Team Focus: Vital Flo, Inc.

As the program wraps up, Luke Marshall, CEO of VitalFlo, Inc. took some time to share his thoughts on his experience, what keeps him motivated!

Luke Marshall is the cofounder of VitalFlo, a company that is redefining the standard of care for asthma management by providing actionable recommendations to patients when they need it most: before they have an asthma attack. Their handheld medical device and digital health management app enables asthmatic patients to track their lung health and asthma medications at home. Through VitalFlo’s integrated platform, they provide population-level insights to healthcare provider networks, diagnostic support to physicians, and actionable recommendations to patients when they need it most.

Read on to learn more about Luke and VitalFlo, and visit their site to sign up to try their product!

Contact VitalFlo


IP: Why did you decide to apply for the Innovators Program?

Luke Marshall: I first found about about the Innovators Program through our good friends at NC RIoT. Tom Snyder had previously partnered with IP and knew about all the great education and community resources it has to offer to young companies like VitalFlo. Once learning about it, we jumped at the chance to apply!

IP: What are you most looking forward to in this program?

LM: We have been really thrilled to become a part of the great network of entrepreneurs, community partners and investors that Liz and Nick have developed for the Innovators Program! Getting to work directly with great companies like Becton Dickenson, Citrix and Red Hat, and seeing how they operate and approach problems at scale, has really helped us think about what systems we’re putting into place in our company as we envision reaching that level. Also, getting feedback from IP’s Executive Counsel has been huge for us – the experience all the executives bring to bear is really inspiring, and their advice is second to none.

IP: What skills or backgrounds do you each bring to your team?

LM: We have a great core team at VitalFlo, with each person bringing different skills to bear. James Dieffenderfer, CTO and inventor of the VitalFlo mobile spirometer, just wrapped up his Biomedical Engineering doctorate at NCSU where he worked on projects like VitalFlo as part of the ASSIST program. He has been a rockstar of digital health technologies from all angles, with great experience in hardware, embedded code, and machine learning technologies. Ravi Chilukuri, COO, has over 20 years of product development experience in hardware. He’s had great success leading development teams as they scale from small operations into dominant players (and did so most recently as VP of Product Development at local RTP late-stage startup, Phononic). We also have an amazing team of contract developers, manufacturers, and regulatory experts that position VitalFlo for success. As for me, I have been building and leading technical teams focused on commercializing university-based technologies for the last eight years. It has been a priviledge to work with this great team as we work to build VitalFlo into a company with enough scale to really make an impact for asthmatics everywhere.

IP: What was the “ah-ha” moment that led to starting your company?

LM: VitalFlo was born from an interaction between James and Dr. David Peden, a really top-notch pediatric asthma specialist from UNC School of Medicine who is now on our Board of Advisors. Dr. Peden basically described the current state of affairs in asthma management to James: how current lung health monitoring can only be done in-clinic and therefore infrequently. He asked James, “Can you solve this?” So James went to work on developing our patented technology.
Ravi and I met James a little while later while prospecting for promising university-based technologies to commercialize. When James showed us his solution we were blown away, and we immediately went to work.
All three of us on the management team have a history of respiratory ailments in our families, so building a solution for this was exciting for its promise and potential impact, but it is also personal.

IP: What problem are you trying to solve?

LM: There are 25 million Americans currently suffering from asthma symptoms – that’s 25 million Americans that aren’t sure about whether they’ll have trouble breathing today, whether they’ll miss school or work today, or about whether they’ll be one of the 10 Americans that will die today from asthma.

Our solution empowers these patients to take control of their asthma. VitalFlo’s mobile spirometer and smartphone app let’s patients monitor their lung function and asthma medications on a daily basis. With our powerful machine learning analytics, we can help predict whether they’re at risk of an asthma attack, and then notify them and their doctor so that they can avoid missed days, trips to the emergency room, or worse. VitalFlo lets asthma patients and their families breath easy.

IP: Any big takeaways from the Innovators Program that you’re excited to integrate into your business?

