Pete DeComo is the chairman and CEO of ALung Technologies. ALung is developing an artificial lung for patients suffering from Acute Respiratory Failure and has raised over $100 million to bring their product to market.
ALung’s Hemolung Respiratory Assist System is a dialysis-like alternative or supplement to mechanical ventilation that works by removing carbon dioxide directly from the blood. The medical device, which has been approved for use in 35 countries outside the U.S., has proven relevant during the 2020 Pandemic.
Prior to running ALung, Pete was the founder and CEO of Renal Solutions. Renal Solutions developed of similar product focused on kidney dialysis and was sold to Fresenius in 2007 for $200 million.
In this conversation, Pete discusses the arduous process of getting a medical device approved by regulators, how he has raised over $140 million for his companies, and his advice for all entrepreneurs.
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If you liked this interview, check out episode 405 with Matt Kesinger where we discuss the development of his life saving medical device and episode 413 with Dr. Gordon Vanscoy where we discuss his startup which serves as a pharmacy for treating rare diseases.
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Watson: Well, Pete, thanks for coming on the podcast. I'm really excited to be talking with you.
DeComo: Exciting to be here as well. Aaron, thanks for the invitation before to the discussion.
Watson: So I am, self-admittedly not a biotech expert, a healthcare minded character. It is something where it seems like, you know, the whole world is half, has had to become familiar with, you know, phase one phase, two phase three trials and FDA approvals and all this other stuff because of 2020.
But to start things off, maybe we can build up from a relatively complex, but hopefully simple explanation. Your company, ALung, it says it focuses on respiratory dialysis through extra corporeal, low flow, CO2 removal. What the heck does that mean?
DeComo: Yeah, that's, that's pretty good for not knowing the vocabulary.
You did well. Extra corporeal means we take blood out of the body and we treat it in some manner and we put it back in a, of course, respiratory failure means that an individual, in our case, a patient, has something afflicting their lungs and it can be a chronic disease like emphysema, chronic bronchitis, which progressively gets worse as time goes on for that particular patient. And that can lead to what's referred to as chronic respiratory failure. And then there's acute respiratory failure as well, basically meaning that an individual suffer some trauma to the lungs, and prior to that trauma had really nothing wrong with their lungs or a very little long wrong with their lungs. And so that trauma, for example, could come from, injuries due to smoke inhalation, aspiration of gastric contents, you know, patients that frankly overdose and then get sick and then vomit, and then inhale that vomitus into their lungs.
It's acidic, as you might imagine, coming from the stomach and that burns the lungs. It could be blunt force trauma to the chest. For example, in a car accident, when the steering wheel hits the chest, it could be due to a war injury or something like that, where you have what's called an acute injury to the lungs and that's called acute respiratory failure.
Of course, what we've created at a long is a technology, which is an artificial lung. Actually the name ALung stands for artificial lung and we have this artificial lung that sits outside the body. It's was conceived at the McGowan Institute for regenerative medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
ALung spun out of the university back in 1998 and we created this technology, from that original conception. And, it's now treating patients all over the world. It is the only device that's been conceived, developed, manufactured from the ground up to this particular therapy.
It's meant to be minimally invasive, very safe, and very effective in terms of, sort of supplementing the native lung by sitting outside of the native lung, at the bedside, if you will, and doing up to 50% of the work of the native lung to remove carbon dioxide and to provide a little bit of oxygenation.
So that's what extra corporeal means. And that's what we do at ALung.
Watson: And so I think that people can make a pretty easy jump to the relevance for, you know, some of the symptoms that people have heard about associated with COVID-19 in the present, but you've been at this for 11 years and I'd hate to ever call something like a pandemic, an opportunity.
But there is a degree to which what seems like, you know, someone kind of seizing a moment. Is often years in the making. So, specifically within the context of ALung, can you talk about the state where it was back in 2009 when you joined and what the last decade or so has looked like in terms of the different approvals and research and development that's gone into it.
