This month we interviewed Anthony Gonzales, co-founder and executive director of Force Impact Technologies. This tech startup, created in 2013, has developed a sports mouthguard that can help detect head trauma such as concussions. Gonzales and co-founder Bob Merriman are graduates of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Q: Your company, Force Impact Technologies, has developed its first product called FITGuard™. Can you explain what this product does in layman’s terms?
A: Our product measures the force of an impact and visually displays that force through the illumination of LEDs in the front of the mouthguard. That LED will change color depending on the severity of the hit, giving instant, visual indication of a potential head injury. Think of it as your brain’s “check engine” light.
Q: Can you tell us about the origins of your company and this product in particular?
A: As a former collegiate rugby player who has experienced the effects of a concussion, I truly understand how scary they can be. In a previous job, I had the opportunity to test accelerometers and other sensors, and my co-founder Bob Merriman and I began thinking of all the different applications. Then it occurred to us that we could create a device to help detect head injuries in sports. One thing led to another, and I ended up quitting my job and moving back to California to start this company.
Q: Several companies are introducing helmet-mounted sensors with a similar goal as your product. Why is the mouthpiece sensor better?
A: Clinical research shows the best location for measuring cranial acceleration is to have a sensor within the skull – as opposed to some accessory outside of the head – as it has the highest correlation back to the brain’s center of gravity. Essentially, it’s the best spot to have sensors!
Q: What is the potential market for FITGuard™ and what sets you apart?
A: Forty million mouthguards are sold annually in the United States. They are already standard equipment for most athletes, so the FITGuard can integrate seamlessly into what athletes are already wearing. Furthermore, the FITGuard can transmit data wirelessly to any smartphone through our proprietary smartphone application. Users can download the device’s measurements of linear and angular accelerations, as well as the duration of the event. This will allow parents, coaches and leagues to follow their normal concussion protocol, while having some quantitative data to consider. Additionally, the FITGuard can be programmed to account for an athlete’s age, gender and weight. This is extremely important because males and females have different sensitivities to head impacts, as do children of different ages.
Q: Where do you stand on funding today, and what are your plans for raising capital over the next 12 months?
A: In addition to the owner-contributed capital, we have raised $100,000 in seed funding and won more than $50,000 in cash grants. In October we plan to launch our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, with an initial goal of raising $100,000, but with the hopes of raising much more!
Q: When will FITGuard™ be ready for market and where do you plan to sell the product?
A: We anticipate having shippable product 6-8 months after our crowdfunding, which puts us roughly around spring of 2015. We will have more updates in our newsletter at www.fitguard.me/newsletter.