I was super excited to learn some of the design principals, and to incorporate them into our development cycle going forward! Since so much of our design choices had been before I joined the team, going through this process with IP was a great opportunity for me to do a deep dive into our design and product pipeline. We’ll definitely be using the processes we learned to continually iterate our product to better serve our customers.

IP: When you are not working tirelessly to launch a company, how do you spend your time?

LM: None of this would be possible without the support of my amazing wife, Hillary! She keeps me level-headed (well… mostly) through the highs and lows that come with startup life. Because of that, carving out quality time with her has always been a top priority. We really love to cook together – especially for guests! We also like to unplug and take our dog Eddy out into the woods for a hike.

IP: How do you stay energized for the long workdays of entrepreneurship? go-to snacks? rituals?

LM: We’re hugely motivated to solve this problem. In the US alone, 10 people die per day of asthma related causes – if working to solve a problem of that importance and scale is not energizing… you’re in the wrong business! That said, I also try to stay sharp by taking care of myself. My most focused and productive days tend to start with 15 minutes of meditation and 3 to 5 mile run with our dog.


Thanks Luke for sharing your experience with us, can’t wait for VitalFlo to blow us all away!

If you’d like to learn more about VitalFlo or the Innovators Program, check out more here.

VitalFlo  Innovators Program

Visit us soon for more interviews with this year’s participants!

Cheers! -Magdalyn

 

Team Focus: Allstacks!

The Innovators Program is chugging along, and I was excited to learn more about one of our awesome external teams last week, Allstacks. CEO Hersh Tapadia and CTO Jeremy Freeman have partnered together for 10 years, and after years of collaborating on project after project, they identified a hole in the project management market for a good analytics tool that gave useful data to drive decision-making.

Allstacks is business intelligence tool for engineering management in which they pul together all the data that is generated by the team and give them leading indicators of project health so they can better direct their attention and ship better quality products on time without having to spend a lot of time digging around trying to figure out what’s actually going on.

Dashboard of Allstacks

We had the chance to chat with Hersh and learn more about what drove their team to build Allstacks and how years of experience can groom you for building the perfect product! 

If you’d like to learn more about Allstacks and how it can transform your project management, learn more today!

Learn more about Allstacks!


Magdalyn: Why did you decide to apply for the Innovators Program?

Hersh: Primarily what made us want to apply was the partnership with Citrix and Red Hat. They’re two prototypical customers for our company, so it gave us the opportunity to work really closely with that type of customers to build a good product.

M: Awesome! What are you most looking forward to in this program?

H: We’ve been able to define some structure around working with our customers that allows us to recognize patterns and identify areas where we can make small changes that have large impact, and what really drove that was the tools that have been taught in the program. 

M: What skills or backgrounds do you each bring to your team?

H: It’s kind of an interesting story about me and my partner, we’ve been working together for over ten years, and this is our fourth company together. We met when we were in undergrad and i was spinning a company out of the university that was a medical device, and my partner jeremy was my first hire. that company was more bleeding-edge, and jeremy and the team wrote all the software for that. We ended up getting picked up and acqui-hired (before acqui-hiring was a thing) by a startup coming out of Johnson and Johnson. So I joined as a cofounder of that company and i was able to bring over the technology. I was able to hire back the critical parts of that team, so once again Jeremy was the first hire. We ran product there for 6 years, and we were ready to do something new, so we ended up building a business for 2 years looking for our next idea. We ended up working on a confluence of factors – data science projects, API development, and other algorithm development tools – we didn’t realize it then, but basically over the past 10 years we had trained ourselves in all the different components that allowed us to develop Allstacks really quickly. We built and launched the product in less than three months. 

M: What was the “ah-ha” moment that led to starting your company?

H: The idea came to us kind of two ways – my partner and i had actually had launched another data-based company, and when we actually ran the data, we found out that the data from the original product we had didn’t work out, but there was one slice of that product that was really interesting to our customers – people were interested in knowing what the productivity of their employees was inside of the tools that they’re paying for. So we started trying to understand that market and looked deeper into the productivity analytics market, and what we found is that there was a huge hole for engineering management. 

