RevMedx: If You Get Wounded, Patch It Up and Keep Moving Forward
Andrew Barofsky of RevMedx strives to create something benevolent to save lives
The grueling grind of war can fatigue anyone, so it’s important to have what you need not only to do your job, but to survive. Imagine yourself on a battlefield far from home, the dirt and the smell of gunpowder filling your nostrils. Now isn’t the time to flinch or falter, as one fatal mistake can lay you out with one accurate shot from an enemy gun barrel. However, an enemy combatant comes out of nowhere and scores a shot directly into your shoulder. Luckily, your medic rushes to your side and injects your wound with an XStat to stop the bleeding and gives you an extra four to six hours to evac and possibly save your life.
Andrew Barofsky, CEO of RevMedx knows this scenario all too well; he began research on a medical solution for treating life-threatening bullet wounds for US troops back in 2009, receiving much needed funding the following year thanks to a grant from the US government. However, the many hours of toiling and tumbling ideas with his staff led to the creation of the XStat, a revolutionary device that injects specialty sponges into a wound to assist with blood clotting, allowing the wounded warrior to stave off bleeding to death long enough to seek medical attention.
Would you believe that the man behind this great innovation in battlefield medical science started off as a lawyer? No medical license—just a will, a way and the ability to listen to the needs of the target demographic (take notes people, because that just may be the secret sauce). Barofsky initially earned his undergrad degree in biochemistry and started his career in medical R&D for five years before pursuing his JD to become a patent attorney with heavy emphasis in business, finance and securities law; so in actuality, it wasn’t a total shot in the dark for his later venture. “As an attorney, I always found myself on some level yearning to be one of my clients [and] being one of these companies that’s really at the front lines of developing technology, so in a sense for me, it was a very easy transition to make.”
The allure of innovation and creating something that could actually save lives was enough to pull Barofsky from his attorney’s desk and dive into R&D once more, this time with much more ambition in his heart. “I was always excited about the idea of creating technology,” Barofsky states. “For me, that always meant not just creating technology in a laboratory, saying ‘Oh, that’s really cool,’ but creating technology that actually gets used and makes its way into the real world.”
Barosky admits that in creating RevMedx, he was fulfilling a desire to be benevolent and let the right hemisphere dominate with abstract problem solving. As observed throughout history, those who went for the abstract solution found success in more than one way. The CEO states, “We look to develop products where there’s a capability gap or an unmet need and we can create something that can make a really big impact and fill [the need] well. You have to have some creative spark to get that done.” Barosky found inspiration through his work to find better ways of helping others, not just through ideas, but practical application to fundamentally change what we consider “near death.”
Although the Xstat has received a lot of attention from the media as well as the US military, Barofsky admits that it’s not an easy road when you base your entire company around innovative ideas and creating completely new solutions to problems with unproven technology. For Barofsky, entrepreneurs are people “who [create] something of value that really hasn’t existed before and [take] some sort of leadership role doing that.” It isn’t enough to simply copy an existing idea or even improve upon it, but to seek out solutions that no one has attempted yet—truly an inventor’s sentiment.
Unlike many of the inventors of old like Thomas Edison, these days it really takes more than just yourself to take your idea from synapse to strategy. Barofsky knew when he formed RevMedx that he would have to surround himself with the best minds to find the best solutions. “I knew right out of the gate, being one of the founders of the company, that this was going to need to be a team effort,” Barofsky admits. “Frankly, I’ve got subject matter expertise and past experience in a lot of important domains, but not everything…So one of my management styles is really to hire people that are really good at what they do and give them the platform and the resources for them to do their job and to do it really well.”
As my publisher always says, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and that is true for everyone looking to innovate, whether it’s a single product or an entire industry. Finding people who bolster your ranks with skills you know you will never have is the only way to get any kind of cohesion in project management. “It’s got to be people who complement you and have the ability to either augment what you’re doing or flat out have a capability that you don’t have,” Barosky believes. “It’s not about smarts, it’s about capabilities. They bring capabilities to your group that fill capability gaps and help put all the pieces of the puzzle together.”
However, Barofsky admits that it isn’t just having a good team at your disposal that makes a project go. Every company has its struggles, and RevMedx is no different. In the early days of the company, securing cash flow was an issue and Barofsky knew they needed a major client to fund any R&D they would attempt. “Making sure there aren’t funding gaps or cash flow problems is a constant challenge of any small or emerging company.” RevMedx had to apply for research grants like everyone else, hoping that their idea would fly with the people with deep pockets. Fortunately for RevMedx, they were awarded a grant to begin research and prototyping for their now infamous XStat project.
Just like Thomas Edison failing many times to find a filament, they found many ways to not help a bullet wound. Barofsky talks about failure like it’s a double-edged sword: it can be useful, but if it’s mismanaged, it can be devastating. “[Failure] can spur innovation; the first version of something, the first prototype or the first way you think of accomplishing something may not be the best way.” Barofsky suggests that failure, especially for a startup heavily invested in R&D, is inevitable and should be viewed as a learning tool.
One should never be afraid to fail, but should always prepare for it. Failure can’t be completely avoided, but calculated risks can be managed. “The real challenge is that you need to, in terms of time, money and fortitude, budget for [failure],” Barofsky says with certainty. “What I don’t think a lot of entrepreneurs do is budget in failing…that’s the hardest thing about failure—you gain a lot from it, but if you don’t manage the risks associated with failure appropriately, it can derail you.”
Barofsky also believes that being afraid of tough decisions can derail you even more so that failure. Many times you hear ‘A bad leader isn’t bad because he/she makes bad decisions; he/she is a bad leader because he/she makes no decisions.’ As a leader, “you can’t be afraid to make the wrong decision,” Barofsky believes. “You don’t want to be paralyzed, make no decision and spin your wheels. At some level you have to be comfortable with making an executive decision, sticking to it and being OK with the fact that it was the wrong decision then.” If you’re stuck in the ocean and the tide is rising, you can’t simply stay put or you’ll drown; you have to move on and try for shore.
Although Barofsky has found success in the XStat project, he is always looking for the next great idea to improve what RevMedx is doing. There is no sleep for the innovator, as he or she dreams on the whiteboard. Much like the soldiers that the Xstat is projected to save, the innovators at RevMedx won’t give up until their mission is complete; but then again, is an innovator’s job ever truly finished?
Photo Credit: www.web2carz.com