Nathan Heerdt

In December 2016, QCA announced a strategic investment in Healthy Roster, creator of a mobile sports-specific electronic health record. Healthy Roster is giving Sports Medicine departments the ability to easily track and report about injuries. The mobile injury documentation and communication tool gives Sports Medicine departments the ability to easily track and report about injuries while also integrating with electronic health records. Recently, The Halo Effect had the opportunity to sit down with Nathan Heerdt, CEO of Healthy Roster, to get an update about the company.

THE: What’s happened since we announced the investment?

Heerdt: We used QCA and the investment, syndication of REV1, Ohio Tech Angels, Northcoast Angels as a bulk of our round. When we closed the round, we put the investment to use to hire sales development reps that are responsible for the top of the funnel.

THE: Where are you focusing your sales?

Heerdt: We have three main customers. We have health systems, hospitals and hospital chains. We have orthopedic clinics, such as Beacon in Cincinnati, and we also sell directly to high schools. In sports medicine, health systems hire athletic trainers and put them on staff at the high schools, but that is not everywhere. Approximately 60 percent of the country uses that model. Roughly 40 percent of high schools still hire their athletic trainers. Our software is useful in those situations, so we do sell directly to high schools.

THE: Describe your experience with QCA since the investment.

Heerdt: Queen City has been amazing. They provided us with a good amount of our funding, and they also added two board members for us, Ted Capossela and Terry Wright. Both of them have been instrumental in not only providing insight, but also really going out of their way to help us with business development. They have given us multiple leads and warm introductions that are leading to business. Our sales cycle is six to 12 months long, and we are nearing completion of a deal because of QCA’s direct involvement.

THE: How important is Ted and Terry’s involvement beyond the financial perspective?

Heerdt: Both are among the most active investors in helping to set up relationships and introducing us to people. 

THE: How has the relationship with QCA and the two members on your board met or exceeded your expectations?

Heerdt: If you look at Ohio when you are raising funds, and you’re raising amounts like we were, your options are somewhat limited. There are not a lot of VCs investing at this stage. You are depending on local organizations in each of the big cities in Ohio to get behind you. It helps to have a syndicate of those groups behind you. Really important for us, we had success in Columbus with Rev1 and Ohio Tech Angels, to see the support across the state. Once we received the support from QCA, then they took it to the next level of engagement. QCA has been the leader in terms of supporting us beyond the money.

THE: What’s next for Healthy Roster?

Heerdt: We are really focused on building a scalable sales process, so hiring sales development reps, building the top-end of the funnel, providing enough leads for account managers to do demos and close sales. We are putting a lot of our time into that portion of the company, and then really building our customer success. That is really the second part of what we need to do to scale. Once we bring on a hospital or 50 athletic trainers, how do we take the next step to ensure they have a smooth transition into the software when using it on a daily basis, and using it to its fullest potential so that management of hospitals get the full value of the data and reports in the system.

THE: What’s your perspective on Cincinnati and the entrepreneurial, startup scene?

Heerdt: I’ve spent enough time in this city, and it’s robust to say the least. In Cincinnati, you get a strong sense of product and retail-oriented companies because of the strong base of Fortune 500 companies. Each market differs in who their established big companies are and the ecosystems that they build. In Cincinnati, we see a vibrant community. What I really like is they have the same type of viewpoints of how to build companies as we do in Columbus, so I found a lot of the same willingness in the investors here as I did in Columbus.

THE: How important is the collaboration and interaction between the cities and the investment groups?

Heerdt: It’s really important. It trims down the responsibilities of the entrepreneur to pitch and do due diligence multiple times. So when the investment communities agree and work together, it helps on the diligence process. Rev1 was our lead investor and we went through a stringent process with them getting the due diligence together. QCA trusts Rev1 enough to know that they were setting it up the right way, and could just access the documents that I had provided. It’s not like we did not have additional diligence questions or conversations around it, but I wasn’t constantly getting different versions of the same information that was requested because QCA wanted it done its own specific way. And vice versa, when Rev1 invests in a Cincinnati company, they trust QCA to do the diligence process the right way. It helps a lot from the entrepreneur side.

THE: How is the interaction between the angel groups and you? How do all these perspectives help you?

Heerdt: As an entrepreneur, the biggest thing you can do is be as transparent as possible with your investors. It seems like common sense, but it is something you have to work at. You have to set up accessible reports and dashboards, and make sure the data is there, and then encourage people to look at it. We have tried to set up systems and dashboards, where every month you are getting an introduction back into the company. Having people on the board just helps ease the transition even more, getting data into the hands of the investors.

If you make the right information accessible to the investors, it really helps with the trust factor. Both the investment groups, Rev1 and QCA, they show matching support for that. When they feel like they understand what is going on, it is a lot easier for them to engage. The more they are engaged on a monthly basis, the more benefit it is back to the entrepreneur and the company.

