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I risked, my career, my life savings, investor money and my personal relationship(s) to start a company because I passionately believe it can change sports safety. AMA

Nov 2nd 2014 by FITGuard • 25 Questions • 932 Points

My short bio: I am Anthony Gonzales, Co-Founder of Force Impact Technologies, exclusive producer of the FITGuard: Impact Indicating Mouthguard.

My Proof: http://igg.me/at/ForceImpact/x/8717400

In May 2013 quit my job at a fortune 100 company, and packed my bags and moved in with my parents (temporarily), half way through a full-time MBA program.

I have since, completed my MBA in Supply Chain, raised and spent $140k of seed funding, moved into my own place, and continued on my goal of producing a device that will improve sports safety in youth athletics. My journey has been filled with many setbacks, a ton of controversy, and a hell of a lot of desire to succeed.

Update Thanks very much for all of the great questions. I will be back Nov 3rd 12:00 PST to answer the rest of the questions that get posted over night

Q:

How did you take your concept from an idea to a working model without risking someone snatching it from you in the process? Do you patent the concept first?

I'm working up an invention that involves something I know little about, making the creation of a working model difficult without sharing my ideas with someone else.

A:

Initially, NDA (non-disclosure agreements), which is essentially just a written down handshake and does not mean much if you don't have the legal/financial ability to enforce it. We approached a design firm and had it quoted out. It was way more than we were expecting. We too, had no idea what we were doing. We were both MBA's working at a semi-conductor company. We were able to get a lot of opinions and feedback from Electrical Engineers without having to pay for it. If I were you, I would try to find a co-founder who has the skills that will be needed to make the invention come to life - I would recommend co-founders lab. Additionally there has to be some element of trust. Starting a company is hard, bringing a tangible product to market is even harder. You may feel that someone might "steal" your idea, but chances are if they were capable of doing something like that, they would be too busy with their own stuff.


Q:

Is your product going to be something along the line of holsters for people with knife hands?

Edit: maybe something that rhymes with life-land-lolsters?

A:

I don't understand this question, I am sorry.


Q:

Oh, miscommunication, I was just joking about that guy's username and him talking about launching his own product line. Nothing directed towards you!

A:

I literally sat here for like 5 mins trying to figure out what the hell kind of smart ass comment you were trying to make. ahha. I am glad to know it had nothing to do with mouthguards any more. lol


Q:

So what are the products you are going to produce? And how does it be distinct from the present ones?....and explain for which kind of sports are you initially preferring???

A:

We are going to produce the FITGuard first, which will focus on measuring cranial acceleration. This is different than other devices because the sensors for measuring acceleration are inside of the skull as opposed to outside the body. Additionally mouthguards can be used in pretty much any sport and are not proprietary for a specific one, like a helmet. As a former Rugby player the devices will be build and geared with that in mind. However, the easiest may be America Football when we sell in the US.


Q:

If you're pitching it to rugby players, I would consider pitching to Roller Derby. It's commonly compared to rugby. The WFTDA Championships were just held in Nashville, and in December Dallas is hosting the Blood & Thunder Roller Derby World Cup, hosting over 30 countries.

There are hundreds of leagues in America alone, your market would be massive. Especially considering that concussions are incredibly commonplace in the sport because of how intense the level of contact impact is.

If you'd like, please check out a few national level games from last year's Championships on the WFTDA Youtube Channel.

A:

Ironically, we have seen the most demand from roller derby from individuals. I definitely appreciate this resource. They have some big convention in Vegas that we plan on attending next year.


Q:

How are you going to measure cranial acceleration with a mouth-guard which, supposedly, is placed in the mouth?

A:

Using an accelerometer to measure linear acceleration and a gyroscope to measure angular acceleration. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtjyuB5WGP8


Q:

What frequency are you sampling the data at?

A:

Proportional the the rate of acceleration. It increases as acceleration increases. We are still tweaking our algorithms the perfect this but at each level of acceleration range has a different sampling frequency.


Q:

This is a popular opinion on reddit, but it wouldn't work that way. I played football for six years and the only time I got knocked out was while playing a game of tag football in PE.

A:

Keyboard warriors always have opinions about sports they have never played.


