Behind the ExP: Exo Imaging

With decades of experience accelerating the development and delivery of technology, Intel Capital is uniquely positioned to provide its portfolio companies with the access and expertise of Intel’s top technical talent across its 120K+ global workforce with its Embedded Expert Program (ExP). The ExP is purpose-built for Intel Capital-funded companies and strives to help tackle any challenge or need they may face across all domains. With over 100+ custom placements to date, the program has helped portfolio companies improve their AI performance, accelerate their go-to-market rate, boost their world-class high-volume manufacturing and more.

The “Behind the ExP” series showcases the impactful stories of the ExP from the lens of a number of portfolio company leaders and explores each of their unique, firsthand experiences with ExP and the program’s impact.

Interview with Joe Adam, Exo Imaging Executive Vice President of Operations:

What led you to try the Embedded Expert Program (ExP)?

Joe Adam: Two things really drew me to ExP – a compelling need for both expertise and experience that we simply didn't have. For us, the program was a great opportunity to reach out and get help from folks who brought in something beyond what we currently have on our team, and at no cost to our company.

Exo Imaging is a sound and medical device development company that leverages very complex technology in terms of the product, design, and manufacturing processes. Inevitably, when you introduce a new, complex product to market, there will be challenges, but by engaging with ExP, we are able to pull in an industry expert and ask – have you ever seen this before? How would you go about solving this? We specifically needed a depth of expertise in process engineering for semiconductors related to the development of new material interfaces, and someone who would help us navigate critical decision-making in terms of both the engineering process and material science. As we developed our solution, it became clear there were critical areas of expertise we were lacking, and luckily these were areas that Intel had deep expertise in.

What results did the ExP drive?

Joe Adam: One of our challenges was identifying the best way to take a simulation environment and couple it with material science, analytics and laboratory services. We needed help efficiently orchestrating how the projected performance actually performs in the lab environment, ultimately creating a closed loop with product testing. Intel Capital’s Embedded Expert was able to take us from the concept design phase to prototype development while supporting us along the way with decision-making. From the engagement, my team learned how to create processes and methodologies for complicated development in an efficient, structured, and phased way. We learned the best course of action is putting a process in place as opposed to just solving a single one-off problem. That process flow is truly embedded in Intel’s culture and something their team helped us achieve.

Another challenge we faced surrounded building a manufacturing facility and making new equipment investment decisions. This is probably one of the biggest, multi-million-dollar investments that companies make in the early stages. We knew we'd have to live with these choices for a long time; so having the chance to collaborate with Intel Capital’s manufacturing experts when we were considering making significant investments was beyond helpful. In the end, we decided not to proceed with the big machine investment, and instead, we outsourced it to experts in that field. That decision alone put us on a new path strategically, we developed a proven prototype before making million-dollar equipment investments, saving valuable resources.

I think there's this tendency in startups to move fast and fix on the fly, and that's a very effective thing in terms of new technology development and startups; however, it often results in making decisions that can be quite expensive and difficult to recover from when in reality, saving time and resources are the strongest results you can have. The Intel team was able to accelerate our solution faster at a lower cost than we would have achieved on our own. The ultimate result is that we now have a high-performing product successfully in the market that our customers love, and our Intel Capital Embedded Expert played a meaningful part in getting us there.

What is your team, or company, doing differently as a result?

Joe Adam: Startups tend to be very creative, reactive and spontaneous. The problem with that is that often you'll go down dead-ends, and those dead-ends result in wasted time and money. Intel Capital’s Embedded Expert helped us focus on how to make choices quickly while staying on the right path, creating a better, more rigorous development process. They provided improved processes, structure and invaluable relationships that our team can continue to leverage.

What was your experience like working with Intel Capital, and your Embedded Experts?

Joe Adam: One of the keys to success in leveraging this program is to have a well-defined problem so you can understand exactly what expertise you need. For us, one of the most important steps was to work with the Intel leadership team to define the problems we faced to identify the right experts. The second element to consider is how to balance open conversations in a way that enables efficient problem identification. To help get our teams to open up and get to know our Embedded Experts, one of the most valuable things we did was set up working sessions and face-to-face time to get to know each other and build relationships. When you're working on a problem in today's world, sometimes Zoom-only engagements create a barrier to trust, so building rapport and respect among teams is a critical component to success. Ultimately, pace is also important, more focused and shorter-duration projects with well-defined problem statements are often the most successful.

How do you view working with the Embedded Expert Program in the future?

Joe Adam: With the major rollout and ramp-up we have planned for next year, it's reassuring to know Intel’s experts are here for us. Intel is a big, very deep organization with tremendous expertise; access to such a knowledge base is a real blessing for startups. Today, I know I can simply call one of my Embedded Experts to have a casual conversation, which often leads me to feel reassured about the path we’re on, or ready to pivot.

As we look forward, I know I can count on Intel Capital’s Embedded Experts to help us fix any challenge we encounter. Huge thanks to the Intel Capital team for being willing and able, and most importantly their expertise genuinely helps us get to a better outcome.