An Alabama startup that provides virtual expertise software for surgeons and home repair technicians alike has closed an $8 million Series A that was fueled, in part, by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Help Lightning, based in Birmingham, announced on Thursday that it closed the $8 million investment led by Baltimore’s Resolve Growth Partners. The fund raise was greatly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, Help Lightning CEO Gary York said. Help Lightning has seen “an extraordinary spike in demand,” as technicians, for example, are no longer able to physically travel to locations where their expertise is required.
Usage has grown about 535 percent between February and June alone.
In the four years since Help Lightning first began pitching its services out of its Birmingham, Ala. headquarters, the company has managed to sign up 100 customers including some large Fortune 500 companies like Cox Communications, Siemens, and Boston Scientific.
Now, with an additional $8 million in financing from Resolve Growth Partners, the company is hoping to expand its sales and marketing efforts and continue to refine its product.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Aug. 13, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Help Lightning, Inc, a provider of virtual expertise software that enables enterprises to accelerate the transformation of their field service and call center organizations to profit centers, today announced that it has closed $8 million in Series A funding led by Resolve Growth Partners. This financing will be used to scale the business and fuel enterprise virtual expertise innovations with the aim of improving field service organizations and call center first-time fix rates, extending workforce capacity, and improving customer satisfaction.
“Help Lightning’s virtual expertise software plays a vital role in bringing technical expertise to settings where it’s most urgently needed,” said Gary York, CEO, Help Lightning. “We’ve seen an extraordinary spike in demand during COVID-19 as technicians are not able to physically get to locations where their expertise is required. We expect the demand for virtual support to only accelerate post COVID-19 and welcome the support of Resolve Growth Partners as we aggressively scale the business.”
Today hundreds of field service organizations and call centers across a variety of industries rely on Help Lightning’s virtual expertise software:
Unlike other remote technology solutions, only Help Lightning combines easy-to-use software with industry-specific expertise and a partnership approach to make sure enterprises get the most out of their investment. Whether facing workforce attrition, quality and responsiveness issues, or the inability to measure field service performance, Help Lightning enables organizations to maximize the efficiency of their service personnel.
“After evaluating the virtual expertise software market for over a year, our diligence is clear that Help Lightning has built a highly differentiated solution that is valued by its customers,” said Jit Sinha, co-founder and Managing Director from Resolve. “Help Lightning has a tremendous opportunity to power the success of this rapidly emerging market. We’re thrilled to be partnering with Gary York and his talented team.”
About Help Lightning
Help Lightning, Inc. provides virtual expertise software to companies across a variety of industries. Enterprises such as Becton Dickinson, Boston Scientific, and Cox Communications depend on Help Lightning to improve their field service organizations and call center first-time fix rates, extend their workforce capacities, and improve customer satisfaction. For more information, visit www.helplightning.com.
About Resolve Growth Partners
Resolve Growth Partners is a growth equity firm focused on investing in B2B software companies and enabling passionate, committed entrepreneurs to accelerate growth. Resolve provides expertise and repeatable best practices across human capital management, go-to-market and operations. For more information on Resolve, visit http://www.resolvegrowth.com.
Business has been good for Help Lightning, a virtual expertise company founded by Bart Guthrie, a neurosurgeon based at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Guthrie wanted to be able to support surgery from 1,000 miles away, but wanted to be more of a participant than simply a passive viewer guiding surgeons while watching on a screen. He and CEO Gary York developed what they call a “virtual interactive presence,” merging video streams so that remote helpers can aid those conducting surgery in person by gesturing onscreen to where a surgeon should make an incision.
Sheba Medical Center in Israel and broadband provider Cox Communications Inc. are among several organizations that have found new uses for augmented reality during the coronavirus pandemic, and they plan to continue using the data-visualization technology beyond the crisis. Help Lightning saw 435% growth in customers using its technology to conduct thousands of calls related to remote assistance between February and April because of the pandemic, said Gary York, chief executive of the company.
