SynDaver Labs, a company that creates synthetic human tissues and body parts, entered the Shark Tank on May 8th. Heavy interviewed founder Dr. Christopher Sakezles. Here are the facts on his company.
There’s 20 Years of Research Behind It
Sakezles developed his first model while he was a student at the University of Florida. The idea came about when he needed to run an animal study to test a medical device he was working on, but simply did not have the funds to do it. “This first model was basically a cheaper alternative that accomplished pretty much the same objective as the animal study for a quarter of the price,” he explained.
A decade later, he started the company. As far as the research behind it goes, they’ve spent 20 years on the basic materials they use in building tissues, partial task trainers and full bodies.
They Have an ‘Eclectic’ Staff of 150
Don’t assume only scientists work at SynDaver. In fact, their group of 150 employees run through an entire spectrum of professions.
“It’s an eclectic bunch – PhD physicists, chemists, and engineers – but also a good number of artists of every conceivable type – as well as beekeepers and candlestick makers,” Sakezles said.
As for who purchases their products, they started out selling to medical device manufacturers. However, now their biggest customers are universities, community colleges, high schools, hospitals and the US military.
They Hope to Capture a Big Chunk of the Market
Sakezles is optimistic when he speaks of the future, which includes a larger takeover of the market.
He said, “As we continue to flesh out our product line over the next couple of years we expect to take a continually increasing share of the two billion annual simulation market. I think we can capture 50 to 75 percent of this market but it will likely take at least a decade to make that happen.”
There are also other companies he will start down the road. “Beyond that I have plans to start a few followup companies; an online medical device grading database, a medical device company, and a medical consulting company,” he said.
Sakezles Is Bad at Public Speaking
When asked about him auditioning for the show, he admitted it was his wife’s idea, since he is terrible at public speaking. When she suggested that he try out, he declined, assuming that he would be rejected.
“However, the next season she made the suggestion and I sent a whole body to the show instead of an audition tape. It was a big risk because the bodies are quite vauable and I did not know if I would ever see it again – but it paid off – they producers called me the next day,” he said.
As for what he learned from his Tank experience, he noted that, “I learned to never again try to memorize lines because I apparently can’t do it. I am really only good in a pitch when I am ‘winging it’ – so that is what I will do from now on.”
Although nerve racking, he did say that the experience was one of the most memorable of his life. “The pitching experience was stressful but I am very glad that I was granted the opportunity to go through this.”