DeComo: Yeah, that's a good question. We often joke at ALung that we're the oldest startup in the region being 22 years old now and spinning out of the University of Pittsburgh. You know, I've been an entrepreneur for a while and my prior company was also in the extra corporeal space, but it was in the kidney dialysis space.
And we can come back to that later, but that resulted in a successful exit. And, and then I got recruited to come over to ALung by some of my previous investors, because of my extra corporeal experience. And in addition to that, it's just coincidental, I started my early, early career as a young respiratory therapist at the University of Pittsburgh medical center at Presbyterian university hospital, where I worked in critical care medicine.
And I was on the school of medicine faculty in critical care, teaching respiratory therapists, nurses, and physicians, how to use respiratory devices to treat respiratory failure. I certainly left that field for most of my career and then circled back to ALung and had to sort of dust off all the cobwebs of my old textbook and revitalize the brain in terms of my respiratory knowledge.
But, I love the field it's done well for me. And it's brought me back to ALung, but, it's long history, has been a challenging one. It's been a difficult one and, You know, the story will not sound strange to many entrepreneurs who have gone through the same thing. Medical device is not a popular area for investors to invest in, especially what we call institutional investors like venture capital firms.
They've moved so much later stage that they want you to be FDA approved. They want you to be in the market. They want you to demonstrate some recurring growth and an attraction in terms of selling your device. Well, ALung, because we touch blood and because we're the first of our kind, the FDA classifies us as a class three device.
What that really means is in the eyes of the FDA it's the most high risk category you can be in for a respiratory or for a medical device. And that throws you into having to do what's referred to as a PMA trial, a pre-market approval trial, which is typically a very large trial.
So pre COVID we were involved in this PMA trial, very large trial here in the United States. We had 40 clinical trial sites all over the country, attempting to enroll patients for us into this trial. And, we were doing quite well. And then COVID came along and this was back in the February, March, April timeframe of 2020.
And basically hospitals were flooded with COVID 19 patients. And as you know, From the news, these patients were admitted to intensive care units. They were critically ill. They were put on ventilators and their mortality rate was as high as 80, 90% at the beginning of this pandemic. And the ventilator was causing a lot of harm to the lungs of these patients, as you, as you heard in the news as well.
Well, two things happened first of all, our clinical trial came to a screeching halt. Because clinical research was deemed non-essential in these hospitals, clinical trial personnel were sent home and we were stuck in the water. We were basically treading water. We couldn't go forward. And that stalled our efforts with the FDA to become FDA approved in the United States and be able to bring our technology to market and actually sell it.
It could have been the demise of the company to be very honest. But as you pointed out, sometimes these problems create opportunities, and I've been using a quote most recently as a result of my discussion around this topic. And that's a quote by Alexander Graham bell, who said that, you know, when one door closes, another door opens, but oftentimes we spend so much time focused on the door that's closed and we miss the opportunity by the door that was opened.
And so COVID 19 actually opened a couple of doors for us. First of all, I went back to the FDA and said look, our trial is dead in the water, but we can help with COVID-19. Because we had just concluded a trial in the United Kingdom, on a respiratory failure for work refer, what is referred to is acute respiratory distress syndrome. ARDSM as it's called. And COVID-19 manifests itself in ARDS or acute respiratory distress syndrome. That trial was 412 patients and 204 of those patients were enrolled in our technology. So the FDA said, well, why don't you submit an application for emergency use authorization for COVID-19 the same that the vaccines are going through right now.
And three weeks later, the FDA had approved, approved us for emergency use authorization in COVID 19. Since that time now keeping in mind, we're a small company and we're only producing enough product to, you know, utilize in our clinical trials. We're not a large organization that can produce thousands of these machines and thousands of the artificial lungs that go on these machines.
But we had 40 clinical trial sites that were already rubbed up and running. They knew our technology, they were treating COVID 19 patients. So they were our first priority. And many of those clinical trial sites who had put the clinical trial aside, were now treating COVID 19 patients. In addition to that, we've brought on board about 10 new hospitals that were not our clinical trial side hospitals and were treating patients with COVID-19 in those hospitals, as well. As I said, we're small, but we've treated at now at this point 58, COVID 19 patients worldwide. We've also treated nine in the United Kingdom and in Ireland because we had a clinical trial going there and some of the hospitals there wanted to treat COVID 19 patients.
