Craig Misrach, President and Board Member at UpLyft
joined the organization in 2018, spearheading the company's product launch and commercialization efforts. He began his career at Deloitte where he audited various lower middle-market businesses as a Senior Accountant.
Maintaining an active Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, Mr. Misrach serves on the Board of Directors of Aculief and the Jewish Community Foundation, San Diego.
MEDIA 7: Could you tell us about your career journey from Deloitte to UpLyft?
I started my career at Deloitte as a public accountant and auditor just trying to get the work experience necessary to obtain my CPA license in the State of California. Little did I know how working in janitor closets at client’s office locations whereby doing your job entailed asking questions and information requests from people who didn’t want to talk to you could build so much character!
I left Deloitte to join my client Silvergate Bank where I was the Controller in charge of managing ~$500M in assets at the age of 25. Not only did I gain management responsibility at Silvergate overseeing and working with a staff of 9 individuals, but I also was able to observe first-hand what it was like working in a fast-paced growing entrepreneurial culture as we grew from ~20 to ~70 employees in a short two year period.
I decided to go obtain my MBA at the University of Virginia to round out my skill sets and start a new business from the ground up. This was not a traditional path to do so at the time as most graduate students would go get their MBA from a top-tier program to become an investment banker, management consultant, or marketing manager at a Fortune 500 company. I knew from the time early in my career, and in watching my father start his own real estate business growing up in Ohio, that with hard work and perseverance I could start a successful business from the ground up.
I started my first venture, Freedom Meditech, by way of learning about the diabetes field in my MBA program and researching the reasons why it was still status quo (not just in 2006 but also still today 15 years later) for people with diabetes to be pricking their finger to determine their blood glucose information. I thought that was so archaic and not fair to such individuals when there was better technology available (subject to FDA compliance) to obtain this information non-invasively.
I spent 8+ years as the Founding CEO of Freedom Meditech, where under my leadership, we became the 1st company in the world to obtain FDA clearance for a non-invasive diabetes diagnostic test. The test worked by shining light in a person’s eye for 6 seconds. It was truly revolutionary and the FDA clearance we obtained (the first in the world – we estimated $1B of venture capital went into failed attempts of companies to obtain this FDA clearance and commercialize) was likely one the proudest moments in my career because it was a team effort and a culmination of hard work, numerous late nights, and extremely tough decisions along the way of reducing to practice a prototype, conducting clinical studies, analyzing data, and performing this process all over again several times to support our FDA submission. We built an entire sales organization, international distribution network, sold millions of dollars of product around the world, and then eventually sold the business to Sinocare LTD in China. Our product (ClearPath DS-120) is still used to this day to early detect diabetes and pre-diabetes in patients by clinicians all over the world.
The past 5 years I have spent “giving back” to entrepreneurs and the community by way of participating on Boards of Directors and mentoring aspiring entrepreneurs. This includes positions I have held as a board member on Aculief (sold – June 2020), as a Business/Finance mentor for the San Diego Sports Innovation network, and as a Board Member for the Jewish Community Foundation in San Diego.
I was introduced to UpLyft and our Founder in 2018. I was skeptical at first of the product mostly because I was not familiar with the field and I did not have a frame of reference for how “unique” UpLyft was or the value proposition it embodied. With an investor mentality, I performed due diligence on the durable medical equipment (DME) landscape, other “lifts” on the market for transferring individuals from bedside to wheelchair, and the size of the market opportunity in the US and around the world. Additionally, I had the benefit of being introduced to the company by my contract manufacturer at my last venture (who was slated to be the contract manufacturer for UpLyft), and that helped gain the confidence that we could manufacture UpLyft with impeccable quality, reasonable cost basis, and in a reasonable timeline. I then signed on to be UpLyft’s President and CEO and since that time we have raised capital, performed extensive customer validation (both for the direct to consumer home market and the for the institutional healthcare facility marketplace), accepted pre-orders from customers, and now are staging the business and technology for mass manufacturing in an FDA-compliant manner.
