Peter To, a Biology and Psychology student, is looking to revolutionize ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury recovery. Peter’s startup company, Flexadyne, is looking to use 3D printing technology to speed up recovery from ACL injuries. Her Campus American had a chance to talk to Peter about his venture and how Flexadyne is looking to change sports medicine.
Her Campus American University: Tell us a little bit about Flexadyne. How did you get the idea?
Peter To: My business partner and I always wanted to start a 3D printing company throughout college. We were waiting to jump on the right opportunity. Flexadyne was started because I got tired of watching athletes go down with ACL injuries. One day I watched an ACL injury at an AU soccer game and had the idea that 3D printing new ligaments would be a great solution. I have also seen a few ACL tears happen right in front of me throughout the years, and it continues to upset me more and more that there is not a better solution. I have always been involved in sports and have really good friends with ACL tears. I hate watching them sit out or listening to them talk about the horrors of ACL rehab.
HC AU: What stage of development is Flexadyne currently in?
PT: Flexadyne is in the concept stage. We are developing our provisional patent, business model, and most importantly raising seed capital for prototyping. Please check out our crowdfunding page, contribute, and share it on social media. We appreciate the support.
HC AU: How did you first go about starting your company, logistically?
PT: I had to bring in the right partners that I trusted to put the startup team together. Once I had the team, we had to get the proper documents together including bylaws, shareholder agreement, articles of incorporation, trademark, IRS W-9 forms, etc. This was completed with help from mentors in the AU Incubator and a lawyer for the legal documents.
HC AU: How did you learn about the AU Incubator and what was the application process like?
PT: I learned about the incubator in my Disruptive Innovations class taught by Professor Bellows, who is the Incubator Co-Director. The application process was fun. It was the first time the team pitched together. Of course there was a lot of work involved too because we had to go interview customers, research our market, and understand the business opportunity.
HC AU: How has being part of the AU Incubator kickstarted the development of your company?
PT: The incubator played a very important role in helping us get started. Once we were in, we were all in! It is continuing to play a role as a place for our team to meet, grow, and work on pitch competitions and fundraising. It is also a place for us to further refine our business model with guidance from Professor Bellows and Professor White, plus their office is right next door.
HC AU: What has been the biggest challenge so far?
PT: The biggest challenge is a Catch-22 in medical devices R&D (Research & Development). It is very difficult to apply for grants or raise money without a prototype backed with research data. In order to go for research grants or raise money, you need some data and a prototype. This is out of our personal financing reach so we are working for that first big break in seed funding to begin work in the lab.
HC AU: What is your long-term goal for Flexadyne? What future plans do you have for the company that we should look out for?
PT: The long-term goal of Flexadyne is to put an end to season-ending injuries. That has been our vision from day one. We are a company devoted to athletes. Once we can do ACLs, we will scale and address every ligament, tendon, and orthopedic need in sports medicine. You should look out for research and development progress. We’ll be using fundraised capital, capital from pitch competitions, and any secured federal research grants to get Flexadyne through all the R&D and clinical trials necessary for market entry.
HC AU: What’s the hardest part of starting your own business?
PT: Time management. This is a 24/7 job and it takes a lot of time away from school and life. I have to follow a defined and calculated Google Calendar schedule in order to make everything fit into each week.
HC AU: What is the biggest thing you have learned from starting your own business?
PT: An entrepreneurship professor and our business mentor once told us “Millennials like to go 1-mile-wide and 1-inch-deep but in the business world you need to go 1-mile-deep and 1-inch-wide to focus, understand, and address each challenge properly.” I learned that you need to focus deep in business. You have to do the things that you don’t want to do and be persistent instead of just looking at details on a surface level. It’s important to understand your challenges and business model inside and out on a very intimate level.
HC AU: What is your advice for other young entrepreneurs?
PT: I wish I made a move a year earlier. Mistakes will be made when you first start but that’s the nature of learning and growing. You simply do not have the luxury in life to sit around and wait, otherwise you’ll waste precious time and will miss the opportunity. Just go get started!
HC AU: Lastly, what else do you do in your spare time?
PT: I really like reading, particularly about science, technology, and the biotech industry. I love spending time outside being active, running, cycling, and exploring. I also watch a lot of sports and paint in my spare time.
Help Peter reach his goal of raising $30,000 to fund Flexadyne’s development of a 3D printed ligament prototype this summer. Visit Peter’s crowdfunding page to learn more about Flexadyne and to donate today!
Photo Credits: 1, 2 belong to Peter To, 3