Marc Rippen, founder of Altergy, a non-invasive blood sugar monitor maker, moved from Department of Defense work to the private sector to fulfill a personal mission.
"I woke up one Sunday morning and my wife wasn’t in bed which was strange for a Sunday," Rippen said. "I called out to her but she didn't answer. I found her in the living room staring out in a catatonic state from diabetic low blood sugar. I grabbed some orange juice and got her to drink it. About five minutes later she shuddered, came to and asked where she was. If I had slept an hour longer, she would have become comatose."
That scare set Rippen's creative, problem-solving mind in motion. He had a long career in government research and development including with DARPA, but now he wanted to develop new, easy-to-use technology to prevent similar future dangers for his wife and others.
"Alertgy provides a way for Type 2 diabetics to be able to know what their blood sugar is on demand without having to do anything intrusive," explained Rippen. "A smart wristband detects blood sugar levels and tracks trends so if a person is not thinking about checking their sugar, it alerts them when their levels are getting too low or too high. The idea is to do away with the blood prick technique used by 95 percent of diabetics - a technique that usually only tells you what your blood sugar is at that time, not the direction it's going in."
Alertgy just closed its first round of seed funding. It will use the investment to generate proof of concept for the wristband to function outside the lab setting. "It also has uses in the one-third of the U.S. population that is pre-diabetic," Rippen said. "It can act as a preventive mechanism for them to be aware of the effects of what they do on their blood sugar, thus helping them to avoid becoming diabetic in the first place."
Rippen's advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is "First, don’t give up. Just hang in there. Second, look at the industry you're in and the technology you're trying to develop and look for people who have succeeded in that area and try to understand how they did it. Also look for those who failed and determine how they failed. Don't ever try to make data fit your theory. Analyze the data objectively and you can make a larger discovery than you imagined."