M7: UpLyft is the world’s first Self Transfer System from bed to wheelchair for people with limited mobility. What are the challenges you faced to launch a high-tech innovation like this?
Just like any pre-revenue medical device venture, capitalization is key, and you need to kiss a lot of frogs to obtain the capital necessary to invest in manufacturing so you can mass scale your product. Some refer to this as the valley of death. Initially, we were getting lots of questions on customer validation. Things like “the data suggests this will be a huge success, but we have no proof that customers will be this.” Accordingly, we embarked on several initiatives including:
1. Circulation of surveys to potential customers (and family members, caregivers, and healthcare facility workers) to ascertain what was most important from a product feature, utility, and pricing perspective. Check out our B2B Healthcare Facilities for Nurses/Caregivers
2. Providing in-person demonstrations where we captured testimonials of use and purchase interest.
3. Creating video content of UpLyft in use (seeing is believing).
4. After securing some angel capital that we could devote to efforts outside of R&D prototype creation and patent filing costs, we were able to establish a digital footprint in 2020 (website, order taking capability, e-mail outreach, social media utility, and engagement) whereby actual customer interest could be measured via open pre-order commitments.
With this customer validation now in hand, we believe we can be successful in obtaining the necessary capital (and reducing financing risk) to commence manufacturing and finally provide our pre-order customers and other potential customers a delivery date certain so they have the confidence to place a deposit with us and manufacture and deliver products to them.
Technology is upgrading the healthcare ecosystem by providing more efficient and safe alternatives to labor-intensive procedures.
M7: In your opinion, how is technology upgrading the healthcare ecosystem?
CM: Technology is upgrading the healthcare ecosystem by providing more efficient and safe alternatives to labor-intensive procedures. In the case of UpLyft, we reduce the number of patient-lifting injuries for healthcare workers. Technology growth within the healthcare system also allows for individuals suffering from illnesses and mobility challenges to live normal lives, as technology can act as a replacement for body parts, organs, muscles, and so on. This can allow patients to regain a sense of independence and joy of living.
M7: Could you tell us about some developments at UpLyft that all of you are excited about?
CM: UpLyft is the first FDA-compliant self-transfer system from bed to wheelchair for people with limited mobility. This is a technology that can not only help seniors and the elderly as a fall prevention tool in a world where baby boomers want to live at home longer and defer going into a nursing home or assisted living – but it also helps restore independence and autonomy where otherwise a person cannot start their day by getting out of bed without a caregiver or risk falling or getting injured. We are also excited to be bringing to market a product that can help people with obesity (now almost 1/3 of the US population), late-stage diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or cerebral palsy, and for those who have been in accidents and now manage spinal cord injuries (e.g. paralysis) and mobility has been compromised. Thus, UpLyft can be a long-term purchasing solution for families or a short-term rental option for those managing end of life care.
Our patent estate continues to grow which further solidifies UpLyft’s unique offering and positioning in the marketplace. Most recently we were awarded our design patents in China and Japan – historically very challenging markets to get patents issued. Take a look at our assisted transfer demonstration, and more on it here.
We are also excited about our initial product demand after just a short 60 day period of going “live” late this summer with UpLyft commercialization. We had to “turn off” the digital marketing for pre-orders as we secured more than we expected and now we have to raise the rest of the necessary capital to get our manufacturing up and running. We didn’t want to be in a position where we couldn’t relay to potential customers a delivery date.
Lastly, we are finishing off our crowdfunding campaign on WeFunder which we have been conducting for the past several months where we raised $200K in the capital. As of this writing, of all active campaigns on WeFunder we are the:
#1 most funded healthcare company
#2 most funded medical device company
#3 most funded manufacturing company
#4 most funded B2C technology (Check out our B2C Direct To Consumer for Home Use technology)
We are crowdfunding!! Invest here.
Sell product benefits, not features. A customer wants to know how it will benefit them, not how “cool” a certain feature was engineered.
M7: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work - what day to day processes have you had to re-tool to be able to pull them off remotely?
