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

 

DeLisa Alexander of Red Hat talks innovation and intrapreneurship

DeLisa Alexander is Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of open source software. Since founding in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1993, Red Hat has grown from a small technology startup into a global, $2 billion corporation. The company hasn’t forgotten its entrepreneurial roots, though, which is why leaders like DeLisa are heavily focused on maintaining a culture of innovation both internally and in Red Hat communities. So just how does a global enterprise do that? We sat down with DeLisa to find out why they sponsor a startup accelerator, how they’ve built a meritocracy, and why she doesn’t call herself the head of HR.


Innovators Program: What is your focus as Red Hat’s Chief People Officer?

DeLisa Alexander: As Chief People Officer (head of HR), I lead the organization that is responsible for being a strategic partner to our business by hiring, developing, and retaining talented people. I’m also focused on scaling and sustaining Red Hat’s culture and employment brand as we grow.

For the last 11 years, this role as given me the opportunity to help grow our company from this wild idea—that we could sell free software—into a sustainable business that earned more than two billion dollars in revenue this year.

Innovation and entrepreneurship have always been areas of interest and passion for me, and as Chief People Officer, I feel so fortunate to be able to contribute back to the same business ecosystem that helped make Red Hat a successful, global company.

IP: Why is innovation so important? How has innovation impacted Red Hat’s company culture?

DA: Innovation and entrepreneurship are critical—to our community, to our country, and to the world. Innovators and entrepreneurs are a key part of a robust business ecosystem, because they generate new ideas, challenge the status quo, and help us solve the big problems that our world is facing.

As an open source company, Red Hat’s culture not only fosters this type of innovation and collaboration — it demands it. We’re a meritocracy, where good ideas can come from anywhere, and the best ideas are what we should act on. That’s one of the things I love most about Red Hat: people are free to share their ideas and make an impact.

IP: Why do you think it’s important for a large company like Red Hat to support local startups and entrepreneurs?

DA: At Red Hat, we believe fostering innovation and supporting the growing startup ecosystem is an essential part of our role as a longtime member of the Triangle business community. Red Hat started out as a little company with a wild idea, so we understand many of the challenges these startups face.

Now that we’re a large, successful company, we’ve taken on a larger role as a corporate citizen in this community. We want to be a catalyst in the innovation ecosystem and help another business become the next Red Hat. Sponsoring the Innovators Program and providing enterprise expertise to these startups is one way we’re approaching that.

DeLisa presenting at the Women in Open Source Awards

IP: Why did Red Hat decide to have teams participate in last year’s Innovators Program in addition to your sponsorship?

DA: Knowing that the best ideas can come from anywhere, we take a community-powered approach to almost everything we do at Red Hat. Participating in the Innovators Program was an innovative way for us to redesign two internal talent programs that support our culture.

It also created a tremendous opportunity for some of our Red Hat associates to expand and develop their leadership capabilities. At the end of the twelve weeks, our teams brought their insights from the program back to Red Hat, infusing them into their roles and teams. Here’s what one of our team members said:

“The program was a unique experience because it allowed us to take an entrepreneurial approach in solving a real business challenge through rapid prototyping — all while working with a diverse cross-section of Red Hatters globally.”

– Rob Trout, Global Product Manager, Red Hat –

IP: What’s the latest with the projects your innovation teams worked on during the program?  

DA: Since Demo Day, we have continued to take a community-powered approach to both projects, with the redesign work from our Innovators Program teams as the foundation. Here’s the most exciting part to me — we’re designing these systems using Red Hat technology. Through our internal innovation labs, we’re iterating and developing the tools to bring these talent programs to life in partnership with Red Hatters from our IT, Consulting, and People teams.

By using our own technology, we’re able to create processes that are truly reflective of Red Hat’s culture. It’s an exciting place to be right now, and I look forward to seeing the final products and the impact they will have.

IP: What are some challenges of running innovation-oriented programs within a big company?

DA: For Red Hat, it’s finding the right balance between moving fast and gathering input. One of the biggest challenges we face as a growing organization is making sure that we stay true to our open culture as we innovate. Making decisions in an open and inclusive way is a large part of that. Feedback is so important to us.

When we decided to participate in the Innovators Program last year, we chose our two projects based on months of feedback from Red Hat associates around the world.

From the start of the twelve-week program, our two internal innovation teams applied the principles of the Open Decision Framework, our collection of best practices for making open business decisions.

They shared their goals, progress, and challenges during each phase of the program with the entire company to give every Red Hat associate an opportunity to contribute, offer feedback, and make their voice heard.

That isn’t a fast process, so trying to squeeze in those opportunities while making progress against the tight deadlines of the program is a real challenge. But it’s a real-world challenge that we face with all of our business decisions, and we know that it’s worth the effort. I’m proud that the teams did this work in the Red Hat way, and that we’re now taking an open approach to continuing these projects using our own technology.

IP: What advice do you have for other leaders who want to focus on innovation?  

DA: Seek out new perspectives and be open to different opinions. If you want to get the best ideas, you need diversity of thought and an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcome to participate and offer their perspectives. Research shows that organizations with more diversity—gender, racial, ethnic, and global—benefit in many ways. This is especially true in a startup economy. Leaders who seek out these perspectives will find that their companies are able to better understand customers, mitigate risk, and generate innovative ideas and products.


Thanks so much to DeLisa and our incredible partners at Red Hat for helping move innovation forward in Raleigh and beyond!

If you are executive / manager or intrapreneur that is interested to find out how you can leverage the innovators program at your company be sure to click here and let us know who you are how we can help you!