Field service is always expensive. Travel is one big cost. More costly yet is response time. Under the best of circumstances, it can take 24 hours or more to get a tech on site. What product manufacturer, even in normal times, can afford 24 hours of a machine being down? Many packaging machine builders are supporting their customers remotely now using a variety of technologies. Here are six options:
There’s still a lot of hype surrounding Augmented Reality and the market is rapidly maturing. Right now, there are billions of devices (smartphones and tablets) in use that are capable of AR functionality and completely compatible with Help Lightning – the world’s leading Remote Expertise video support solution. Mobile device AR will pave the way for broad AR adoption.
Having already embraced digital technology, Munters has the tools and platforms in place to continue service operations remotely. But recognizing the impact the pandemic would have on its customer base, the supplier of sustainable climate control solutions turned to Help Lightning’s remote assistance so they could continue customer support and avoid operational disruptions both in the field and in its manufacturing facilities.
Gary York, CEO of Help Lightning, joins ‘Your Future Home’ to discuss how the company’s technology allows technicians to be hands-on from afar through what’s called augmented ‘merged’ reality.
The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic continues to have political and economic turmoil all over the world, affecting business and consumer activities. Against this backdrop, digital transformation has become crucial to enterprises for operational resilience. While digitally active companies have been able to play to their strengths, others are increasingly considering digitalization as a choice better now than late or never, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. “At this point, where it is critical for enterprises to rapidly respond and remain sustainable, digital transformation has emerged to be the silver lining.”
The COVID-19 global pandemic has forced companies to implement social distancing, telework, and keep operating despite bans on travel and of groups over ten. One Birmingham firm is helping businesses operating in this challenging online environment. Help Lightning has a high-tech solution allowing technicians to remotely guide on-site equipment repairs and perform other mission-critical tasks for customers in manufacturing, health care and other industries. The company has seen demand for its services soar since the coronavirus crisis began.
Until recently, Munters had been reliant on site visits to clients, not just to assess their needs and install new equipment, but also to service, repair, and upgrade systems that were already in place. The company’s shift towards a more service-led business model persuaded it to explore new ways to minimize the need for expensive site visits, while still supporting their engineering teams and customers to the high standards they had come to expect.
Needless to say, those strategic aims have been dramatically underlined by the coronavirus pandemic, which has created an urgent need for remote assistance capabilities to help engineers sidestep travel restrictions, maintain systems, and keep the customer happy.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, many companies are wrestling with the challenges of travel bans and social distancing practices, but one Birmingham firm is offering a way to keep business operations going through mobile augmented reality technology. Help Lightning’s high-tech solution allows technicians to remotely guide on-site equipment repairs and perform other mission-critical tasks for customers in manufacturing, health care, and other industries.
“We are pleased to partner with Help Lightning to bring this hands-free remote expert experience to companies facing immediate operational challenges. The combined solution of Help Lightning with the Vuzix M400 Smart Glasses is a robust merged reality application that has been optimized for enterprise customers,” said Paul Travers, President and Chief Executive Officer at Vuzix.
What if there were a way for a cable technician to come to your home and guide you through the diagnostics and repair in real-time without once stepping inside your home? That’s what Cox Cable‘s On-site with Virtual Assist service does, using an augmented reality (AR) platform created by Birmingham, Alabama-based Help Lightning.
Due to the coronavirus and social distancing directives, cable firms will still send out a technician as a last resort, but they might not enter your home. Cox is working with Help Lightning, which can “provide remote assistance as though they’re working side-by-side.” Technicians can demonstrate by drawing on the screen and providing examples and directions on screen.
Kris Oldland, Editor-in-Chief, Field Service News is joined by Gary York and Evans Manolis of Help Lightning who discuss the practicalities of remote expertise as a tool for field service organizations. This was a jam packed session filled with many on point questions from an audience of over 180 field service professionals across the world.
Help Lightning has launched a new Rapid Response Strategy in response to COVID-19 travel bans and quarantines. The Rapid Response Strategy will provide a fast-track for new customers to have a complete implementation of Help Lightning’s Remote Expertise solution up and running in less than 24 hours. Reaching beyond the frustrations and inadequacies of phone calls or simple video chat, Help Lightning creates a real-time virtual interactive work environment dramatically reducing the need for travel.
