Having spent the last few years working within the sleep health industry, Alessandro Vitale was all too familiar with the old school inefficiencies of the sleep apnea testing process.
So in 2016, Vitale set out to modernize the process with his idea for Awayk Health, a Laurel, Maryland-based healthtech company that screens and treats patients’ sleep issues from home in a few days versus the old way of sleeping in test centers and waiting up to a month for results.
As a veteran entrepreneur, Vitale knew that he’d need an experienced legal advisor to help him build a solid structural foundation for Awayk. But because his company could potentially disrupt an established industry, he also wanted an advisor with a creative approach, to ensure his company would be set up for major growth, a variety of new business relationships and future products down the line.
“Most attorneys are there when you need a problem solved,” Vitale said. “George has a business acumen to think like an entrepreneur.”
An experienced founder in his own right — he built his boutique law firm from the ground up — Nemphos has a unique understanding of the legal complexities of building a startup, especially the importance of the initial planning phase.
“If you have a car, you need a road to drive it on,” Nemphos said. “It’s the same with a brand-new business venture. You need to get from point A to point B, but nobody’s done the road work yet. That’s when I like to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”
Together, Vitale and Nemphos hit the ground running for Awayk, whiteboarding out a master plan from startup through their picture of success.
“Taking a new approach in an old-school industry meant we also needed to invent a new corporate structure,” Nemphos said. “We asked ourselves questions like, ‘How will we structure partnerships? What’s our approach to fundraising?’ We stayed flexible, even pivoting once to include an investor who could expand our products down the line.”
Nemphos has always been an advocate for entrepreneurs to engage legal counsel early on in the building of their startups, and his passion for working with founders often goes above and beyond providing the standard legal counsel.
“I’ve had clients describe me as a businessman first and a lawyer second,” he said. “When you approach it from the position of practicing law, you’re focused on protecting the company. While, my approach is always, ‘What’s the business goal, and how do we plan to achieve it?’”
For Vitale, the benefits of working with Nemphos aren’t just his entrepreneurial focus or business-minded approach; it’s his work ethic.
“The best thing about working with George?” Vitale said. “He has a personal relationship with all of his clients and he’s always accessible. He returns calls. He comes over when you need him. Simple basic customer service that is actually quite rare.”