Jay Breeding’s dream has died and he’s selling pieces of it off.
Seven years ago, Breeding founded InSet Systems to develop a tracking system designed to save the lives of miners trapped underground.
Breeding set up shop in Akron’s business incubator — the Global Business Accelerator — on Main Street, and raised more than $2 million in loans and grants, including public money. His technology got attention from Popular Science and Inc. magazines.
But several weeks ago, Breeding sent out an email to “friends and supporters,” saying he was closing InSet, liquidating the company’s assets.
“We gave it a good shot,” Breeding said in an interview. “But we could not resolve the technical issues.”
An auction of company assets is planned for 10 a.m. today at the Kidron Auction Grounds in Wayne County. Everything from patents to computers to phones and other office equipment is on the block.
The closing comes after parts of the tracking system won approval from the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.
InSet had been trying to create a system that would locate miners underground within 10 meters. He was inspired by the Sago, W.Va., mine collapse in 2006.
A federal law approved that same year required underground coal mines to install wireless tracking systems within three years.
Breeding, a former engineer and manager in the rubber industry, feels a mix of sadness and relief over the shutdown of his startup. “You didn’t accomplish what you set out to do,” he said. “But by the same token, it will be good to move on.”
The technical problems that InSet could not overcome involve the small device, to be worn by miners, that would communicate with an above-ground part of the tracking system.
Simply put, Breeding said, “the little chip over time gets confused where it is.”
Breeding had contracted with an outside vendor to develop software to maintain the system’s accuracy, and, Breeding said, “After 18 months they said they couldn’t do it. … We ran out of money.”
The company was always small, with employment reaching a handful of workers in 2010. At the end, Breeding was the lone employee.
In the past few years, other companies, using different technology, have penetrated the market. InSet was unique in that it was using what is called inertial navigation, Breeding said, which is so exact that it is used to guide missiles.
The U.S. Small Business Administration says only five of 10 “new employer firms” survive at least five years. Terry Martell, operations director at the Akron Global Business Accelerator, said the companies that receive mentoring and other help at the local and state-supported facility fare better. He said 90 percent survive at least five years.
“But,” Martell said, “high risk is endemic to all of these new high-tech startups.”
He’s focused on Global Business Accelerator success stories, pointing out that last year a British company bought tech startup Summit Data Communications for $22 million, six years after its doors opened at the incubator.
Martell said Summit Data now occupies a large section of a floor of a downtown Akron office building and has about 50 employees.
Lenders — the state, as well as JumpStart Inc., a regional development nonprofit — will split proceeds from the InSet auction. The state, through its Ohio Third Frontier organization, loaned InSet more than $700,000. JumpStart loaned the company $100,000.
Breeding isn’t sure what he will do next.
“I’m old enough to retire, but I’m not ready to,” he said.
The Kidron Auction Grounds is at 4885 Kidron Road, Kidron.
Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or firstname.lastname@example.org.