Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey, and Aaron Grant: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs are Stephen Lake, Matthew Bailey, and Aaron Grant, who are changing the way people interact with technology through their innovative work with Thalmic Labs. Their first product, the Myo™ armband, measures electrical activity in muscles to wirelessly control computers, phones and other digital technologies…


Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
​At Thalmic, we’re changing the way people interact with technology. Specifically, we’re interested in the idea of closely coupling us as humans with digital technology in ways that improve or enhance our lives and/or abilities. For us, Myo is a first step down a long path in this direction.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
Even before we settled on working on Myo, the three of us had already decided that (upon graduation) we would start a technology company in some form, rather than taking a job or pursuing further studies. Our school, the University of Waterloo, puts a heavy emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, which helped inspire this career choice.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
We love solving challenging problems that could change the face of computing. The three of us get to wake up every day and work on some of the coolest technology we can imagine alongside an amazing team of people. There really isn’t anything else we’d rather be doing. One challenge as leaders in this rapidly-growing environment is finding incredible talent to hire as quickly as we need it.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
As crazy as things can get, all three of us make time for our personal lives outside of work. We have an open vacation policy and a fitness reimbursement program for all employees to encourage this work/life balance, and we each take advantage of these benefits to reset and get energized when needed.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In five years, we see ourselves continuing to work alongside an amazing team of engineers, researchers, and designers, building the future of human-computer interaction right here at Thalmic Labs. We’d also love to take a few pages out of Elon Musk’s book: he started with a cool tech company and is now focused on changing the world through electric cars with Tesla, rocket firm SpaceX, and solar installer SolarCity. He has figured out viable, profitable ways to make the world a better place.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
We faced (and continue to face) all the same challenges entrepreneurs in technology companies face every day: developing the technology, funding development, finding a market fit, recruiting talent, and so on. Since we’re a hardware company, there are a few extra challenges we have to deal with on both the engineering and business levels: supply chain, quality control, distribution, and financing all this. One big challenge we faced was a technical one; existing sensor technology that picks up muscle activity signals wasn’t suitable for Myo, so we spent over a year developing our own brand new sensor. The work paid off – we built a sensor that works in our demanding application, and generated valuable intellectual property and patents along the way.

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
To us, success is simple. It’s creating technology that has a real impact on the way people live their daily lives. At Thalmic, we’re envisioning a future where communication with technology is further ingrained into our daily lives, but becomes easier, less taxing, free of boundaries, and natural.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
We’ve had lots of highs and lows on our road to bringing Myo to market. One of the most memorable milestones was building the first working prototype of Myo in the summer of 2012, which later led to us being accepted into Y Combinator.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Go out and tackle a challenge that you’re especially passionate about, and/or that you have some competitive advantage in solving. When the days and nights get long and things get tough, you’ll need this passion to pull you through. Building a company in an area that solely seems “hot” or financially attractive, but one in which you have no specific experience or interest, is often a losing endeavour.

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?

Stephen: Yeti Cafe for brunch and Red House for dinner. Both have delicious food and a small, intimate atmosphere.

Matthew: Gilt, because of the delicious mussels and oysters.

Aaron: Bhima’s Warung. The food is incredible.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
A major stress relief for all of us outside of work is athletics. We’ve done several triathlons together.

Matthew: Specifically on the athletic side, I enjoy mountain biking, swimming, squash, lifting weights, and playing soccer on Thalmic’s company team. Another favourite pastime of mine is playing guitar.

Aaron: I really enjoy cooking (when I’m not running, biking, or swimming in preparation for the next IronMan)!

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?

Stephen: Scandinavia

Matthew: South Korea

Aaron: Japan

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?

Stephen: How You Like Me Now? – The Heavy

Matthew: Let it Rock – Kevin Rudolf

Aaron: It’s a Beautiful Day – U2

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
The three of us always had a plan to start a company together upon graduating from the University of Waterloo. Even if we hadn’t invented the Myo armband, we’re certain that we’d be using our mechatronics engineering degrees to build technology.

Stephen: No matter what I was doing, I’d definitely be building things. My kindergarten report card said, “Stephen is a budding engineer.”

Matthew: I always wanted to do something related to robotics, and more specifically, humanoid robotics.

Aaron: If I wasn’t doing this, I’d almost definitely be doing something with aerospace engineering.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Entrepreneurship in Canada is very important to us. The most charitable way in which we contribute is donating our time back to meet with and mentor other startup entrepreneurs.

What to you is notable?
Engineer and entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone x3.