THE: What would you say to other entrepreneurs considering funding through QCA?

Heerdt: It’s a highly worthwhile effort. All fundraising takes time and energy and effort. As you go through multiple groups, it gets more and more tiring. But there are two or three big important groups to hit in the state of Ohio, and QCA is one of them.

Pipeline H2O

Pipeline Logo

Introducing Pipeline H2O

The Hamilton Mill, an advanced manufacturing, clean-technology incubator focused on developing high growth potential startup businesses, introduced Pipeline H2O, a water-commercialization program, in September 2016. In January 2017, the program welcomed its first class of startups selected from 66 applications from across 5 continents representing 14 different countries. In April, the program was recognized with an award from the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration (GCC-ASPA). The award for “Program Excellence” recognized Pipeline H2O as a program with exceptional productivity, performance, effectiveness or innovation that provides highly responsive service to customers and demonstrates the organization’s value. In May, Pipeline H2O conducted its first Demo Day for its inaugural class of startups, awarding PowerTech Water and Searen the program’s first two $25,000 investments. We recently had the opportunity to connect with Antony Seppi, Operations Director at The Hamilton Mill, to learn more about the program and the incubator.

THE: Describe Pipeline H2O and the role it plays in Cincinnati’s startup ecosystem.

Seppi: Pipeline H2O is similiar to the “accelerator” (think The Brandery, UpTech, Ocean) concept in that we brought a number of selected startups into our region and introduced them to various organizations and individuals throughout the Greater Cincinnati Region to help accelerate their progress as a startup. We have amassed a tremendous amount of talent from the water-tech and entrepreneurial community to help make this successful both for the region and the participating startups. Our partners include Village Capital, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Cincinnati Water Works, Confluence, the University of Cincinnati’s Water Center, Xavier University’s Center for Innovation, the City of Cincinnati, the City of Hamilton, and Cintrifuse.

A couple of minor differences from your traditional accelerator model are that we did not ask the startups to relocate to the region during the duration of the program. Rather they came to Cincinnati once a month from February through May. Additionally, we are not taking equity in the startups that are participating in the program. Participants in our program are eligible for one of two $25,000 awards that are awarded via a peer selection model — a model unique to our premier partner in this program — Village Capital.

In the end, Greater Cincinnati is a tremendous resource for startups looking to innovate around water. As a matter of fact, the Cincinnati area/region leads the country in water-tech patents per capita. Additionally:

  • Cincinnati is the birthplace of water research in the U.S. beginning in 1913.

  • Cincinnati is home to the U.S. Federal Water Research and Development Laboratory, AWBERC and the National Homeland Security Research Center.

While many regions are faced with increasing water shortages, Southwest Ohio is water-rich.

THE: What types of companies are you looking for to be part of your program?

Seppi: As part of our inaugural Pipeline H2O class, we were looking for water-technology companies that had a physical prototype that could be tested with identified customers. The solutions also had to be solving problems in one or more of following areas: water infrastructure, reuse/recycling, monitoring/metering, data analytics, consumer innovations and wastewater.

THE: How do you measure success with the entrepreneurs you are mentoring?

Seppi: Customer engagement which will lead to happy, paying customers.

THE: Why Cincinnati (Hamilton), and why now? What makes this the right place and time for Pipeline H2O?

Seppi: The Hamilton Mill is an award-winning business incubator that provides support for young companies and entrepreneurs focused on clean energy and advanced manufacturing technologies. This is our area of expertise, and we are able to leverage our City of Hamilton partners to make this successful. The City has been extremely aggressive in introducing renewable energy initiatives to its utility customers – Hamilton has control of all utilities, including water, gas, electric, sewer, fiber – and we are able to leverage this expertise in a “City as a Lab” approach. This means we can get our startups involved with city utilities to test their products or concepts. The City is close to seventy-five to eighty percent renewable energy in terms of its production, with most of this coming from the Meldahl Hydroelectric Facility.

Because of our expertise in this sector, Cintrifuse (StartupCincy), Village Capital and several City of Cincinnati leaders approached us to spearhead this regional effort. They asked us in Spring 2016 to administer the program, and we jumped at the opportunity. Throughout the country and around the world, Village Capital establishes these types of communities revolving around particular sectors such as energy, agriculture, health, education, financial and health.  Village Capital thought the Cincinnati area would be a good fit for energy.

Plus, the City of Hamilton has the world’s best drinking water!

THE: What have been the biggest challenges for you to this point?

Seppi: Staying relevant with all of the other startup noise that is out there. Again, we are not your traditional incubator/accelerator and developing the next generation smartphone application is not our goal. We have carved out a very specific niche that is not meant to compete with other entities that are part of the Cincinnati ecosystem. We are more interested in world-changing technologies that will literally make a difference in how people live their lives and sustain themselves. By the nature of the technologies and the products our startups are building, it will be a little longer time to maturation.

