These engineers started a company right out of college
John Hayes posted on May 31, 2013 |
The risks and rewards of living the dream.

Samantha Music

Kerri Killen

Names: Samantha Music & Kerri Killen
Degree: Bachelor of Biomedical Engineering
University: Stevens Institute of Technology
Grad year: 2012
Employer: Versor Inc.
Industry: Medical Devices
Title: Co-Founders / COO CFO
Compensation: Zero so far!

Versor Inc. is the brainchild of Samantha Music and Kerri. Killen. The company and product stemmed from a senior year design project at Stevens Institute of Technology. During the project Samantha and Kerri invented a medical device to measure the range of motion in spinal patients. The company's goal now is to manufacture the device to clinical standards and distribute it to physicians. How cool is that?

The senior year design project was a challenge to invent a way to measure range of motion without x-rays.

Samantha and Kerri came up with a series of sensors they call the Versor.

The Versor provides pre and post-operative measurements of spinal movement for diagnosis.

The user straps on the device and does a series of range-of-motion exercises. The device provides angular output over 3 dimensions.

The spine is a tricky series of joints because it moves not only forward, backwards, and laterally, but also rotationally. Most people who bend forward, for example, don't bend straight forward. They twist or rotate.

X-rays provide only 2D feedback. The Versor isn't so constrained.

Why wouldn't you just get a job?
Upon graduation Samantha and Kerri received such good feedback from radiologists, engineers and surgeons that they decided to dedicate their early careers to the Versor. As Samantha says, "This is a time in our careers when we can afford to take a risk."

What do CFOs and COOs of technology start-ups do all day?
Samantha and Kerri work on lots of projects.

  • Applying for grants
  • Applying for patents
  • Working with professors to write up documentation
  • Submitting the device for testing
  • Searching for superior design elements and manufacturing techniques
  • Recruiting surgeons to validate the working devices

It turns out that there is a lot more research to be done in this pre-production phase. Kerri and Samantha are still working to understand what it takes to get a medical device (non-invasive) approved in the USA.

What stage of development is Versor?
There is only one prototype Versor at the moment. They want to have 5 more, but each one has to be identical, so there are production issues to investigate. The next step after the 5 prototypes are ready is to deploy them to a group of surgeons for testing. But before Kerri and Samantha deploy them to the field, the devices have to look more like a finished product.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to launch a company right after school?
Samantha advises other would-be entrepreneurs to only do this if you have a lot of passion. She says, "This takes a lot of work and you can't give up." And "Don't listen to doubters even if they are your parents (even though you'll have to ask them for money.)"

What in your education prepared you for this?
Samantha and Kerri's education at Stevens literally launched their careers. They both planned to get a job in industry, but the Stevens curriculum, which included business and economics classes in addition to a wide range of engineering classes, gave them the confidence to live the dream.

As Elon Musk asked us in a recent interview, "What's the worst that can happen? It's not like you are going to starve to death or die of exposure. So why not get together with some other smart engineers and launch a company?"

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