Episode 1: Oxiwear
4:34PM Sep 19, 2019
from Georgetown University, this is venture forward a series of conversations with entrepreneurs in and around Georgetown, in which we discussed the startups they've launched, the obstacles they've encountered, and the small wins that have made all the difference. Here is your host, Jacki Abbey
sharp and he Fernando is a multi talented computer programmer, graphic designer, Video game developer, and entrepreneur. She has undergrad and graduate degrees from several universities around the globe, including Georgetown. In 2015, while living in Sri Lanka, shoven, he was diagnosed with a life threatening heart and lung disease that has no cure. She came to the US in pursuit of medical treatment. And along the way, she's invented a device that could enhance prolong her own life, and the lives of other people who have heart and lung issues. She's got a team of doctors from Johns Hopkins Hospital, who are amazed by the device she invented and devoted to helping her perfect it and bring it to market. Shove and he thinks of herself primarily as a computer programmer and a maker rather than a businesswoman. But that will likely change soon, because she is launching a new business that has already caught the attention of the Georgetown entrepreneur community and the medical and technology industries in and around DC. Here is Chevy Fernando, founder and CEO of oxy where Shawnee
Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much, Jacki for having me.
Tell us a little bit about your product. My product
is a your wearable that would constantly monitor my oxygen levels
here wearable. Yeah. Okay, you wear it on your ear? You bet. So
we went to you're here, and then it continuously monitors the oxygen levels in your body. And when it goes below the safe levels of the viral it will warn the viral that it's going below the normal ranges when your oxygen level goes below normal range. Yeah, it wants you hear it was me that they're aware of the oxygen levels dropping down. And it gives them the option to activate their emergency plan by pressing a button on the device, which is which includes calling 911 and sending alerts to their nominated numbers.
Okay. Yeah. Great. So as soon as you it goes off, that indicates to the wearer, that something is wrong, your oxygen level has dropped, and they can touch the device, it will call 911 and alert and alert,
and it will send send your services to numbers that you have nominated as your emergency contact. Excellent. Saying y'all you need help. Okay, how clever what is named your company? It's called oxiana. But two months back, it was known as co to where you had to change the name. Yes. Okay. We'll try to come back to that. Because that's an interesting story. I know
what motivated you to create such product,
I have parliamentary arterial hypertension, which is because I have had a hole in the heart When I was born, and it was not diagnosed, it has ended up causing severe pressure inside my lungs, which is about six times normal than a normal individual. So because of that, for people who has pulmonary hypertension, in any form of primary high potential, their oxygen levels drop down by the slightest activity they perform. And a normal person's oxygen has to be between 95 and hundred. And they feel just as it goes below 95, they would pass out or they would feel like they're about pass out. But for people with pulmonary hypertension, we don't feared. And we get to know that it's going low Only when we see ourselves going blue. So what goes blue? Is your face or your fingertips.
Has this ever happened to you? Many times?
Do tell. And so when it goes down, what happens is you don't know. But when it drops to the crucial level, your heart stops. And you can't feel that. No, you can't feel that until you know you can't breathe. Okay, just can't breathe. Yeah. But before you can't breathe, your face turns blue. Yeah, no one sees their own face. So unless they notice their fingertips, they don't know that the oxygen levels have dropped
down to the face and fingertips turned blue at the same time.
Yeah, first thing to turn blue is the face then after that your fingertips. Okay. And then the toenails. Tell us about a time when this happened to you. It just happened about five times. But the most recent one was when I was working at Georgetown, I was working and everyone like my friends around me Stop claiming that my face was blue. And finally phrase, she literally was showing a pen and saying your face is my pen color. And I couldn't breathe. After she said it didn't even take two minutes, I couldn't breathe at all. And then when I was holding my chest, I figured that my heart was not working. But I had to stay calm. Everyone else was panic in the room. But I couldn't panic. Because when that happens, we only have three minutes. For us to do whatever that you have to do at that time to stay alive. Because in three minutes, we lose oxygen supply to the brain. So before that happens, you need to get your heart to start again. So you were able to do that. Yeah. So what I normally do is I go hit in my chest. But before I do that, I quickly where my oxygen and put it to like the maximum number of leaders, I get it with you wherever you go, I could take my oxygen concentrator everywhere.
So you put it on. When this happened, you put it on and then you start hitting your chest. Yeah,
in order to get your hand and I keep hitting my chest until I know, the heart starts again.
And you've done that a number of times. Yeah, it's worked yet, but it sounds like you were looking for a different solution.
Yeah. Because see, if there was a way that I know this, before it gets to the heart to stock, then I know I can I need to get help before it gets to that level.