THE: Since you started, what lessons have you learned that have made you a stronger organization?

Seppi: Organizationally, The Hamilton Mill is made stronger by the local, regional and national partnerships we have been able to forge. We could not have done this without the support and insight of our partners.

THE: How do you see Pipeline H2O working with other incubators and organizations such as QCA that are helping small businesses and entrepreneurs?

Seppi: Our collaboration with the other ecosystem partners will ultimately lead to the success of the program. We will lean on them for expertise and mentorship opportunities and use them to fill in needs where we don't necessarily have that area of expertise.

THE: What does Cincinnati and the surrounding region need to do to make small business success a priority?

Seppi: Be honest and upfront with startups that are going through the ecosystem, whether it's Pipeline H2O or some other organization. It does the region and the startup no good if we can't have the honest conversations as to whether a small business is on a trajectory for success or not. Make suggestions for adjusting the product or solutions, team makeup or whether to just cut bait and move on to the next great idea.

We also need to do a better job of marketing the region and communicating that this is a great region for startups. We are getting better at this, but still have a ways to go. Once we get there, more resources will come flowing in.

Finally, make small business development part of the overall economic development conversation and strategy. The days of the large scale wins are very few and far between. There needs to be a healthy mix of the larger scale focus mixed with small business focus. This is what we have done in Hamilton and why we are achieving results.


Pipeline H2O is beginning preparations and recruitment for its second class in the fall of 2017. Visit for more details.

Introduction to Early Stage Investing (for Women)

June 10, 2017 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Union Hall
Cintrifuse 1311 Vine Street Cincinnati, OH 45202

“Introduction to Early Stage Investing” is a one-day workshop that covers the basics of this exciting asset class. It is an event for women, presented exclusively by women in the industry.

Women are considered the next wave of investors. While opportunities to learn about traditional investing abound, investing in early-stage companies (often called “angel” investing) remains a mystery to many. Plus, motivations for investing can expand beyond financial returns and reach into social impact.

Areas of Focus:

  • Learning the terminology used by angel investors, venture capitalists and impact investors
  • Understanding the pros and cons of early stage investing
  • Examining the impact women investors can have on women entrepreneurs
  • Exploring what is happening in region’s vibrant start-up community
  • Meeting women investors and entrepreneurs from across the Cincinnati tri-state area

Who Should Attend:

This workshop is ideal for women interested in learning more about angel investing and/or understanding how to enable social impact by investing in early-stage companies. It is also a networking event for existing or potential entrepreneurs.

A light breakfast snack and lunch are included. Doors open at 8:15 a.m. Sign-up on Event Brite Investors and Potential Investors: $45 | Entrepreneurs: $25 | Students: $25

Follow us: Facebook: VenturesomeWoman | Twitter: @VenturesomeWom1

Sign-up here!

This presentation is purely an educational session to discuss the process of investing in early stage companies. No securities are being offered and all “typical return” figures are merely illustrative and not guarantees of actual future returns.

We appreciate the support of Cintrifuse in hosting this event.

QCA Entrepreneur Bootcamp



More than 100 entrepreneurs, angel investors, mentors, and business experts from across the region will assemble in Cincinnati to help founders at the 16th Annual Queen City Angels’ Entrepreneur Boot Camp, June 6-7, 2017. Our subject matter experts will teach you just about everything you need to know to get your business concept from napkin stage to MVP. Session titles include:
  • Do You REALLY Have a Product?
  • Design thinking and the lean startup
  • Business Models
  • Telling the Story of Your BrandGrowth Marketing for Your Startup
  • Using Intellectual Property
  • Your First Five Contracts
  • Social Media for Startups
  • Financing Your Venture: How start-up financing works
  • Financial Statements for Managers & Investors
  • Building the Internal and External Teams
  • View From the Heavens: What Investors Look For
  • Local Assistance:  Mentors, Incubators, Accelerators, Ohio Third Frontier Program
June 6, 2017: 7:30 am Registration/Continental Breakfast, sessions start at 8:15 am. Sessions end at 5:00 pm.
June 7, 2017: First session starts at 8:30 am, event wraps up at 4:30 pm

Interact For Health (Northwestern Mutual Building)
ChoiceCare Room
3805 Edwards Road, 5th Floor
Cincinnati, OH 45209

In addition to a full agenda of educational sessions and panel discussions, entrepreneurs and start-up founders will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one (in most cases one-on-three) with local angel investors and business experts for advice and mentoring about your business concept.

Sign up today, limited seating!

