VirtuSense Technologies

10 Startups to Watch in 2018

VirtuSense offers a portfolio of solutions that use machine vision, artificial intelligence and data analytics to reduce falls so seniors and at-risk individuals can live well.

Founders/Management Team
David Park, chief executive officer, has over 20 years of strategic planning and business development experience in management consulting, venture capital and entrepreneurship. Prior to VirtuSense Technologies, he spent five years at Allied Minds, a billion-dollar technology venture creation firm in Boston. He earned his MBA and MS in information systems from Boston University.

Deepak Gaddipati, chief technology officer and founder, has over 13 years of experience leading a team of engineers, computer scientists and clinicians to develop state-of-the-art imaging products, including commercial airport X-ray and imaging scanners, and medical systems. He earned his MS in electrical engineering from Bradley University and has two issued patents, as well as multiple patent-pending applications and research publications.

What makes your products unique or different from other solutions on the market?
VirtuSense Technologies’ mission is to reduce falls so seniors and at-risk individuals can live well. We use machine vision, artificial intelligence and data analytics to quickly and objectively assess and predict injury risk. Our portfolio of fall-reduction, Internet-of-Things (IoT) solutions include:

  • VSTBalance is a fall risk-assessment solution for skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, outpatient rehabilitation facilities, primary care physician offices and researchers. It administers standardized, evidence-based fall-risk screenings in under two minutes for efficient assessments compared against normative values with automatic documentation.
  • VSTAlert is a fall intervention solution for hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. It is an order of magnitude more accurate than current bed alarms and sends potential bed exit alerts 20 to 60 seconds faster than bed alarms. Moreover, the system monitors risk of developing bed sores and helps compliance to hand hygiene policies.
  • VSTHome is a fall protection solution for seniors in homes. It continuously monitors and alerts a caregiver of missed meals, medications, significant negative changes in daily activities, and other events in the life of a senior that may indicate or lead to a serious medical issue that needs to be addressed by a physician. It protects the senior with privacy in mind and does not require any wearable sensors.

What is your company’s “elevator speech”?
VirtuSense’s slogan is, “Reduce falls. Live well.” The obvious benefit is that we help protect seniors’ quality of life by reducing risk of fall-related injuries through predictive analytics. Concurrently, healthcare providers use our solutions to show improving quality measures, such as lower rates of falls with injuries. This is important because government and private insurance companies are transitioning to pay providers based on quality, rather than quantity of care they give patients, as well as lower readmission and injury rates. Therefore, we help providers achieve quality metrics that contribute to their financial bottom line.

How did you come up with the idea?
About 10 years ago, Deepak’s grandmother was in good shape at 68 years old. On her way to a bank, she lost her balance and fell, broke her hip, and was hospitalized. Ten days later, she passed away from injuries and complications sustained from her fall.

Unfortunately, falls are a pandemic among older adults. It is the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal, trauma-related hospital admissions among seniors. Each year in the U.S., one in three seniors reports falling. Every 11 seconds, a senior is treated in the emergency department for a fall; every 20 minutes, a senior dies from a fall-related injury. We need to proactively identify the risk and prevent this pandemic from devastating our population health.

What key milestones has your company achieved so far?
We have deployed over 100 systems to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics and universities. Locally, we have great relationships with UnityPoint and OSF, and nationally we count Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic and other innovative healthcare providers among our clients. A key milestone in 2017 was adding one of the largest skilled nursing facilities in the country as a client, then increasing sales from 10 facilities to approximately 50 facilities within one year of deployment. Another milestone includes adding the largest senior living care distributor to our sales channel.

Did you have assistance from local entrepreneurial resources, or were there other key individuals who helped you launch?
Carey Novak from the Turner Center helped us capture “voice of the customer” early on and helped us lay a good foundation for our product development strategy. Seshadri Guha and Chuck Weaver, who are successful Peoria businessmen, mentored us early on and helped us avoid potential missteps.

What key milestones do you hope to achieve in 2018?
Our milestones in 2018 are to:

  • Scale growth by adding more large skilled nursing facilities as VSTBalance clients;
  • Launch VSTAlert to our hospital and skilled nursing facility partners to reduce falls at bedside, as well as bed sores; and
  • Pilot VSTHome in independent and assisted living facilities to help seniors age well in place.

What has been the biggest challenge so far on your startup journey?
Our platform technology has multiple applications across industries. We’ve received requests to solve big problems outside of our core customer segment. Therefore, one of our biggest challenges has been to say “no” to very interesting (and potentially lucrative) projects to keep our focus on our mission. The other challenge has been to recruit talented people to relocate to Peoria.

What advice do you have for other prospective entrepreneurs?
Deepak: Start small and create a minimal viable product (MVP). Make sure you involve all the stakeholders, not just engineers, but your customers—both their users and decision-makers—to understand and create a value proposition at multiple levels right from the start. Never hesitate to ask for help. There are many people willing to help. You just have to ask.

David: I want to build on Deepak’s MVP advice because it’s so critical, since each startup is racing against time. Yes, validate the problem-solution fit and product-market fit before you spend too many resources on developing your product. For example, we developed a prototype in six weeks, exhibited at a conference, closed a sale, and then used that money to finish developing our first commercial system. Another I would add is to proactively identify key influencers in your market. Their recommendations and referrals to industry peers are the best ways to establish relationships, build trust and expand your network of those who may benefit from your product. Second, hire people with character, integrity and a record of achievements, who are self-motivated to continuously learn and positively contribute to the company culture. Finally, have fun and enjoy the journey with your team.

Anything else you’d like to add?
You need to hustle for the sale, especially in an exhibit booth—be proactive and initiate conversations, instead of passively sitting behind a table waiting for people to come talk to you. As a founder, you need to learn as much as you can about your target customers—do not delegate this responsibility in the early stages. iBi

For more information, visit virtusensetech.com.

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