By Scott Meacham
i2E’s connection to MaxQ Research, a Stillwater company that creates validated packaging systems for blood and other biologics, actually began with the 2012 Governor’s Cup, now the Entrepreneur’s Cup, Oklahoma’s statewide collegiate business plan competition sponsored by Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores. MaxQ was one of the competing business plans.
We have been working together ever since.
Initially, CEO Saravan Kumar and the founding team of MaxQ were focused on using their proprietary, super-light insulating material in NASA satellites. But that market is small, and Dr. Kumar’s vision was much bigger.
MaxQ pivoted away from insulation materials to validated packaging solutions for blood banks and hospitals—light years from the ice and Styrofoam coolers much of the industry was using. MaxQ’s sophisticated packaging systems keep precise temperatures that perfectly protect lifesaving biological products like blood, vaccines, and pharmaceuticals. They are smaller and lighter, with systems specifically designed for every situation from movement of blood within a medical complex to transport in a helicopter or emergency vehicle.
MaxQ bootstrapped research and early growth, participated in i2E’s Venture Assessment Program, and then in 2017, i2E led the company’s first investment round, syndicated with members of Oklahoma Seed Step Angels, as well as other investors.
That round plus another $445,000 in matching grants from the National Science Foundation gave MaxQ more the $1.3 million to expand market development and scale.
“At the beginning of 2017, we were in three hospitals and one blood center,” said Dr. Kumar. “By the end of 2018 we grew to 18 hospitals. We are now in nearly 450 hospitals in the U.S., three in Canada, and seven in Europe. Locally we are working with the Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) and the OU Medical Center. We are continuing to expand into other market verticals both in the U.S. and globally, taking what we have learned in the blood space into pharmaceuticals and cellular therapy.”
MaxQ’s growth has been phenomenal.
“This is not what we started off with,” said Dr. Kumar. “We are light years ahead of where we were in 2017 before working with i2E. We are a cutting edge company that has transformed boxes into intelligent solutions that save lives and reduce costs.”
Why is MaxQ so successful? One big reason is that everyone in the company talks to the customers. They have a learning, innovative mindset.
“Our customers are saving lives,” Dr. Kumar said. “We don’t have a customer service desk. Our product solution specialists talk to the customers. Our engineers talk to the customers. Our manufacturing techs talk to the customers. We see every single action with customers as the opportunity to help them do their jobs better by doing our jobs better.”
Reflecting back on the almost eight years that we have been working with MaxQ, the reasons we were attracted to this stellar young company in the first place are even truer today. MaxQ’s products are more efficient and superior to alternatives, there is huge market demand, and there is continued interest from large industry leaders.
Our two companies are working together on the opportunities of scale, from hiring the right talent, to MaxQ’s expanding into additional lines of business, including clinical diagnostics where blood samples are drawn and then taken to another location for testing.
“As a company in Stillwater,” Dr. Kumar said, “we can become disconnected to resources. Working with mentors and advisors from i2E helps us foresee growth challenges, stay ahead of the curve and be innovative as we grow the company. We are fortunate to have them as a lead partner.”
That’s how a company committed to creating value through innovation thinks and operates. We think MaxQ is amazing, too.
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 appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at [email protected].