Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Stephen Lake and I’m the co-founder and CEO of Thalmic Labs. Since as early as I can remember, I’ve loved to build things. In the comments section of my kindergarten report card, my teacher wrote, “Stephen is a budding engineer.” I have always been passionate about finding out how things work, solving challenging problems, and thinking about things from first principles.
Where were you when the idea for Thalmic Labs came to you?
Thalmic Labs was established after me and my two co-founders, Matthew Bailey and Aaron Grant, came up with the idea behind Myo. Building on work in the area of wearable technology that Matthew and I had done previously, the idea for Myo was born out of fundamental question: How do we connect the real and the digital worlds as we move towards wearable and ubiquitous computing?
Tell us a bit about your team and company culture?
The team brings together expertise across many different engineering and non-technical disciplines. Employees have joined Thalmic in Waterloo from as far away as Australia and from all across North America. We look for people who are both smart and relentlessly resourceful. If those two are there, the rest will fall into place.
How do you craft your identity?
At Thalmic, we’re creating technology that has a real impact on the way people live their daily lives. 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 motivates you?
I’m motivated by tackling challenging problems with big impacts, as well as working alongside incredibly smart and talented people. All three of us (the founders) love tackling challenging problems with big impacts. We want to connect the real and digital worlds in an effortless and natural way.
What skill / quality do you value the most?
As I mentioned above, two qualities that we place a lot of emphasis on here at Thalmic are smarts and resourcefulness. From spending over a year designing our own EMG sensor from the ground-up here, to convincing manufacturers to undertake a completely new manufacturing process to build the Myo armband, we’ve overcome incredible challenges by putting an emphasis on those two qualities throughout our team.
What is the greatest risk you’ve taken? What was your process in making your decision?
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. It was a risk, but we 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.
What do you do in your free-time to decompress?
A major stress relief for all of us outside of work is athletics. We’ve done several triathlons together.
What is something you’ve had to learn on your own that you’d like to pass onto the next Creative?
The importance of getting the right team in place before trying to go anywhere. Jim Collins hit the nail on the head when he wrote, “start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.” Something that we’ve been very fortunate for at Thalmic is that we’ve been able to recruit amazing people to join our ever-growing team.
What forms of media have influenced you the most?
While I’m not sure that I could narrow that down for me specifically, I can say that Myo armband users most often reference Ironman or Minority Report after trying Myo for the first time. That, or they say that they feel like a Jedi!
What hardware / software do you use?
Hardware = Macbook, iPhone, Sonos, and of course my Myo armband. Tons of software, but Gmail and Spotify are always running.
What would be your dream creative setup?
I love open-concept work spaces where everyone is approachable. At Thalmic, my co-founders and I all sit in the middle of a large, open-concept office. Natural sunlight and French press coffee are always welcome too.