Cintrifuse: Born to Make Things Happen in Cincinnati

199cd70a-e97d-4b6e-b580-98cb7cfb4b96Back in 2010, the Cincinnati Business Committee, the same group that formed 3CDC, set its sites on turning Cincinnati into a growth city. The group wondered where the growth was going to come from, as the expectation was that it couldn’t continue to come from the same big companies who are as likely to lay off people as hire them. A solution was born from a study conducted by McKinsey & Company. A group was formed to answer the question in the study, “How does Cincinnati establish a tech-based innovation economy?”

For a city of its size, Cincinnati should have been getting more money from outside investors, but in reality not much was coming in. While there were numerous parts of an innovation ecosystem in existence during that time, there was little coordination within the ecosystem. In other words, there was not a lifeguard in the chair. No hub. No central place or building that says, “This is where the most innovative things are happening.” This is why Cintrifuse was formed.

Recently, Halo Effect interviewed Eric Weissmann, director of marketing for Cintrifuse, about the purpose and role of Cintrifuse in #StartupCincy and other activities helping to coordinate Cincinnati’s innovation economy.

HE: What are Cintrifuse’s 2-3 major achievements that you would point to when explaining the organization?

EW: There are three core assets that Cintrifuse has brought to the table since it started. First is the syndicate fund, which was created to spur regional growth. Second is Union Hall, which serves as a hub of activity in the heart of Over the Rhine. It is open and it serves as a creative gathering place where people work together and build upon the ecosystem. And the third piece is programs. We are filling in the gaps in the ecosystem, and trying to make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing. StartupCincy as a brand really sprang from this – something that we all have in common – the Brandery, CincyTech, QCA, UpTech, HCDC. It is a brand that unifies all of us. Part of our efforts is getting BigCos interested in the startup and innovation scene. They are excited about what is happening and the enthusiasm and participation does not happen in other ecosystems. Columbus does not have the concentration of large companies that we do. So, why should startups come to Cincinnati? Look at other ecosystems and then compare our BigCos’ involvement. They are showing their support with dollars by partnering with startups, including paid pilots and contracts, taking meetings with VCs, etc. This is something that you don’t see in a whole lot of other places.

HE: What is Cintrifuse’s role in StartupCincy?

EW: StartupCincy is a community of entrepreneurs, BigCos, educators, investors, creatives and enthusiasts. While Cintrifuse is playing a leading role with the community and our hand may be on the joystick, we are not steering the ship. The community tells us what direction to go. So if they ask for more pitch competitions, we’ll head in that direction. If they want more focused events, we can help facilitate. Cintrifuse is behind the effort to get everyone within the ecosystem to the same table so we can all execute faster. Monthly we hold marketing calls where every organization goes around and discusses their successes. We do take a leadership role in that, as well as leading the StartupCincy Advisory Board comprised of entrepreneurs, startup employees and ecosystem partners. We help by encouraging collaboration and providing a voice of the community because ultimately why we all exist is for the benefit of the community as a WHOLE.

HE: How does Cincinnati measure up to other U.S. cities in terms of entrepreneurial activity?

EW: This is something that we are constantly evaluating with a variety of metrics from number of exits and total capital deployed to how many startups are here? How we relate to our peer Midwestern cities is important. Whereas Chicago might be aspirational for us in terms of sheer size, when we compare with Chattanooga, Indy and Columbus, we have a lot of parts and pieces they don’t. It’s easy to come to Cincinnati, visit Union Hall and plug in. In a short period of time, you’ll learn the best meetups; best people to talk with; people to help with pitch deck; c-suite resources, etc. We are much more connected and collaborative than any other system with room to grow for many more startups. Up until a few years ago, we didn’t have an accurate guess as to how many startups were even in our ecosystem. When we opened up the Cintrifuse membership model, we grew to 100 right out of the gate and now we have close to 300 in our census. But we really need a 1 in front of that number (1,300) to be a vibrant, healthy ecosystem, so we are just getting started.

HE What are 2-3 things that need to happen to make Cincy an even better place for entrepreneurial activity?

EW: We need to continue to foster relationships up the pipeline from a talent standpoint coming from both universities and BigCos. We need to identify people within them who have an idea and to encourage them to follow through with it. The Founder Institute does a great job of drawing people out of Bigcos to come to startup world. When you look at successful ecosystems such as Silicon Valley there are engineers that work for companies that have ideas and are encouraged by their employers to start their own thing. I’ve heard stories of Google employees leaving the company only to turn around and have Google (their former employer) be their first customer. We have to show people that entrepreneurship and startups are viable alternatives for career path. After all, entrepreneurs built this town.

HE: Cintrifuse has been a driving force behind FounderCon and other citywide events. How have the events impacted the perception of Cincinnati as a world-class startup community? 

