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Brandon Graham, Jonathan Panera, and Sherman Hartman from Arke Aeronautics

Hey, today I’m here with Arke Aeronautics, Brandon Graham, CEO, Jonathan Piñera, CFO and chairman, Hartmans CTO. So, let’s get right into it.

Let’s talk about the company and what got you started.

Brandon: Ark is a public safety platform that connects first responders to enhanced 911 want information before they arrive on the scene. And just to give a little color to why that’s such an important problem to solve, the seven hundred thousand people that dialed nine one in the past twenty-four hours, they waited nine minutes on average help to arrive. So, reducing the national average response time by just one minute could save ten thousand lives this year. And this is a problem that all three of the founders of Ark have lived in their real lives. Sherman, I don’t know if you have any stories that might create kind of just an example as to one of the experiences that we’ve lived that was kind of an inspiration for this.


Sherman: Yeah, sure, I’m an EMT and firefighter, there was a call that I was involved in on a New Jersey Route 55 where it was dispatched as a motor vehicle crash with no other information. It was on one of the more remote areas of 55. So, it took probably about 12 to 13 minutes for the first emergency unit to get there. Once the emergency unit arrived, they realized that there were about a dozen patients, two of them entrapped in this vehicle, one of them trapped under the vehicle. And I think three more were ejected from the vehicle when they got on the scene. The report they gave to the dispatch was to send every unit that they had available in the end. They had to wait 12 additional minutes to dispatch about a dozen more ambulances, three paramedic units, and two helicopters, along with whatever fire department resources they needed, delaying the response of those pieces of equipment by about 15 minutes added to the original response. So, the crew would allow for first responders to have a visual of the scene minutes after dispatch instead of 12, reducing the response time for more appropriate resources.

Hopes after applying Launch Lane

Brandon: Well, one of the big focuses for ARC has been shifting from R&D now that we have a base foundation for our platform and a really good understanding thanks to Sherman’s experience as an actual first responder and how to cater to their needs and more towards the commercialization side, which is one of the biggest focuses of launch lane is helping early-stage companies commercialize their technology. And so, for us, that’s really what this accelerator is all about. That being said, there’s a lot of other things that have just been great value propositions to us in terms of what being a part of this community means. Panera, I know you have had a lot of thoughts on this.

Panera: Sure. So, we were also looking to network connections with other like-minded Philadelphia startups. It was also good to figure out how to gain a better understanding of the Philly ecosystem. Again, we also want to receive some validation of our company to the program and also mostly for accountability. Again, even though we have our day-to-day jobs through art, it’s good to have someone punch in the arm and remind you how you have to do this and that just to get the company going. So, again, we’re looking to get a lot out of this accelerator.

Priorities changed during the pandemic

Penera: So even before Covid, I mean, most of our work was already pretty much remote. So thankfully, we’ve already developed a best practice. So, there isn’t much of a transition. But again, we still had to work on other strategies on a rework because again, now we can’t meet face to face. We have to now use more emails and more video chats. And even though the pandemic did close a lot of huge opportunities, again, it opened in some new ones. So, for the most part, we can easily connect with other people again through video calls and email. So, because we’re forced to use those resources and it just ironically easier to connect with more people in a given day.

Struggles during the pandemic

Brandon: Well, you know, as John alluded to, ARC for the majority of our life has been doing a lot of remote development and remote project management. So, we have the best practices in place, but we use tools like Slack and video conferences. I mean, we live our work-life and on a video conference between founders doing our founders Huddle’s and our development team, who have just done a fantastic job. But really, it comes down to not letting things be out of sight, out of mind, and making sure that everybody has a clear understanding of what our North Star looks like and staying focused. So, keeping all that in mind, I think our team has done a fantastic job of maintaining that that momentum and those best practices, like John mentioned, Jonathan mentioned. And we just continue to do that before and after the covid impact has happened.

