Duct tape is loved for its versatility, and a senior in the Clemson University Department of Psychology has added even more uses for it. Catherine Chapman along with Harvard graduate Nicholas Dimitruk have founded a company selling tape that gives users access to data via their phone.
Now, if duct tape can’t fix something, at least you can slap a piece of tape on the problem and label it unfixable with a QR code.
Chapman and Dimitruk interned with engineers at the Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), an MIT technology incubator last summer. They had the chance to develop a plan for a startup company, and when asked if they wanted to pursue the startup past the internship, they didn’t hesitate.
Their company is called Nastro Technologies, which was incorporated in January 2020. For the past year, they have been working to develop their new product, BitRip, with the help of their advisors from Harvard, Clemson and AFFOA. The tape has a specific pattern that acts like a QR code and unlocks data such as voice memos, photos, location and documents all accessible via smartphone. They are currently working with a paper-based tape and masking tape, with the intent to move to duct tape in the future.
“Instead of using a sticky note that can be damaged by water or the outdoor elements, we decided to use tape instead since it’s much more durable,” said Dimitruk.
Dimitruk said he has always been fascinated by QR codes, so he did extensive research on why QR codes are used so much in Southeast Asia in order to find everyday uses for them. After finding no tape-related usage, he saw that BitRip was poised to fill a void in the market.
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Though their target market is construction workers who need to make notes about various projects track materials and assets on site, BitRip could also be a good fit for the general public.
A few ways the duo see BitRip being used include punch listing, materials tracking and maintenance. For example, a general contractor can place a piece of BitRip next to a nick in paint on a wall. The contractor can then leave a voice memo on the BitRip app stating the problem and a photo of the issue that can be sent to the painter to fix the issue. The painter can view the damaged paint’s location on the BitRip app, go to that spot on-site and patch up the chipped paint.
BitRip can also be used to track deliveries and materials, as it tracks every time a label is scanned or edited, which could be handy for construction sites or even organizing your garage or attic.
The tape can be used to log maintenance on appliances that need to be serviced regularly. BitRip can be applied to an HVAC unit to track the timeline of a machine’s maintenance, who performed it and when the services were completed.
Chapman and Dimitruk had high expectations for their product, so in the summer of 2019, they worked to see if it could even be developed. After finding a company who could manufacture the tape, they created an app, conducted market research, tested the product and planned its launch.
While Dimitruk worked on developing the software over the summer, Chapman put her research skills to the test in conducting market and customer feedback research. Through countless interviews, Chapman has found that the trials showed positive results. This summer she spoke with around 80 different companies, mostly in construction, about BitRip.
“We have prototype tape out on six different job sites for testing and have received positive feedback as to how the testers are using the tape and its usefulness,” Chapman said.
With the positive feedback, the duo plan to launch the product by the end of the year, and then plan to offer BitRip integration capabilities for cloud-based construction software companies in early 2021.
The launch of their product and Nastro Technologies has been a learning experience for Chapman, to say the least, and her internship at AFFOA ignited her passion for business.
“I was captivated by the energy in the organization, and I found all of the moving pieces that go into a successful enterprise intriguing,” Chapman said. “A startup is an incredible way to learn about all facets of a business. Working for BitRip started as me just saying ‘yes’ to what seemed like a fantastic experience and resume builder. Since then, I have fallen in love with the product and the company.”
Though she never dreamed of owning her own business, she has always admired her father who worked in the business field and wanted to be a part of that. She decided to study psychology because she wanted to understand the motive behind buying habits and sales.
“I like psychology, because we study why we do what we do,” Chapman said. “There are little innuendos that come into the conversations, and it helps with reading people in the sales world.”
Throughout her time at Clemson, she’s worked with Robin Kowalski, a professor of psychology, on research focused on complaining in the workforce, and she’s transferred the skills she’s learned to the business world. This semester, she has strengthened those business and research skills as an intern with the Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Through her work at the Spiro Venture Accelerator, she is building a network of like-minded entrepreneurs in Clemson.
“I can bounce ideas off fellow interns and discuss their ventures with them as well, and Dr. Hannon has become a great mentor,” Chapman said. “I can talk about BitRip and gain thoughtful advice on making the best decisions for the business.”
Chapman said that with her background in psychology and Dimitruk’s background in business, they make an effective business team. They duo feel they’ve done everything they can to make the launch of BitRip as successful as possible.
“It’s been a great business adventure, and Catherine has been a godsend,” Dimitruk said. “One of the things I’ve always said is that business starts with sales, which is an overlooked skill set. Catherine has basically been at the front of the line with customer satisfaction interviews. She’s learned a lot and has been strengthening her own skills as a salesperson.”
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