EW:  One of the reasons we entertained bringing FounderCon to town was to get on people’s radar from outside of the 275 loop. The event brought in 1100+ folks that had never been to Cincinnati before. For them to see that we are urban – not a farm town – with big buildings; two, almost three, professional sports teams; nightlife; the electricity of OTR; inexpensive investment opportunities; and startups that have good ideas without the ego or crazy valuations. Look how far your money goes; $500k will buy you several more developers than in Silicon Valley. We bring people and businesses from other areas – founders, CEOs, entrepreneurs – to rub shoulders with our startups. Our entrepreneurs quickly recognize how similar they really are.

HE: Final Thought?

EW: When we first started, we moved a lot of people’s cheese; meaning we had a lot of people wondering what we were up to and why did the ecosystem need something like Cintrifuse. Kind of like the Hippocratic Oath (‘Do no harm…’) we have proven that Cintrifuse is here to help. We’ve shown that we can move big rocks out of the way and are listening to what the community wants. We’re setting the conditions for success and I look forward to watching the impact StartupCincy will have on the Midwestern startup scene.

The Halo Effect

5d74b456-350b-4a1a-809a-3a1a80c23752For the past 20 years, Brian Berning has been a consistent presence within the entrepreneurial and start-up community in Cincinnati. As Office Managing Partner at BDO USA LLP, Berning is a CPA and trusted business advisor specializing in M&A, tax planning and entrepreneurial growth strategies. He is also a member of the firm’s technology executive committee, and actively engaged as Chairperson of The Circuit, Cincinnati’s information technology association. In the various business circles around the region, Berning offers a valued and well-respected perspective of what it takes to start and build a successful venture. The Halo Effect (T.H.E.) recently caught up with Berning to learn more about him and get his insights on the status of the local start-up and technology scenes.

T.H.E.:  What made you want to work in financial services?

Berning: Initially, I thought I was going to work for the FBI. The Bureau encouraged me to pursue a career in accounting for white-collar crimes. I’ve always had an interest in business, and I felt more comfortable and more intrigued with math.

T.H.E. What is one piece of advice you were given early in your career that continues to resonate today?

Berning: Servant leadership is a philosophy that includes a set of core principals and a set of practices that stems from a conscious choice to serve others.  Through transparency, inclusion and accountability, we can enrich the lives of those around us, which leads to greater satisfaction and productivity. 

T.H.E. As a CPA who works with entrepreneurs, what are a few things you have learned, from a financial perspective that can help young companies when it comes to managing the financial side of their businesses?

Berning: First, talent matters. It’s important to hire the best professionals you can afford, internally and externally.  The right team will pay the highest return on investment over time. 

Second, focus your time on the core activities of your business and outsource the rest with competent professionals who have a positive reputation in the industry. 

Third, forecast cash flows vigorously and update your cash flow forecasts monthly.  Cash is king.  Finances of early stage companies are volatile and ever-changing.  Stay on top of it so you can accurately predict how fast, or slow, you are burning cash.  Compare your burn rate with your milestones (goals) to check if you are on track or need to pivot accordingly.

T.H.E. Why do you enjoy working with entrepreneurs?

Berning: I’m an accountant, who is secretly an entrepreneur.  I’m at my best when I feel like I’m an extension of a company’s executive team.  Entrepreneurs have to make quick, tough decisions and demonstrate exceptional leadership, sometimes all on their own.  This is the platform which I’ve proven to best participate. I like to be in the trenches with my clients, through both the trials and tribulation. 

T.H.E. What books or blogs are you reading today that you continue to learn from?

Berning: I just finished reading “Essentialism:  The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown, which is a book on focused leadership and learning to say “no.”  I frequently read industry blogs, but most consistently read BDO’s Technology & Life Sciences blog at BDO USA. I also find SaaS Capital to have an interesting blog about software companies.

T.H.E. You are very active in the community serving on boards and mentoring entrepreneurs. Why do you feel it’s important to do that?

Berning: I have a vested interest in this community.  I want to see our economic ecosystem flourish, whether as a mentor, Board participant or an angel investor.  If our economic ecosystem flourishes, so does our community.  It’s a win/win situation for everyone.  Also, I strongly believe in servant leadership.  I internalized this philosophy, which enriches the lives of individuals or organizations, and ultimately creates a more just and caring community.

T.H.E.: How would you describe the entrepreneurial and technology communities in Cincinnati? What gives you optimism about the future?

Berning: The entrepreneurial, and more specifically, the technology climate in Cincinnati is still perceived by most outsiders as immature.  Whether that’s factual or perceived doesn’t matter.  It is the perception.  I don’t think it’s an unfair assessment.  I consider Cincinnati an emerging market with a lot of promise so long as we continue to attract and retain talent.  Programs and associations such as VentureOhio and Third Frontier give me optimism for the future.  These programs are essential to the funding gap that exists in our community.  Further success stories in our region will also increase U.S. awareness.

