I had the pleasure of witnessing the dreams of entrepreneurs come true when I attended the Vogt Invention and Innovation Awards Demo Day in Louisville, Ky., on November 17thand watched Inscope Medical Solutions LLC, a Louisville-based startup, win $100,000 in grant funding.
Inscope Medical has developed an innovative laryngoscope, the OneScope, which integrates controllable suction and wireless video to provide a clear view of the vocal cords, improving the efficiency, speed, and safety of airway intubation.
The entrepreneurial team consists of CEO Maggie Galloway, Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Mary Nan Mallory, and Chief Operating Officer Adam Casson, all of whom are graduates of the Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship in the University of Louisville's College of Business.
Four other companies competed for the $100,000 grant during the Vogt Awards Demo Day. Each company had been awarded $20,000 in seed funding in August, which is non-dilutive, meaning no equity was taken. The $20,000 is designed to help the selected companies go through the program and maximize the value of the connections they are provided.It enables them to be able to create their first working prototypes via access to world-class resources.
Each company also received 10 weeks of intense entrepreneurial training by the EnterpriseCorp staff and mentors, participated in a 10-week lean start-up course by Nucleus and prototype development resources through the University of Louisville’s Rapid Prototyping, GE’s FirstBuild and LVL1 Hackerspace.
Winners also participated in Louisville Mini Maker Faire and were encouraged to network within the entrepreneurial community through Venture Connectors.
Upon completion of the program, companies then pitch their products at Vogt Demo Day. To have a chance to win an additional award up to $100,000 and meet with interested investors who can help take their business to the next level.
Lisa Bajorinas, director of the Kentucky Innovation Network, told me that the Vogt Awards are made possible by the Community Foundation’s Vogt Invention and Innovation Fund. During the 16 years of the program, nearly $2.5 million has been awarded to 50 companies. The program is administered by the entrepreneurial arm of Greater Louisville Inc., EnterpriseCorp, which is focused on assistance for entrepreneurs.
Lisa said, "The late Henry V. Heuser Sr., a native Louisvillian and founder of the Henry Vogt Machine Co., created a $5 million endowment at the Community Foundation to support local entrepreneurship shortly before his death in 1999. Henry had been able to use the equipment on his shop floor to assess the viability and commercial potential when he had an idea about how to make something better, quicker or easier. He wanted to establish an award that would allow engineers and entrepreneurs access to the same kinds of resources."
The four runners-up included:
Hue Innovations LLC – developed MiColor, a machine that includes a scanner, polish shaker, and ink that customizes creation of any non-toxic regular or gel nail polish color on demand for nail salons to reduce wasted polish, lower toxicity levels for salon workers, and enhance customer satisfaction by providing more color choices.
Stinger Equipment – created a concrete saw with its own engine and dust collection that safely cuts large blocks in a single pass eliminating fatigue, dangerous cuts, and exposure to lung cancer caused from silica dust inhalation.
Sunstrand – supplier and processor of value-added bio-material for domestic polymer composites using a proprietary line of bamboo and applied to hemp, kenaf, flax and jute offering increased potential to decrease weight and green-up plastics.
TriBlue Engineering Corporation – created a gas sweetening unit that allows natural gas processing plants to remove unwanted CO2 and H2S from their lines to make processing sour gas more economical and allows additional revenue streams to be made available because of the improved quality of the by-products.
The day after the Vogt Demo Day, I had lunch with Maggie Galloway and Adam Casson of Inscope Medical. Maggie explained that she and Adam had been MBA students at the University of Louisville and met Dr. Mary Nan Mallory, also studying for her MBA. They were assigned to form a team to find a problem and solve it. Dr. Mallory and her colleague, Dr. Thomas Cunningham, had experienced a failed intubation in the past and wanted to develop a better laryngoscope.
Galloway said, "Dr. Mallory and Dr. Thomas Cunningham, who was a resident physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at University of Louisville, had the idea for the technology, so the University of Louisville filed the first patent on the device which they are licensing to Inscope Medical." She said, "The OneScope streamlines the intubation process for physicians and emergency medical practitioners by combining the laryngoscope and the suction catheter so that physicians don't have to juggle multiple tools."
Galloway said, "The FDA just issued a recall of some of the equipment used to clean reusable scopes in hospitals, so there will be a big incentive to use disposable devices. Our OneScope is disposable.” She added, "About 25 million intubations occur in the U.S. each year and 50 million globally.”
Casson said, "We've done more than 650 customer discovery interviews and more than 300 interviews with clinicians, including design feedback from more than 50 paramedics and emergency physicians. Our second generation device will also integrate a wireless video camera which will allow physicians to view the placement on a nearby screen."
"The Vogt Award program has really accelerated our progress over the last three months through mentorship, coaching, and exposure to Louisville’s manufacturing resources,” Galloway said. "We are honored to receive the $100,000 Vogt Award Grant. The funds will allow us to continue the progress we’ve made during the Vogt Award program to reach major milestones in our product development and manufacturing setup.”
After returning home, I found out that the Vogt Award wasn't the first award that Inscope Medical won. In February 2015, they won the Brown-Forman Cardinal Challengeand "received a 'launch in Louisville' package that is valued at $100,000. The package, provided by EnterpriseCorp, includes services from various Louisville businesses as well as $15,000."
"The Brown-Forman Cardinal Challenge brings top teams of graduate students to Louisville, where they compete for the prize and an invitation to the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition in Austin, Texas, in May," said Van Clouse, the Cobb Family professor of entrepreneurship at University of Louisville.
According to an article in the Louisville Business Journal, Inscope Medical participated in the Global Venture Labs Investment Competition and won another competition, in May 2015. "Among the prizes, Inscope Medical won $75,000, an invitation to close the NASDAQ OMX Stock Market, and a $25,000 incubator package…." The same article mentioned that Inscope Medical's entrepreneurial "team had a second-place victory at the Rice Business Plan Competition in Houstonin April 2015, where it won $133,000. Prior to that, Inscope Medical took home third place and $4,000 at the Oregon New Venture Championshipin Portland, Ore."
The number of awards won by Inscope Medical's entrepreneurial team is impressive. As a director of the San Diego Inventors Forum (SDIF), I know of many startup companies in San Diego that would be very envious of Inscope Medical's success in obtaining this amount of funding without having to dilute their ownership. Our 2015 SDIF Invention contest awarded cash prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250 to the top three winners in August. How nice it would be to have a multi-million dollar endowment to award 10 times the amount we awarded!
The companies competing in the Demo Day are examples of American inventiveness, but the most difficult challenge for any startup company is to raise enough money to get their product to market. The Vogt Invention and Innovation Awards set a standard that should be emulated by other regions of our country to enable more companies to succeed, grow, and create more manufacturing jobs in the United States.