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

 

The day has arrived!

INNOVATORS PROGRAM RALEIGH ANNOUNCES THREE EXTERNAL STARTUPS SELECTED FOR 2017 ACCELERATOR COHORT

(Raleigh, NC) The Innovators Program Inc. and its sponsors, Citrix and Red Hat, Inc. and HQ Raleigh, are excited to announce the three selected teams for the 2017 Raleigh program. Out of dozens of applications from across the globe, these three early-stage, high-growth teams will participate in a rigorous 12-week accelerator program alongside internal teams from Citrix that lays the foundation for talented and motivated startup founders and internal innovators to develop the skill set and mindset to build high-growth technology businesses.

Kicking off today with the support of our community partner HQ Raleigh, our teams participate in bi-weekly workshops, mentorship and one-on-one sessions where the Innovators Program provides concrete, tactical strategy through action-based items to generate real growth. Each team entering the accelerator receives an equity-free $10K grant with the possibility of an additional $10K if the team makes good progress in the course of the program. The program focuses on the best practices of design thinking and lean startup methods to validate our team’s ideas with the goal of leaving the program with their first customers. At the end of the 12 weeks, teams present their pitch at Demo Day to a network of investors, innovation leaders, and the thriving startup community of Raleigh.

The Innovator Program’s unique curriculum groups both external and internal teams to leverage the strengths of their respective backgrounds. By introducing entrepreneurial thinking to large-scale enterprises and the expertise of successful corporations to early-stage startups, innovation is fostered across the board. The program also enables organizations to make the change from going “all in” on one idea to a more “sophisticated, angel investor-like” approach by rapidly innovating a few high-potential business ideas for three months, and deciding whether to invest based on market traction and opportunity.

This year’s program marks the fourth cohort in Raleigh, producing many startups that have been acquired or are still driving innovation in their respective markets. Graduates from last year’s Raleigh program are Glance.ai, Nebula, ShineBig, Vision LTC, and Malartu.

“The Raleigh Innovators Program helped our company focus on what matters for our customers. As two recent college graduates, we didn’t have a luxury of experience or connections to the recruiting industry. The program helped us iterate quickly, focus on what stuck and continue to bootstrap our venture. Lots of founders get distracted with raising capital, and the programs mentorship enabled us to stay cash conscious and iterate quickly. Today we have a profitable 100% founder owned company and we couldn’t have done it without the programs help,” says Kameron Kales, co- founder, Glance.ai, and 2016 Innovators Program alumni.

This year’s program starts July 17 with a kick-off bootcamp hosted at HQ Raleigh’s newly announced Glenwood Avenue location at Centerline Digital. Team members will have the opportunity to engage in the startup community through HQ’s multiple locations around Raleigh for the duration of the program. We are excited for our newest group to join the active community of Innovators Program partners and continue the tradition of innovative excellence.

MEET THE EXTERNAL TEAMS:

AllStacks quantifies software team productivity to make engineering managers more effective in managing their teams.

www.allstacks.com

VitalFlo, Inc is redefining the standard of care for asthma by leveraging lung-health data to provide population-level insights to healthcare provider networks

www.vitalflohealth.com

CivicRise is developing technology that mobilize effective, sustained and measurable civic engagement.

 www.civicrise.io


Stay tuned for more as our program kicks off in the next few weeks and get a deeper look at our teams. For more information, please contact us via our website: http://innovatorsprogram.co/.

 

Why building community is essential to startup accelerators

Liz Tracy is the Director of HQ Raleigh, a growing entrepreneurial workspace in downtown Raleigh. She is also the Lead Facilitator for the Raleigh Innovators Program, meeting with and coaching the ten teams each week. In her recent guest blog, Liz weighs in on why community is essential to the success of a startup accelerator program.

I have had the privilege to play a role in cultivating the startup community for the past four years in the Triangle. Building a trusted network of people that can support one another through the triumphs and difficulties of startup life has always been an important element of a vibrant startup eco-system, but now more than ever I see the importance this community plays.

Our local startup community is comprised of a diversity of backgrounds, thoughts and opinions and it is this diversity that makes our community a dynamic one. With the flurry of emotions left over from the election, there is now an even greater importance for leadership from businesses, specifically when it comes to building an inclusive community that respects everyone.

For an accelerator program, the support of mentors, peers and coaches is the backbone and the real recipe for success.

Entrepreneurs know better than anyone how to overcome difficulties, look to the future and push through, but having a support system along the way makes it easier to get up and keep trying.

We’re now in our third year at the Raleigh Innovator’s Program, which means we have more alumni and deeper networks for our cohort to access. We tap into these alumni to speak on panels, help coach the kick-off bootcamp and to be sounding boards to the companies throughout the intense 12 week process. This year, in an effort to give the teams more time to connect outside of the classroom, we held a series of themed dinners that focused on team building and founder stories. They featured alumni who were able to share their experiences and since they had been through the program, they were able to talk from the perspective of how far they had come.

Another cool thing about growing the Innovators Program as an on-going community is that graduates can be beta testers for the current companies in the program.

Getting initial customers and receiving valuable feedback is essential to our customer focused model of teaching, and having a group of willing participants is incredibly helpful.

Finally, having the Executive Council, a group of leaders from Red Hat, Citrix, the investment community, and HQ Raleigh, gives the companies access to a new network of executives who can open doors and make introductions that might normally be much more difficult to access.

Every successful person knows that his or her achievements depend on a community of people working together.

The sense of community and support we have put into place at the Innovator’s Program is one of those critical foundational pieces that will help our young companies move more quickly along the path to success.