Contact us  |  Learn more

-Magdalyn

IMPORTANT PROGRAM UPDATE

Hello innovators!

WE’VE GOT 2 BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS Y’ALL!

1. Due to multiple requests, we have decided to EXTEND THE APPLICATION DEADLINE until Wednesday, June 28! We have had lots of great interest in the program and want to give everyone a chance to apply. So get those last-minute applications in, y’all!


2. Though we can’t *officially* announce an exciting new partnership, we are excited to share that we have opened potentially 2 NEW SPOTS for the 2017 Raleigh program. These spots are reserved for companies focused on healthcare and medical tech, so if you or anyone you know would be a good fit, make sure to apply and share!

Participants will be announced soon, so stay tuned as kickoff approaches! 

Apply Now!   |  Learn more

Best,

Magdalyn

Meet the corporate innovators shaking things up at Red Hat

We’re officially halfway through the 2016 Innovators Program Raleigh! The three-month accelerator program, sponsored by Red Hat, Citrix, and HQ Raleigh, helps early-stage tech startups develop a go-to-market strategy, find customers, and prepare for their first round of funding.

In this week’s Q&A feature, we’re taking a closer look at two internal innovation teams from Red Hat. Both teams are focused on creating next-generation people programs for internal use.

The Red Hat Performance Management and Development team is working on a performance management process that focuses on associate development and is scalable for Red Hat’s future. The team includes Arrie Brown, Jorge Herrera, Beverly Heustess, and Kim Jokisch, and is supported by Geri Duncan.

The Red Hat Ambassadors team is creating a transparent, efficient, and scalable referral program that can enhance both the associate and candidate experience. This team includes Jonathan Edwards, Jorge Herrera, and Jenna Slawson, and is supported by Rob Trout.

We asked both teams about their experience in the program so far.

Tell us about a typical “day in the life” for your team during the Innovators Program.

Beverly Heustess (BH): The pace of the project is so fast and our schedule so dynamic that nothing is routine. We regularly discuss what we need to accomplish daily and for that week, but we plan for the plan to change.

Jorge Herrera (JH): I don’t think there’s such thing as a “typical” day in this project!

Arrie Brown (AB): Even our workspaces change from day to day. We split our time between Red Hat Tower, Citrix, and HQ Raleigh, which is a cool co-working space in downtown Raleigh.

What’s it like to be on a team with fellow Red Hat associates from different departments within the company?

BH: Partnering with Red Hatters from completely different departments has been neat. We each bring unique experiences, knowledge, and specialties to the table that together cover the breadth of this project. I’ve been learning a lot about how to leverage our individual personalities and work styles as we navigate through challenges.

Kim Jokisch (KJ): It has been a great experience to work with smart, hard working people from other teams that I otherwise wouldn’t get to work with. We all have different skill sets and it’s rewarding to see how our diverse talents come together to tackle the same problem.

Jonathan Edwards (JE): This is one of the biggest benefits of the program. As a company that prides itself on meritocracy and collaboration, you don’t always get the chance to work with everyone. This has given me an opportunity to work with people like Jenna and Jorge, and it reminds me how much hard work is happening in every department at every level.

Jenna Slawson (JS): It’s been a great change of pace. I’ve learned so much from Jonathan and Rob about Talent Acquisition around organizational structure, process, and associate referrals. Jorge has taught me how our systems are setup and supported, as well as how vendors fit into that process.

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

JS: One of the great opportunities has been working and researching in an area that I’m interested in but wouldn’t normally get to experience. As a sociology minor in college and a current member of a diversity and inclusion group here at Red Hat, it’s been great to research, interview, and learn more about diversity and inclusion best practices across top companies in the industry.

KJ: It has been interesting to figure out how to take the best of the startup approach and apply it to Red Hat. Yes, we are a large company, and we have an open culture that demands transparency and agility. It has been fun to see what works and what we need to supplement to make the start-up approach work within an open culture with 10,000+ associates.

BH: It’s awesome to jump into a totally different space on a project like this. I am learning about trends in the HR field, which is completely different than my regular work in IT. What’s really cool is how using Red Hat’s Open Decision Framework comes naturally, even though the subject area is new to me. That’s our transparent culture at work!

What’s one thing you’ve learned from the program that you’d like to take back to your day job?

AB: I’ve become more comfortable with asking for help!

Geri Duncan (GD): As the portfolio manager for talent management, and as a relatively new Red Hatter, I have learned the immense value of the Open Decision Framework [Red Hat’s process for making inclusive decisions]. It is so powerful to understand what people across the company and globe think about performance management, and every voice has been factored into how we’re shaping our team recommendations.

JE: Taking four days to conduct a “sprint” is an amazingly productive use of time. Within a high-growth company like Red Hat, we are often just trying to keep up with all that we do. Taking time to reflect on a problem and work intensely to propose solutions to it is extremely valuable.

JH: From the IT developer perspective, it’s the insights that collaborating with our customers brings. From the designing phase to implementation, collaboration is key.

What do you like to do when you’re not working on the program?

KJ: I’m a new mom so I love playing with my son and making him laugh. I also love to decorate, eat, cook, and read.

AB: I’m on a kick of making terrariums right now. Bring me your weird, your old, your interesting glass vessels, and I’ll put a clump of pretty moss in it.

JE: All things Bruce Springsteen, Cape Cod, and running.

JS: I’m currently working on slowly renovating our house which is a few miles from Red Hat.

Stay tuned for more updates from the other Innovators Program participants in the coming weeks.