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Vancouver startup, with $4 million in hand, brings Internet of Things to the kitchen

Vancouver startup, with $4 million in hand, brings Internet of Things to the kitchen

Posted by PanamericanWorld on November 23, 2015

Vodka, lychee juice, ice cubes and a splash of vermouth: The ingredients in a lychee martini seem straightforward. Why then, Michael Wallace wondered, don't the ones he mixed taste right.

Whether it's making drinks or baking brownies, Wallace concluded people have a hard time following recipes that require precise measurements. So he and his wife, Miriam Kim, came up with a digital solution.

Perfect Co. pairs a scale with a smartphone app to help people make exact measurements – and, they say, produce better drinks and confections. The app stands watch as you add ingredients to a bowl or glass on the scale and lets you know when it's enough – and what to do next.

The Vancouver company's tools are now in several national retailers and Perfect has just closed a $4 million investment led by the Oregon Angel Fund. With a foothold in the digital home, Perfect plans to use the funding to promote its products and find new applications for digital tools.

"Now it's about building that connected-kitchen universe or that connected-cooking universe," said Stephen Lile, Perfect's chief financial officer and Wallace's former colleague at Portland video streaming pioneer Ensequence.

Wallace and Kim are Portland tech vets turned Vancouver toymakers. He was chief technology officer at Ensequence and she is a former Intel engineering manager. Since 2005, they had been running a small toy-design firm called Pure Imagination, known for its Paper Jamz guitars.

When the Perfect concept came along, they repurposed Pure Imagination's engineers, installed a test kitchen and hired a trio of chefs. Sales last year totaled $2.5 million, according to the company; with the new funding they plan to grow from 19 to 45 employees.

The Oregon Angel Fund is flush with a string of recent exits in its portfolio – notably, Elemental Technologies just sold to Amazon for $296 million. So OAF is raising $10 million for 2016 investments, up 25 percent from this year. And it's leading bigger rounds, moving up from its roots in true angel funding in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

OAF investors Hugh Mackworth (co-founder of Digimarc) and Ralph Quinsey (chairman of the multibillion-dollar communications chip company Qorvo) are joining Perfect's board in conjunction with the funding.

The standard versions of Perfect's drink and baking kits cost around $50 apiece. Perfect has introduced a new, $100 version with a high-end scale and plans to begin targeting the health market next with a kit for building precise smoothies.

This emerging class of technology Is called the Internet of Things (or IoT), an excruciatingly wonky phrase that's nonetheless rolling off tongues across the tech industry. The idea is that apps or Internet connections can give everyday appliances more utility, melding the real and virtual worlds.

Big tech companies love IoT because it's a tiny market they feel has enormous growth potential. Google bought the digital thermostat Nest last year for $3.2 billion; Intel has created an entire business segment around IoT, even though it represents just 4 percent of its revenue and isn't actually growing that fast by tech industry standards (Intel's IoT sales climbed 10 percent in the past year).

Really popular IoT applications have been slow in coming. Perfect hopes its technology will provide some mass appeal.

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