Every member of the team at a manufacturing facility plays a crucial and indispensable role in the operation’s overall success, but no one more so than those responsible for keeping the machine tools not only up and running, but doing so at maximum capacity. Downtime must be avoided at all costs, and should it occur, it must be remedied ASAP. Remote Expertise is the answer.
Augmented Reality has been applied to Remote Expertise to allow subject matter experts to project their knowledge and skill to a remote colleague or customer requiring assistance. The technology merges the two live video streams into a single environment. This allows the expert to be virtually present and interact in real-time to help resolve a problem.
The simplicity of remote expertise makes it incredibly powerful for problem-solving. Why has Remote Expertise been so successful in producing value for service organizations?
The findings from SFG℠’s 2020 Remote Expertise Benchmark Survey clearly reflect a strong level of receptivity and acceptance of Remote Expertise. More than three-quarters of respondents (80%) indicate that they believe Remote Expertise represents, or will represent, a fundamental shift in the way they deliver service and support to their customers. Even better, their respective confidence levels are fairly high with respect to those believing that their current (and planned) technology investments are sufficient to support Remote Expertise (61%); and that their business, headcount and service apparatus can support Remote Expertise (65%).
For our 4 picks of AR knowledge supplementation startups, we used a data-driven startup scouting approach to identify the most relevant solutions globally. The Global Startup Heat Map below highlights 4 interesting examples out of 130 relevant solutions. Depending on your specific needs, your top picks might look entirely different.
Surprisingly, nearly 80% of car seats on the road today are installed incorrectly. UAB Youth Safety Lab is working in collaboration with Safe Kids International to help improve these statistics. They are using Help Lightning’s Merged Reality to connect parents in remote locations with car seat installation experts. The results are impressive.
A new IDC Innovators report profiles five companies that provide augmented reality (AR) applications allowing manufacturers to close the gap between remote field workers and real-time intelligence to deliver resolution.
Many of Help Lightning’s customers manufacture relatively complex pieces of equipment. To support these kinds of users, companies typically offer an 800 number that connects to a call center. If an issue can’t be resolved over a phone call, then a field service technician must be dispatched to help. However, that process can be extremely time-, cost- and labor-intensive for the manufacturer and end up offering a poor experience to their customers. Therefore it is imperative to fix the problem as quickly and effectively as possible. Using Help Lightning has proven extremely beneficial to such companies.
Comparing the present-day states of the consumer and enterprise sectors of augmented reality is like evaluating the merits of sports car versus work trucks. Like consumer AR, sports cars are sexy and exciting, but perhaps a bit impractical at times. On the other hand, enterprise AR is utilitarian, but it gets the job done and, in the long run, pays for itself.
Over the past 24 months, I have worked with over 50 service organizations to help them address adoption. What has become clear to me is that Merged Reality is no longer a technology play. Rather, Merged Reality is much more about change management and behavior change than it is about technology. It requires organizations to change the mindsets of service professionals. To change service processes. It means getting out of a comfort zone and committing to deliver service in a new way. And the reality is that none of these changes are easy.
Companies are already deploying AR for service applications to improve resolution rates and address the looming technician shortage.
Augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) have made tremendous strides over the past Afew years. Goldman Sachs has forecast that the market for these technologies will reach $80 billion by 2025, and they generally rank near the top of most analysts’ hot technology lists.
When you call the cable company to troubleshoot an issue, you’re often walked through steps that are easy to misunderstand, leaving you and the technician on the phone frustrated. Part of that may be the method of delivery, as studies in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior show that adding gestures and non-verbal cues substantially improves speed of understanding. Hypepotamus interviews Gary York, CEO of Help Lightning, to explain how a mixed reality mobile platform, can help.
Three weeks after Forbes published a deep-dive about the Magic City’s strides to become a tech hub, entitled “Inside Birmingham’s Bid To Become The Southern Silicon Valley,” Barron’s hailed the city in an article with the title “Add Birmingham To Tech’s Growing List of Hubs.” Help Lightning, a virtual reality tool for customer-service agents to install or fix equipment, earned Barron’s mention as a successful startup headquartered at Innovation Depot, Birmingham’s tech startup hub.
