Moving closer to Celebrate 2015 in October, I had the chance to speak with the CEO of Suncayr Rachel Pautler. Suncayr is a product that helps users know when their sunscreen is losing its effectiveness in the heat of the afternoon sun.
Rachel said Suncayr was similar in application to a large Sharpie pen that is applied to the skin initially. Sunscreen is then put over the dye on the skin. The sunscreen and dye both breakdown over time at the same rate. The dye will then react to UV rays and change in appearance. This notification will allow the user to apply more sunscreen when appropriate and help reduce the possibility of sunburn and ultimately skin cancer.
This product sounds like a great fit for the large markets in Arizona, Florida, Texas, California, and any other southern state you can name. The issue for entry into the American market lies with the Federal Drug Administration.
Sunscreen is regulated as an over-the-counter drug in America. The FDA has collected data and provided rulings as far back as 1978. As a result, the Suncayr dye is altering the application of a regulated substance, or as Rachel put it “We are dosing a drug.”
This regulatory hurdle is a minor one according to Rachel. She said they have been in communication with the FDA about the ink. This proprietary substance has been reviewed and allowed to continue in the certification process. It contains a substance never used before in this manner, but has many natural components and is safe.
When I mentioned that certain drugs can take up to 10 years to be approved based upon their application and market, Rachel said she believes they will have approval to enter the American market within one year.
There are five members of the Suncayr team. All but Chad met at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. The idea was developed as part of a fourth year project in their business ventures class. Peter came on board later. Everyone knew Peter from high school, and Rachel said his sales ability and personality were a great fit for the team vision.
You can see all the founders HERE on the company website.
As part of the program and the University of Waterloo, the team also has access to many co-op and intern students who attend the school. They participate for class credit and volunteer their time further for more experience.
That group is very diverse in national origin. One thing that really stood out to me was the youth of the founders. Rachel laughed when I brought this up. She said “It would feel really funny to hire someone older than me.”
There are no outside investors right now according to Rachel. They are bootstrapping and focusing on participation in pitch events and obtaining grants. Rachel will not be at Celebrate 2015. She said she has a scheduling conflict that prevents her from attending.
The company is still in an early seed stage of development. Rachel said they plan to launch in Canada in 2016 and American in 2017. I asked about international markets like Australia and Thailand. She replied that those two specific markets are being targeted. Australia for its level of skin cancer rates. Thailand for the cultural focus emphasis on pale skin as a sign of beauty and health.
Mentors, Advisors, and Accelerators
Rachel said the support and coaching her team has received so far comes from the coaches and companies involved in the Velocity program at the University of Waterloo.
The Velocity program is a very successful Canadian entrepreneurship program through the school. HERE is an article about those who have come out of the program to successful careers in start ups.
As I look at the founding team, I am impressed by the technical abilities of each of them. Four of them participated in the Nanotechnology Engineering program at the University of Waterloo. I see their youth and skill, and it makes me believe the growing focus on STEM schools here in America could turn into something like this for future American students.
I realize how far behind we as an educational system look right now. The number of technical positions being created over the next decade will require some major investment in infrastructure.
I have previously commented about the youth founder myth as a necessity for success. This entire team is younger than 30. This is both a strength and weakness. Whomever invests in this for-profit venture will need to bring solid business acumen to the table. There is much to be said for having a person who has been through the fires of growth and development. I made this same point in my Food Moves piece on LinkedIn.