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Episode Zero - Kirk Zeller

Unknown Speaker 0:12

We can you ready to let go? Let me tell your friends believe me when I say no it always feels like we're punching in the back door have you with me gotta make the maiden voyage of the maker move podcast. This is our episode zero. It's going to be our introductory the very first thing that anybody hears from us podcast wise, we've been putting out content that's teasing it, and everything. And so I'm Rylie mills. And I am joined by Kirk Zeller. And together we have formed and came up with the making the move podcast. Yeah. So yeah, so this episode, what we really wanted to do was just kind of give everybody an introductory, you know, who are we? Why are we doing this? And what's our what's our story to kind of kick it off, and then we'll go into these episodes as we go. So with that being said, I don't know we kind of want to talk about like, why we're even doing this first maybe? Like, sure, you know, like, what are we doing? What is make a move?


Unknown Speaker 2:07

Yeah, I mean, I think we talked about the inspiration for it and how it came to be. And I think that that's a great place.


Unknown Speaker 2:12

Yes. So I guess, Kirk, what is what is make a move mean to you


Unknown Speaker 2:17

make a move means I mean, it really simply means just take initiative, get out there, you know, you know, start working towards living your dreams, there's so many people make excuse after excuse after excuse as to why they don't live their dreams. And they just keep waiting. And they wait for that dream day when they're gonna win the lottery and make a bunch of money and they can quit their job and live with their true dream and true passion is. And I think, you know, making a move is really about making movement towards living your dreams. And it doesn't have to be like, quit your job. And, you know, and go right to it, it can be more like, you know, study in the evenings, you know, set up a side business, you know, if you're a musician, hone your musical skills, you know, perform in the summers and on weekends in the evenings, you know, and start living towards that dream. If you're an actor, you know, even if you can't make it to Hollywood, start doing some local theater stuff and start moving in the direction it's really making a move towards towards your dream. Right. Right.


Unknown Speaker 3:14

And that's definitely my example in to and maybe not so much, you know, deciding between, well, I can't quit my job to do this. And obviously, that is part of it. But even, like, take it even down to even like a more cellular level, that it's, maybe you have an idea for something and you're just thinking, wow, that'd be cool. Yeah, but nobody, but people don't take the image. You know, they don't even rather than that to try. Yeah, do it. And so that's where making move for me is, maybe yeah, I'm not gonna quit my job. But like, I'm just to have that a little bit too. You know, we maybe have an idea of like, I'm gonna make cartoons. And you I could start drawing, I could do this. I could do that. But then you're like, well, footballs on? Yeah, no, you know. So that, to me, is what it is, is like, separating like what I like to do from like, being motivated and being proactive and not waiting for opportunities to come knocking on your door. Because what you'll find out is that they come and they won't they mean, nobody just sits there. Even though from outside perspective, you can say like, well, that guy over there just has everything handed to him. And that's probably not the case. At least cultivating those opportunities. Exactly. Yeah. So definitely, that's the scheme of it.


Unknown Speaker 4:56

I think that you know, the, you know, a lot of people tend to make He says, like, I can't get there because I don't have a degree or I don't have this, or I don't have that. But oftentimes, if you think creatively, you know, there are other ways of, you know, of getting there. And maybe if you maybe if you don't have the degree, and you do think it is absolutely necessary, maybe you go out and you start studying in the evenings to take a course, and you know, this semester, maybe two courses next semester, but really, to just start moving in the direction of what it is that you ultimately want to do. Because it's easy to sit on the sofa, grab the remote, and, you know, and find yourself there five hours later, and not having done anything. You know, it's partially about to take an initiative and having the discipline,


Unknown Speaker 5:33

right. And the other the other cool thing about this that I think is, with specifically me, and you is, we both have taken those different options. So you went and did more of the academic. Yep, yep. Yep. In studying abroad, and all that where I was like, you know, when I was in school, and thinking of that kind of thing, like, I just I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I knew that going to a college per se wasn't your path. It wasn't right. I didn't know what was right. But I knew that was wrong. Mm hmm. And at the time, it was the scariest thing ever, because all your guidance


Unknown Speaker 6:16

is in your peer rational wisdom is


Unknown Speaker 6:19

telling you that you're an idiot. Yeah. And you know, but as time has went on, I've come to realize that I did I made the right choice. Yeah. And so, but we'll get more into that. I think we want to hear more about Kirk Zeller and where Kirk Zeller started.


Unknown Speaker 6:38

Okay, fair enough. Well actually started right here, in this town, in Savannah, Nebraska, more specifically on a farm about seven miles south of abandoned Nebraska. But we're sitting here today in the Carnegie Library, the same library that was here during my childhood where people would come to study. So I grew up on a farm here in Nebraska. And, you know, a big part of my story, and what motivated me to do the things that that I've done has a lot to do with where the upbringing and, and where I grew up, and the situation I grew up in, in the 1980s. That was the peak of farm bankruptcies in America, that's when Farm Aid and everything was kicking off. And in fact, in 1987, it was right here. Farm Aid is right here in Nebraska. And it affected many people that I grew up with, you know, their grandparents, their parents, even my own grandfather, you know, had to declare bankruptcy during this very, very difficult time. And, and so for me, that was, that was kind of a catalyst because my grandfather kind of, let me know that, you know, it's probably not a good idea to follow in my footsteps and become a farmer, it's like, you know, go off and, you know, pursue another career. And, you know, when your father gets ready to retire, you can always come back and, you know, the farm really can't support you, you got to kind of, you know, find your own way, and not rely on you know, the legacy and I'm, you know, I'm a product of immigrants to this area, I'm half sandhill, or half, central Nebraska, and my ancestors settled right here in this area, and they've been farming here. And, you know, here in Buffalo County, since since they came to the United States from Germany. So it seemed like a pretty I was predestined to be in Nebraska farmer. And maybe that's how I'll end my life, but in between, you know, had to find another path. And so, right at the same time, you know, that the news was very much dominated every day by the farm crisis in America as I was in the tractors and the trucks and working. The other topic that was on the news was the trade imbalance with Japan, the trade friction. I mean, it was the peak of that at that same very same time. And a lot of the people on this talk radio and stuff had the attitude of it's impossible sell American products in Japan, they're just gonna overtake our economy, and there's nothing we can do about it. I'm like, wait a second, there can't be nothing we can do about it. So it really got my interest. And I decided, kind of right around that same time, probably when I was like, 13 or so that I was going to go to Japan is going to figure out how we can sell American products in Japan. I wasn't going to accept this attitude. It's kind of a make a move attitude, I think is I was going to go instead of just like listening to people and accept this. I was going to go over there, I was going to make a move and I was going to figure out how to sell American products in Japan. That's what I did. So I went to the University of Nebraska Lincoln, to exchange programs to Japan. I took advantage of both of them and spent most of my undergrad studying in Japan. And before I even graduated, I I was working at a Japanese medical device company in Japan before even before my graduation date.


Unknown Speaker 9:41

So when you were when you okay, you get out of high school you enroll into UNL Yep. Did you immediately go to Japan? No,


Unknown Speaker 9:52

I was at UNL for for a whole year. Okay, so I applied as soon as I got to university, and and then I saw went over for my the fall semester of my sophomore year was my first time and then I was back for one semester and then back for two more years. So in Japan,


Unknown Speaker 10:08

and then but that even led you you studied outside of Japan even and also Yeah, London is that right?


Unknown Speaker 10:16

Yeah. So yeah, so that's a good question. So I've studied in, so I have degrees from the University, Nebraska Lincoln, from Imperial College London. And where I studied BioPharm, and health technology, entrepreneurship, worked on spinning out medical device companies, which is kind of, you know, one of my focuses. And then I also studied at the International School of Management, which is based in Paris, but we took classes in Paris, New York, and Tokyo, and then later in Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Delhi. And in the course of some other studies, I was in South Africa, and Canada. So I mean, I had the opportunity, you know, throughout my academic career and professional career to study in a lot of different countries.