We then came at it from another angle in that we thought back to our experiences – because my partner and i both happen to be engineering and product managers for 10 years – and realized that it was actually a problem. We thought back to our own experiences working with senior management and how frustrating it was that we weren’t able to give good, quantitative answers to how things are going. We realized that the part of the problem was that there wasn’t good data available, and whatever data that was available is very siloed and not holistic. and by looking at that kind of data lead to blinded, partially-informed decision making which was really ineffective.

M: Short answer, what problem are you trying to solve?

H: Helping engineering build better products ahead of schedule and under budget.

M: What’s your biggest take-away from the Innovators Program so far?

H: It’s really important to be consistent in how you interact with your customers so you can identify patterns, and by doing that, it’s been really helpful. 

M:  When you are not working tirelessly to launch a company, how do you spend your time?

I think what’s really important for me is not losing the social connections that make life meaningful, so carving time out for that is really important so you don’t lose yourself in your business. My wife and I dedicate time to our friends and family every week so that’s really helpful.


Thanks Hersh for sharing your thoughts and progress with us, looking forward to seeing Allstacks grow and thrive!

If you’d like to learn more about Allstacks or the Innovators Program, check out more here.

Allstacks   Innovators Program

Visit us soon for more interviews with this year’s participants!

Cheers! -Magdalyn

 

Meet the 3 teams driving internal innovation at Citrix

We’re less than four weeks away from the 2016 Innovators Program Raleigh finale! In this week’s Q&A feature, we’re getting to know the three internal innovation teams from Citrix who are developing new cloud, mobile, and workplace technologies.

RecapIt organizes audio, photos, and notes captured on a mobile device into structured projects for easy sharing across clients and collaborators. The team includes Ben Robbins, Tarun Goel, and Nicholas Madariaga.

MediFlow is a mobile app and cloud portal that provides a range of patient intake options for medical providers, resulting in more secure, timely and accurate patient information and communication. The team includes Joe Saponaro, Domenico (Domo) Matteo, and Brian Stengaard.

Cloud Service Broker simplifies the startup process of service setup eliminating the complexity in managing and delivering services to end customers. Citrix Service Providers will be able to reduce their transaction and service delivery times from 90 days to a matter of hours. The team is powered by Nizar Tyrewalla, who is based at Citrix in Fort Lauderdale, along with a team member in Raleigh and development in Nanjing, China.

We asked each team about their experience in the Innovators Program thus far.

It’s a unique opportunity for a full-time, corporate employee to participate in a startup accelerator. What has that experience been like?

Ben Robbins: The energy around the team is amazing and we have been able to focus on quick solutions as we learn more about how our customers will use the product in their typical workflow. The opportunity to focus on a specific customer and a specific need has greatly increased the pace at which we can move and the progress we can make towards building a new offering for Citrix.  

Joe Saponaro: It has been life changing and a testament to Citrix’s commitment to wanting employees to “become the most remarkable version of” ourselves. I completed the part-time version of the Innovators Program, and [gained] added insights and skills that [helped me] perform past my highest sales volume to date. The full-time program has allowed me to dig deeper into the many facets of a successful startup. The organized training is perfect, from the nuts and bolts tools and process building, to the presentational elements critical to conveying a pitch.

Nizar Tyrewalla: The experience has been amazing. I participated in Citrix’s Lean Innovation Challenge, and from there, we got selected to take our idea to the next level and build a product that customers love. The Innovators Program has really given our team an opportunity to collaborate across the globe and bring a new product to market.

Successful businesses are ones that build products people want. What is an example of learning or insight you received from the customer interviews that helped you stay focused and avoid wasted efforts?  

BR: Intuitive use is the most crucial aspect for all users, regardless of vertical or segment.  If a product isn’t intuitive, then it won’t get used, and if your product isn’t used then all profits will be either not existent or very short lived.

JS: Using an InVision prototype, we completed interviews with medical practices to learn customer needs and interest. Those interviews led to 9 medical practices agreeing to a product trial [once it’s ready].  This in itself revealed interest and also guided us to create our next targeted prototype using Podio and Globiflow.

NT: Customer interviews were very enlightening and a crucial part of our journey. These conversations gave us a better understanding of our customer’s problems and helped us build our product with that at the forefront. We discovered that certain things we thought were problems weren’t, and vice versa, helping us focus the direction of the product faster than we could have without doing customer interviews.

