For technology developer Nick Such, the future is a promising place. For one thing, there's the potential to map the interiors of buildings with the same degree of precision and ease-of-use that now accompanies road maps powered by cheap, pervasive Global Positioning System technology.
And more importantly, there are hundreds of other new challenges for entrepreneurs.
"We spend 80 percent of our time as human beings inside buildings," Such said in a recent visit to the Knight School of Communication. "Outdoors, it's fairly easy to collect information. You fly a couple of airplanes over, you use satellites, and you've got great imagery. You can create a map. Inside, it's a lot more complex. Every building is different, the availability of floor plans varies, and sometimes you have to get permission from building owners.
"But there are a lot of interesting things that can be captured, and we have really inefficient workplace habits. By doing a better inventory of what's going on in those buildings we can make the entire workforce of our planet more efficient.
"If you've ever been inside a hospital, everyone gets lost, even the employees."
BuildingLayer is the first business launched by Awesome Labs, a Lexington, Kentucky, start-up incubator co-founded by Such. After graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree in mechanical engineering in 2009, Such started helping students turn their projects into real companies. After launching BuildingLayer, he couldn't walk away, even when Stanford offered him the chance to study for an MBA. So he deferred the opportunity.
In a two-day visit to Queens in early October, supported by the Knight Foundation, Such taught graduate and undergraduate students about entrepreneurship. Over lunch the next day, with a dozen Charlotte community members launching their own businesses, Such posed two questions.
"How many of you have learned something new about starting a business in the last hour," Such asked. Everyone raised a hand. "How many of you have met someone new?" All hands up. "So the lesson is, do this more often."