Unknown Speaker 11:04

The other thing that I when you were in your first little introduction there, you mentioned this library, and you called it the Carnegie Library, not like Carnegie Hall, right?


Unknown Speaker 11:16

No, it's It's, you know, it's the Carnegie Foundation. Same guys, apparently, so Wow, man, Carnegie, yeah, that built these libraries across America, you'll find them in a lot of small towns, some of them, unfortunately, have been destroyed. But in recent years, there's been a lot of efforts to preserve them. This one, when it was decommissioned a couple of years ago, I was able to rent it from the city and it's become the offices for the Silicon Prairie Center. And and, you know, before it was kind of a place of knowledge and learning and, you know, advancement. And we like to think it's that way now as we work on these kinds of things, and work to develop medical devices that can help people and come up with new ideas for innovation. So we think are kind of taken a new take on kind of the learning and knowledge aspect of what used to be a Carnegie Library.


Unknown Speaker 12:03

And that's just, it's just interesting to you to all these how these all these stories come together. And like, you know, he's he was the steel guy that that was one of the not founding fathers of America, but in kind of in the terms of like, economically, yeah, entrepreneurship and Building America. He was like one of the dude. So it's kind of interesting to see lasting impact on it. Yeah. And now that one of the buildings that he helped fund is now a new generation of entrepreneurship. Yeah, it's, it's kind of cool.


Unknown Speaker 12:38

I love that part of the story. Yeah,


Unknown Speaker 12:40

it's, that's wild. So you're in school, now you're gonna end up starting a company or you're going to get so worked for somebody?


Unknown Speaker 12:48

Yeah. So Well, let's take one step back because it'll tie in later. So while I was in school, I was I was working crazy hours studying because obviously, I'm not you know, I didn't know anything about Jap Japan, I didn't speak Japanese. So I had, okay, you know, came into it really, at a huge disadvantage and had to work relentlessly to learn Japanese to be able to take classes in Japanese and ultimately work for a Japanese company. And, you know, writing all my reports, but one of the things that incidentally happened along the way is title tie into some of our discussions later is that the opportunity to get involved in the entertainment business in Japan became the first Westerner ever to be on a nationally broadcast speech competition that's broadcast on on a, on a public holiday in Japan, on Youth Day in January. And, and that led to, you know, the opportunity to be on the radio and on TV shows and TV commercials. And I made a conscious decision not to pursue that path and got out of university going into university, I knew I want to do something healthcare, and he wanted to invent stuff that would save people's lives. And so, you know, despite kind of being sucked in the direction of the entertainment business, I stayed true to you know, what I wanted to do and my calling of developing medical devices and, and joined the medical device company straight out of university as a Japanese medical device company. And my job was to sell heart valves, which turned out to be a great life experience because I went into it thinking oh my god, I got this perfect idea and so you know, a perfect opportunity. I'm selling heart valves. And you know, this is really great way to learn the medical device industry and you know, I'm gonna have to jump in both feet. What I didn't realize is the market considered that particular heart valve to be outdated. So I was calling on these doctors and they'd look at me like seriously want me to use that nobody's used and so it was like it made every sales job after that so easy.


Unknown Speaker 14:45

Well, you know what, and there you there you touch on a topic that I think will probably be a constant theme in this is, is failure a bad thing now?


Unknown Speaker 14:55

We learned so much. I mean, failure is just you know, part of the journey to success really, right? Yeah.


Unknown Speaker 15:03

And I just I feel like, the the way we groom kids in school is to teach them that, like, Don't you dare fail this test, you know, and you there, you know, there's the other side of the coin, where it's, you know, you, you can't be like not paying attention and like not interested in like not trying, that's not what we're talking about. You know, if you don't, if you don't put any effort in, of course, you're gonna fail, but you're not trying to learn anything, either. So if you're, you know, putting your best foot forward, and you shouldn't, I feel like kids are putting under so much pressure that they stress out when they fail, that they missed the lesson. And I think that's something there's


Unknown Speaker 15:48

so many lessons and you know, not not achieving what we hope to achieve, you know, right. And I think too many times it's labeled as failure in a bad way. But those experiences help us shape us and direct us in the direction of what we are innately good at, and were skilled at, and probably away from things that we wouldn't be well positioned to.


Unknown Speaker 16:06

And not to that I was calling your heart valves failing.


Unknown Speaker 16:10

But as I tell you, it really felt like Yeah, but


Unknown Speaker 16:13

it just proved kind of was illustrating my point as what you thought was gonna be easy, and it was very hard. Now, on the back end of things, you learned a lot and trying to sell something that someone didn't want.


Unknown Speaker 16:27

Yeah, I mean, in that particular case, what I learned is, I mean, it's kind of the don't lemonades, your lemons link lemonade, kind of kind of story. But what I realized, as I delve deep, deeper, and read all the scientific papers, I found certain aspects. And for certain conditions, there was some really great aspects to that particular heart valve, it wasn't something that people wanted to use for every patient, but I was able to start to kind of carve out a niche for it, and really start promoting it for that niche. And that, you know, that really did help me, you know, be able to sell some heart valves. You know, when I first really started to grasp what my task was situation in the market dynamics, it seemed impossible, but you know, you take a step back to dust yourself off. And you, you know, and you think about it differently, and you think, okay, what are the what are the benefits? What can this do that other stuff can't do, and then just focus on that. And I was able to get some traction in niche area. So, you know, I think that was a great lesson for me. And it also made like said it made any sales job after that so much easier.


Unknown Speaker 17:33

And then so was it at that time that the entertainment stuff in Japan came up?


Unknown Speaker 17:38

Or? No, that was while I was at university? And by the time yeah, by the time I joined the corporate world, you know, it had been, you know, that part of chapter of my life had ended, okay, as I made that, you know, that kind of choice to pursue medical devices, but there was a part of me that kind of hope, someday I'll be able to get back to it. Right. That'll come up later. Right. So, so


Unknown Speaker 17:59

yeah, you were in school? You did the film stuff. Yeah. And then and that kind of like, sparked the fire down low. Yeah.


Unknown Speaker 18:06

It was like, you know, low burning, you know, it didn't completely go out. That desire didn't completely go away.


Unknown Speaker 18:14

Um, so where was so you know, not to say the whole, like I said, the heart valves were a failure, but where it whoa, do you think your first bid a success or like, that really made you feel like, Oh, this is definitely where I need to be, like, on the right track type of thing.


Unknown Speaker 18:30

Yeah, I mean, so the heart valve stuff, I ended up finding that niche and being able to, you know, do my best to sell, despite having what physicians considered an outdated technology helped me get the attention of one of the major companies. And so I was then able to go later on to work for one of the leading, you know, one of the leading heart valves and, and that was a great experience. And from there, I think one of the kind of pivotal points in my career really was getting involved in the first technology for performing coronary artery bypass surgery without using the heart lung machine where they would actually do you to do these procedures while the heart was still beating, beating heart bypass. And so I had the opportunity to take that technology to Japan and see, you know, firsthand how it impacted patients who had some of these older patients who probably wouldn't be able to, you know, have the bypass surgery, if they had to be put on the heart lung machine and to see some of those patients be able to actually have it, benefit from it and extend their life was a great inspiration for me to really go all in on becoming a medical device entrepreneur. And that's what led for me to really look at the schools around the world and pick Imperial College, London's BioPharm and health technology entrepreneurship program, to you know, to develop that and I had the opportunity there, to be involved with a couple of different medical device companies write their business plans, do research and then ultimately, do the research for my master's degree which is on the financing of medical device companies and that segwayed into a continuation of that in the form of a doctorate. So, you know, that was a pretty pivotal moment, you know, really just seeing firsthand how much it impacted patients lives and thinking, that is what I'm going to do is develop technologies. And that's later came into what we do at Progressive neuro and into, you know, trying to be more ambitious than the other companies in the space and design completely new platforms for getting clot more more effectively getting caught out of the brain to save, you know, save people's brain function and get them back to a more normalized life. And


Unknown Speaker 20:36

so eventually, you make your way back over not maybe to Nebraska, but you come back over to the states, right?


