It was the first time Andy Dalman traveled with human bone in his backpack. Naturally, he got a few questions.
“Is that a bone?” the first TSA agent asked him.
“A human bone?”
Then came the explanation, how he’s the founder of Advanced Bone Technology, a Fargo-based startup that is 3D printing human bone replicas.
Their product, called SimuBone, would reduce the need for cadavers in medical research and surgical training. SimuBone has no biological components and can be manufactured on-demand at a fraction of the cost of alternatives.
Dalman’s work earned him a spot on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, an award he will celebrate next month at their conference in Tel Aviv.
It also earned the team a booth at the annual Open conference put on by VentureWell, a non-profit that funds and trains students and faculty who are starting businesses. Out of hundreds of applicants, Advanced Bone Technology was chosen to participate in a VentureWell program in Fall of 2015.
They were again chosen out of hundreds, as one of only 14 teams to have a booth at their Open conference from March 4-6, 2016 in Portland, Oregon.
It was to Portland that Dalman carried his backpack (his school backpack) with a pump, a human bone (a vertebrae), and the replica they have developed inside. At the conference, they displayed the two models side by side.
The different colors make it easy to see which is real and which is not, he said, but Dalman still had a few participants ask, “So, which one is the real one?”
“That was pretty cool to hear,” Dalman said.
He had little time to relish the cool factor however, as his days consisted of meeting other students, investors and entrepreneurs, and pitching his company an estimated 500 times, he said.
“It was basically pitch, pitch, pitch, pitch, pitch, pitch, pitch, pitch, done,” he said. “I didn’t even have time to eat.”
It’s not unlike the stage Advanced Bone Technology is at right now as a startup, Dalman said. Their product development is underway and patent-pending through NDSU’s Tech Transfer Office.
Now they need funding, and fast. Thus far they have sustained their work off of Innovate ND grants, with about $100,000 in non-diluted capital, Dalman said. But they have not been able to pay themselves.
“Right now I’m trying to pay my team,” he said. “I’m in full on figure-out-how-to-raise-money mode.”
Dalman said he is looking for $150,000 as a short term goal to pay his team.
Long term, besides raising more capital, Dalman was inspired by the other teams he saw at the Open conference.
“The level of general competency is way above what you’d see at your local student pitch competition,” he said. “It gets rid of any bit of pessimism you might have and replaces it with enthusiasm.”
NDSU sent two people to the event, Dalman said. In the future he hopes to see more, and even suggested petitioning to get Dean Bresciani to attend.
“We need to get as many as recreational faculty and influential innovators there as possible,” he said.
Photos courtesy of Andrew Dalman.