T.H.E.: Is there a company or organization that you look to as an example of doing it the right way?

Berning: Good question, tough question.  There are several companies that demonstrate the right way of doing business.  I believe BDO is one of them.  Our core purpose is “Helping People Thrive Every Day,” and it embodies our entire culture.  Since the development of our CLIMB strategy five years ago, our growth has been 24% YoY, which is impressive for a $1.2B professional services firm.  In lieu of naming companies, I’ll defer to organizations that practice strong core principals of transparency and inclusiveness, choose accountability and people first, embrace change, and are laser focused.  In my experience, successful companies today generally practice most of these core principals.

Sense Diagnostics


2fe2c501-3a58-4e3f-a938-72c46d26a9daUpwards of 25 percent of the four million annual ICU admissions in the United States experience neurological complications. Half a million ICU admissions are due to brain diseases and 75 percent of these experience clinical worsening due to brain bleeding or swelling. Beyond the ICU, there is no convenient, non-invasive method for brain monitoring in ambulances, emergency departments or operating rooms to detect active bleeding. With these medical challenges in mind, a team of emergency medicine physicians and neurologists at the University of Cincinnati set out to develop a reliable, non-invasive monitor for medical conditions of the brain, specifically bleeding. In 2013, Sense Diagnostics was born to commercialize their technology. One of the company’s founders is serial entrepreneur Dan Kincaid, who is also a member of the Queen City Angels.

Over the next two issues of The Halo Effect (T.H.E.), we will interview Dan to find out more about him, his latest venture and the progress of its technology and what’s next for the three-year old company. In part one, we focus on Sense Diagnostics.

T.H.E.: What is the science behind Sense’s technology?  

Kincaid: The Sense Diagnostic device uses radio waves to detect physical changes in the tissues of the brain.  It relies on the fact that the different tissues found in the brain have unique electromagnetic properties.  As changes in the brain occur, the device signal changes in characteristic ways.  We use our proprietary software to interpret these signal changes and provide information to clinicians in real time.

T.H.E.: In addition to you serving as CEO, who else is part of your development and leadership teams?  

Kincaid: Our director of R&D is Dr. Joe Korfhagen, a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from UC who has worked with the technology for six years.  He left the university in March 2016 to join the company full time.  Dr. George Shaw is an emergency medicine physician and Ph.D. physicist.  He assists in the development of the signal interpretation algorithms and theoretical basis of the technology. Dr. Opeolu Adeoye is a Neurointensivist physician at UC. He serves as medical director for the company and is responsible for clinical trial design and execution.  Dr. Matthew Flaherty is a neurologist at UC.  He serves as Clinical Director for the company, and he participates in clinical trial design, acts as liaison with the scientific and medical communities, and assists in development of new clinical applications for the technology.

T.H.E.: Where are you in the development of the company and its technology? How soon until it will be on the market?  

Kincaid: We started our first in human clinical trial in February 2017.  The study will demonstrate the safety of the device and give us further information on the usability of our current design in patients. We are also continuing the development of additional indications beyond detection of brain hemorrhage.  We anticipate kicking off a pivotal clinical trial next year that will lead to FDA approval within two years.  

T.H.E.: What is your competition? And how does your technology compare to what is currently on market?  

Kincaid: The need for our product comes from the way critical brain injuries are monitored today.  Currently, when patients with a brain injury come to the hospital, they receive either a CT or MRI.  If immediate surgery is not required, the patient is monitored either in the ER or the ICU.  The primary means of determining if there is continuing or new bleeding in the brain is a clinical exam.  The exam consists of the physician or nurse making a series of observations and asking the patient a number of questions. If a patient’s cognitive state deteriorates, the physician orders another CT or MRI.  Unfortunately, by the time these outward signs of active bleeding show up, much of the damage to the brain has already occurred.   

There are several companies attempting to solve the same or similar problems.  Two technologies are already on the market. Infrascan’s Infrascanner uses near infrared radiation to detect bleeds in the brain. Because near infrared radiation is absorbed rapidly by the brain tissues, this product can only detect a subset of hemorrhages – primarily those occurring near the surface of the brain. Brainscope’s Ahead product uses an EEG based technology. It is currently indicated only for minor brain injuries, not the severe injuries we are targeting. There are three other companies developing competing products.  Neither product is on the market and information about them is limited.  Based on what each has published, we believe that our approach will yield superior results.  

Next month, we will have part two of our interview with Dan focusing on his involvement with Sense Diagnostic and his perspective on the local entrepreneurial and funding ecosystems building in the region to support businesses like his.


In the last issue of The Halo Effect (T.H.E.), we provided part one of an interview with Dan Kincaid, co-founder and CEO of Sense Diagnostics. In part two, we find out a bit more about Dan and his involvement with the company, the financial support for company’s like Sense in Cincinnati, and the role of QCA.

