Startups come, startups go, startups fail. And today’s story is part of the latter cohort: realLIST ’18 startup ImmERge Labs, a small yet promising spinout from the Penn ecosystem working on a virtual reality platform to train people in CPR and emergency preparedness, has shut down.
On Friday, Penn researcher and ImmERge Labs founder Marion Leary told Technical.ly in a Twitter DM her company’s CEO, Matt Grabowsky, had resigned and the decision was made to dissolve the company. The news was shared with friends of the company on an email sent Friday.
“There were challenges reaching licensing terms which extended our sales cycle past the point where Matt felt he could successfully move us forward,” said Leary, a researcher devoted to resuscitation science who will shift her focus to pursuing a Ph.D. in Nursing from Penn.
(Long sales cycle are a frequent bane for startups in the health space, particularly when approaching large organizations.)
The company did not yet have any employees save for one consultant on a part-time basis and the leadership team: Leary, Grabowsky and CTO Det Ansinn.
“I will still be using the technology for research and education purposes as well as focusing on my Ph.D. and other innovation work at Penn,” said Leary, who heads Innovation Research at Penn’s Center for Resuscitation Science.
The company had received a $50,000 investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners (via the AppItUP Demo Day pitch competition) and an identical investment from the University City Science Center as part of its Digital Health Accelerator program.
After the dissolution, the technology developed by ImmERge will be in the hands of Penn’s Center for Innovation (PCI) per Laurie Actman, the center’s Chief Marketing, Communications & Program Officer.
“We remain excited about the technology and we believe it has commercial potential,” Actman told Technical.ly on Monday. “We’re looking to find a commercial partner, whether that be a startup or a more established company.”
That same potential was once touted by CEO Grabowsky as the key to the startup’s potential growth: Train for VR, sure, but also for emergency preparedness, fire safety and natural disasters.
“There’s a lot of room for expansion with the use of these technologies,” Grabowsky said. “We’re just scratching the surface with virtual reality and augmented reality.”
Grabowsky’s term at the helm of the nascent startup will officially end on Sunday. His next move is already planned.
“I’m incredibly excited to be joining Nemours Children’s Health System as their Administrator, Surgery and Anesthesia,” said Grabowsky. “Prior to joining ImmERGe, I’d alternated between forming three startups and working on the operations side of academic medicine over the course of 15 years. My new role at Nemours is back in my wheelhouse where I have a mandate to improve their already great clinical support teams to better support growth and programmatic expansion.”
Leary, whose passion for CPR training extends beyond the office, said despite the shutdown she’ll remain committed to the company’s ultimate mission of equipping people with tools to bring others back to life.
“It’s not the end but a different path going forward,” the founder said.
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