Q:

You are aware that a concussion can and frequently does occur with out the person getting knocked out right?

A:

Very much so.


Q:

You mentioned that the mouthguard will have a wireless changing cradle. Therefore, it's safe to assume that the mouthguard has a battery inside of it (lithium ion I assume). What happens if the mouthguard's battery explodes after one of the countless number of impacts that it will suffer? Are teeth capable of withstanding that force?

A:

Yes there will be a battery, but not Lith Ion, that is much too dangerous. Check these out: http://www.imprintenergy.com/

If you have any more questions about these batteries (I am not sure how technical you are) let me know!


Q:

Are you hoping to get your product a mandated purchase in youth sports? Similar to what Sawstop is doing with school workshops?

A:

That is the goal. It doesn't have to be our device, but some time of "impact indication" mandate. We just hope to be the most cost-effective solution. Additionally we hope to add some hard data to reinforce certain philosophies. For example, the NFL's heads up football claims their leagues are safer because all the coaches are "heads up certified". We would love to be able to prove or disprove this claim, by having the data to back it up.


Q:

When is comes to molding the mouthpiece, will the heat mess with the sensor? Also how comfortable is the mouth piece? Can you feel the sensor through the mouthpiece material?

A:

The truth is, we simply don't know. We can test and theorize on prototypes, but until we are in production and it comes off the line and we test it, we will never know. The injection molding is done at a cooler temp than normal for this consideration around 300 F. The mouthguard should feel like any normal boil and bite device, you will not be able to feel the sensors, but it may feel bulky and big if you are use to thin mouthguards.


Q:

Can you re-use them? Like, when a major impact happens does the guard go "back to normal" after a bit?

Or is it like a helmet, buy a new one every time it has a major impact

A:

Yes, after the device changes colors it will return to normal state once it is synced back to a smartphone. This allows the user to download the registry log, understand what force cause it to trigger, the duration of that force, and direction of impact.

The sensors are rated to measure up to 200g, and are used in other applications like racecars, fighter jets, and space ships, so unless there was direct force (a helmet straight in the kisser aka mouthguard) it should not be an issue.


Q:

I disagree with you. At 16 or 17 i thought I was invincible, and only wore safety gear in wrestling because the rules required it. Once I left high school, and kept up in other fighting sports, I stopped wearing headgear etc and have definitely seen why to wear it again. A mouthguard like this would be awesome. If I take a good blow to the head, and I'm not sure if its concussive or not, I'll almost always side with not. However, if my mouthguard was flashing red I'd take it more seriously. The other thing is that keeping track of sub concussive blows as an active adult is harder because a lot of us don't train for months on end in a daily routine at the same time of day.

A:

That has been one of our biggest problems, reaching our target demographic which are parents. They don't tend to read Techcrunch, are not going to be browsing Reddit, don't care if we are on Indiegogo. We are trying to better understand how to reach these individuals. We have resorted to some old school techniques. Flyering. We just got 4000 business cards with a little picture/description. We are going to hit up soccer tournaments, football games, school events, and just get boots on the ground trying to drum up business with a grassroots approach.


Q:

Yay, I'm on board : /

A:

Alright! What do you bring to the table, sell yourself!


Q:

Have you looked into the Sports Legacy Institute run by Chris Nowinski? They're a non-profit aimed at studying and preventing concussions in athletes and are probably the leader in sports injury prevention.

A:

Sports Legacy Institute

We have reached out to them and we will be getting their "Hit count" certification. We are hoping to have a fully functional, production level product before we look for co-branding with them.


Q:

Did you yourself or someone close to you suffer from concussions as a result of contact sports, or are you really just attempting to capitalize on the current public fervor over concussions?

A:

Yes, my senior year in College during a Rugby match. This device was created from a personal need. I am a user of the device. This past July I took a hip bone to the back of my head in a Rugby match, as I still play on a club team. So even to this very moment I am living as a user.


Q:

I just happened upon this and wanted to say thank you for making this! I got a major concussion last year from martial arts, and I'd love to see concussions more easily diagnosed (I know it's not really a diagnostic tool, but it seems like it could be helpful in diagnosing), as most of the times it seems like doctors don't quite understand it, or can really diagnose it.

