By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2017, The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
It’s always interesting to me how frequently people on startup teams — whether co-founders or critical early hires — met in college or graduate school and how often the foundation for the startup evolved from those student years.
Simergent founder and CEO Steve Lindo and Chief Technology Officer Rick Pendergraft, Ph.D. met as engineering undergrads at OU. They have been friends for 20 years. The two also share an avocation — both are licensed private pilots.
Simergent is developing an affordable, home peritoneal dialysis device for emerging market countries including Mexico, India, and China.
“Around the world, 2.3 million people die each year because they can’t afford or access dialysis,” Lindo said. “That’s the equivalent of the city of Houston being wiped out every year.”
Lindo has worked in the field of medical devices for the last 12 years. After extensive experience in the kidney dialysis field at Baxter International, one of the world’s big two in hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, he founded his own medical device consulting practice. Pendergraft has been developing software for the last 16 years.
Pendergraft, who has deep experience developing products for regulated industries, is developing the software and circuit boards for the Simergent device. Lindo is designing the mechanical and disposable components. The system fills a gap in the currently available dialysis solutions by providing a much more affordable home peritoneal dialysis system.
Peritoneal dialysis removes waste products from the blood when a person’s kidneys can no longer do the job, but unlike hemodialysis, which is the blood-filtering process more commonly used in the U.S., patients do not have to go to a hospital or dialysis center for treatment, and there is no blood removal or needles involved.
Simergent has a fully functioning prototype. The Simergent solution consists of an electromechanical device, a disposable tubing set, and proprietary software that uniquely manages fluid delivery. The system pumps solution via sterile tubing into a surgically implanted port in the patient’s abdomen. The fluid filters out waste products and is cycled out of the body and discarded.
With easy-to-follow directions via a touch screen, Simergent makes it easy for the patient to follow and gives physicians confidence that patients can do the procedure themselves at home.
Lindo said that the system delivers the therapy that patients in these countries need without being over-designed.
“Hemodialysis is performed in a clinic three days a week,” Lindo said. “Peritoneal dialysis can be done at night while patients sleep. This allows patients to live normal lives without the constant interruption of daytime dialysis treatment.”
Startups with co-founders significantly increase the odds of startup success. They raise 30 percent more investment and grow customers three times as fast.
We like to see companies that have two-person startup teams — especially when, as with Simergent, skills are complementary and directly impactful to the solution and industry the company serves.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.