Unknown Speaker 20:43

Yeah, so So in 19, the end of 1997. So I was working with a large Swiss company and large Japanese company, and they both went public in 1987. And did some cross shareholdings and things. And I had the opportunity to be relocated, then to Austin, Texas, where the Swiss company had a lot of a lot of their US operations. And so I had a desk within that company, but was working for the the Japanese company kind of being the intermediary between the two companies, and was spending a lot of time on, on finding new technologies that could really advance healthcare in Japan. So spending a lot of time in Silicon Valley and traveling around and then more and more time in Europe. Is that


Unknown Speaker 21:29

what took you from Austin over to California?


Unknown Speaker 21:32

So I went from Austin, actually, to the UK. Okay, yep. And, you know, I was starting to do more and more business, I'd done a lot of business development in the US, and then kind of started to venture into looking at different technologies in Europe. And, and so started spending a lot of time at conferences in Europe and visiting companies in Europe, and at the same time, then, you know, use the UK Base to, you know, to do my work, but also to, you know, to to do my degree at Imperial. Yeah.


Unknown Speaker 22:02

Nice. And then eventually, at some point, you figure out, I want to, I want to make my way back home.


Unknown Speaker 22:13

Yeah. Well, so. So then from the UK, I went back to so I went to I came back to the US that time to Southern California, and, and, you know, continue to do the medical device stuff, and then and then into Texas, and spent back to Texas and spent some time living and working, you know, in Texas continuing to do a lot of the same really close collaborations with Japan and getting technologies into the Japanese market. While I was doing, you know, a doctorate studying at New York and Paris and Tokyo. And then once I finished that degree, I I started doing startups all in basically handed in my dissertation. And I think on Sunday, on a Sunday back in, I think it was 2005 or so I handed in my dissertation. And on the Monday I started my job at a startup. And I've been doing startup stuff ever since. And and that's really where my passion is, is is you know, coming going after these ambitious unmet clinical needs and developing technologies to meet those needs.


Unknown Speaker 23:18

Nice. So in at some point in this journey of overseas and in Texas and California, you decide somehow, I'm going to go back home.


Unknown Speaker 23:30

Yeah, well, that's probably one of the most interesting parts of the story actually, is. Yeah, I mean, eventually, I wanted to come back to Nebraska, I kind of had this vision of someday I wanted to make a bunch of money in Silicon Valley and create my own venture fund and start doing startups in Nebraska. So that was always on my mind. But I kind of saw that as a much later in my career sort of thing. And in 2018, I was invited to come back to give a speech at a at a big 10 conference here in Nebraska that was that we hosted at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and was in the first intake of you know, of the university's International Business program. So they asked me to give give a presentation. So I came back and in the process of that, they gave me some tours and kind of brought me up to speed on what was going on here in Nebraska. So I had the opportunity to tour Innovation Campus, you know, which is the Old State Fairgrounds is turned into like a gigantic incubator space for tech companies and, and had to opportunity through that to learn about invest in Nebraska and some of the economic development programs that are going on here. And what was going on with UNMC and their unibead and Unitech. And what they were doing to kind of grow healthcare companies in Nebraska. And so it kind of did get my wheels going. And then as I returned to Silicon Valley, struggling with the really, really difficult business environment, it's you know, there's so much talent Silicon Valley that Everybody has a propensity to go there and, and innovate there. But it creates an enormous demand for for talent. And so it's tough to recruit and retain talent for any significant period of time. And oftentimes, by the time you get somebody trained up and they start to produce, they're on to the next thing. And that combined with the impossible, just business environment in California, California is known for a lot of great things. fabulous weather, and, you know, and it's known for a lot of things, but for being business friendly, it is not known for that. It is a very challenging place to do things not just expensive, but just everything is you know, so much red tape. And so all those things combined, I was struggling with and late one night, I basically stayed up all night thinking, how can I do things differently? And then that matched up with what I had seen in Nebraska? And I thought, yeah, let me think about just moving to Nebraska,


Unknown Speaker 25:53

you realize the, with all the things you saw that you would have at your advantage, and then you start to realize of how better off you would be with the the business side of things? Oh, yeah, keeping the lights on. And yeah, and like, wow, like this, you saw the hurdles that were ahead of you, in California, and realize which ones were going to be taken away, but yet still had all these advantages.


Unknown Speaker 26:21

Yeah, and, you know, it caused me I think, to see Nebraska, you know, a bit differently. And, and around the same time, another thing that I had really noticed over the course of my career was early in my career, I felt like, particularly a lot of the Silicon Valley companies were taking big risk, you know, doing ambitious things, instead of doing incremental innovation, you know, creating completely new platforms. And I felt like, you know, it was getting more and more conservative, partially due to the very expensive business environment, the regulatory environment. And I felt like companies weren't taking much risks and going really going for the big innovations. And that's the kind of stuff I wanted to do. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, perhaps I could do that in Nebraska. And what I've since come to realize is, by operating in a lower cost base, you know, we can afford to take risks. Yep. And then and go after the really big innovations. And that's what we're doing with progressive neuro. And I, it also kind of was I was thinking through, like, how could I create a very cost effective model for innovation. And as I started to look at places to buy, as I moved back to Nebraska, I thought, well, if I have a building with apartments, and I have innovation space, and I have office space, we could all live together, and instead of paying ourselves, you know, the salaries, we need to be able to just make ends meet the couple 100,000 year whatever, in San Francisco, we pay ourselves a fraction, we have to raise less capital, or we can do take that same amount of capital that, you know, we would have in California and hit much more milestones with it, building much more value to the company, and obviously diluting less and as founders retaining more of the company. And so that kind of became really the principles behind what ultimately became the Silicon Prairie Center Innovation Model. And what we're what we're really doing for progressive neurone ATS and and what will do for other companies that we you know, that we incubate here.


Unknown Speaker 28:14

Awesome. So okay, and do you want to like give us a little bit of like you say, ATS and progressive neuropathy? Yep. You maybe can you give us a flavor what that is?


Unknown Speaker 28:25

Yeah, certainly progressive neuro is an ischemic stroke company, that we actually started in 2018. But it comes from, you know, many, many years of experience. So I co founded it with Brett who I'd worked with at Microcenter, vascular, and Brett and I had the opportunity to work with a lot of physicians. And as he was working in r&d, developing technologies, I was bringing in physicians, to do what we call upstream marketing, basically get feedback on what the physicians needed. Here's what we're developing, Does this meet your needs? If not, what are we missing? And so we had a lot of data points there. And as you know, as we moved on in our careers, and went on and did other things, Brett started to, you know, to kind of think that through as we'd left those companies, and he started to come up with some ideas that were different than what everybody else was doing in this space. Everybody else is basically using a stent on a wire to try to drag a clot out, we're using a catheter, basically a tube to suck it out. And we had some some ideas of how to do things differently to more effectively get the clot out, because the results weren't good. When we started the company about 50% of the time sucking it out, didn't work. And when they use the stench river tried to direct drag it out, they'd have to stick it in, try it try to drag it out, you know, do that multiple times. And in meantime, you know, they're they're losing time and time is brain, you know, the longer the the, you know, the vasculature stays occluded, the more damage it's done to the brain. And so we had some out of the box ideas that you know, that we founded the company on and we've had a lot of interest in the company and things are going well now patents are starting to issue and really conflict In the direction we're taking the impact it will have on patients. So that's ATS. And the other company that we're doing here is, I'm sorry, that's progressive neuro. The other company we're doing here is actually ATS. And ATS is basically a mobility tracking technology that allows, you know, caregivers to remotely monitor how much patients are getting around, that's really the simplest way to put it. We started in order to kind of get our feet wet and start getting to know the customers in the space, we developed some very basic technologies and import a technology to hold canes and crutches and we're building from there. As we learn the space, some of the technology so you can see right on the side here, they're very basic, and they're actually made in the maker space, you know, we make a few, sell a few, get feedback, modify them. And in the meantime, we're learning a lot more about the lifestyle, these people that have to use mobility devices, and we're using that information to implement into the mobility tracking awesome. So


