Chattanooga-based startup Variable Inc. expects to have its Color Muse color scanning device in all of Sherwin-Williams' 4,200 stores in the United States and Canada this year.
Chattanoogan Dr. George Yu, who started the company in 2012, says the Color Muse lets users scan the color of an object and find matches to specific products in everything from paint to fashion to furniture to makeup.
Variable, which has 45 employees, is ramping up production at a 7,500-square-foot facility off Amnicola Highway leased from Fidelity Trust Co.
Selling for about $59 each and about the size of a 35 mm film cartridge, Color Muse uses technology Variable had earlier developed in a product called the Node, Yu says. That unit had sold for about $400. Yu says the company stripped out everything it could from the Node to get the price down and to focus on color scanning.
According to Variable, Color Muse can find precise color-matched products, including paint, textile, carpet, tile, apparel, accessories and others. Launched with an app and Bluetooth accessible, Color Muse can create, save and even share project palettes via email or social networks.
Variable claims that color accuracy is better than the human eye and far superior than a camera. In addition to North America, Yu also is aiming to generate sales in Europe and China.
"We've just started exporting to China," says Yu, who himself was born in China but raised in Houston, Texas. About eight years ago, he followed his wife, who teaches computer science at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Variable also has leased office space off Cherry Street in the city's Innovation District in the former Krystal Co. headquarters building that Fidelity refurbished in 2015.
The 35-year-old Yu says Variable was located in the Hamilton County Business Development Center for five years as the company matured.
Yu says company sales were about $3 million last year and he believes Variable will do "significantly more than that" in 2018.