From Concept to Company: Law School’s IP Venture Clinic helps launch nationally recognized student startup
CWRU Senior Matt Campagna, CEO and cofounder of Reflexion Interactive Technologies.
In a field of more than 200 entries from college startups from around the country, a company co-founded by a Case Western Reserve University student stood out. Reflexion Interactive Technologies placed third in the national Student Startup Madness Competition’s final round at South by Southwest Interactive in March 2017.
Success during the competition was an important next step in taking Reflexion from concept to commercialization, a long and challenging path that is being paved with the help of a unique third-year law clinic focused on removing economic and legal barriers for Ohio inventors.
Reflexion Interactive Technologies was founded by three college students in August, 2015, with an idea that emerged from the personal experience of co-founder and CMO Matthew Roda.
While playing ice hockey in high school, Roda was injured while sliding head first into the boards. Without any technology available to help understand the complex symptoms of a concussion, Roda was asked three simple questions- where are you, what year is it, and who is the president? Roda passed the test and finished the game, but couldn’t remember any of it. He had suffered a concussion so severe, he was unable to attend school of the next two months.
From youth sports teams to professional sports leagues, awareness of the short and long term implications of concussions has come a long way as new research and technology has been dedicated to studying their effects. But the ability to quickly and accurately diagnose concussions has, for many, shown little progress. Players and coaches around the world are often relying on the same overly simplistic test questions that have been asked of athletes from decades ago.
Roda, a junior at Penn State, along with Cornell University senior Patrick Walsh (CIO) and CWRU junior Matt Campagna (CEO), are pushing a new innovation to the market that combines today’s technology with the modern medical understanding of concussion’s immediate effects on an athlete’s neurological function, spatial awareness, depth perception and peripheral vision.
The Reflexion Edge is a portable, collapsible, LED touchscreen that resembles an ultra-wide Light Brite. The equipment is designed to give athletes a weekly 30 second test where they quickly touch the individual lights as they turn on in order to establish a baseline of their motor skills. Following any collision where a possible concussion is suspected, teams can quickly compare an athlete’s performance against their regular test results and better determine if they should be allowed to return to the field.
With the concept and technology in place, Reflexion took the next step forward in Fall 2016, when they were taken on as a client of the Intellectual Property Venture Clinic (IPVC), part of Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s Spangenberg Center for Law, Technology & the Arts.
The IPVC launched in 2013 with the help of a $679,400 grant from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation as part of a large scale effort to foster innovation and spur economic development in northeast Ohio. The grant allows the law school to not only provide one-of-a-kind training for law students in the business world, but also offer free legal and business expertise to student inventors and local startup companies as they enter the market. Reflexion is just one of more than 40 IPVC clients being handled by the clinic’s 11 law students, with several more startups in waiting for consideration.
“On one side, you have a great new idea, but it doesn’t have the resources to take the next step,” said Professor Ted Theofrastous, manager of the IPVC. “On the other, you have investors looking for opportunities in a market where significant barriers are preventing many startups from ever reaching the stage of being a commercial property. We’re working to bridge that gap, give our students strong experience in the broad spectrum of corporate law, and help these startups bring great new economic opportunities to the region.”
“The work we are doing with Reflexion is a perfect example of the service our clinic provides,” said Theofrastous. “We’re creating a strategy to protect the broad spectrum of their potential intellectual property including patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyright, while also providing pro bono counsel on corporate, tax, contract and all other law that goes into developing a business from scratch.”
What makes the IPVC unique is the blend of business, intellectual property law, venture capitalization, and corporate counseling experience and training the clinic provides for law students, where the work they are exposed to is uncommon not just for students, but for early-career legal professionals.
“We take them to the deep end of the pool and teach them to swim fast,” said Theofrastous. “We have every student working to form companies, get the kind of face time with clients that usually comes much later in a career and perform the work they learned in class out in the real world. When they graduate, they will have the people skills, confidence and tangible experience to showcase themselves to employers.”
For Reflexion’s Matt Campagna, the work done in the clinic was an indispensable asset to the company.
“The clinic really became part of the team, and I find myself going to them more and more for general advice because they became so knowledgeable about the company. Frankly, we wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of what we have without them because it wouldn’t have been in the budget.”
“We would have needed to raise more money or give up more control of the company. Having the clinic there to help structure things the way they need to be and do things right the first time has given us a lot of protection for ourselves, our employees, and our intellectual property,” said Campagna. “We would have been stretched to find other ways to do it because it cost so much.”
To date, Reflexion has raised more than $150,000 from angel investors, grants, and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners. In May 2017, they took first place in The Investment, a Shark Tank inspired competition for Penn State University student inventors for an additional $15,000. The company also completed phase one of its clinical study in the same month.
The IPVC’s work with Reflexion will continue through series A financing, the company’s first significant round of venture capital financing, when they will have enough resources to afford their own legal services. When that happens, the clinic’s mission will be accomplished.
“You can’t buy ideas or force creativity. There is an organic factor to it, so we’re working to foster an innovative and lucrative marketplace here where the best minds and best ideas can thrive,” said Theofrastous. “I’m very proud of the work our students have done across all of our clients, and we look forward to being a part of launching the next generation of Ohio businesses.”