So the door that closed was our clinical trial door. The door that opened was the ability to treat COVID 19. That's brought us a lot of notoriety and visibility in our space, to be honest about it. I also went back to the FDA and said, look, we can't complete our trial. It's impossible under these circumstances, no clinical trial has been completed at this point in time.
We needed an alternative pathway to FDA approval and the FDA consented to an accelerated pathway for our device called a Denovo 5 10 K, basically, meaning Denovo, meaning a new device with no predicate device to claim substantial equivalency to a Denovo 5 10 K does not require a clinical trial.
And we're in the process of that application right now. And in fact, we could be approved in the United States for commercial sale in mid 2021 if all continues to go well with the FDA and their review of our application. That cut about two years of clinical trial work off of our timeline because having to complete that clinical trial would've meant we wouldn't be in the marketplace until mid 2023.
We will continue that trial when the pandemic slows down a bit and our clinical trial sites can continue to screen and enroll patients, but for now we're pursuing the Denovo 5 10 K. And frankly, that is really a huge door that's opened for us relative to getting to market sooner rather than later.
Watson: So part of the story that you've just illustrated there is, and you almost said it like the way you would knock on your neighbor's door for like a cup of milk or something, but you're talking about going to one of the largest government agencies, right? That has at least to the outsider's perspective or just in general, regulatory bodies have this reputation for being bureaucratic for being a Byzantine, for being difficult to understand.
And even some of the nomenclature that you use there. But it wasn't the tonality in the way that you said it you've made it seem like passe, like it was something that was highly attainable. So can you maybe piece that apart from you a little bit more? I'm sure that to some degree, it's you having been through the ringer before with other products to kind of know the lay of the land, but maybe there's relationships, maybe it's the extenuating circumstances of 2020. Help me make sense of that.
DeComo: Yeah well, that's a good question, Aaron, and you're very astute in pointing out some of the things that lead to success with the FDA. In my prior company, I was involved with the FDA, clearly a different team, and then prior to that, I was also involved with the FDA because I was in the pharmaceutical drug distribution business, and that required interaction with the FDA as well.
And you can tell by looking at me, I'm not a young man any longer out, although I joke around a bit about, this is what entrepreneurship does to you at the age of 30, you start to look like this, but, the reality of the situation is that, you know, it's like any other relationship, whether you're calling on a customer when you're, whether you're dealing with a another company and you're trying to do a business venture together, it's all about establishing trust and credibility and establishing a relationship that allows you to have open Frank diplomatic dialogue about the issues in front of you.
And what I've learned in that process is that you've got to make it a win-win for whatever individual you're talking to or whatever organization you're talking to. The win-win in this particular situation is we have been involved with this FDA review chain for over 10 years now, it's been a very stable team at the FDA. And while they are very bureaucratic, our device is known as, or has been designated as a breakthrough device by the FDA, meaning it's novel in terms of what it does. And there are no alternatives to what it does in the marketplace.
And then you get this novel breakthrough nomenclature attached to you, and long with that comes a team from the FDA who gets assigned to you because they want to get this novel technology to market as soon as possible. Now, as soon as possible, in the eyes of the FDA is not a nomenclature in my language.
It's not equivalent to getting it to market as soon as possible my eyes, but for the FDA, they've been very collaborative, very compromising, in terms of working with us on getting this technology to market. And the win win is we get the technology to the market sooner. And the win for them is they've recognized a novel technology that can be beneficial to patients when there's nothing else out there that can be, and they want it to get to market as quickly as possible.
And in the case of COVID-19, they want anything out there in the market that can have the potential of being beneficial. To these patients. And certainly having worked with the FDA on this particular project for the last 10 years, they recognize the potential benefit of our device in treating not only COVID-19, but any patient with respiratory failure where you've gotta be able to bypass the lungs if you will, that are malfunctioning and have gas exchange take place in the blood vessel itself, versus having to go through the lungs to get to the blood vessel. And so that was a win-win, but yes, to your point, you become comfortable having these discussions with organizations like the FDA, when you go through it over numerous years, number one, and number two, when you really get down to the heart of the matter.
