The death of a friend motivated Mitchell Hamline student Caleb Carr to start his own company.
“I didn’t want to be an executive initially,” Carr says. “But I want to solve this problem and, more importantly, save lives in the future.”
The problem Carr set out to solve is one that vexes helicopter crews working to save people in windy conditions. In 2009, Carr was on a search and rescue mission in Oregon. His friend, a fellow rescue team member, suffered a heart attack and required an immediate medical evacuation. A Black Hawk helicopter crew from the Oregon National Guard attempted to save him, but high winds prevented the medivac crew from safely lowering a rescue basket through the thick canopy of trees. The National Guard had to call off the mission, and Carr’s friend died.
He turned that tragedy into inspiration and formed an aerospace startup company—Vita Inclinata Technologies in Seattle, Washington.
The purpose behind Vita Inclinata was to develop a way to stabilize the hoist lines and cargo below helicopters to avoid incidents like the one that kept Carr’s friend from being rescued. Just a few years after the company was launched, that technology is now being built and tested.
“We ended up developing a drone that essentially attaches to the cable about five feet above the load that provides counterthrust in the direction of the swing to bring that load completely to center within about three seconds,” Carr explains.
He says the technology will save lives in rescue missions but also has applications in other situations where a cargo needs to be stabilized, from construction to fighting fires.
The invention has already garnered plenty of attention. The startup recently won business competitions at Rice University and Baylor University. The company has also signed $2.7 million in contracts with the Army and Air Force to develop systems for rescue operations and cargo transportation.
While the 25-year-old Carr relishes his role as president and CEO of a fast-growing company with offices in Seattle, Denver, and Washington D.C., he also loves being a law student.
Carr started law school in a full-time program in Seattle but found the requirement to be on campus 80 percent of the time didn’t accommodate an entrepreneur’s hectic travel schedule.
This winter he transferred to Mitchell Hamline’s Hybrid J.D. program, a part-time on-campus and online program that allows him to handle the day-to-day operations of Vita Inclinata while he works toward his law degree.
He’s travelling practically non-stop these days, but that gives him plenty of time to crack open his laptop and study—whether he’s in an airport or already flying. “I sit on airplanes and do homework,” he says. “That’s basically my life.”
“I sit on airplanes and do homework. That’s basically my life.”
Carr has discovered that attending law school while running a company has its advantages. He’s able to immediately apply what he learns in the classroom to his real-world work—whether that’s in contract negotiations with a big aerospace firm or helping his company identify potential legal issues before they become problems.
Once he’s finished his law degree, Carr plans to provide legal advice to his fellow entrepreneurs in the startup world.
Ultimately, he’d like to use his J.D. in the courtroom. When he’s not running Vita Inclinata, or studying at Mitchell Hamline, he works as a litigator for the Unemployment Law Project, a group that provides low-cost representation to people in the state of Washington whose unemployment benefits have been challenged or denied.
“I will always love the courtroom and the thrill that is defending and advocating for clients,” he says.