by Mindy Mozer
RIT alumnus Sean Petterson landed on the prestigious 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in manufacturing and industry.
Petterson, who graduated from RIT in 2013 in industrial design, is a founder of the industrial safety products company StrongArm Technologies Inc.
According to Forbes, StrongArm has raised $4.5 million from investors, including 3M, which helps with distribution of exoskeletons designed to reduce arm fatigue, avoid muscle strains and prevent back injuries. Customers include Con Edison and military shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries.
“I’m honored to be included in such a prestigious class, particularly because all of these individuals and organizations are focused on creating real change in the manufacturing space,” Petterson said.
Petterson started the company in 2010, which is now based in Brooklyn, N.Y., with Justin Hillery ’13 (multidisciplinary studies) when they were students. Hillery is no longer with the company. He has moved on to pursue other interests.
The two noticed that construction workers building Global Village on campus were struggling to lift large stones and they wondered if there was a better way for industrial workers, which they now call industrial athletes, to do their jobs. They also watched their fathers get injured working manual labor jobs when they were growing up.
By the end of the school year, they had invented a vest that helps workers lift objects while lowering the risk of back injury. The students worked with the Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which helped connect them to experts, mentors and equipment.
StrongArm first got noticed in February 2011 when the company placed second in the RIT Shark Tank Competition, now Tiger Tank, sponsored by Saunders College of Business and hosted by the Simone Center. Other business competitions followed and the students found themselves winning Rochester, regional and statewide events.
The company moved into RIT’s business incubator Venture Creations in 2012, the final step of RIT’s innovation pipeline. Experts there helped them hone their business pitch and make connections.
After they graduated, they moved the company to the New York City area. They made news in 2015 when the Post-it note and packaging company 3M announced it was investing a minority equity stake in the company.
“We think we are going to be a brand on par with some of the major athletic brands today,” Petterson said at the time of the 3M announcement.
For more on StrongArm, go to strongarmtech.com.