The hardest part of being a start-up is raising the funding needed to launch the company. When the product requires FDA regulatory approval to sell, this makes it even more challenging, as you have to raise enough investment capital to get the product through that process. Given many investors look for quick returns on their investments, it’s hard to find those that are willing to take that risk. As a small company, you are also resource limited, and so everyone must do many different things with tough schedules that must be met.
In an interview with World’s Leaders, Marc Rippen, Founder and CEO of Alertgy, shared his entrepreneurial journey and provided insights about how he transformed a startup into an established business model.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader. What challenges did you have to face to get where you are today?
Throughout the beginning stages of development, there have been a few roadblocks that we have faced and had to overcome. Initially, we had to determine the correct placement of our device to maximise our accuracy and reliability over a long-term period. After this was established, we focused on sensor development to get the highest quality data and stability within our device. This is an ever-evolving process inside our research and development team, and we will continue to improve our device so we can deliver the highest quality product to our customers when we begin manufacturing.
Describe Alertgy offerings that address the needs of your customers.
Alertgy is a pioneer in 100% non-invasive continuous blood glucose monitoring technology. Through the use of its patented radio frequency sensor, Alertgy’s DeepGluco wearable device is able to accurately measure blood glucose in real time, up to 3 times per minute. Most importantly, using our proprietary AI algorithm, DeepGluco can provide invaluable, up to the minute life-saving alerts to users and their designated HCPs. Unlike other CGMs, we eliminate interstitial lag as well as painful and uncomfortable side effects of patches, needles, and implants associated with it. The present DeepGluco wrist band can be readily integrated into an existing smart watchform factor, and future versions can be further reduced in size. These will become available to consumers following FDA approval.
Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in this industry through your expertise in the industry?
I was a former army officer, and most recently the director of engineering for the Marine and Space Technology Division of Stanford Research Institute (SRI) International. I hold degrees in microbiology, analytical chemistry, and aeronautics. I have always been involved in the development of technology to solve critical problems, starting as a material engineer at Pratt & Whitney where I managed advanced research and development programmes that supported the development of advanced materials for jet and rocket engines. I then transitioned to becoming a field engineer for leading atomic and molecular spectroscopy companies, where I provided turnkey solutions to materials analysis for a broad variety of industries, from agriculture to the environment, to manufacturing, to advanced research and development in leading research institutions. From there, I became the director of the FIU College of Engineering NASA tech transfer center, where I helped companies utilise NASA technologies in the commercial arena. In this role, I helped small businesses raise venture capital and pursue SBIR and STTR programmes to fund the commercialization of their technologies. From there, I co-founded an Internet start-up company and raised 1 million dollars and eventually was able to take the company public in an acquisition. The combination of my education and experience allowed me the means to launch Alertgy and bring it to where it is today.
The inception of Alertgy was due to a tragedy. I found my wife nearly slipping into a diabetic coma and becoming unresponsive due to being in a prolonged low blood sugar state. After I was able to rehabilitate her, I found out that no technology existed anywhere that would alert me to future similar events, so I decided to do something about it and started Alertgy. “Alert” to alert me “g” for glucose “y” because we need it.
What people, what books, what life factors have influenced and impacted you?
I have been blessed to have worked with many very brilliant and creative people throughout my life. The one person that stands out among many was a high school teacher named Mr. Jackson, who really emphasised the need for everyone to respect each other and who set an example in his classroom every day. I have always loved science fiction the most, as I found it fascinating that what was science fiction when it was written, in many cases, became reality over time. The creative element that drove that process fascinated me, and I always tried to do things to push the technical edge in all the work I did as an engineer, scientist, and then programme manager. My father and mother came to the United States as immigrants from Germany to make a better life for themselves in the United States. My father was in the US Airforce when I was born at Wheeles Air Force base in Tripoli, Libya. From that time, we travelled around the world and the United States, so it forced me to constantly adapt to change, to take advantage of it, and to roll with the punches.
Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drive Alertgy.
To date, it has been to get Alertgy where it is today. I motivate people by leading by example, by understanding what is important to them, and giving them an opportunity to meet their needs through their work assignments.
What do you envision yourself being in the long run, and what are your future goals for Alertgy?
We have a unique ability with our technology to significantly affect the lives of over 90% of the 420 million diabetics in the world population with a way to manage their disease easily and effectively. We will also help the 2 billion borderline diabetics by giving them the knowledge to prevent themselves from becoming diabetic through better awareness of how their lifestyle affects their glucose levels. We will also save their lives as they will know when they become diabetic so they can seek proper treatment before the damage is done and they have to go to the hospital. We improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes with automated alerts if their glucose levels are too high or low. We provide them with an effortless means of measuring their blood glucose continuously without the need for invasive and expensive systems. The company will be pursuing an alert and surveillance application approval for this from the FDA. Given that 1/3 of the world’s entire population are borderline diabetics, we can help them better manage their lifestyles to keep them from becoming diabetic. In the future, there will be no limit to what our technology can provide in the way of monitoring and diagnostics. Published research indicates that our technology has the potential to track other metabolites and cellular markers within the body for other diseases that could pave the way for Alertgy to be a premier leader in diagnostic technology.
What would be your advice to budding business leaders?
My message to aspiring business leaders is to have humility, honesty, empathy, open mindedness, honor, passion, the ability to listen, caring for people that work with you, always be open to learning, be willing to fail and learn from your mistakes, be forgiving, and never give up on something that is important.