Unknown Speaker 31:00

grandma is home by herself. And, and she you call her and says, I'm fine. Yeah, this kind of gives you the Yeah,


Unknown Speaker 31:09

it gives you an objective data point, because grandma, you call her and she's always gonna say, she's fine, she may not have gotten out of bed for three days, some cookies, yeah, she's gonna say, I'm fine, you want to come over and have some cookies. But, you know, this gives you the ability to know that, you know, Grandma did get out of bed today, she got out of bed and started moving at 7am. And then she stopped moving it you know, and it's been in bed since you know, maybe 11am to one eight, to 1pm. And so, you know, you can get a sense and objective sense as to how much they're actually getting right.


Unknown Speaker 31:38

And like, I think you've said to like, if the technologies in the cane, and it's not like a band or something, grandma, Where's grandma might not actually know.


Unknown Speaker 31:48

Exactly. So if you give Grandma something to wear on her neck, depress at different intervals, or if she's having a problem, it's probably not gonna leave her drawer, it might be around her neck when you walk out the door, but an hour later, it's in the drawer. So this is something that we believe will have a higher compliance because it's integrated into the lifestyle. That's awesome.


Unknown Speaker 32:07

So and then we're doing all those things, you got progressive neuro and ATS, and at some point there to your entertainment. Kind of comes? Yeah, nothing in Yeah, so


Unknown Speaker 32:21

that's like, as we talked about, as always, kind of smoldering in the background, is something I wanted to do in, you know, in conjunction with, you know, with what I do in medical devices. And, yeah, and, and part of that was, as always kind of smoldering. And as I mentioned, you know, there was kind of a propensity for r&d, or kind of the innovation efforts to be very conservative, and traditional, and just kind of thing and how can we approve on x? Instead of, here's the problem, how can we solve it, you know, coming at it from a clean slate. And so I had this idea that if I could intermingle, you know, some very conservative r&d Folks, with filmmakers, because in filmmaking, if you kind of the mantra is, if you can dream it, you can do it. Right. You know, and I think it's a Walt Disney thing from way back when and, and so that mindset of anything's possible, I thought, if I can mix in a little bit of that. And so when I started the Silicon Prairie Center, I, you know, I had the, you know, had the opportunity to get involved in filmmaking partially through a local filmmaker here. And I thought, that's the perfect mix, you know, because they're going to be just thinking all these crazy ideas, we have these people that are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, thinking of everything that could go wrong, and go right. And you mix those two together. And hopefully you get something wreath coming out of the box thinking and so interestingly, it took a little bit of a different turn the next day. So that happened, and yeah, so that was kind of my plan. And then we were gearing up to you know, film, our first movie, and Mart on May 4 of 2020 was supposed to start it was going to be a SAG production, basically, you know, like a union film. And then something happened around February, March of 2020. And the world just kind of took a different course. And, and so, so, we, you know, we were weeks away really from filming, you know, that, that that that movie, you had already done the cat? Yeah, we'd already done a lot of the casting in Los Angeles in February of 2020. I think we're supposed to march 20 and 21st We were supposed to do casting, you know, here in Nebraska and Fremont. And around that same time, Fremont was one of the first places to really get hit with COVID. And so, you know, the union, you know, basically sag, you know, said everything got shut down. And so we were scratching our heads and thinking about how can we move this forward and when will we be able to move it forward? He had actors and crew and everybody was all excited about making a movie. And, and so in the process This, we got an idea for another film, Phil Gorn, who, who I do these films with, had an idea of about a couple that falls in love by talking through their shared wall during COVID. And so we started cranking on that script. And I think late March, early April, and we were shooting a different movie called Mike Corona by May of 2020. So we, you know, did a pivot, and, you know, we went did the unprecedented, I mean, not unprecedented, but the very unusual thing of basically getting ready to shoot a movie that you hadn't even finished the script for and improvising on the script as you went. And one of the aspects that we were struggling with is how could we do the social distancing? And feel like how, you know, in a time when people weren't supposed to drive in California, how was Phil going to get and you didn't certainly want to fly, get from California to Nebraska. And in the midst of doing all these new meetings, one day, I had the crazy idea of like, maybe we could direct this movie remotely, using video conference technology. And so I rang up, Phil, and he's like, Kirk, I appreciate your out of the box thinking, but any pause? Let me think about it. And, you know, he calls me back and says, Yeah, I, you know, we both thought about that, you know, we can probably do this. So, this concept of having films influence, technology actually ended up being the reverse. So we had, you know, the technology and the, the the utilization of technology, and kind of the typical kind of, you know, technology oriented thinking, ended up kind of infusing itself into filmmaking. And we did what's still believed to be the first feature film to be directed to 100% remotely, the director never came to Nebraska, and never met any of the cast in person, and did everything from his office in California. And so, you know, that's been an interesting journey. And I think it's, you know, part of the entrepreneur journey is you got to stay nimble, and be willing to pivot, you know, and see opportunity when it's right there in front of you.


Unknown Speaker 36:59

Right. Well, that's all awesome. And now we're, that's almost two now present day.


Unknown Speaker 37:06

Yeah, and pretty much is, I mean, we made the movie you can see behind me, we were blessed to win a lot of awards for the movie. And we had the foresight when he made the movie, to shoot footage for the documentary. And that's actually gone on to win a lot of Best Documentary awards, that film festivals around the world. Nice. Talking about how we directed it remotely, and how we filmed it on a closed set. Were everybody stayed here while we were filming, and didn't leave until we wrapped. So it's, it's been an adventure. And, you know, I think COVID You know, for a lot of folks has been, you know, and it is, obviously is a challenging time. But I think for a lot of folks, we tried to find a way to persevere through it, and to find a way to keep doing what we're doing and keep innovating. And I think our greatest advancements and progressive neuro happened after COVID hit because I feel like people weren't thinking about soccer practice, or softball or trade activities, or whatever they were, they were really focused. They did that. In fact, I think a lot of people wanted to focus on something so that they didn't go crazy from having to be home all the time. And we had some cruel ideas come out


Unknown Speaker 38:10

and COVID You know, as terrible as it is for some other people. You know, Mike, you know, there's a saying that kind of was floating around out there. And I was like, you know, it's not true. And that was, we're all in the same boat. Well, we're not any differently. Yeah. And it's, and then it's by nobody's fault, or intentional or unintentional. It's, if you were a fast food worker, and your company says you're closed, that's going to greatly affect you. But if you're somebody that has a business like myself, where there's no physical location, and we're just mailing things, you're not you can still operate. And additionally, all these people were sent home. I didn't know that this was going to happen. And I was actually kind of boarded up my Windows preparing for a storm, a big hurricane to come thinking, Man, I'm gonna shut down this website, because it's not an essential, and I'm going to shut down this phone number because it's not a big deal and kind of minimize expenses. And everybody went home, stayed home and started shopping online, and our sales went through the roof. And so I hadn't really experienced any bad things because of a shutdown it actually benefited my company. Mm hmm. And then I had to sit and watch other companies like really struggle and that was a that was a hard thing to do. And so we weren't all in the same boat. It affected everybody different differently.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Unknown Speaker 0:12

We can you ready to let go? Let me tell your friends believe me when I say no it always feels like we're punching in the back door have you with me gotta make the maiden voyage of the maker move podcast. This is our episode zero. It's going to be our introductory the very first thing that anybody hears from us podcast wise, we've been putting out content that's teasing it, and everything. And so I'm Rylie mills. And I am joined by Kirk Zeller. And together we have formed and came up with the making the move podcast. Yeah. So yeah, so this episode, what we really wanted to do was just kind of give everybody an introductory, you know, who are we? Why are we doing this? And what's our what's our story to kind of kick it off, and then we'll go into these episodes as we go. So with that being said, I don't know we kind of want to talk about like, why we're even doing this first maybe? Like, sure, you know, like, what are we doing? What is make a move?


