mulberry purse price Bainbridge company banking on the health value of vitamin D
BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wash. Perhaps the best pitch for Solius might be a glance to the sky on one of the Pacific Northwest’s sullen, drizzly, January mornings.
Over the last few years the Bainbridge startup has been quietly working on a concept close to the hearts of many around Puget Sound come the region’s dreary winter months: finding a way to get a healthy dose of vitamin D.
“Science shows us that without it we get more sickness, more disease, athletes have more injuries and the people that we love, they die earlier,” Solius CEO Rick Hennessey said. Vitamin D deficiency is a global problem affecting 2.5 billion people, according to the company.
Solius’ proposal? Set aside supplements, which aren’t always effective, step out of the sun’s harmful rays, Hennessey said, and spend a few minutes a month inside one of the company’s treatment pods, which shine an isolated spectrum of light designed to promote production of vitamin D.
Solius uses a complex system of filters and optics to shine a 4 nanometer spectrum of UVB spectrum and nearly eliminate harmful UVA rays, according to the company. Solius claims that in less than 5 minutes, it can help to produce over 10 times more vitamin D than an hour of midday summer sunlight.
The result: “safe sun,” Hennessey said.
“We produce in our studies about 10 times the amount of vitamin D than the sun, but with a thousand times less energy,” he said. “It’s built to be extremely effective and safe.”
Company representatives are quick to note that their machine hasn’t yet been approved as a medical device by the Food and Drug Administration, but in the early testing they’ve done at Solius, they’ve seen promising results, they said.
“Humans need some very simple things: fresh air, clean water, proper nutrition and sunlight,” Hennessey said. “If you take any one of those things away or degradate them in any way, humans suffer, they get sicker, they get more disease, they get more cancer, they get more depression, they get more injuries, the list goes on and on. We feel like we’re a big part of some core components.”
To market At this point, the only way to try one of the devices is to sign up for the company’s current clinical trial on Bainbridge Island. Over the course of a three month period, enrollees will undergo about 10 treatments and will have blood drawn before and after the trial to show the device’s impact on their body, Solius Chief Revenue Officer Kyle Diercks said. The trial will cost $50 per month, he said.
Within the next few weeks, the company plans to go to market at its first location in Canada, a compounding pharmacy in Vancouver. After FDA approvals, the company plans to go to market throughout the United States and eventually internationally.
The company doesn’t plan to sell the devices, Diercks said. It plans to build and own them in common locations: the gym, at a pharmacy, at your corporate office and locations where one can stop in on a lunch break for a few minutes. Consumers will set up a time and customize their experience on a smartphone app and will be charged a monthly fee to use the device, likely three to four times a month.
“We take this device to a location that would accessible to the public, in a place they can get to quickly, in an environment they are comfortable with, in an affordable way,” Diercks said.
The next Avalara? Tucked away in its offices in the Island Gateway development off state Route 305, the startup’s small staff has been steering the company into the sunlight as it prepares to hit the market with its machines.
The company is looking to follow closely in the footsteps of Bainbridge’s last big corporate success story: tax software firm Avalara, which formerly maintained its corporate headquarters in the same office development where Solius has been based since the end of 2015.
As it expands, Solius plans to take over Avalara office space as the tax company completes its move to Seattle. It was first incorporated in 2011 and was primarily research and development oriented before it began moving toward production in 2013, Solius Chief Financial Officer Bob Wise said.
“If you look at Avalara and their growth and to where they’re going to be, they probably are going to be a unicorn when they go public, a billion dollar market cap, that wouldn’t surprise me,” Wise said.
“We don’t see any reason why we can’t do that too,” he said, glancing out an office window on a gray winter morning, “particularly on a day like this, you can see the need.”
Solius has aggressive plans for growth. While it’s relatively small now 12 employees and a handful of almost full time consultants Solius plans to double its headcount in 2018 and double again the year after, Wise said.
“We’re looking to be a multi hundred , million , if not billion dollar company headquartered here,” he said.
Unlike Avalara, the company plans to stay on Bainbridge as it grows. Wise sees Solius maintaining a corporate and technical headquarters on the island and imagines the manufacturing and assembly side of the company’s work happening somewhere in Kitsap County.
“We’re looking to grow, and we’re looking to grow in Kitsap County,” he said. “We’re a high tech firm, and we think we have an incredible base to recruit from here.”
Future of health care?Beyond vitamin D production, the company sees a future in which its devices could be used to treat a variety of autoimmune diseases, like psoriasis and eczema, or conditions like acne, Hennessey said.
Hennessey likens the company’s future to being the “Starbucks of health care,” where people need and want to come back “because it makes you feel good,” he said.
With a variety of possible applications, Hennessey said he sees Solius turning into a big business: “If we’re successful at this business, that means we’ve helped a lot of people. That’s something we can feel pretty good about.”