And so you were looking for a way to get more warning in advance. And is there anything on the market that could help you? There's nothing
they have been made? Fitbit, but it doesn't work that is monitored the oxygen? Yeah, the only other thing that is available is the finger cough that measures oxygen, but you need to purposely put it on so it doesn't fit on. Like only it's like you need unless you put it in and miss your car. You don't know it. So we don't wear it all the time and check it unless we feel something's going wrong. Did you need something that you could wear all the
time? Was there and moment when you decided I'm going to make this?
Yeah, it's a funny story. Because So once this happened, I had to go to john hopkins the very next day, they wanted to see me. And everyone was like my doctors, my family. They all were like, you can't live alone. It's not safe for you to live alone anymore. They will literally questioning whether I should be going to school. But I should be going to Georgetown and completing my work. Because they thought it's a risk on my life. If something happens that I don't have any help, but I was questioning them like even at that time. There were so many people around me, but no one could do anything to help me. I had to do everything on my you for your face turned Well, yeah. tell you that. Yeah. But even after fate, my face turn blue. Only thing they could do is call 911 other than no one could help me. They will not believe in so I had to tell them what if there was a way to monitor my oxygen and warn me and I have a way to call 911. And my doctors tease me say make it and I'll help you. And what did you say? That was like, Okay, let's do this, then I'm going to start working on it. And I actually started working on it. So it started off there. What skills
did you have to start working on this? So
I'm actually a maker. I have my undergrad in computer science. And I have my graduate Science in Computer Science as well an MBA at Georgetown. At that time, I was studying communication, culture and technology where I was trying to put in here I was trying to merge information technology with other fields. And I always love making stuff. I work at the mega hub. So then I was so you're you you're a maker, and a computer programmer. Yes. And a coder. Yes. And you so create video games. Yes, we use I'm more of a graphics person. I'm not like a back end developer, I have a creative element to it. So I always loved making things which are creative. So because of that I am a video game and a virtual reality developer. I love doing what I do. And it turns out those were the skills you needed to make something. Yeah, so I needed the skills to code. And then I should I had to do is do my research and figure out what parts I need to make it. And that's all I needed. It's all about just and that going beyond my boundaries.
And that's what helped you to create a prototype. Amazing, amazing. Well, you now have a business. What happened between creating the prototype and starting a business? Because Did you when you made it? It sounds like you were trying to make it for you? Yes.
And you did that? Yes. So I made it for me. And I made it as a device for myself. But then Dawn from maker hop had nominated me for Lance's partying lock tank. He nominated you nominated me. And I think of myself as a maker, but not I didn't think of myself as an entrepreneur can make this as a business, right? But then after I got nominated, I had no choice I had to do it. So I send the application. So it went step by step. So I thought, Okay, this will be just the application that then when I send the application, I got selected as a finalist. Okay, now I had to pitch. And then after that, I have a phobia of public speaking when it comes to large crowds. That does not help in a pitch competition.
Oh, I had. I was so panic that my advisors and my colleagues are CCT, the program that I study and they said, you need to go for another piece competition as a practice pitch
as a practice. Okay. Probably a good advice because you don't want to pitch in front of 10 Leah gnosis as your first pitch ever. Yes.
So what did you do? So then, Dan sent application for me to global impact pitch competition. That's another startup lawyer pitch that was earlier on. Yes. Yeah, that was one week before the mark Tang
clan, you agreed to do that as a
practice. So I agreed to do that as a practice because they said it will be a smaller crowd. It won't be as big as Mark 10. But it will get your stage fright out. So I pitch for that. And I went for that as a practice pitch. But surprisingly, I ended up winning the pitch competition, as well as the People's Choice.
awards at your practice competition. Yes. Good for you. Good for you. So you knew you were off and running?
Yes. So then gave me a bit of confidence. I'm like, okay, I can do this. It's not bad that bad as I thought it was.
Yeah. And and the Burton
was a week later. So the Baku tank was the very next week. This is on the 28th and bark tank was on the 20. The global impact was on the 21st. And Boch tank was on the 28th can say exactly after seven days. Yeah. So you knew you could do it?
Yes, you had, did you get your stage fright?
Completely? Or, you know, I actually did, I figured what I need to do in order to lose my stage fright when I get on a stage. So I learned all the points that I need to keep in mind when I'm good pitching. And I also learned the things that I need to fix in my page, before I go for the final page. Okay, so you revamped your pitch, and it sounds like you practice, practice, practice, my entire Thanksgiving was just practice it
good for you. Okay, so when you pitched
at Shark Tank, what happened? I ended up winning the first prize, as well as the People's Choice Award again.
