A Year Later: ZeroTo510 Companies Still Going

By Andy Meek

Charleson Bell thought he and his associates had a solid business model for the startup they launched last year called BioNanovations, which is developing devices that use bionanotechnology for quickly diagnosing bacterial infections.

But then the BioNanovations team signed up for the inaugural cohort of ZeroTo510, Memphis’ medical device startup accelerator, which itself got up and running last year. And Bell said that program – which has just begun its new 2013 season – opened the team’s eyes to all the crucial things they didn’t know, and needed to know.

“Basically, it took me as a founder and someone who’s been completely absorbed in science – it took me out of the science box and focused me to learn the business behind companies,” said Bell, whose company got $100,000 in follow-on funding after the program.

BioNanovations also has since been running feasibility studies and raising capital for its Series A round of funding.

“ZeroTo510 taught us about the entrepreneurship necessary to take an idea to market,” Bell said. “The program really expanded my mind to all the innovative possibilities. I had all these ideas over the years, but I didn’t necessarily know what to do to get them into peoples’ hands.”

The same was true for the five other company founders who went through ZeroTo510’s first season. And as a testament to the success of the program, they’re all still plugging along, using the knowledge, skills, professional networks and other tools they acquired and nurtured during the 12-week accelerator.

ZeroTo510 is operated by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation. Its goal is to help medical device entrepreneurs navigate the start-up process, refine their business models and achieve the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) pre-market notification filing.

ZeroTo510 kicked off its new season – which will send six teams of entrepreneurs through 12 weeks of mentorship-driven instruction and hands-on activities – last month.


“We received applications from across the United States,” said Allan Daisley, director of entrepreneurship and sustainability for Memphis Bioworks, about the launch season in 2012. “(We) carefully selected our six participants, and we were very pleased with the quality of their ideas, the spirit of camaraderie that developed, the levels of learning and … with the final presentations that resulted in additional funding.”

Vidhan Agrawal, cofounder of Urova Medical, said the past year has been hectic for his startup since finishing the program. Urova’s leadership has been invited to participate at conferences, he said, and the startup also is in the midst of fundraising and starting its next product trials soon.

Urova has invented a way of treating feminine stress urinary incontinence. And the fact that, through ZeroTo510, potential investors were only “an elevator ride or a short ride away” was a crucial factor for Urova, he said.

One of the standouts from last year was Restore Medical Solutions, which completed the program with a full round of Series A venture capital funding. Restore has invented a surgical tray and method that increases speed and efficacy in reprocessing sterile surgical instruments.

Ray Randall of Ecosurg, which provides an environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional patient positioners used in surgeries, said his firm recently began leasing a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in town. It’s also been signing up new customers.

James Bell, co-founder of Handminder, said his company, which provides a device and method for more effective rehabilitation of the use of hand function in stroke victims, got some additional funding it’s using for a proof of concept trial that will start in the next few months.

“In the meantime,” Bell said, “we’ve had several prototypes we’ve developed in-house to test various things to make certain where we want to go.”

Ben Tempel, CEO of Nanophthalmics, which has devised a way to more effectively treat corneal abrasions, said his startup has been working on developing its device and getting it into clinical trials.

Nanophthalmics has built several examples of its prototype. It’s now enrolling patients in a clinical study.

“We spent last year really getting ourselves set up to prove our concept and the efficacy of the new device,” Tempel said.

His company also has been working with manufacturing partners, and the next step is to get the device prepped and sent to market.