Avertus has developed a diagnostic device capable of detecting epileptic seizures. Their solution seeks to improve hospital efficiencies by allowing doctors to gauge the frequency and severity of seizures occurring in the home. We spoke to company President, Ron Gonzalez, about the inspiration for Avertus and his experience with entrepreneurship. Here’s what he had to say:
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR COMPANY?
Current practice of EEG testing is characterized by long and cumbersome set up times, waiting lists and other obstacles that often miss the seizures and epileptic episodes until after a crisis has passed. Moreover, a single (20 minute) EEG session shows abnormalities in as few as 30-50% of patients with epilepsy. Currently, there are no affordable interventions that enable physicians to gauge the frequency and severity of seizures occurring in the home.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR? THE MOST CHALLENGING?
I have a bit of a life-long learning mindset, so I enjoy acquiring new skills. Being an entrepreneur has provided me with a seemingly unlimited opportunity to learn new skills and business concepts. In a typical day, I will speak with engineers, designers, manufacturers, clinicians, hospital administrators and product distributors. The level of knowledge you develop by having productive discussions and collaborations at each level is very rewarding and also consistently challenging.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP – HOW HAS IT DEFIED (OR LIVED UP TO) YOUR EXPECTATIONS?
There are a lot of risks with being an entrepreneur in the biotech space – more so than I expected! Having a good support system is vital because the road will not always be easy, and it definitely takes a particular type of resilience to be in this industry. You need to be cognizant of all the potential problems you will face but not let them consume you. What I most admire about successful biotech entrepreneurs is their ability to have a great deal of optimism in the face of overwhelming odds.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH INNOVATION FACTORY?
Avertus participated in the 2015 Synapse Life Science Competition. It was through that competition that we learned about Innovation Factory’s services and support.
WHAT HAVE YOU VALUED MOST ABOUT INNOVATION FACTORY’S SERVICES/SUPPORT?
Avertus’ association with Innovation Factory has been very helpful to our success. Innovation Factory facilitated our growth at the riskiest stage of development, which allowed us to raise capital from private investors in Hamilton. Moreover, David Carter and his team have been working diligently to introduce Avertus to other prospective investors and industry partners. I have worked with several incubators and have never experienced this level of support from any of them. I highly recommend that companies take full advantage of iF’s services so they can form new partnerships and find critical funding to support their future success.
HOW DO YOU MEASURE SUCCESS?
Avertus is currently in the product development stage, so right now we associate success with how well we are able to work as a team to achieve our development objectives.
WHAT DIFFERENTIATES YOU FROM YOUR COMPETITION?
With current neuromonitoring equipment, patients are usually tethered to beds in order to keep wires in place and minimize motion artifacts that interfere with interpretation. Alternative ambulatory systems have been developed, but these systems are bulky and cumbersome for the patient. Avertus has built a device that is unique in its combination of features; it’s easy to deploy, lightweight, employs dry electrodes and a high signal quality recording system.
WHAT IS THE BEST RECOGNITION YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
Avertus came in 2nd at the 2015 Synapse Life Science Competition. In addition, we were accepted into the Ontario Brain Institute Entrepreneurs Program last year.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE NEXT YEAR AND BEYOND?
We will launch our first consumer grade device before the end of 2016. Plans are already set to conduct two clinical trials in Ontario and BC which will help support a medical device product launch in late 2017.
WHAT SUPPORT WILL YOU LOOK TO INNOVATION FACTORY FOR IN THE COMING MONTHS?
Help in forming relationships with potential partners in our industry.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS WHO MAY JUST HAVE AN IDEA?
Be honest and identify what you’re really good at. Figure out who is willing to pay for your product/service early on. Don’t be afraid to fail!
WHY IS HAMILTON THE HOME FOR YOUR COMPANY?
We have a lot of connections to the Hamilton area. Our Chief Engineer completed a PhD in Electrical Engineering from McMaster University. We’ve also received tremendous industrial design support from BlueOrchid CEO, Sina Afshani (a fellow client of Innovation Factory). In addition, our first angel investors came from the Hamilton area and they have been with us since we started in 2013.
HOW CAN WE CONNECT WITH YOU?