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Category: Where Are They Now

Alydia Health: Building a Multimillion Dollar Company with the CIE

Postpartum hemorrhage, or excessive bleeding after giving birth, is the leading cause of maternal death in the world, according to the World Health Organization. Graduated Incubator company Alydia Health, formerly InPress Technologies Inc., is working to prevent postpartum hemorrhage with their innovative medical device, the Jada System.

Postpartum hemorrhage is commonly treated with a balloon tamponade, which uses positive pressure to compress bleeding vessels. The Jada System uses a vacuum, or negative pressure, to initiate contractions and stop the bleeding. The device was Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared in August of 2020 and is being used in hospitals throughout the US. 

The original Jada was designed in 2011 by then-Cal Poly biomedical engineering seniors Davis Carlin and Alex Norred. The pair entered the device into Innovation Quest, an annual business plan and innovation competition founded at Cal Poly by Carson Chen, Laura Pickering, and Rich Boberg, and now hosted by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). Their team came in second. 

Carlin and Norred then took their idea to the Summer Accelerator, a program designed to help student innovators turn their ideas into a real, scalable business. Jessie Becker Alexander, a Cal Poly business student who was working for the CIE as a student entrepreneur, was helping to run the program.

Becker Alexander had crossed paths with Carlin and Norred at Innovation Quest, but began to work more closely with the pair throughout the course of the HotHouse Accelerator. 

“I had my little cubicle as a CIE employee, so I was working at the CIE and then I’d go check on what was going on in the [Alydia Health] office,” Becker Alexander recounted. “I was doing both at the same time.”

Becker Alexander ultimately co-founded Alydia Health along with San Luis Obispo-based medical device engineer Nathan Bair, who she met through the Cal Poly Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

“The company was really lucky that we were in this space right when the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was starting,” Becker Alexander said. “The support from the CIE community as a whole was incredibly important, both the peer support as well as all of [the CIE’s] structured programs… Starting something is hard, and being a part of a community like that was really important.”

The CIE not only offered a supportive community, but provided Alydia Health with resources that were integral to the startup’s eventual success.

The CIE connects their startup teams with mentors who can provide insights into the startup process within different industries. Alydia Health was paired with Jan Haynes, a business development executive in the medical device industry. 

Haynes began working with Alydia Health “before it even felt like a company,” said Becker Alexander. She helped the team to understand the medical device market, connected them with doctors who showed interest in the product and walked them through the approval process for medical devices.

“She was the first one who helped us pull back the curtain and understand what we would need to do if we really wanted to bring this device to market,” Becker Alexander said.

Early investors were another valuable resource, providing the Alydia Health team with access to not only funding, but mentorship. 

“When you bring on the right investors with the right kind of background and knowledge and expertise, they can propel your progress even faster,” Becker Alexander said.

Many of Alydia Health’s early investors provided the startup with guidance that helped them to avoid common mistakes and maximize their chances of success. They also presented the Alydia Health team with networking opportunities that allowed them to connect with and learn from other industry experts.

One of Alydia Health’s most notable investors was the Global Health Investment Fund (GHIF), a fund designed to finance the development of drugs, vaccines and other medical innovations that fight against diseases disproportionately affecting low- and middle-income countries.

“When we were able to raise money from the Global Health Investment Fund, that was a really big deal for us,” Becker Alexander said. “It was really gratifying to be able to work with an investment group that believed in our mission and the impact that it could have.”

The funding provided by GHIF helped Alydia Health to expand their reach and branch into low-income markets, which according to Becker Alexander, “has always been core to the company’s mission and culture.”

Alydia Health was recently acquired by Organon & Co., a spinoff of multinational pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Inc., for $240 million. This development will allow Alydia Health to expand even further, saving thousands of mothers’ lives in the process.

“I’m incredibly excited about the acquisition and the partnership with Organon,” Becker Alexander said. “From the very beginning, everything we wanted for the company was to partner with an organization that has the resources to help propel access to technology even more quickly than we could do on our own.”

The Jada System will be introduced into Europe and other developed countries, as well as underdeveloped countries lacking affordable access to women’s healthcare, said Organon CEO Kevin Ali in a Business Wire press release

Organon has experience in creating affordable access for underdeveloped markets. Their acquisition of Alydia Health will rapidly increase access to the Jada System.

“Right now, with everything that’s happening with the acquisition, I just feel an immense sense of gratitude that there are so many people out there who believe in the same mission,” Becker Alexander said. “When you have a mission like we have, to save women’s lives around the world, being true to that mission in everything we do — that’s what created success for us.”

Becker Alexander is grateful not only for the support that she received from investors, but also the support she received from the CIE and the San Luis Obispo community at large.

“We would not have been able to survive those early days without the CIE,” she said. “I have immense gratitude for Cal Poly and the CIE. So many people have helped us along the way, and every single one of those people was instrumental in our success.”

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CIE Graduates Keeping it SLOcal: Flume, Inc.