CM: We were operating as a virtual company before the COVID pandemic so not much has changed relative to employee engagement and our team being able to do their job. Obviously from March through June, the capital markets had temporarily evaporated for early-stage capital, and getting an audience in July/August this year was even tough. Now that we are operating in a new normal, we have had to re-tool the way we go about raising capital. One way we did that was by conducting a crowdfunding campaign on WeFunder. This launched in August and is on the cusp of closing and we have secured $200,000 by doing so. This effort forced us to go out and create more digital content which has (and will continue) to provide us benefit with sales efforts for potential customers over social media, our website, and via e-blasts.
M7: What marketing channels do you use, and which ones do you see as the most promising given your target customers?
CM: The durable medical equipment (DME) field has been notorious for many of its outdated methods to reach customers, relying on physician scripts (prescriptions), the use of intermediary distributors, mandatory need for insurance reimbursement, and thus giving margin away through the supply chain and making it a hassle for purchase for consumers.
When we set out with our commercialization efforts for UpLyft not only were we committed to developing a novel product with its patent positioning, but we also have been committed to disrupting the way a medical product like this can be sold directly to the consumer.
Accordingly, our strategy of bringing to market a cash-pay product that can easily be financed with easy monthly payments (no insurance reimbursement necessary), FDA-compliance that does not require a doctor’s prescription and accessed DIRECTLY by consumers with the original equipment manufacturer, we believe can create stickiness with our customers long-term as we expand our product offering. This could not be made possible without the direct fulfillment capabilities of our contract manufacturer here in San Diego and our robust digital footprint we have created via our website and socials.
Thus, the marketing channels we currently use include our website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and crowdfunding platforms. This gets us directly in front of the eyeballs of people who are in a HEALTH CRISIS (or helping manage a loved one’s health crisis).
A transaction is never done until the money has been wired – so keep your pedal on the gas until that has been completed!
M7: What have you learned from your previous experiences, especially with regard to negotiations and deal-making? Do you have any tips for our readers who wish to ace these skills?
CM: 1. Raising capital, closing product sales, and selling a business are all unique skill sets which at times can be more art than science. Relationships matter and building those relationships can be key in getting a deal across a finish line.
2. Time is of the essence. You may not want/need to emphasize this to the party across the table but your sense of urgency should always have “time” top of mind because you never know when a financial crisis, global pandemic, or other “capital evaporation” event can occur (and the door can shut quickly!). Just remember, any economic downturn or even temporal global or domestic event can cause certain investors to pause.
3. Communicate an expected/anticipated timeline to investors at the beginning of the process. Simply ask “would you like to know how we typically work from here with people that successfully become investors in our company”? They won’t say no to you. And that can give you the opportunity to state a 60-day timeline (e.g. angles) or a 90-120 window if you are working with an institutional investor.
4. Sell product benefits, not features. A customer wants to know how it will benefit them, not how “cool” a certain feature was engineered.
5. It's OK to give in a negotiation. Sometimes it's best to “give” something upfront without a quid pro quo. This can set a better tone for the remainder of the negotiation.
6. Don’t start a negotiation with the most pressing/important item to you. It may not be wise to show your hand in this regard. Many times, I start with easy/non-essential items just to test the pulse.
7. When you have a potential investor who is continuing to ask for things at the end of a negotiation one way to cut it off is by saying “If we can accommodate this item for you, do we have a deal?” If the investor continues to run down items in continuing fashion, interaction after interaction (and has new items each time) it's likely not the best investor for you.
8. If you do not have a good feeling about an investor – reject them. There are other fish in the sea. Many will reject you too so remember it’s a two-way street!
9. An investor (especially a large one) is going to be a partner. It is not just about their money. Do due diligence on them, ask other CEO’s what it’s like to have them as an investor or board member, and “test” them in various fashions to see if they are going to be reciprocal in a give and take fashion. It is more valuable to know what investors to stay away from than what investors to go to.
10. A transaction is never done until the money has been wired – so keep your pedal on the gas until that has been completed!