How is that more than 5.2 billion people in the world have a mobile phone yet, in that one moment that you need to, you can’t reach the one person that you’d like to speak to?
As mobile carriers continue to put satellites into orbit to improve network connectivity, there are still technical challenges that limit when and where you can make a mobile call. For example, buildings and cars reduce signal strength by an average of 30%. Other factors, like tower distance, high terrain (hills, mountains), dense shrubbery, dust particles, fog, and rain can impede or block transmission of radiofrequency waves. Not to mention the requirement that your phone is adequately charged.
Now, there’s a solution to connect to anyone, anytime, from just about anywhere in the world, with specialized technology that reduces the likelihood of being hacked or intercepted. LynQ is a “people compass.” No phones, no maps, and no cellular networks are required. However, the tracking device cannot be obstructed from orbiting GPS satellites.
Grit Daily caught up with Karina Costa and her team as they were preparing for CES 2020. Costa is a serial entrepreneur who founded her first company at age 22 and has since worked and invested in over 100 startups. She launched one of Portugal’s first tech accelerators as well as BET Ventures, an NGO which offers a unique 24-hour contest where founders compete for funding. And, she architected TechStars Anywhere as a virtual pre-accelerator program which operates in many cities worldwide. “Tiny” is how she describes herself but she is undoubtedly mighty. Her Forbes’ profile states that she spends her spare time on the slopes and studying space exploration. That’s her in the lead photo.
Grit Daily: What’s your personal connection to this technology startup?
Karina Costa: LynQ began its journey around three years ago. The vision was straightforward: develop technology to help people stay connected and find each other without the constraints of limited battery life or cellular signal. When I was 12 years old, I wish that I would have had access to this liberating technology which lets you go anywhere but stay connected to feel safe. At that time, I broke my arm while I was skiing in the mountains and had to wait for hours until my sister found me to take me to a medic. As an avid outdoorswoman, I’ve become lost while snowshoeing, hiking or doing other off-road activities. The company’s co-founder was motivated to start LynQ as a means of helping people with special needs, like his grandmother who had early-stage Alzheimer’s, to give them greater self-agency, liberate them but keep them safe. We were all in pursuit of technology that could help us live our lives and experience them in a more meaningful and enjoyable way.
GD: Does LynQ stand for anything, what’s behind the name?
KC: LynQ, pronounced “link,” is all about linking plus connecting people and devices. LynQ is a self-contained network that lets you readily, privately and securely transmit data without any infrastructure. With a decentralized approach and no dependency on cellular tower structures, our solution works worldwide to help people find each other long-range.
GD: How do you explain your technology in simple terms?
KC: People have asked, ‘How can this be? It seems like magic!’ Each LynQ device each is pulling its own location data from GPS satellites. Customers form a group, for example, a hiking expedition, and each customer connects his or her LynQ device to the other group members’ devices. In this way, the devices are constantly communicating with each other as they update with new GPS coordinates when they are on the move. The “magic” comes from the proprietary radio protocols that we developed which enable secure and private transmission between devices at very low power consumption levels. We make it very hard to detect and intercept our transmissions. It’s essentially like your own private network. Range varies with topography and weather which can be 6 miles on an open beach or 3 miles in an urban jungle like NYC or in the mountains.
GD: What’s the “wow factor” behind LynQ?
KC: There’s nothing like this! From the very first time that I tried LynQ, I realized that it worked better than my own brain with respect to how it showed geospatial positioning for me versus the others connected in my LynQ network. It adds a whole new dimension to positioning. The best way that I can describe it is that it emulates that childhood game of “hot, hot, getting colder, cold” where the direction that you should walk in is intuitive. LynQ does not require training or instructions. Unlike apps or trackers which display blips on a map, LynQ is a personal compass with an arrow that clearly shows which direction you should head in to move towards another member of your party. So far, we’ve had positive feedback from over 8,000 customers and we’re very proud of that!
GD: Our readers are always interested in learning about the paths and pivots that entrepreneurs take. How did living on four continents, doing an undergraduate in business in Portugal, studying microeconomics in the UK, and getting a Masters in marketing in Korea set you on a path to lead LynQ?
KC: Each experience brings a new and broader perspective. Portugal doesn’t emphasize entrepreneurship, however, my father was an engineer and an inventor who routinely exposed me to solving problems and building prototypes. That foundation put me on a path to become an investor. After I was introduced to LynQ, it became one of my portfolio companies. Soon thereafter, I was brought on to lead it. By that time, I had seen hundreds of pitches but the technology and team at LynQ were so compelling that they literally “stole” me away from TechStars.
GD: As part of your work at TechStars, you helped more than 100 startups get launched, so you had a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t work as a concept. How did you know that LynQ would work?
KC: The team is very strong. They have a clear vision, unique technology, and an excellent product. Together, they are one of the most talented groups that I’ve seen. As I said, I was compelled to become a part of their journey.
GD: LynQ launched about 18 months ago, what has surprised you about the company’s journey thus far?
KC: One year ago, I told my mentor that joining LynQ felt like learning how to ride a bicycle: it was a big step. Oddly enough, it now feels like I’m learning how to drive a rocketship and, somehow, this doesn’t feel as foreign to me as learning how to ride a bike. As you are forming a company, that first part of the learning curve is so fast and dramatic that you’re literally evolving as a person and as a leader week-to-week and month-to-month. Today, learning is all about supply chain and international logistics. We’re manufacturing complex electronics in China, fulfilling orders in Hong Kong and shipping products worldwide. Success is measured by how fast you learn, how flexible you are and how quickly you can adapt. Every day is different and you are constantly solving big problems. The journey is equally thrilling, scary and painful but the reward is the excitement and being part of a team that’s having an impact.
GD: You’ve been an entrepreneur since the age of 22. What are you doing differently with LynQ versus what you did for your first startup?
KC: In the early days of my entrepreneurship, we weren’t venture-backed for hyper-growth like LynQ. Talent acquisition and team management – at scale – is something that you can’t really prepare for. This is what makes LynQ as exciting as it challenging right now. You have to go in realizing that it’s no longer about you. It’s now about building a team because you are only as good as your team. Running a company founded by other entrepreneurs is a whole different experience than running your own but many of the foundational basics clearly still apply.
GD: How and where can consumers buy this?
KC: We are very pleased to announce that, as of 7:00pm EDT last night, customers can shop at LynQme.com and receive their devices within less than a week.
GD: How do you think age and gender affect entrepreneurial success?
KC: I have a lot to say about both. Like most things, there are advantages and disadvantages. Ten years ago, when I launched my first business at 22 years old, people looked at me and laughed. They did not take me seriously. I’m a petite, young woman who was trying to look older to conduct business with people older than my father. Audacity was what I leveraged to propel me forward. Along the way, I’ve learned to embrace being different and how to find new ways to connect with potential investors and collaborators. I have also worked with many entrepreneurs who are older, some are seniors, and they have the reverse problem. The key is being true to yourself, being authentic, truly owning your skillset and leveraging everything that you have to advance your business. Stay optimistic! If you adopt a victim mentality, you’re not going to be successful.