T.H.E.: You are a serial entrepreneur and an investor. What made SENSE the right “next” opportunity for you?

Kincaid: I have been looking for the right opportunity for some time. My criteria were pretty simple, the company had to be solving an important medical problem; needed a product that could provide significant clinical improvement; had to lower the overall cost of care; and had to have a group of brilliant people associated with it who were passionate about seeing the product improve people’s lives. Equally important, the problem had to be one I could be passionate about solving myself.  Startups are too hard to get into if you are just trying to make money.  There has to be more to it to sustain your commitment through the hard times (and there are ALWAYS hard times).  

While these criteria were simple enough to conceptualize, it was hard to find one opportunity that had everything I was looking for.  With Sense, I finally found it.  Some three million Americans suffer strokes or traumatic brain injuries each year.  Many of these people either die or are left severely disabled. The Sense technology can lead to quicker detection of bleeds, which can allow doctors to start treatment sooner, saving lives and avoiding long-term disabilities for patients.  As I dug into the economics of the issue, it became clear that the product could lower the overall cost of care for the health system while saving money for hospitals and providing an excellent return for investors. Personally, I had experienced a situation where a family member could have been helped by the technology, so I was eager to jump in.

The clincher for me though was the people involved.  The team around this technology is one of the best I’ve seen.  They are all top-level physicians and researchers.  More importantly, they are committed to seeing this product come to market and making sure it delivers on it’s potential.  As physicians, they see these injuries everyday and know the value the product can provide.  As a group, they have a deep understanding of the biology and physics involved.  They are scientists who don’t flinch from looking at their findings, even if the data isn’t what they’d initially hoped.  They have a resilience that allows them to learn from setbacks and use that knowledge to improve the product.  Seeing the improvements they made even while inside the university told me they had the right mindset to be involved in a startup.

T.H.E.: How has your background in start-ups and start-up funding helped you with Sense Diagnostics?

Kincaid: I think having done startups and seed investing has helped me in many ways.  First, in planning the company and the development strategy.  I’ve had the opportunity to see companies succeed and fail over the last eight years through my involvement with QCA, UC’s technology accelerator, Innov8 for Health and Biostart. Knowing where some of the land mines are is useful in the early stages.  

Another benefit to my startup experience is in understanding how to present the opportunity to investors.  The first company I did, we were able to get outside investors, but I have to admit, it was largely in spite of the way we approached it.  We had a plan and knew the industry, but did not complete enough validation to really convince people.  We were lucky enough to find investors that worked through our shortcomings to understand the opportunity.  I was determined not to let that happen with Sense.  We spent a lot of time preparing for the raise.  We were able to do this by investing our own money in the company and being insanely frugal (“garbage picking” office furniture, renting as little space as we needed, using our own blood in our experiments rather than buying from a blood bank, begging favors from everyone I knew, etc.).  

T.H.E.: What are the benefits of building a med-tech company in Ohio?

Kincaid: We’ve received support from a number of people in the Cincinnati and Ohio startup world.  HCDC has been a huge supporter, allowing us flexibility in leasing space as we need it, introducing us to their contacts – especially in manufacturing and market research areas – advising us on funding strategy, etc.  We received a grant from the Ohio Third Frontier Validation Seed Fund that extended our runway and helped us make some significant progress that attracted investors. The Third Frontier supports many of our investors as well. QCA, Accelerant and GCIC all have funds that the state supports to encourage early stage investment in high tech companies.

Cintrifuse is an organization that we’ve only begun to tap into, but they’ve already given us connections for our next round of funding and have connected us with some of their partners.  I am looking forward to working with them more.

The Sense Diagnostics’ story is really the story of how the Cincinnati and Ohio startup support networks function. We’ve received advice, funding, technical support, flexible physical space, and market connections from a number of people and entities. The support and feedback has been phenomenal.

T.H.E.: What about the challenges?

Kincaid: In terms of challenges that come from being in Ohio, I don’t really see many.  The one area where I see some opportunity is in direct support for very early stage companies.  One example is in the area of grant matching.  Kentucky, and other states, often will match Small Business Innovation Research grants issued by the federal government.  Many high tech startups find themselves in the “valley of death” where they have a promising technology that has moved beyond the research stage at a university, but is not yet developed enough to draw private investment.  In the past, many of these product ideas would die at that point.  The federal government created SBIR grants to help these companies progress to the point where they can get private investors.  By matching these grants, a state can leverage the federal resources to enhance the chances of getting out of the valley.  Ohio does a number of things well, but I still see a number of technologies get stuck in no man’s land.

T.H.E.: How has QCA helped you with SENSE Diagnostic? Beyond the financial support?