Thoughts about your experience in a virtual accelerator

Penera: And again, I miss the Face-To-Face connections that we had the first two weeks, but even then, the convenience of being able to all connect at the same time. Again, one of our one of the teams in our cohort, she’s in L.A. and she probably wouldn’t be able to reach out and attend these meetings every week. So, it somehow just again, ironically, made it easier for some of the aspects of the accelerator to just work. I’m sure a lot of the creativity that we could have experienced being in the same room and talking among each other and not having to wait your turn and you can have multiple conversations in a room without miss that. But again, it’s somehow it just works, and it has a lot of its pluses and minuses and just been working out so far.

Sherman: I mean, I have to agree with John a lot. That saves us a lot of travel time since we’re in New Jersey and we have to come over to Philly to meet in person. So, it’s nice to be able to. Just meet with people in front of the computer, be able to draw up what we’re what we were in the middle of and jump on a meeting and then once we’re done, we can go back to what we’re doing or, you know, just relax for the day. Don’t worry about commuting.

Brandon: Yeah, I was I was just going to say, you know, people get good at things when they find value in it. And one of those things you know, people have spent careers doing networking in person. And now these tips and tricks and best practices are coming out for how to network over video conferences. And one of the things that I think is just absolutely crucial is, are you need to take the initiative, do your research on who you’re talking to, and then and then send them a personalized message in the chat and get their contact info and say, hey, can we take this offline? Or one of those things. And I think in terms of my experience just making the most of these virtual meetings, I think people are extremely receptive to that. Even just today, we were on a separate call with another cohort of an accelerator that we’re in. And I was able to make a connection to a potential customer for us and was able to speak with them for half an hour after the meeting. So, you know, like everything covid and virtual meetings have created challenges, but we’ve also created opportunities for new ways to interact.

The impact of Covid-19 on your business

Brandon: Well, I can say we’re in the same boat as most everyone else. There’s so much uncertainty right now, and it makes it very difficult to predict the future. So, what we as a team are all trying to do is to continue to focus down on our mission, be resilient, and stay in lockstep with each other, our team, and our customer base as well.

Learnings from the experience

Before covid, you know, a lot of our work was already remote, like we’ve said. So, you know, most of this is just reaping the benefits of having good best practices for remote work before the pandemic hit. I think probably the lesson learned is to ask for help. You know, there are so many people out there, especially for a concept like this, where our entire mission is centered around bringing people to help faster and protecting those bringing that help. You know, people are willing to give of their time, their network and their experience to help us make that a reality. So, I think more and more, especially now that it’s easy to just ping somebody on slop or email or text that goes a long way. And that’s helped us kind of advance our mission, especially over the past two months, where, you know, it’s easy to look at what’s going on and feel a little down, but to see that energy and see the situation bringing out the best in our medical first responders and first responders, in general, it’s been good to see.

Penera: For me, I mean, in the past few months into the pandemic, I mean, it’s just proven to me how resilient the human spirit is. I mean, people are always finding ways to innovate, cope and adapt again. I think in general, just people are stronger than they think they are. They get into a situation. They think that their expectations are in such a way that, you know, they may not think they’ll get out of it. But again, people just find a way. Again, we do see that every day, whether you just watch it on TV, or I mean, you experience it in your day-to-day life. It’s just it just surprises me. And again, it’s not we’re not in the best situation. But again, I feel that people are finding ways to make things work and get better from here.

Sherman: I mean, I got to agree with everything that John and Brandon said we were unintentionally pretty well prepared for. Everything that happened. And, you know, being in the emergency health care field, it’s been an interesting experience, to say the least, during covid. Yeah, it’s been interesting.

Other grants and loans application

Penera: So, we’ve attempted to apply to one. Again, we were denied based on a technicality. I’m sure there were other variables that we probably would have hit if it wasn’t just for the first technicality that we had. So, again, at this point, I think we’re still in good standing financially and at least from a project management side. So, I think we’ve been pretty lucky. But even as that as a life raft, again, in this situation, I think we’re still doing pretty good. All things considered.

The things you’re looking forward to after the pandemic

Sherman: So obviously the city of Ark. So, I do a lot of work with our technology. And because of covid, we pretty much had to stop test light testing excuse me with our team and I’m very much looking forward to getting back to doing know regular every other day flight tests with our team and getting our drones back in the air.