Unknown Speaker 2:07

Yeah, I mean, I think we talked about the inspiration for it and how it came to be. And I think that that's a great place.


Unknown Speaker 2:12

Yes. So I guess, Kirk, what is what is make a move mean to you


Unknown Speaker 2:17

make a move means I mean, it really simply means just take initiative, get out there, you know, you know, start working towards living your dreams, there's so many people make excuse after excuse after excuse as to why they don't live their dreams. And they just keep waiting. And they wait for that dream day when they're gonna win the lottery and make a bunch of money and they can quit their job and live with their true dream and true passion is. And I think, you know, making a move is really about making movement towards living your dreams. And it doesn't have to be like, quit your job. And, you know, and go right to it, it can be more like, you know, study in the evenings, you know, set up a side business, you know, if you're a musician, hone your musical skills, you know, perform in the summers and on weekends in the evenings, you know, and start living towards that dream. If you're an actor, you know, even if you can't make it to Hollywood, start doing some local theater stuff and start moving in the direction it's really making a move towards towards your dream. Right. Right.


Unknown Speaker 3:14

And that's definitely my example in to and maybe not so much, you know, deciding between, well, I can't quit my job to do this. And obviously, that is part of it. But even, like, take it even down to even like a more cellular level, that it's, maybe you have an idea for something and you're just thinking, wow, that'd be cool. Yeah, but nobody, but people don't take the image. You know, they don't even rather than that to try. Yeah, do it. And so that's where making move for me is, maybe yeah, I'm not gonna quit my job. But like, I'm just to have that a little bit too. You know, we maybe have an idea of like, I'm gonna make cartoons. And you I could start drawing, I could do this. I could do that. But then you're like, well, footballs on? Yeah, no, you know. So that, to me, is what it is, is like, separating like what I like to do from like, being motivated and being proactive and not waiting for opportunities to come knocking on your door. Because what you'll find out is that they come and they won't they mean, nobody just sits there. Even though from outside perspective, you can say like, well, that guy over there just has everything handed to him. And that's probably not the case. At least cultivating those opportunities. Exactly. Yeah. So definitely, that's the scheme of it.


Unknown Speaker 4:56

I think that you know, the, you know, a lot of people tend to make He says, like, I can't get there because I don't have a degree or I don't have this, or I don't have that. But oftentimes, if you think creatively, you know, there are other ways of, you know, of getting there. And maybe if you maybe if you don't have the degree, and you do think it is absolutely necessary, maybe you go out and you start studying in the evenings to take a course, and you know, this semester, maybe two courses next semester, but really, to just start moving in the direction of what it is that you ultimately want to do. Because it's easy to sit on the sofa, grab the remote, and, you know, and find yourself there five hours later, and not having done anything. You know, it's partially about to take an initiative and having the discipline,


Unknown Speaker 5:33

right. And the other the other cool thing about this that I think is, with specifically me, and you is, we both have taken those different options. So you went and did more of the academic. Yep, yep. Yep. In studying abroad, and all that where I was like, you know, when I was in school, and thinking of that kind of thing, like, I just I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I knew that going to a college per se wasn't your path. It wasn't right. I didn't know what was right. But I knew that was wrong. Mm hmm. And at the time, it was the scariest thing ever, because all your guidance


Unknown Speaker 6:16

is in your peer rational wisdom is


Unknown Speaker 6:19

telling you that you're an idiot. Yeah. And you know, but as time has went on, I've come to realize that I did I made the right choice. Yeah. And so, but we'll get more into that. I think we want to hear more about Kirk Zeller and where Kirk Zeller started.


Unknown Speaker 6:38

Okay, fair enough. Well actually started right here, in this town, in Savannah, Nebraska, more specifically on a farm about seven miles south of abandoned Nebraska. But we're sitting here today in the Carnegie Library, the same library that was here during my childhood where people would come to study. So I grew up on a farm here in Nebraska. And, you know, a big part of my story, and what motivated me to do the things that that I've done has a lot to do with where the upbringing and, and where I grew up, and the situation I grew up in, in the 1980s. That was the peak of farm bankruptcies in America, that's when Farm Aid and everything was kicking off. And in fact, in 1987, it was right here. Farm Aid is right here in Nebraska. And it affected many people that I grew up with, you know, their grandparents, their parents, even my own grandfather, you know, had to declare bankruptcy during this very, very difficult time. And, and so for me, that was, that was kind of a catalyst because my grandfather kind of, let me know that, you know, it's probably not a good idea to follow in my footsteps and become a farmer, it's like, you know, go off and, you know, pursue another career. And, you know, when your father gets ready to retire, you can always come back and, you know, the farm really can't support you, you got to kind of, you know, find your own way, and not rely on you know, the legacy and I'm, you know, I'm a product of immigrants to this area, I'm half sandhill, or half, central Nebraska, and my ancestors settled right here in this area, and they've been farming here. And, you know, here in Buffalo County, since since they came to the United States from Germany. So it seemed like a pretty I was predestined to be in Nebraska farmer. And maybe that's how I'll end my life, but in between, you know, had to find another path. And so, right at the same time, you know, that the news was very much dominated every day by the farm crisis in America as I was in the tractors and the trucks and working. The other topic that was on the news was the trade imbalance with Japan, the trade friction. I mean, it was the peak of that at that same very same time. And a lot of the people on this talk radio and stuff had the attitude of it's impossible sell American products in Japan, they're just gonna overtake our economy, and there's nothing we can do about it. I'm like, wait a second, there can't be nothing we can do about it. So it really got my interest. And I decided, kind of right around that same time, probably when I was like, 13 or so that I was going to go to Japan is going to figure out how we can sell American products in Japan. I wasn't going to accept this attitude. It's kind of a make a move attitude, I think is I was going to go instead of just like listening to people and accept this. I was going to go over there, I was going to make a move and I was going to figure out how to sell American products in Japan. That's what I did. So I went to the University of Nebraska Lincoln, to exchange programs to Japan. I took advantage of both of them and spent most of my undergrad studying in Japan. And before I even graduated, I I was working at a Japanese medical device company in Japan before even before my graduation date.


Unknown Speaker 9:41

So when you were when you okay, you get out of high school you enroll into UNL Yep. Did you immediately go to Japan? No,


Unknown Speaker 9:52

I was at UNL for for a whole year. Okay, so I applied as soon as I got to university, and and then I saw went over for my the fall semester of my sophomore year was my first time and then I was back for one semester and then back for two more years. So in Japan,


Unknown Speaker 10:08

and then but that even led you you studied outside of Japan even and also Yeah, London is that right?


Unknown Speaker 10:16

Yeah. So yeah, so that's a good question. So I've studied in, so I have degrees from the University, Nebraska Lincoln, from Imperial College London. And where I studied BioPharm, and health technology, entrepreneurship, worked on spinning out medical device companies, which is kind of, you know, one of my focuses. And then I also studied at the International School of Management, which is based in Paris, but we took classes in Paris, New York, and Tokyo, and then later in Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Delhi. And in the course of some other studies, I was in South Africa, and Canada. So I mean, I had the opportunity, you know, throughout my academic career and professional career to study in a lot of different countries.


