Tell us about your company and what is unique about it?
My husband who is a Neurosurgeon was constantly telling me about the increase in devastating sports injuries that he was seeing in his patients. We knew that they could be prevented or at least reduced with the help of smart, technologically advanced products that we weren’t seeing in the market. We decided to engineer a line that would help prevent major injuries to the spine, head and neck, and thus Neurotect was born.
Our products focus on innovative and wearable safety technology that protect from major sports injuries. Our patent technology is embedded into stretchable materials that easily conform to body shapes without inhibiting movement and immediately work to prevent injury when needed. What makes it even more unique is that the technology does not compromise comfort and is lightweight, giving it the ability to ‘kick in’ (or change from a flexible material to a rigid brace) just before the moment of impact.
What has been your biggest “A-Ha!” moment to date? How has it changed your business?
Like any entrepreneurial venture, the key is focus. Particularly since everything takes longer than you think. We got sidetracked a bit on our business direction pursuing new applications and ultimately trying to do too much in the market all at once. It’s so easy to do that in a start-up as everyone is excited about what’s possible and there are so many ideas and opportunities. However, as Tom Peters says, ‘stick to the knitting’! We still listen to lots of ideas but we are more actively fixated on keeping our focus and minimizing distraction.
How did the Columbia Business School classes you took shape your business/management approach?
The biggest influence from Columbia Business School on my business and management approach was learning to collaborate and negotiate in team settings. It’s very tempting as an entrepreneur to want to do everything yourself but Columbia taught me to harness different perspectives and views, whether they are from team members, partnerships, friends or potential customers — it is ultimately the most effective way to develop your product. Particularly given that at Neurotect, we rely on multi-disciplinary skills and expertise for understanding and designing the best solutions. Our team is small, but we seek out advice and collaboration from friends and through networking with experts in their fields. Columbia was instrumental is bringing that learning to life.
The Columbia Alumni Connection: How have you used it? How do you stay involved?
I have a core group of business school friends that I have stayed close with since graduating. We recently attended our 20th Class Reunion this past fall – time flies. Being a Columbia alumna gives me instant recognition in the business community and a shared connection among fellow graduates. I am also a member of several Linked In Columbia Business School groups where there are plenty of interesting discussions and networking opportunities. You never know who is going to have a similar issue that they are dealing with at the same time. And especially recently, Columbia has been great at reaching out and encouraging ways to get and stay involved. For me, this has included participating in the 20th Reunion Committee, development meetings and events, and being connected to the Entrepreneurship Center. I definitely plan on using the resources of the Entrepreneurship Center much more going forward.
What advice would you give to a graduating Columbia student with entrepreneurial aspirations?
There is no perfect path to entrepreneurship. I pursued the more traditional path after graduation and went into management consulting. After 17 years and millions of frequent flier miles later, I became an entrepreneur in a completely unrelated industry. For me, it was finally the right time. I’m grateful for what I learned in the consulting industry and especially for what I could then apply to my business. Sometimes it’s helpful to have some traditional experience and of course, some savings to help get you started.
Sarah Ribner '16
"The best feeling is when strangers tell me something I created with my best friend made such a difference for them.”