Brandon: I share a similar sentiment with Sherman. I think on the positive side of this, we had just before this broke, we had just completed a very successful flight demonstration with a potential client whom I can’t share who they were. But it was a fantastic opportunity and it went well. And after that, we kind of confirmed our hardware technology and we shifted focus intentionally to developing our software and platform side of things to prepare that for commercialization into the market. So, you know, in a lot of ways, we did inadvertently prepare ourselves very well for what was coming. We had just closed out a huge project and that that allowed us to be intentional right upfront and choose to work on what we could make the most impact on given the circumstances. And that just happened to be building our platform, which is exactly what we needed to do in the first place. So, you know, once that platform is built, obviously now that the next goal and challenge and experience is going to be meshing both of those together. And that’s kind of really where Sherman and I, excel, he handles a lot of the hardware and the software integration and I’m the platform side of things, managing our front end developers and full-stack engineers that helped make sure that the brains, if you will, of what make makes AHC such a powerful tool for first responders can talk to our hardware and our robotic systems.

Penera: So, it’s a bit simpler. It’d be great to hang out with my team again and a happy hour at a bar somewhere and connect in other ways that are and we can chat about personal lives and just enjoy us enjoy our presence. So, again, some simpler things like that. So, I’m hoping for connecting in that way again.


Yeah, it’s the basic thing. Sometimes I think it’s been tough for me to stay focused on working from home. I’ve been trying to first I tried to get into VR and just make myself feel like I was going outdoors. Then I started going into my front yard and backyard and doing all this work. And I’ll do anything basically to procrastinate. Being in this house like anything I can do to get away from being inside, I’m going to do, and I have a million children in my living room and now they’re just overflowing on my porch and into my backyard. They’re pretty much everywhere. Plants are taking over my house. But then in some other ways, strangely enough, I’m also very focused on my work. When I like I try to find a balance between the times. But being stuck in my house and doing all of these things has been difficult for me. One of the reasons why I started working in co-working spaces in the first place is because I hate being alone and I hate not being like seeing other people. Something about seeing other people and being around other people helps me to stay inspired by the work that I do. So, it’s the simple things for me too. But I constantly feel like I can never stop procrastinating. It’s like an endless cycle of work and procrastination and an important breakup.


Brandon: It’s an important thing that you bring up is maintaining a healthy lifestyle in addition to just trying to be as productive as possible. And finding a work-life balance, I think is more of a challenge when your work in your life happened largely in the same area. I know for you know, for me, I’m a musician. So being able to kind of separate that and take a pause from life and be able to kind of express what I’m feeling and that way and also exercise getting outside, just kind of slowing down and working out has helped me kind of blow off a lot of the steam that comes with running a startup. So, it’s important. And I think the last thing that all three of the founders of Ark I think understand is being able to maintain positive energy. Because with these startups, you have days where you’re like Sky-high, you’re on a 90-degree incline blasting off, and then some days something happens and it’s not even that bad, but it just makes you feel like you’re going straight down. So being able to have that positive energy and maintain it to keep you or even-keeled, I think that’s the goal for all of us. And we do balance each other out in that way. So, it’s been great.

What is your superpower?

Sherman: Just one of them. Yeah. Go talk aeronautics. Your power is to empower the real superheroes to better perform their duties every day.

Social media and websites of Arke

Brandon: Well, the biggest thing for us is we want to talk to as many first responders and hear from you about your stories and the pain points that you feel every day. That way, we can better develop our product for you. The other thing is, if you know anybody who if you are somebody who knows first responders, spread the word, tell them the solutions coming and go find us and connect with us. We’ll put our company information and wherever you find this video. But you can go find us at our


Awesome. And that. Thanks so much for being with me, Jonathan and Brandon Sherman. Appreciate all working with me on this too, because bouncing between three people is a challenge when you’ve never done it before. So, thanks for making this experience easy for me as well. And thanks for being a part of the launch lane.