What are some skills you have learned so far in the program that you feel will be useful to your day to day job at Citrix?

BR: As a group, we’ve each expanded our customer empathy and we’ve learned a lot about how particular verticals really operate. This will definitely help us as we continue to build products for various customers in the future.

JS:  We’ve gained significant vertical knowledge critical to selling into Healthcare. We’ve also gotten a greater understanding and appreciation for the customer’s workflow needs, which helps us think beyond just offering features or functional tools, and focus more on the experience and solution. The customer interviews also increased our listening skills and customer focus, which will be directly transferable to a ShareFile sales call.

NT: Learning how to validate our hypothesis and understand the customer’s problem before building a solution will be useful in our day to day job. Another important learning that I would like to try out at Citrix is not to build for scale at first. If we let customers test our solution sooner and provide feedback, we can see how they use our solution before spending a lot of time on getting the product out of the door.

What is a typical “day in the life” during the Innovators Program?

BR: The typical day is that there is no typical day.  Some days we are speaking to 3 customers on the phone and others we are out in the field watching customers use our product and uncovering needs that we’ve never identified.  Some days we are celebrating what a great iteration we’ve made to the product and other days we’re finding out that the build isn’t so great.  This is part of what keeps the creativity and the energy so abundant while in the program.  Each day presents its own new challenge.

JS: There is no “typical day” except to say that every day is exciting, challenging and will fly by.  We find focus and structure in weekly learnings and applying the defined process of the program, which follows a typical – dream – select – test – document and dream again cycle. Most days, I was more “customer facing” due to my sales and consulting background, but  I was also selected to build the final prototype using Podio and Globiflow.

NT: A “typical day” depends on the phase we are in for the Innovators Program. We met bi-weekly to share our progress and get feedback, and between those meetings, our activities varied from customer calls, gathering feedback on our prototype, designing or making changes to the workflows, and getting together to make code changes.

See these teams in action during the Innovators Program Demo Day in downtown Raleigh on December 12th.

Register at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/3rd-annual-innovators-program-demo-day-with-citrix-red-hat-tickets-29221254559

Innovators Program Announces Third Annual Demo Day in Raleigh

Organizers of the Raleigh Innovators Program today announced details for their third annual Demo Day. The event, a culmination of the 12-week accelerator, will take place on Monday, Dec. 12, at 2:30 – 5 p.m. in Pittman Auditorium at Saint Mary’s School in downtown Raleigh.

The Innovators Program is a three-month, cohort-driven, mentor-assisted accelerator program powered by a coalition of organizations, including Citrix Systems, Red Hat, HQ Raleigh and the City of Raleigh, in an effort to make Raleigh a leading center of innovation. This is the third year the Innovators Program returns to Raleigh, with previous programs also taking place in California and India.

Ten teams joined the Raleigh accelerator in September, participating in intensive design thinking and lean startup coaching, conducting more than 1,000 customer interviews, and receiving a $10K grant to make their products market and investment-ready. This year’s cohort includes five external early-stage startups: Nebula, a modular, customizable workstation suite; VisionLTC, a geospatial market analytics platform for the senior housing industry; Malartu, a fully functioning online investment platform; Glance, a text-messaged based job search platform; and ShineBig, a multimedia platform for customer engagement.

The cohort also includes five internal innovation teams from Red Hat and Citrix, spearheaded by full-time employees who are developing or redesigning products for their companies. Red Hat is supporting two groups, the Performance Management and Development team and the Red Hat Ambassadors team, and Citrix is supporting three: MediFlow, RecapIt and Citrix CSP.

During the Dec. 12, Demo Day, each team will pitch an idea and share insights learned throughout their experience in the program. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet the innovators, view product demonstrations and enjoy a reception following the pitches.

All teams who graduate from the Innovators Program have the chance to receive workspace at HQ Raleigh for up to one year through support from the City of Raleigh Economic Development. Additionally, the Innovators Program selection committee will award three months of coaching and additional grants of up to $50K based on the investment attractiveness of each startup.

For more information and to register, click here