And that was a total of how much money did you in
buck tank was in total, both the prizes came to 35,000. And the global impact Pitch Competition 5500. So in total, I won for the
$500 not bad or two weeks work.
Amazing, amazing. Well, how did winning bark tank, change your view of yourself and your view of your business?
Or did indeed, actually because until then, I didn't see myself as entrepreneur,
you do not see yourself as an entrepreneur,
and I didn't see my product as something that I didn't have the confidence enough to put it to the market.
You thought it could help you and you were going to keep on working on it too perfect. So that it would work for you. Yes, but you didn't think of it as
good as the other people. But I didn't know how to get it out. But then, once I wanted, and when everyone was so impressed, and they were all offering to help me and support me to get this out. It built a lot of confidence in me. I actually started to see myself as entrepreneur. And do you see yourself as that today? A few months later, I think BSN gave me a lot of confidence. Great, I'm still trying to get adjusted to that lifestyle. This is something totally new to me. But I do see myself as entrepreneur, a new identity. Yes.
In addition to the old ones that you have.
And how did this affect your business? Obviously burn. So
I have managed to like build a lot of contacts. Thanks to bark tank, and everyone who was at bark tank.
Can you give some examples there nice.
So from Boch tank, the panel of judges connected me with
the CEO of Fitbit, the CEO of Fitbit,
as you spoke to him or her directly, yes.
Okay. And then he was very happy with my idea. And initially actually wanted to partner with them. But they clearly said that it's my venture. Plus, they don't want they are not in that market area. My market area is different to their market area. So they did not try to steal the idea.
No. So was it just a one off meeting or
no, then they but really want to help me so that I would avoid all the hurdles that they had when they started? You could avoid the hurdles? Yeah,
they, so they were basically telling you, yes, sharing with you their experiences, so that you don't have to go Yeah,
same, same things, all the technical hurdles they had. So he connected me with his vice president of research, and who I had zoom meetings and chats and continue on email, like contact, and he keeps advising me on what I need to watch out and how I need to eliminate the problems that I will come out come up with when it comes to developing the whole thing. That's quite a contact. It is.
So you're just an ongoing communication with the VP of research. Yes, you terrific.
Yeah. Anything else happened as a result of sorta and on top of that, I met a lot of people. And it's very nice that it feels awkward, but it feels very nice when Ted Leonsis itself comes and speaks to me when he sees me everywhere. Everywhere. around town, where do you see him? Mostly? I see him most of the time at house your house. It feels nice. Like when in between all the other entrepreneurs when he knows me personally on first name basis.
Yeah. One first.
This competition and then on top of that, because I work with another venture as well. Because you on hold. But because I have inch as well. They allowed me to work at house your house. Crazy. So I work some good space that is. And also they asked me to apply for her car next intake. So which I'm currently doing. And also I made a lot of nice people, including Ross and Paul Carter. Well, like rose Carter is such a nice person. And what's their connection to house in house? So they come there? I think she
Yeah, they want to be like one of the phone funders for the house young house. So they're there. They're helping
to fund ETFs and getting to know them. Yeah. So the she's Swedish. Sweet. She spoke to me, and she's in contact with me. And because she's helping me out the other ventures well, and on top of that, she wants to help me so it's really nice often. So I meet a lot of nice people. Now I bet
some some very useful content. Yeah. We're there g was if you got any other recognition since martech. Yes.
So technically DC recognize? Technically you see the magazine? Yeah. The magazine recognize all the way out? Like my previous name. Yeah. The same venture. Yes. As one of the top 20 startups to watch out for you. 2019.
You are one of the top 20 startups to watch in 2019. Yes, according to technically DC. Well, congratulations on that.
Thank you. Terrific.
They know who to watch.
All right, and what are your next steps in terms of building the business?
So I'm currently working on I'm registering the company. And I got my name and website all registered, done. And I'm working on completing the prototype, not the prototype, like the manufacturing version, optimize design. And I'm planning to start a Kickstarter around June, July. Because all the parliamentary hypertension community that I'm in contact with all the patients they want to get involved with.
already heard of this? Yes. The pulmonary hypertension community. Yes. Your market your primary market? Yes.
knocking at the door. Because I I sent a survey for them asking, would they like something like this? And it's amazing, like, about more than hundred people responded within two hours. But the hundred percent? Yes. Really good. The monitoring as well as the emergency option.
Two hours, you had 100? People say, Yes, we want that. Yeah. And they're willing to pay for it.
Yes, they're all alive. When can we get this. So because of that, I want to start a Kickstarter, because then to speed up the process to speed up the process. And then they will commit to this. So I can, I will have that commitment from them as well. I can lock in the commitment. And as well as I will be able to collect the funds, I need to manufacture it so that I can get it to them as fast as possible.
