Kallows founders Gajanan Nagarsekar (left) and Kevin Scott Kreger accept top prize from UW-Milwaukee New Venture Business Plan Competition
Story Behind the Startup:
Kallows, Milwaukee, WI
A device that allows users to track medical and fitness data with their smart phones was inspired, in part, after one of its founders suffered a massive heart attack during its development.
Kallows’ co-founders Kevin Scott Kreger and Gajanan Nagarsekar originally stumbled upon the mobile health technology while working with engineering students in Goa, India, on a capstone project. It was 2007, and the smart phone market was not yet developed, Kreger recalled.
“Initially we were going to build this complicated instrument and use the phone to read the data, but in the process we realized that everything we needed in the phone—all we needed was a sensor to communicate it,” Kreger explained.
“It was a spark. We realized instantly what we had was a patentable idea.”
The device, patented in 2007, is an electrocardiogram, or ECG monitor that measures user’s heart rhythms. The monitor uses smart phones or tablets to capture and transmit data directly to medical personnel remotely.
However, mid-way through the project Kreger had a premonition about his health; a week later, he suffered a massive heart attack during a routine workout at a local gym. He managed to alert Nagarsekar, who drove him to the hospital.
“It was the worst type of heart attack—I had total blockage of the left artery. The irony of it was that at the time, I was working on a heart monitoring device with the students,” Kreger said.
The health crisis left him with a sharpened interest in diagnostic monitors, he said.
The two founders originally crossed paths in 2006 while working for GE Healthcare. Nagarsekar, a biomedical engineer, was on rotation from GE India. Kreger, an electrical engineer and firmware specialist, was a consultant to GE at the time and also working on his law degree to become a patent attorney.
“I took a much-needed vacation and visited Nagarsekar in Goa, and I loved it. Once I became involved in the students with Nagarsekar, it became a sabbatical,” Kreger said.
Both resigned from GE to pursue the project full-time. The two bootstrapped Kallows with a personal investment of $40,000.
Kreger returned to the United States in December 2007 to set up operations; Nagarsekar and his wife, Juliee followed. To reduce startup costs, the three share an apartment on Milwaukee’s lower East Side. Kallows’s offices occupy two other space in the same building.
“The price for medical diagnostic equipment is extremely high—far more than it costs to make it—which is to say, there’s a sizeable profit margin. The pain we are solving in the market is that our product makes the medical monitoring much more affordable for an underserved population. We are saving money, yes, and we hope, lives,” Kreger said.
The company is in the process of raising three rounds of capital to advance prototyping, FDA clinical trials and marketing efforts.
“One of the biggest challenges of this startup experience has been toiling in obscurity without a support network,” Kreger said.
Since Kallows won the top prize from UW-Milwaukee New Venture Business Plan Competition this year and was also a finalist in the Governor’s Business Plan Contest, it is possible their obscurity will likely come to an end.