Kincaid: Well before anyone thought about writing a check, QCA was instrumental for us.  Rich Grant came in during UC’s accelerator and told us where we needed help.  He introduced us to an electrical engineering firm that has been a core part of our team since 2013.   Dan Geeding has been instrumental in making capital connections and introductions to the Cincinnati health care system.  Bob Petrik gave our financial plan a thorough vetting, making a number of improvements along the way (as he always does). Roy Kulick has helped with feedback and suggestions on the direction for our development going forward. Jim O’Reilly challenged our thinking on regulatory path, which helped us better prepare for the FDA conversations. I could go on. There have been so many people inside QCA that have helped, and I don’t think a lot of companies realize what QCA offers. You’ve got 50+ successful people from all areas of business (finance, sales, technology, marketing, etc.) and each of them has extensive networks.  If you ask, chances are someone in the group can help or can get you to someone who will.

Beth Rader on Women and Angel Investing

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Beth Rader has been a member of QCA for over five years and is enthusiastic about the benefits of angel investing for investors, entrepreneurs and the community at large.  As one of the still relatively few women angel investors in the Cincinnati area, Beth recently shared a few of her perspectives with The Halo Effect.

Why are you a QCA angel investor?

The short answer is because it’s exciting to support our local entrepreneurs and the amazing new products and services they are developing.  It’s also an opportunity to earn an attractive return on my investment.

By background, I’m a CPA.  Over my career, some of my most rewarding professional experiences have involved advising start-up companies both large and small.  Angel investing offers the same sort of opportunity.   There is an incredible richness of new ideas from entrepreneurs who are very smart and very passionate.  

You are one of only a handful of women members of QCA.  Would you encourage women to become involved in angel investing?


Women have all the skills – analytical, strategic, technical, marketing, and interpersonal/coaching – that make a  successful angel investor.  Moreover, women can help make QCA an even better organization than it is today.

In addition to serving as an important source of capital to young companies, one of the key benefits that QCA offers young companies – and one that differentiates us from other investors – is the depth of experience and expertise that we can share with the entrepreneurs.  Women bring different perspectives, and those diverse perspectives mean better outcomes and greater potential value!  

Because of the proven benefits of diverse perspectives, QCA is now actively focused on increasing the diversity of its membership. Another of the women members of QCA, Sue Baggott, is leading that effort.


Why do you think there haven’t been more women in the group so far?

That’s a very interesting question, and one I’ve thought a lot about. I see several reasons that women have been slow to enter angel investing in the Cincinnati area.

First is women’s perception of the local angel investing landscape.  Women with the experience and resources to be angel investors tend to be savvy and independent, seasoned by many years in the workforce.  Women look at angel investing groups such as QCA and see predominantly men, which they associate with “Old Boys Clubs.”  They’ve already “been there and done that,” in terms of working in groups where they had to fight for credibility and respect, and they aren’t interested in repeating those experiences.   

There are also differences between men’s and women’s approaches to angel investing.  Many women don’t fully understand the angel investing model, and they think that the threshold for angel investing is higher than it really is.  But the more significant differences relate to risk tolerance and expectations.  Women in general have a lower risk tolerance than men, and they don’t relate to the concept of “play money.”  They invest for only one reason, which is to make money with a level of risk they consider comfortable. Also from that perspective, many women are skeptical about angel investment returns. They believe the success rate and the returns should be – and could be – higher than they are.  

In order for women to consider angel investing, they need to be able to influence the issues that concern them.  That means the opportunity to be actively and directly engaged in the process for selecting the investments, overseeing them, and influencing the exits.  Some of these ideas could be disruptive to “the way we’ve always done it.”

What about women entrepreneurs?  Do many of them seek angel capital?

Very few of the entrepreneurs that approach QCA are women, even though my perception is that QCA has funded a large majority of the requests that have come from women.  So the women that do “pitch“ to QCA tend to be very effective.  But overall, women entrepreneurs seem to lack awareness of angel capital as a financing vehicle.  

In addition, women entrepreneurs, like women investors, seem to be leery of Angel Investors.  They are reluctant to give up control to a group of men — perhaps as a result of prior negative experiences with male investors or negative reactions to behavior they’ve seen on Shark Tank.

So, what are your suggestions for attracting more women to angel investing in Cincinnati?

I think we have a tremendous opportunity right now to expand the role of angel investing in the Cincinnati area.  That will require taking advantage of the potential contributions of women, as well as other diverse groups.  

First, we need to educate more women about angel investing and engage their interest and intellect.  We then need to make them feel welcome and provide hands-on opportunities for them to participate actively in angel investing, perhaps starting on a trial basis at an entry financial level.  

On a national level, there are already many women actively involved in angel investing, including the leadership of the Angel Capital Association.  Columbus has its own women-led angel capital group – X Squared.  We need similar role models and critical mass here in Cincinnati, and I’m confident we can and will get there.