Unknown Speaker 11:04

The other thing that I when you were in your first little introduction there, you mentioned this library, and you called it the Carnegie Library, not like Carnegie Hall, right?


Unknown Speaker 11:16

No, it's It's, you know, it's the Carnegie Foundation. Same guys, apparently, so Wow, man, Carnegie, yeah, that built these libraries across America, you'll find them in a lot of small towns, some of them, unfortunately, have been destroyed. But in recent years, there's been a lot of efforts to preserve them. This one, when it was decommissioned a couple of years ago, I was able to rent it from the city and it's become the offices for the Silicon Prairie Center. And and, you know, before it was kind of a place of knowledge and learning and, you know, advancement. And we like to think it's that way now as we work on these kinds of things, and work to develop medical devices that can help people and come up with new ideas for innovation. So we think are kind of taken a new take on kind of the learning and knowledge aspect of what used to be a Carnegie Library.


Unknown Speaker 12:03

And that's just, it's just interesting to you to all these how these all these stories come together. And like, you know, he's he was the steel guy that that was one of the not founding fathers of America, but in kind of in the terms of like, economically, yeah, entrepreneurship and Building America. He was like one of the dude. So it's kind of interesting to see lasting impact on it. Yeah. And now that one of the buildings that he helped fund is now a new generation of entrepreneurship. Yeah, it's, it's kind of cool.


Unknown Speaker 12:38

I love that part of the story. Yeah,


Unknown Speaker 12:40

it's, that's wild. So you're in school, now you're gonna end up starting a company or you're going to get so worked for somebody?


Unknown Speaker 12:48

Yeah. So Well, let's take one step back because it'll tie in later. So while I was in school, I was I was working crazy hours studying because obviously, I'm not you know, I didn't know anything about Jap Japan, I didn't speak Japanese. So I had, okay, you know, came into it really, at a huge disadvantage and had to work relentlessly to learn Japanese to be able to take classes in Japanese and ultimately work for a Japanese company. And, you know, writing all my reports, but one of the things that incidentally happened along the way is title tie into some of our discussions later is that the opportunity to get involved in the entertainment business in Japan became the first Westerner ever to be on a nationally broadcast speech competition that's broadcast on on a, on a public holiday in Japan, on Youth Day in January. And, and that led to, you know, the opportunity to be on the radio and on TV shows and TV commercials. And I made a conscious decision not to pursue that path and got out of university going into university, I knew I want to do something healthcare, and he wanted to invent stuff that would save people's lives. And so, you know, despite kind of being sucked in the direction of the entertainment business, I stayed true to you know, what I wanted to do and my calling of developing medical devices and, and joined the medical device company straight out of university as a Japanese medical device company. And my job was to sell heart valves, which turned out to be a great life experience because I went into it thinking oh my god, I got this perfect idea and so you know, a perfect opportunity. I'm selling heart valves. And you know, this is really great way to learn the medical device industry and you know, I'm gonna have to jump in both feet. What I didn't realize is the market considered that particular heart valve to be outdated. So I was calling on these doctors and they'd look at me like seriously want me to use that nobody's used and so it was like it made every sales job after that so easy.


Unknown Speaker 14:45

Well, you know what, and there you there you touch on a topic that I think will probably be a constant theme in this is, is failure a bad thing now?


Unknown Speaker 14:55

We learned so much. I mean, failure is just you know, part of the journey to success really, right? Yeah.


Unknown Speaker 15:03

And I just I feel like, the the way we groom kids in school is to teach them that, like, Don't you dare fail this test, you know, and you there, you know, there's the other side of the coin, where it's, you know, you, you can't be like not paying attention and like not interested in like not trying, that's not what we're talking about. You know, if you don't, if you don't put any effort in, of course, you're gonna fail, but you're not trying to learn anything, either. So if you're, you know, putting your best foot forward, and you shouldn't, I feel like kids are putting under so much pressure that they stress out when they fail, that they missed the lesson. And I think that's something there's


Unknown Speaker 15:48

so many lessons and you know, not not achieving what we hope to achieve, you know, right. And I think too many times it's labeled as failure in a bad way. But those experiences help us shape us and direct us in the direction of what we are innately good at, and were skilled at, and probably away from things that we wouldn't be well positioned to.


Unknown Speaker 16:06

And not to that I was calling your heart valves failing.


Unknown Speaker 16:10

But as I tell you, it really felt like Yeah, but


Unknown Speaker 16:13

it just proved kind of was illustrating my point as what you thought was gonna be easy, and it was very hard. Now, on the back end of things, you learned a lot and trying to sell something that someone didn't want.


Unknown Speaker 16:27

Yeah, I mean, in that particular case, what I learned is, I mean, it's kind of the don't lemonades, your lemons link lemonade, kind of kind of story. But what I realized, as I delve deep, deeper, and read all the scientific papers, I found certain aspects. And for certain conditions, there was some really great aspects to that particular heart valve, it wasn't something that people wanted to use for every patient, but I was able to start to kind of carve out a niche for it, and really start promoting it for that niche. And that, you know, that really did help me, you know, be able to sell some heart valves. You know, when I first really started to grasp what my task was situation in the market dynamics, it seemed impossible, but you know, you take a step back to dust yourself off. And you, you know, and you think about it differently, and you think, okay, what are the what are the benefits? What can this do that other stuff can't do, and then just focus on that. And I was able to get some traction in niche area. So, you know, I think that was a great lesson for me. And it also made like said it made any sales job after that so much easier.


Unknown Speaker 17:33

And then so was it at that time that the entertainment stuff in Japan came up?


Unknown Speaker 17:38

Or? No, that was while I was at university? And by the time yeah, by the time I joined the corporate world, you know, it had been, you know, that part of chapter of my life had ended, okay, as I made that, you know, that kind of choice to pursue medical devices, but there was a part of me that kind of hope, someday I'll be able to get back to it. Right. That'll come up later. Right. So, so


Unknown Speaker 17:59

yeah, you were in school? You did the film stuff. Yeah. And then and that kind of like, sparked the fire down low. Yeah.


Unknown Speaker 18:06

It was like, you know, low burning, you know, it didn't completely go out. That desire didn't completely go away.


Unknown Speaker 18:14

Um, so where was so you know, not to say the whole, like I said, the heart valves were a failure, but where it whoa, do you think your first bid a success or like, that really made you feel like, Oh, this is definitely where I need to be, like, on the right track type of thing.


Unknown Speaker 18:30

Yeah, I mean, so the heart valve stuff, I ended up finding that niche and being able to, you know, do my best to sell, despite having what physicians considered an outdated technology helped me get the attention of one of the major companies. And so I was then able to go later on to work for one of the leading, you know, one of the leading heart valves and, and that was a great experience. And from there, I think one of the kind of pivotal points in my career really was getting involved in the first technology for performing coronary artery bypass surgery without using the heart lung machine where they would actually do you to do these procedures while the heart was still beating, beating heart bypass. And so I had the opportunity to take that technology to Japan and see, you know, firsthand how it impacted patients who had some of these older patients who probably wouldn't be able to, you know, have the bypass surgery, if they had to be put on the heart lung machine and to see some of those patients be able to actually have it, benefit from it and extend their life was a great inspiration for me to really go all in on becoming a medical device entrepreneur. And that's what led for me to really look at the schools around the world and pick Imperial College, London's BioPharm and health technology entrepreneurship program, to you know, to develop that and I had the opportunity there, to be involved with a couple of different medical device companies write their business plans, do research and then ultimately, do the research for my master's degree which is on the financing of medical device companies and that segwayed into a continuation of that in the form of a doctorate. So, you know, that was a pretty pivotal moment, you know, really just seeing firsthand how much it impacted patients lives and thinking, that is what I'm going to do is develop technologies. And that's later came into what we do at Progressive neuro and into, you know, trying to be more ambitious than the other companies in the space and design completely new platforms for getting clot more more effectively getting caught out of the brain to save, you know, save people's brain function and get them back to a more normalized life. And


Unknown Speaker 20:36

so eventually, you make your way back over not maybe to Nebraska, but you come back over to the states, right?