And about how much do you think he would need to be to raise in order to begin that? The manufacturing?
So to complete the whole device, I will need about close to between 75 200,000 Okay, so since I already have 45,000? Yeah, I started working on it. Terrific. And I'm going for the pitch competitions, we are coming up for you. So I just pitch for the Georgetown alumni. The Georgetown alumni pitch competition. I had the semi finalists. I'm here on campus, at the john Carroll weekend. Okay. So I'm in the semifinals. I'm just kidding, waiting to hear the results. But I'm selected for the finance.
And when will the finals be? It's in me in May and May in Houston, in Boston. And to go also, yeah, so I'm speaking with other people who want to invest in this and fund me, so that I can collect the funds to get this out as fast as possible. And because then I have once I have the final product developed, I just have to go manufacturing it. Yeah. So I'm planning to get it through China. That's the cheapest way to get it done so that I can cut the costs as much as possible to get them at a reasonable price for the patients. And also, I'm working to get the FDA approval. Oh, right. Yeah. Because see, most of the people will buy it. When if you need something you would
buy it for. That's what I understand. Yeah, you got an illness you were looking, but you want obviously, but then
people have to you can't because I know there's so many people even in us without health insurance, who can't even afford daily medicine. So for people like that, they would need it, but they will not have the money to get there. So that's why if I get it through FDA, yeah, they can get it through the insurance. Sure. And I'm working with john hopkins to get that sorted. Right to make it available, probably a
monkey would have to have FDA approved. Okay, so you're on that track as well. One thing we haven't talked about is the fashion end of this, your vision is not a bulky thing that attaches to your ear that goes on your ear lobe or bend your year.
Tell us a little about the fashion side. So
I myself is like a bit of a hip character. So we just have to be like this hippie things. So if I make this as a fashionable accessory, like, which anyone could, like you said, so not a general device, but a device which people can change the housing the way they want, different colors, different colors, different designs, or maybe like to something bling, right. So what I want to do is once I do the whole device to start up, like I'm trying to build alliances with the fashion industry and work with industrial designers to come up with different housings for the device. So people can come up into like a subscription plan where they can get like three housings, they can pick up they when you say housing, you mean just the the external, external,
external part, yeah, okay. And this will ultimately be about the size of it will be good size
order. So it will be sized, it will be smaller than a quarter. Like Yeah, like a tiny finger like the fingernails are now younger now. sighs okay. And you put it on your ear. And, and I'm also dreaming is to love people to, to change in and out what it looks like. Color cover, because I'm trying to do two versions as a coupon and as a PS version, because some people would want it to be there when they're sleeping, and having a wash. So I wanted to be waterproof as well. Because most people lose oxygen while they're having shower or sleeping. At night, so whoever wants it to be wearing in the night and have a shower. They can use the PS version. So it's like a hearing. And then I want to make it so that even men would not have a issue in wearing something fancy, right? It could be it would be like a bluetooth headset that they were in but something fancy.
So so you're not looking just for stylish for women, but cells that men which will come in.
That is quite a vision. Chevy quite a vision. Let me just ask you.
What is the best piece of advice you've gotten so far?
let me think I have got so many advises that the best advice I think I have God is everyone says, people have told me that. I it's I do have the capacity to do whatever I want. It's not. It's just I have not tried that out yet. And they always say it's just don't let other people's opinions get into you. Don't let other people set limits for your foot set limits for you. Yes, just have confidence. And just go out and do what you think you can do. Because you know what you can do and don't let others define what you can do.
I would concur with that advice. That is great advice. And I believe you can do whatever he wants to do. If you do not all of us can do whatever we want to do, but you can do whatever he wants to do. I my last question for you. If you could ask 10 Leah gnosis one question. This is related. What would that be?
So this device, it's not just limited for parliamentary hypertension. People because it's a device that will monitor anyone's oxygen levels. It can be for Asian people. It can be for people who are like, you know, kids, and
kids or anyone, anybody who's who's oxygen
fluctuation all the time. So, and one of the markers that I can get this out is the athletes,
the athlete markets.
So if I was to market this to the professional athletes, what should be my first step?
Excellent, excellent question. Terrific. Well, thanks for being with us this afternoon. I really appreciate the chance to talk to you and hear more of your story. And best of luck to you.
Thank you so much Jacki for having me here.
Venture forward is a production of the Georgetown entrepreneurship initiative at the McDonough School of Business. Our production team includes Jacki Abbey, Christie Pels, and Ben Zimmerman. Thanks for listening. Until next time,