Thermo Scientific

Product Development: Building a Business by Productizing Technology

Product Realization
  • Capabilities Used
  • Strategy
  • Industrial Design
  • Engineering

Ten years ago Altitude began separate product development partnerships with two Boston-area startups. Through close collaboration and deep connection, we have worked together to build revolutionary businesses, create hundreds of millions of dollars of value, and position a Fortune 500 company for growth into the future.

The success Ahura and NITON led each to be acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific, a $150 billion technology company, within a few years of launch.

Creating a Successful Launch

Ahura Scientific, a small Boston-based startup, had a technology that could be invaluable for rescue workers, hazmat teams, bomb squads, and special operations units—if it could be used in the field. Using a device to point a laser at almost any object, it could identify what that object was made from. At the same time, NITON, another Boston startup, was creating a technology to identify metals, which could be used throughout product supply chains to verify quality or identify defects.

Ahura and NITON called upon Altitude to help develop their technologies into rugged, robust, and well-designed hand-held analytic instruments – a concept we refer to as product realization. But we ended up doing much more. Over the course of a decade, we have helped Ahura and NITON launch their first products, extend their product lines, and explore new business models. And we have remained their partners before and after each of their acquisitions by technology giant Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Emergency Crew Member Analyzing Substance with Thermo Scientific Ahura FirstDefender

Altitude commercialized Ahura’s Raman spectroscopy technology — which measures how light is scattered by different substances — making a groundbreaking field device for first responders working in crime scenes or disaster sites. We took sensitive laser technology and embedded it into a device rugged enough to survive drops, exposure to hazardous chemicals, and submersion in a bleach solution for cleaning. We also made it simple to use, as users would have little to no training and would have to use it in dangerous and unforgiving environments. We accomplished this all without incurring costs that would be prohibitive to a start-up company.

NITON also developed a unique technology it wanted to turn into a commercial product. Instead of measuring chemical properties of substances, NITON used a technology called X-Ray Fluorescence to analyze the material properties of soil, scrap metal, and paint. Altitude designers and engineers collaborated closely with NITON’s scientists to develop a streamlined, lightweight analyzer that was easy to use. The new product helped NITON open new markets and put x-ray fluorescence in the hands of thousands of users who never previously had access to the technology. NITON generated over $50 million of revenue on its first product alone.

Thermo Scientific XRF Analyzer Analyzing Rock

Finding New Areas of Growth

While both of these products were successful on their own, one product doesn’t make a business. After the initial launches, we worked with both companies to extend their product lines. For NITON, we helped it build a less expensive version of its analyzer by stripping out features in order to sell at a lower price point to non-professional users, opening up a whole new market for the instrument. For Ahura, we shrank the original form factor and created a product platform that allowed it to add a new technology (FTIR) as well as add optional new features for sample preparation.

Man Holding Thermo Scientific Ahura FirstDefender

In both cases, we helped the companies figure out ways they could grow their business after their initial product launch. Their success with product realization led each to be acquired by Thermo Fisher Scientific, a $150 billion technology company, within a few years of launch. Now both companies have been combined into a single business unit, Thermo Scientific Portable Analytic Instruments (PAI), intended to be a disruptive growth engine for the corporation. Altitude has continued to work with Thermo PAI to explore new business models and areas of growth in product realization. Red Altitude Logo