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Q&A with Gabe Glynn of MākuSafe

Gabriel Glynn is a serial entrepreneur with multiple successful exits over his startup career. His current venture, MākuSafe, aims to reduce workplace accidents with a wearable device and SaaS platform. The company has developed a wearable technology and software platform that gathers human motion and environmental data to identify risk to labor workers. Earlier this year, the company began deploying its safety technology nationwide.

Glynn was also the creator and host of the Advanced Manufacturing Podcast and has interviewed dozens of manufacturing leaders around the globe. He has served on many community and nonprofit boards including the Ankeny Young Professionals and was a Charter Member of the Greater Des Moines Rotary Club.

Our Q&A is below.

Can you talk about what led you to starting MākuSafe? What were you doing prior to founding the company?

I started a podcast about manufacturing because I had heard so many amazing stories about companies, especially here in the Heartland, that had been around for a hundred years or more and I wanted to cover the history of some of these companies. It had me traveling across the country talking to owners of some incredible companies that started off making horseshoes but were still around today making sophisticated technology for a variety of industries. It was my love of manufacturing, construction, and making physical goods that led me to MakuSafe. I witnessed firsthand what things were impacting worker’s health and safety and realized that there was a big opportunity to create a technology that could help gather data that could be used to provide better insights into what things impact a worker’s day to day work.

What data are MākuSafe’s devices measuring and looking at? How did you go about deciding what data to measure and what data not to?

We gather a lot of environmental data like temperature, sound exposure, humidity, air quality, lighting, and more. We also gather data on human motion, location, and even a feature for workers to send a voice memo to leadership. We wanted the device to be an advocate for the worker and provide them a connection to leadership without being invasive to their personal information. That’s why we don’t gather biometric data like heart rates, body temperature, skin moisture and other things. 

Earlier this year MākuSafe began deploying its wearable safety technology. What has that process been like so far and where are you at 6 months out?

We have technology running in 6 states today and we recently shipped our technology to Mexico for our first international project. The pandemic has impacted our ability to travel and visit customer sites but we continue to deploy our technology around the country and anticipate that before the year ends we’ll be in several more states. 

Can you talk a little bit about Maple Ventures? What led to the decision for you to office out of there and what makes it a good fit for MākuSafe?

We were a bit of a Guinea Pig for what is now Maple Ventures. Before that entity existed one of our early investors was Ramco Innovations (the founding company of MV). They learned that there were benefits to having a startup inside of their business and wanted to expand that effort and that’s what lead to MV. We found that having a space and access to a lot of resources through MV was a big boost for us when talking to prospective investors. It’s clear that they saw us in a much more legitimate light since we were not operating out of my living room anymore. 

MākuSafe was one of the companies accepted into BrokerTech Ventures’ first-ever cohort last year. Can you talk a bit about participating in the cohort?

BTV was a mix of emotions for me. I am so proud that we were accepted into the inaugural cohort but I was so frustrated/disappointed that things moved virtual because of Covid. BTV was great and a significant part of our growth, but I was so looking forward to spending time with my peer founders and participating in all of the live events/program they had planned. The thought of being able to be so engaged but still drive home to my family at the end of the day was really appealing. I got the family part, but we all missed out on the comradery. 

What does Iowa’s startup ecosystem look like in five years?

I hope that Iowa experiences more exits like Colin Hurd of SmartAg. We need more local founders to find success and do what Colin did and invest back into the ecosystem. If you look at the other successful startup ecosystems they all have a history of success by founders that chose to stay back and give back. DSM will get there, and when it does… look out! 

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Leave pride at the door. You can go fast alone, but you can go far with others. Too often I wanted to be the one with the ideas, answers, and give orders. As I’ve grown I’ve learned the value of letting other help. I would also tell myself not to get that stupid tattoo that I’m pretty sure is Chinese and is supposed to mean “Eternally True” but could also mean “bacon” for all I know. 

Is there anything additional thoughts/comments you have on MakuSafe or Iowa’s startup ecosystem that you’d like to share?

For the founder that is just getting started… Enjoy the journey. That’s not my advice, it’s Steve Jobs’ and it’s spot on. Try not to leave a wake of broken personal relationships behind you. If you can’t balance your company and the other areas of your life then you’ve fallen too far in love with yourself or your creation and you’ve forgotten that at one point you fell in love with solving a problem.

Q&A with Gabe Glynn of MākuSafe | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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