Company Name: Emergent Detection
Industry: Technology, Fitness/Weight Loss
Founder Name: Keegan Hall (29), Eric Fogel (39)
Founder’s Age when company was founded: after a year of initial development work, the company was officially founded in April 2010
Tell us about your background (education, etc):
I (Keegan Hall) have previously served at Director and VP-level positions in sales and marketing for companies such as Live Nation, Seattle Sonics, and The BIG Print, and I also have my MBA from the University of Washington where I was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma (International Honor Society). I am also a fitness enthusiast and have completed three full marathons (San Diego, New York City and Seattle).
My co-founder, Eric Fogel, has a Masters degree in Biochemistry as well as his MBA from the University of Washington. Eric has extensive experience as a research scientist and has worked for companies such as Amgen (note: if you’d like more bio information please check our website under the “management” tab).
Tell us about your company and your inspiration for starting it.
Obesity is a major problem in America and it’s only getting worse. Many people want to lose weight, and they’ve tried various diet and fitness programs, but that have been able to successfully lose weight. As a result, they lose motivation and simply give up. BodyKey provides people with immediate feedback about how their body is responding to their diet and fitness program, and then helps them fine-tune their program for maximum weight loss.
The underlying technology behind our product was developed by Dr. Aaron Falk, a PhD physicist who has over 40 patents to his credit. Essentially, Dr. Falk figured out how to take the core technology found in a large lab machine (Spectrophotometer), miniaturize it into a hand held device, and then reproduce it in an inexpensive way.
Once this technology was developed, the next step was to figure out the best way to utilize the technology. Eric Fogel and Dr. Falk examined hundreds of potential uses for this technology before we made the decision that the weight loss industry would be the ideal industry to launch our initial product, BodyKey.
Prior to official establishing our company in April 2010, Eric and I combined with two other UW business graduate students (Joel Gjuka and Amanda Mathes) to compete in the prestigious University of Washington Business Plan Competition in which we squared off against 92 other teams from 15 different schools (the competition is open to all students in the Northwest – not just U of Washington students). Emergent Detection placed 3rd place in the competition, which gained the company some early notoriety (note: the two teams that placed ahead of us already had revenues and/or funding so we felt pretty good about our the 3rd place finish).
Bootstrap or Funding?
We have bootstrapped all of our initial milestones (estimated $186k so far). We recently secured a seed round of funding for $37.5k from a group of angel investors and we are currently raising a $500k preferred equity A round. With this capital we plan to fund the initial manufacturing run of our product, as well as develop initial sales channels in anticipation for our 2011 product launch.
Describe any major challenges overcome or difficult decisions while you built your business.
The notion of overcoming challenges is something that all entrepreneurs consistently deal with, and we are certainly no exception. For example, our business plan has evolved significantly over the past year as result of speaking with many health and fitness experts as well as soliciting feedback from our target customers. The ongoing dialogue between industry experts and our potential customers has allow us to develop a product that they actually want instead of what we think they want.
What surprised you the most?
I was quite surprised to learn how willing other people were to help us build our company. When we were initially developing our business plan I reached out to a variety of acclaimed health and fitness experts to solicit their opinion on our product. I assumed that the majority of them would not reply to interview request, however, I was wrong. I had the incredible opportunity to speak with celebrity personal trainers such as Michael George, Bob Greene, and Gunnar Peterson. Additionally, I was able to get tremendously valuable feedback from nutrition experts Dr. Joy Bauer (NBC’s Today Show), Dr. Felicia Stoler (Host of TLC’s “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids!”), Dr. Cedric Bryant (Chief Science Officer for The American Council on Exercise). These folks have been not only offered their assistance from day 1, but they have continued to offer their support throughout our journey.
What would you do differently?
In retrospect, it’s easy to look back at mistakes and say “oh, we should have done that differently,” but we learned from those mistakes and now we’re better off. Building a successful business is not a linear process and there are always bumps along the way. The key is to navigate those bumps effectively and get back on the right path to success.
Is this your first business?
This is actually my second business. I founded a sales and marketing consulting firm back in 2008 called Vanza Creative. I learned a lot from that experience – especially about building a successful business through meeting and exceeding customer expectations. I’ve taken that same approach at Emergent Detection and I am very excited about out product, BodyKey. I strongly feel that we have an excellent product that is going to help a lot of people live healthier lives, and our success is going to be dependent on providing our customers with a superior user experience and ultimately helping them achieve their weight loss goals.
How many employees do you have?
We currently have four employees, but we plan on hiring more once we secure our A round of funding.
What has been your most effective marketing technique or tactic?
Being a consumer product company, we understand that effective marketing is going to be a key component to our success. Up to this point we have relied exclusively on word-of-mouth, however we have a few tricks up our sleeve once the next round of funding is secured.
What effect has the recession had on your business?
The recession has undoubtedly made raising capital more difficult. Since the economy has slowed, many investors are feeling the squeeze from their current investment portfolio and, as a results, funding has become increasingly difficult. However, we have been fortunate in that we have an excellent group of angel investors that believe in our management team and the tremendous potential that our product presents.
If you could offer one piece of concrete advice to other people, what would it be?
Surround yourself with peers and advisers that share your enthusiasm for business and genuinely want to see you succeed. We have been fortunate to cultivate an excellent group of advisers who are leaders in their respective fields. These people have been a tremendous resource for us, and we will continue to utilize their knowledge as we progress with our company.
Best book you’ve read recently?
I’m always on the lookout for a great book on marketing. I enjoy reading anything by Seth Godin. His has an amazing ability to take an idea that is quite complex and present in a very easy-to-understand way. He’s great!
All time favorite TV series?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I did enjoy the LOST series, but there nothing like a classic episode of Seinfeld.