BUNN has innovated service delivery with technologies inlcuding field service management, IoT, and augmented reality (AR). Most recently, BUNN has deployed an AR solution from Help Lightning to onboard and train field technicians quickly and effectively to keep up with the company’s growth.
Birmingham Business Journal introduces readers to Help Lightning, a Birmingham’s Rise of the Rest pitch competition finalist.
Interest in augmented reality (AR) applications is growing as evidenced at the Field Service USA event. Real-world success stories like those relayed by Tim Spencer, sr. VP and GM of service operations at BUNN helped to solidify the view of what AR can do in field service by those who have yet to adopt.
The use of augmented reality (AR) in field service has shifted from hypothetical to reality with companies experiencing benefits such as remote resolution and stronger training and support of field workers. Fresenius Kabi is a global health care company that specializes in lifesaving medicines and technologies for infusion, transfusion, and clinical nutrition. Ryan Snellings, VP of operations at Fresenius Kabi, is currently leading Fresenius Kabi’s service organization on its journey from cost center to profit center, and the use of AR is one part of that journey.
TechBuilders features an entrepreneurial profile on Gary York, Help Lightning’s CEO.
2017 has been a break-out year for AR within the Field Service Industry. Many vendors hit the market with AR products and solutions with award-winning products, and successful deployments with Field Service companies. Michael Blumberg put together a brief set of criteria to keep in mind when identifying an optimal AR solution.
May/June issue of Field Technologies Magazine explores the current state of AR in field service as featured at Field Service USA 2017. The use of AR in field service is shifting from a hypothetical concept to a reality. Field Service USA 2017 once again featured AR solutions — but this time, the conversation centered on actual use cases and early deployments driving real business benefit.
Field Service News features Help Lightning’s mobile merged reality, an innovative mobile solution which goes beyond augmented reality (AR) to redefine the future of help.
BIRMINGHAM, AL., Feb 17, 2016 — Help Lightning, Inc. wants to transform the service industry with mobile, patented technology that allows users needing or giving help to be virtually present with one another on any smartphone or tablet. The Help Lightning mobile merged reality and virtual presence app digitally merges two real-time environments, blending local and remote video streams for instant, interactive help sessions. Merged reality means two individuals on opposite sides of the earth combine their “real” worlds and transmit their actual hands to visibly gesture, show real objects, illustrate ideas and demonstrate using actual products or tools versus the inherent limitations of virtual reality or one-way augmented reality.
With Help Lightning a service expert simply makes a help lightning call to virtually reach inside the customer’s environment in order to diagnose, educate and/or resolve issues. Subcontractors or new employees easily and instantly bring the super-expert, who may be a continent away, to any situation. Companies can establish more powerful customer relationships by changing the speed, quality and responsiveness of their service organization.
“We have completely re-imagined how businesses, customers and employees are able to give and receive help,” states Drew Deaton, CEO of Help Lightning. “We’ve eliminated the frustrations and inadequacies of phone or video chat with immersive interaction that provides natural gesturing, visual cueing and other non-verbal communication to improve cognition and outcomes.”
Help Lighting customers have the option to brand and integrate their help processes with the merged reality platform to quickly solve problems for customers, assist on-site personnel, eliminate wasteful trips, minimize delays, maximize uptime or differentiate the way products are sold, implemented and serviced. Deaton explains, “Our customers use Help Lighting to set themselves apart from their competitors and grow their revenue.”
Download Help Lightning from the Apple App Store for any iOS devices or go to Google Play for Android devices. One user can use an iPhone, while the other might use a Samsung Galaxy tablet. Nothing special is needed to start a merged reality session. However, Help Lightning is designed to work with the emerging suite of smartphone compatible, visual wearable devices.
Dr. Bart Guthrie, a UAB Neurosurgeon and Help Lightning co-founder Makes the Top 20 Most Influential People in Field Service.
…And in fact the absolute star turn of the three days was provided by Augmented Reality solution Help Lightning. Developed in part by neurosurgeon Bart Guthrie, Help Lightning uses augmented reality to deliver remote guidance. The impact for field service of augmented reality is massive, potentially slashing a phenomenal amount of outgoing costs by allowing experienced engineers to guide local onsite engineers on how to make a fix themselves, instead of having to get the experienced engineer onsite.