Unknown Speaker 20:43

Yeah, so So in 19, the end of 1997. So I was working with a large Swiss company and large Japanese company, and they both went public in 1987. And did some cross shareholdings and things. And I had the opportunity to be relocated, then to Austin, Texas, where the Swiss company had a lot of a lot of their US operations. And so I had a desk within that company, but was working for the the Japanese company kind of being the intermediary between the two companies, and was spending a lot of time on, on finding new technologies that could really advance healthcare in Japan. So spending a lot of time in Silicon Valley and traveling around and then more and more time in Europe. Is that


Unknown Speaker 21:29

what took you from Austin over to California?


Unknown Speaker 21:32

So I went from Austin, actually, to the UK. Okay, yep. And, you know, I was starting to do more and more business, I'd done a lot of business development in the US, and then kind of started to venture into looking at different technologies in Europe. And, and so started spending a lot of time at conferences in Europe and visiting companies in Europe, and at the same time, then, you know, use the UK Base to, you know, to do my work, but also to, you know, to to do my degree at Imperial. Yeah.


Unknown Speaker 22:02

Nice. And then eventually, at some point, you figure out, I want to, I want to make my way back home.


Unknown Speaker 22:13

Yeah. Well, so. So then from the UK, I went back to so I went to I came back to the US that time to Southern California, and, and, you know, continue to do the medical device stuff, and then and then into Texas, and spent back to Texas and spent some time living and working, you know, in Texas continuing to do a lot of the same really close collaborations with Japan and getting technologies into the Japanese market. While I was doing, you know, a doctorate studying at New York and Paris and Tokyo. And then once I finished that degree, I I started doing startups all in basically handed in my dissertation. And I think on Sunday, on a Sunday back in, I think it was 2005 or so I handed in my dissertation. And on the Monday I started my job at a startup. And I've been doing startup stuff ever since. And and that's really where my passion is, is is you know, coming going after these ambitious unmet clinical needs and developing technologies to meet those needs.


Unknown Speaker 23:18

Nice. So in at some point in this journey of overseas and in Texas and California, you decide somehow, I'm going to go back home.


Unknown Speaker 23:30

Yeah, well, that's probably one of the most interesting parts of the story actually, is. Yeah, I mean, eventually, I wanted to come back to Nebraska, I kind of had this vision of someday I wanted to make a bunch of money in Silicon Valley and create my own venture fund and start doing startups in Nebraska. So that was always on my mind. But I kind of saw that as a much later in my career sort of thing. And in 2018, I was invited to come back to give a speech at a at a big 10 conference here in Nebraska that was that we hosted at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and was in the first intake of you know, of the university's International Business program. So they asked me to give give a presentation. So I came back and in the process of that, they gave me some tours and kind of brought me up to speed on what was going on here in Nebraska. So I had the opportunity to tour Innovation Campus, you know, which is the Old State Fairgrounds is turned into like a gigantic incubator space for tech companies and, and had to opportunity through that to learn about invest in Nebraska and some of the economic development programs that are going on here. And what was going on with UNMC and their unibead and Unitech. And what they were doing to kind of grow healthcare companies in Nebraska. And so it kind of did get my wheels going. And then as I returned to Silicon Valley, struggling with the really, really difficult business environment, it's you know, there's so much talent Silicon Valley that Everybody has a propensity to go there and, and innovate there. But it creates an enormous demand for for talent. And so it's tough to recruit and retain talent for any significant period of time. And oftentimes, by the time you get somebody trained up and they start to produce, they're on to the next thing. And that combined with the impossible, just business environment in California, California is known for a lot of great things. fabulous weather, and, you know, and it's known for a lot of things, but for being business friendly, it is not known for that. It is a very challenging place to do things not just expensive, but just everything is you know, so much red tape. And so all those things combined, I was struggling with and late one night, I basically stayed up all night thinking, how can I do things differently? And then that matched up with what I had seen in Nebraska? And I thought, yeah, let me think about just moving to Nebraska,


Unknown Speaker 25:53

you realize the, with all the things you saw that you would have at your advantage, and then you start to realize of how better off you would be with the the business side of things? Oh, yeah, keeping the lights on. And yeah, and like, wow, like this, you saw the hurdles that were ahead of you, in California, and realize which ones were going to be taken away, but yet still had all these advantages.


Unknown Speaker 26:21

Yeah, and, you know, it caused me I think, to see Nebraska, you know, a bit differently. And, and around the same time, another thing that I had really noticed over the course of my career was early in my career, I felt like, particularly a lot of the Silicon Valley companies were taking big risk, you know, doing ambitious things, instead of doing incremental innovation, you know, creating completely new platforms. And I felt like, you know, it was getting more and more conservative, partially due to the very expensive business environment, the regulatory environment. And I felt like companies weren't taking much risks and going really going for the big innovations. And that's the kind of stuff I wanted to do. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, perhaps I could do that in Nebraska. And what I've since come to realize is, by operating in a lower cost base, you know, we can afford to take risks. Yep. And then and go after the really big innovations. And that's what we're doing with progressive neuro. And I, it also kind of was I was thinking through, like, how could I create a very cost effective model for innovation. And as I started to look at places to buy, as I moved back to Nebraska, I thought, well, if I have a building with apartments, and I have innovation space, and I have office space, we could all live together, and instead of paying ourselves, you know, the salaries, we need to be able to just make ends meet the couple 100,000 year whatever, in San Francisco, we pay ourselves a fraction, we have to raise less capital, or we can do take that same amount of capital that, you know, we would have in California and hit much more milestones with it, building much more value to the company, and obviously diluting less and as founders retaining more of the company. And so that kind of became really the principles behind what ultimately became the Silicon Prairie Center Innovation Model. And what we're what we're really doing for progressive neurone ATS and and what will do for other companies that we you know, that we incubate here.


Unknown Speaker 28:14

Awesome. So okay, and do you want to like give us a little bit of like you say, ATS and progressive neuropathy? Yep. You maybe can you give us a flavor what that is?


Unknown Speaker 28:25

Yeah, certainly progressive neuro is an ischemic stroke company, that we actually started in 2018. But it comes from, you know, many, many years of experience. So I co founded it with Brett who I'd worked with at Microcenter, vascular, and Brett and I had the opportunity to work with a lot of physicians. And as he was working in r&d, developing technologies, I was bringing in physicians, to do what we call upstream marketing, basically get feedback on what the physicians needed. Here's what we're developing, Does this meet your needs? If not, what are we missing? And so we had a lot of data points there. And as you know, as we moved on in our careers, and went on and did other things, Brett started to, you know, to kind of think that through as we'd left those companies, and he started to come up with some ideas that were different than what everybody else was doing in this space. Everybody else is basically using a stent on a wire to try to drag a clot out, we're using a catheter, basically a tube to suck it out. And we had some some ideas of how to do things differently to more effectively get the clot out, because the results weren't good. When we started the company about 50% of the time sucking it out, didn't work. And when they use the stench river tried to direct drag it out, they'd have to stick it in, try it try to drag it out, you know, do that multiple times. And in meantime, you know, they're they're losing time and time is brain, you know, the longer the the, you know, the vasculature stays occluded, the more damage it's done to the brain. And so we had some out of the box ideas that you know, that we founded the company on and we've had a lot of interest in the company and things are going well now patents are starting to issue and really conflict In the direction we're taking the impact it will have on patients. So that's ATS. And the other company that we're doing here is, I'm sorry, that's progressive neuro. The other company we're doing here is actually ATS. And ATS is basically a mobility tracking technology that allows, you know, caregivers to remotely monitor how much patients are getting around, that's really the simplest way to put it. We started in order to kind of get our feet wet and start getting to know the customers in the space, we developed some very basic technologies and import a technology to hold canes and crutches and we're building from there. As we learn the space, some of the technology so you can see right on the side here, they're very basic, and they're actually made in the maker space, you know, we make a few, sell a few, get feedback, modify them. And in the meantime, we're learning a lot more about the lifestyle, these people that have to use mobility devices, and we're using that information to implement into the mobility tracking awesome. So