In 2015, Eric Adler wanted to do something to fix California’s severe drought. Recognizing that consumers needed to truly understand their water usage rates in order to reduce them, he dedicated his senior project to making that happen. 

“The state and cities were trying to get people to reduce consumption, but there was no feedback loop,” Adler explained. “The whole concept was how do we really get data to people in real-time so they can change their behaviors, protect their home, reduce how much they have to spend.”

His goal was to enable homeowners to monitor their water consumption via an easy-to-install product with real-time smartphone feedback. That way, consumers can see how much water they are using in their homes and where they need to cut down. 

Adler later evolved this idea into a business plan, co-founding Flume, Inc. with the support and programming of the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The Flume team initially took the water-monitoring product proposal through the CIE’s Innovation Quest competition, later joining both the HotHouse Accelerator and Incubator programs to launch their business.

“Since we left the incubator program, we’ve raised a pretty significant amount of funding, basically doubled in size every year, launched on Amazon and we work with cities all over the country,” said Adler of Flume’s growing success.

After moving out of the HotHouse in downtown San Luis Obispo, Adler’s team moved into the newer HotHouse Annex, which is the ideal coworking spot for companies with a hardware component like Flume. This location gives the company the space it needs for testing, manufacturing and inventory, plus keeps Flume connected to local companies and the CIE.

Adler notes that even as the company grows, he is thankful that the CIE is still part of Flume’s support system.

“Eventually you’re supposed to outgrow [the CIE] and be able to be self-sustainable, so I’d say we’re kind of at that point right now,” Adler explained. “But we still get mentorship and tap into some of the resources here and there. It’s great just having a network around us and support behind us.”

Not only does Flume still have connections with the CIE, but the company also sustains a relationship with San Luis Obispo through an ongoing study with the city and an insurance company that has subsidized the product for local residents. The study’s goal is to see how giving real-time data can help customers change their habits and overall reduce their water consumption.

Between this program and his love for the area, Adler sees no reason to move his company’s base from San Luis Obispo despite its nationwide growth.

“First and foremost you want to build a company in a place where you also want to live. People are excited to be here and they really want to stick around and stay with your company,” he noted. “In terms of starting a company, if you’re looking for that initial capital to kind of test things out and get them off the ground, SLO is a good place to get started with that.”

Adler emphasized that between CIE and Cal Poly alumni support, a comfortable cost of living, a great pool of talent, and a high quality of life, San Luis Obispo has served Flume well as it’s grown into what it is today.

If you’re looking to build your business with all of these SLOcal benefits, explore the CIE HotHouse Incubator program at https://cie.calpoly.edu/launch/hothouse-incubator/.

To see more about Flume, Inc. and its water-monitoring device, head to https://flumetech.com/.

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Where Are They Now? | Boost Acquisition

In 2014, Josh Hirahara, then-senior at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, decided to jump into the entrepreneurial world. Within a year, he found himself immersed in his startup idea: a platform to connect for-sale-by-owner vehicle sellers and qualified buyers.

Hirahara began his journey by pitching his idea at Cal Poly Entrepreneurs’ Startup Weekend, later joining the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Hatchery program. Post-graduation, he continued to grow his idea into a functioning company, Boost Acquisition, through the summer-long HotHouse Accelerator program and two-year incubator program. 

“It was my senior year when I was getting into the entrepreneurship stuff, so I was late to the game,” explained Hirahara. “It’s been about five years since graduating and going through that program, but I left the area and my close CIE involvement about two years ago.”

Within those two years, Hirahara moved his business’s base to Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as opened an office in San Diego, California. Although far removed from San Luis Obispo, Hirahara still has connections from his CIE days.

“I’m still close to a lot of the people that I went through the CIE programs with and still keep in touch with people who run the programs,” Hirahara said. “I’m also partnered up with some older Cal Poly alumni and I consider us the founding group when I pitch our company now.”

Not only did Hirahara’s connections from the beginning stages of his career last, but so did the knowledge he gained from the programs.

“I was an industrial technology major, so I had some business background but knew nothing about entrepreneurship coming in,” he said. “It was great being able to go through the successive programs because I was advancing more than I could have by trying to learn everything on my own.”

Hirahara has now gone from learning the basics of the business model canvas to employing over 20 people at Boost Acquisition. His company is currently running market maker technology that connects in-market sellers with potential buyers online and in real-time. 

“We’re growing and it’s a long journey with a lot of pivots,” he expressed. “But it’s awesome seeing people want your product and pay you for it, making enough revenue to grow and hire more employees, and having a clear outlook on your goals for your company.”

While Hirahara and his team put in the work, he attributes the base of his growing company to the support and resources of the CIE, no matter how far he is now from the area it all began.

To read more about Josh Hirahara’s startup, visit https://www.boostacquisition.com/home.html.

See how you could be the next startup to grow with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s support at https://cie.calpoly.edu/#launch.

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