Medical device firm seeks investors

Inventor of medical equipment began company in Skagway

Posted: Monday, February 24, 2003

Ten years ago, Kendell Simm invented Guardzit, a medical needle disposal device she believes could save the medical industry millions of dollars a year.

"(Guardzit) is simpler, cheaper to manufacture and meets a greater need" than other needle disposal systems on the market, she said.

Inventing the product came naturally for Simm, a nurse practitioner, physician assistant and chief of staff at the Skagway Medical Clinic. Developing a business plan for manufacturing and marketing Guardzit took more time.

"It's been a real learning curve," Simm said.

She moved to Skagway from California last May to focus on MedSense, the business she created to market Guardzit. In August, she began working with Alaska InvestNet, a Juneau-based nonprofit organization that aims to match entrepreneurs with equity investments.

"(Simm) has invented something that she knows intuitively and innately," said Deborah Marshall, executive director of Alaska InvestNet. "What she hasn't done before is built a company."

InvestNet business counselor Rose Wysocki helped Simm develop her presentation to entice potential investors.

"I helped her revise it so her points were marketing focused and showed where the demand was so it looked nice," Wysocki said. "She had it all there, we just reorganized it."

On Feb. 13, Simm presented her product, her business plan and her plea to potential funders and members of the Alaska economic development community at a venture gathering sponsored by Alaska InvestNet.

"The primary goal of the venture gathering is to inform funders about investment opportunities that exist in Alaska," Marshall said. InvestNet does not act as an investment broker nor does it officially endorse the entrepreneurs with whom it works.

Before an audience "peppered with funders" - Marshall can not disclose specific investors or grant-giving institutions that were present - Simm explained how she invented Guardzit, why there's a need for the invention, and who will buy the device if she finds funding for its mass production.

She then asked for $300,000 for her first round of funding, which would help her attain approval from the Food and Drug Administration and a patent. It also would help her begin mass-manufacturing Guardzit.

"This is seed investing," said Marshall. "It's the $50,000 to $200,000 range that people are looking for at these events. When they need their next round of investing, they have to look outside of the state."

If Simm finds funding, she plans to work for the company to help it get off the ground. Then, she'll use her business knowledge to set up business plans for new products she's invented for the medical industry, such as a new type of goggles and a new needle receptacle.

"I'd like to stay with the business to get it up and going, then plan a buy-out or a strategic merger," Simm said.

Larry Glackin of Ice Communications, a wireless Internet company, and David Koehn of TailWind, a California-based software company, also presented their business plans at the venture gathering.

"Those three companies represent less than a third of the companies that I've talked to," Marshall said. "They're the top three."

InvestNet, which receives partial funding from the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation, works with numerous companies that want to contribute to economic development in Alaska. If an entrepreneur is prepared, Marshall will give them the opportunity to present to potential funders within three months of contacting InvestNet, she said.

"Going through the Alaska InvestNet coaching process helps an entrepreneur understand how to position themselves before investors," Marshall said. Simm, who already had done significant research in her market and the manufacturing process, was a perfect candidate for InvestNet's presentation-polishing services.

"When I moved to Alaska I wanted to find an organization (like InvestNet)," Simm said. "You really need that help, you need the guidance, you need that kind of advice. It's a great place to start."

• Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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