Unknown Speaker 31:00

grandma is home by herself. And, and she you call her and says, I'm fine. Yeah, this kind of gives you the Yeah,


Unknown Speaker 31:09

it gives you an objective data point, because grandma, you call her and she's always gonna say, she's fine, she may not have gotten out of bed for three days, some cookies, yeah, she's gonna say, I'm fine, you want to come over and have some cookies. But, you know, this gives you the ability to know that, you know, Grandma did get out of bed today, she got out of bed and started moving at 7am. And then she stopped moving it you know, and it's been in bed since you know, maybe 11am to one eight, to 1pm. And so, you know, you can get a sense and objective sense as to how much they're actually getting right.


Unknown Speaker 31:38

And like, I think you've said to like, if the technologies in the cane, and it's not like a band or something, grandma, Where's grandma might not actually know.


Unknown Speaker 31:48

Exactly. So if you give Grandma something to wear on her neck, depress at different intervals, or if she's having a problem, it's probably not gonna leave her drawer, it might be around her neck when you walk out the door, but an hour later, it's in the drawer. So this is something that we believe will have a higher compliance because it's integrated into the lifestyle. That's awesome.


Unknown Speaker 32:07

So and then we're doing all those things, you got progressive neuro and ATS, and at some point there to your entertainment. Kind of comes? Yeah, nothing in Yeah, so


Unknown Speaker 32:21

that's like, as we talked about, as always, kind of smoldering in the background, is something I wanted to do in, you know, in conjunction with, you know, with what I do in medical devices. And, yeah, and, and part of that was, as always kind of smoldering. And as I mentioned, you know, there was kind of a propensity for r&d, or kind of the innovation efforts to be very conservative, and traditional, and just kind of thing and how can we approve on x? Instead of, here's the problem, how can we solve it, you know, coming at it from a clean slate. And so I had this idea that if I could intermingle, you know, some very conservative r&d Folks, with filmmakers, because in filmmaking, if you kind of the mantra is, if you can dream it, you can do it. Right. You know, and I think it's a Walt Disney thing from way back when and, and so that mindset of anything's possible, I thought, if I can mix in a little bit of that. And so when I started the Silicon Prairie Center, I, you know, I had the, you know, had the opportunity to get involved in filmmaking partially through a local filmmaker here. And I thought, that's the perfect mix, you know, because they're going to be just thinking all these crazy ideas, we have these people that are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, thinking of everything that could go wrong, and go right. And you mix those two together. And hopefully you get something wreath coming out of the box thinking and so interestingly, it took a little bit of a different turn the next day. So that happened, and yeah, so that was kind of my plan. And then we were gearing up to you know, film, our first movie, and Mart on May 4 of 2020 was supposed to start it was going to be a SAG production, basically, you know, like a union film. And then something happened around February, March of 2020. And the world just kind of took a different course. And, and so, so, we, you know, we were weeks away really from filming, you know, that, that that that movie, you had already done the cat? Yeah, we'd already done a lot of the casting in Los Angeles in February of 2020. I think we're supposed to march 20 and 21st We were supposed to do casting, you know, here in Nebraska and Fremont. And around that same time, Fremont was one of the first places to really get hit with COVID. And so, you know, the union, you know, basically sag, you know, said everything got shut down. And so we were scratching our heads and thinking about how can we move this forward and when will we be able to move it forward? He had actors and crew and everybody was all excited about making a movie. And, and so in the process This, we got an idea for another film, Phil Gorn, who, who I do these films with, had an idea of about a couple that falls in love by talking through their shared wall during COVID. And so we started cranking on that script. And I think late March, early April, and we were shooting a different movie called Mike Corona by May of 2020. So we, you know, did a pivot, and, you know, we went did the unprecedented, I mean, not unprecedented, but the very unusual thing of basically getting ready to shoot a movie that you hadn't even finished the script for and improvising on the script as you went. And one of the aspects that we were struggling with is how could we do the social distancing? And feel like how, you know, in a time when people weren't supposed to drive in California, how was Phil going to get and you didn't certainly want to fly, get from California to Nebraska. And in the midst of doing all these new meetings, one day, I had the crazy idea of like, maybe we could direct this movie remotely, using video conference technology. And so I rang up, Phil, and he's like, Kirk, I appreciate your out of the box thinking, but any pause? Let me think about it. And, you know, he calls me back and says, Yeah, I, you know, we both thought about that, you know, we can probably do this. So, this concept of having films influence, technology actually ended up being the reverse. So we had, you know, the technology and the, the the utilization of technology, and kind of the typical kind of, you know, technology oriented thinking, ended up kind of infusing itself into filmmaking. And we did what's still believed to be the first feature film to be directed to 100% remotely, the director never came to Nebraska, and never met any of the cast in person, and did everything from his office in California. And so, you know, that's been an interesting journey. And I think it's, you know, part of the entrepreneur journey is you got to stay nimble, and be willing to pivot, you know, and see opportunity when it's right there in front of you.


Unknown Speaker 36:59

Right. Well, that's all awesome. And now we're, that's almost two now present day.


Unknown Speaker 37:06

Yeah, and pretty much is, I mean, we made the movie you can see behind me, we were blessed to win a lot of awards for the movie. And we had the foresight when he made the movie, to shoot footage for the documentary. And that's actually gone on to win a lot of Best Documentary awards, that film festivals around the world. Nice. Talking about how we directed it remotely, and how we filmed it on a closed set. Were everybody stayed here while we were filming, and didn't leave until we wrapped. So it's, it's been an adventure. And, you know, I think COVID You know, for a lot of folks has been, you know, and it is, obviously is a challenging time. But I think for a lot of folks, we tried to find a way to persevere through it, and to find a way to keep doing what we're doing and keep innovating. And I think our greatest advancements and progressive neuro happened after COVID hit because I feel like people weren't thinking about soccer practice, or softball or trade activities, or whatever they were, they were really focused. They did that. In fact, I think a lot of people wanted to focus on something so that they didn't go crazy from having to be home all the time. And we had some cruel ideas come out


Unknown Speaker 38:10

and COVID You know, as terrible as it is for some other people. You know, Mike, you know, there's a saying that kind of was floating around out there. And I was like, you know, it's not true. And that was, we're all in the same boat. Well, we're not any differently. Yeah. And it's, and then it's by nobody's fault, or intentional or unintentional. It's, if you were a fast food worker, and your company says you're closed, that's going to greatly affect you. But if you're somebody that has a business like myself, where there's no physical location, and we're just mailing things, you're not you can still operate. And additionally, all these people were sent home. I didn't know that this was going to happen. And I was actually kind of boarded up my Windows preparing for a storm, a big hurricane to come thinking, Man, I'm gonna shut down this website, because it's not an essential, and I'm going to shut down this phone number because it's not a big deal and kind of minimize expenses. And everybody went home, stayed home and started shopping online, and our sales went through the roof. And so I hadn't really experienced any bad things because of a shutdown it actually benefited my company. Mm hmm. And then I had to sit and watch other companies like really struggle and that was a that was a hard thing to do. And so we weren't all in the same boat. It affected everybody different differently.






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