Lessons, Not Failures: It All Starts at the First Step
Have you ever seen something shiny and new, and immediately thought, “I NEED TO BREAK THAT!”
Gabriel Punsalan, CRNA, MS
That was me, and my parents weren’t happy when I took my dad’s tools to my new toys, but my fascination with how they worked was stronger than my fascination of “how they entertained me”. In my early life, the disassembling and re-assembling, with a screw lost along the way, led to a journey that I didn’t quite understand as a 6-year-old, but am appreciative of today.
The life of an innovator and entrepreneur can be hard to understand. There is no exact blueprint for an inventor’s novel product. While you can take many processes from other successful paths around you, your journey is one that is tailored exactly to you.
Through many lessons, aka failed ventures, I have finally come back around to leveraging a new medical device with my niche skill set.
As I set out as a new Certiﬁed Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) more than a decade ago, I felt my journey was never truly done. To be honest, with my dream of CRNA ﬁnally complete, I felt lost wondering “What’s next?” I spend the next few years honing my new craft and leveraging my new freedom (from schooling), reconnecting with old friends and family, and starting the cycle of building/breaking new side hustles. I wrote a children’s book, made a bad investment in a “hot penny stock,” tried to sell Comicon dolls, and developed a mobile app. Through it all, many mistakes were made, but a wealth of knowledge was learned. Who needs business school when you can learn to fail on your own…. right? Truthfully, each business opportunity contained a lesson, which then was applied to help build a foundation for the next step. This is what led to my company today, IVOS Medical.
IVOS Medical is a medical device company developing a superior video laryngoscope platform for maintaining clear vision by incorporating simultaneous suction and oxygenation during endotracheal intubation. This device has the potential to greatly decrease morbidity and mortality by increasing the success of initial intubation attempts and the speed of intubations while decreasing potential fluid aspiration. The problem with intubation and the video laryngoscope (the camera and screen setup) is that if any bodily fluids block the camera in the mouth, the airway specialist cannot accurately see where the breathing tube is going. This has always been a potential problem, solved by cleaning the camera or changing devices if needed. Unfortunately, during the Covid 19 pandemic, patients often presented with a worse baseline of health and thus required quicker intubations due to poor respiratory status. This was my new mission: I knew more than ever I was going to help leverage all my past lessons and succeed at doing what I originally set out to do all along- to help people in creative new ways.
Today I am a full-time clinician at the University of California Irvine Medical Center, family man, and aspiring entrepreneur and innovator. Through many victories and defeats, I have led IVOS Medical to acquire more than $250,000 in non-dilutional pre-seed funding from the NIH SBIR grant program and from the UCI Beall Applied Innovation incubator. This funding has been pivotal in helping my team develop our superior video laryngoscope platform.
Many people are unaware of a special program in the United States open to U.S.-based companies. America’s Seed Fund is a program that provides innovators access to $1.3 billion in small business funding. While competitive in nature, the program provides many tangible benefits:
- Validity of your vision
- No equity in exchange for funding
- An appealing presentation to future investors and team members
- Access to many small business services that NIH/NSF has to offer
Funding is one of the major concerns of any early-stage company, and that is just the beginning. Many fellow colleagues look at my journey and ask what the most important step is to be successful.
My answer is always the same: just start!