flew professionals out from different states to figure out how to clean below the surface. Later on we discovered that the reason for this was because they had 80 dead mice below, and that their people were breathing in the fumes from them. In the meeting, when asked if we could handle this, my uncle impulsively responded that we could, and for half the price of the expert’s estimates of $1.75 per square foot. Astounded, Fidelity agreed. When we tried to stuff a cleaner below the floor with a vacuum and a skateboard, we quickly realized that this was impossible to do for 400k sqft of flooring with wires and mechanical components. On our last whim, we met with Fidelity to admit that we could not complete the job when all of a sudden we thought – wouldn’t it be great if we had a robot we could drive below that vacuumed and took video at the same time? And thus the RAF Robot was born (Raised Access Floor).
- Let us know of useful resources that helped you i.e. Books, websites, software etc
Without question the most important tool in my arsenal early on was Fiverr. It allowed me to get freelance artists & workers at a time where I did not have the budget to hire anyone full time. I would spend max $200 dollars and have 5 different Powerpoint presentations or marketing materials and I was able to either select the best or combine elements from each to make an awesome looking presentation. I used this site for all kinds of work from video editing to marketing materials, website pages, voice overs, you name it you can find it on Fiverr.
- Where are you with your product?
Our robot has cleaned over 105 Million sqft to date and is fully functioning! We provide a detailed presentation at the end of each service with actual video footage of the service as it happened and we also provide a detailed map overlay of all problem areas with pictures that help address customer issues. We’ve seen 70 foot, 4 inch cracks in concrete slabs, 80 dead mice, removed 2,000 lbs of dust, 10,000 sqft water puddles, leaky condensers, leaky pipes, holes in exterior walls, and countless trash items, mold, food spills below the raised floors within the cavity below.
- Website: Click HERE
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