I think I read somewhere in the comments about how you were struggling with advertising. Have you ever thought of advertising online - like with Google AdWords or Bing? I do a lot of online marketing for a living, so let me know if there is anything I can do to help, I'd love to!

A:

We have an adwords campaign going, its pay-per-click and we haven't seen much success. I appreciate your offer to help, and we might have to take you up on that shortly as we don't really understand why we aren't getting more traffic to our Indiegogo Campaign.


Q:

Do you know how most of your traffic is being sent to the indiegogo campaign? That may be helpful to know. I think you can install a Google Analytics code on your page, this may give you some insights in to where people are coming from.

What is your goal with the Google AdWords PPC Campaign? Is it brand awareness? Do you want more traffic to your website? More donations?

What aspects of AdWords are you using - is it just the Google Search Network, YouTube, or the Google Display Network?

edit: Feel free to message me, I'm definitely open to helping out as much as I can!

A:

PM Sent - thanks so much!


Q:

Does this include proper tackling techinque in american football? I played rugby for 7 years, a series of injuries sidelined me permentaly. But a major problem among american football is head, neck and back injuries. Most can be resolved by enforcing technique, tackling with the shoulder and using the head to push in the direction of the other person.

A:

Does what include technique? In my opinion, football is about big hits and technique is an after thought. That is why they have pads :P


Q:

Have you tried getting on a show like Shark Tank?

A:

We were slated for Season 6 but were cut one week before filming in Aug of 14. We are scheduled to film June 2015 for Season 7, but we are not holding our breath. We are pretty butt-hurt about being cut and how "lead-on" we were, although they always disclaimed with "you're not on the show until you're standing in front of the sharks"


Q:

how much more accurate are your sensors by being "closer to the center of gravity of the brain" than sensors in a headband or inside of a helmet?

A:

It isn't a matter of accurate. Both sensors are 100% accurate, they just don't correlate to the C.G of the Brains as well (source:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23604848). Meaning their readings have higher variance for what one could expect the brain should have felt. Maybe this analogy will help, imagine having a thermometer and having one in your arm pit and one in your mouth because you want to measure your CORE temp. Both thermometers are accurate, however, one would have a higher correlation to what the actual core temp is, due to its location.


Q:

okay, let me put it this way: what is the difference between your product's readings, what's currently available, and a cg?

A:

You deleted your last comment here was my answer: The current devices on the market are all start-ups as well. They don't have market share, so there is nothing to replace. Everything is so new, there isn't some leading product that needs to be replaced. That is a few years down the line for our company life cycle. I would say of the 30 million youth athletes, perhaps less than 10,000 have an impact indicating device. So 1/3000 kids? Give or take. Also, the battery is sealed and not replaceable. I appreciate your feedback and opinion. Thanks for sharing!

We will be doing our testing at USC sports Impact Injury lab. We will have two test dummies one with out mouthguard and one with sensors at the CG of the brain. We will test for correlation. That wont happen until May June of 2015


Q:

What do you think of the price point? Why am I going to buy a hundred dollar piece of equipment instead of buying 175 of them for my kids?

I mean, I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but it just seems kinda like a large expense for something that could cost so little

A:

As long as we educate them on the price for an "Impact Indicator". We are not trying to sell a hundred dollar mouthguard, we are trying to sell a $99 impact indicators that is in the form of a mouthguard. Other impact indicators start around $150+ and they are typically an accessory only. Meaning you don't have to buy it, its a luxury. On the contrary most people are already spending $20-$40 on a mouthguard. So the upsell to have our technology is way less than a competitor. However it is very difficult to educate users about this

Ill refer to my previous response above. This is the difficult thing we have trying to communicate. We are not trying to compete against other mouthguards, we are competing again other impact indicators. A parent who would spend spend $150 on a headband for an "impact indicator" is the person we are going after. We are trying to save them money by having that same value in a mouthguard. Which can be used in any sport, and is required in a major of contact sports.


Q:

What sports was your mouthguard specifically designed for?

A:

Rugby and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I played Rugby at ASU and been training BJJ for close to 9 years. My business partner is a Black Belt in BJJ. So essentially martial arts.