It's been a remarkable two years for Bridget Hunter-Jones: Among other achievements, the MIT-educated engineer-turned-CEO launched her first company, obtained two provisional patents, and raised $6.5 million over two rounds of funding. She also gave birth to her first child.
Hunter-Jones's next big milestone comes in May, when the first product made by her company, Impact Biosystems, is slated to begin shipping out to customers. It's a percussive muscle-massager, the Pact Pulse, which, when paired with a handheld scanner called the Pact Sense, delivers massages catered to its users' muscles.
Hunter-Jones's father, Ian Hunter--also an MIT-affiliated engineer, as well as the chief inventor of Impact Biosystems--began developing the technology behind the two devices in 2017, in the basement lab and on-site barn offices of his home. Meanwhile Bridget was climbing from mechanical engineer to product-creation leader at Sonos, the speaker and audio system maker.
"At Sonos I got a really full sense of bringing a product all the way from incubation to mass production, and was heavily involved on the operations side as well," Hunter-Jones says. She was with the company from its startup phase through its initial public offering, and managed up to 15 projects at a time.
So when Hunter-Jones got the chance to work with her father, and to build a new brand and manage a product's development and design, she jumped. She also wanted to take the opportunity to build a company that was both innovative and diverse. She joined in early 2020 as chief executive, and hired a majority-female engineering team. Most of the company's 18 employees are based in Boston.
The pandemic had just set in, and the convenience of working with her dad became even more fortuitous. The startup's small Boston-based staff couldn't be entirely virtual, as they were building hardware. So several employees moved their operations to Ian Hunter's home and workshop. Bridget began working just above the inventors' paradise of a basement where she used to tinker as a kid.
Hunter-Jones implemented a strategy of raising investor funding to fuel the company's growth and first product launch, as well as a launch strategy using Indiegogo to sell pre-ordered products to customers. Impact Biosystems rolled out the campaign for the Pact Sense and Pulse in November, exceeded its goal in January, and expects to begin shipping out the first of roughly 1,000 products in May. The Indiegogo page boasts that Pact is lighter, quieter, and less expensive ($279) than competing products such as Theragun ($299 to $599).
The process wasn't without some missteps. Hunter-Jones says she originally envisioned being able to pitch investors by noting the company had, say, eight provisional patents, which may have been overaggressive. "For a small startup, where you're really conscious of how you spend your funds, it's actually a lot more important to have quality patents rather than a quantity of patents," she says. Armed with just two provisional patents for the muscle-scanner, the company was able to raise $2 million in seed funding in April 2020, and another $4.5 million in 2021, just days before Hunter-Jones gave birth.
"It was a wild time. I kept thinking, 'Am I going to close this round before the little guy comes?' Luckily, the timing--like so much else--worked out," she says.