It's really my team sitting across the table with the FDA team and we're all human beings and the common good is trying to develop and get technologies to market that can be beneficial to patients. And certainly you've got to demonstrate safety and you've got to demonstrate efficacy to the FDA, but along that pathway of doing that and doing it right, you gain credibility with the FDA.
And even though you've got to cross the T's and dot the I's, when you do it in a manner that the FDA understands that you're trying to do it and do it right, you gain credibility with them and you establish a little bit of trust, and you can move this process through the FDA a little faster than you normally would.
Watson: So at a, I guess this is a question you can answer on two different levels at the. Pete Tacoma level. And at the ALung level, which is sustaining, you talked about it as being 22 years in the making the technology, but even the 11 years, since you started informed by your past experiences, bringing medical devices to market, how do you manage that process over such a time horizon?
What I mean by that is, in terms of your own patients, because at some point, you know, when they were these investors that brought you in were pitching you on the idea, like you did your own snooping around, like, is this legit or is this baloney? And so you've reached the light bulb of like, this thing is real versus I need all these other people to realize that, and then simultaneously, and you can correct me if these numbers are wrong, you raised about $80 million in capital for this entity has, has, has been brought in and, you know, with big investors. And they also have their like, itchiness to get a return because that's the venture capital mindset. Like how do you, you know, satiate them and stay, you know, relatively like low expense as you're proceeding? Just take me through the strategy of that, because that's not a position, many people get to be in.
DeComo: Yeah. Well, I'm not sure, you know, certainly there's strategy behind it all. There's strategy related to everything we do. And then we strategize as a team at ALung every day and every week. And you know, one of the unique characteristics of startups, especially life sciences startups, is that when you're in the business of innovation, you don't know what you don't know.
And a wise old man told me one time, you know, if you don't know what you don't know, but you don't know that you're in real trouble. And in the process of innovation, we oftentimes don't know what we don't know. You know, it's a process of creativity, and trial and error. And sometimes you're going down a path and you hit a roadblock and you've got to make a determination of that.
Make a left, make a right or turn around and go back or whatever the case may be. And one of the things I've learned about entrepreneurship as sometimes a decision is better than no decision. Even if you don't know if that decision is right or not. So quit procrastinating, make a decision, even if it's the wrong decision, at least you've learned something from that and you can move forward and ultimately get to the right decision.
The other thing I tell young entrepreneurs when I lecture at, at Pitt or CMU, is that to me, the one trait that is most important for entrepreneurs in order to lead to success is perseverance. And perseverance means that, in my mind, that you never know you give up, you keep trying, but the, the ultimate goal, can't be futile.
In other words, you've got to have clear sight to success, and have a recognition that your device, your technology, whatever you're creating, has a place in the world and can do something. You know, people oftentimes use a perseverance and persistence interchangably. And to me there's a clear difference between perseverance and persistence. Persistence sometimes sort of indicates stubbornness when it's futile. In other words, you don't have a clear vision of where your technology fits in the world. You don't know whether it works or can work. You don't know whether there's a market for it, et cetera, et cetera, but you continue to persist when the ultimate goal is oftentimes futile. And entrepreneurs need to recognize, when an endeavor is gonna end in futility.
Clearly, ALung is not a futile effort, in terms of the technology and the place it has in treating respiratory failure. It could lead to futility if you can't continue to raise money. You brought up 80 million. It's actually, since I've been with the company, we brought in North of 100 million dollars in this company.
And thank God our investors in the region are supportive because they also understand the value of this technology in terms of the treatment of respiratory failure, including COVID 19. And by the way, COVID 19 will not be the last respiratory virus we ever deal with. And I've been telling that story for 10 years as well.
And not until COVID 19 comes along, do people realize, Oh my God, Pete knew what the hell he was talking about from the beginning. And so, you know, it stimulated interest in the company, but you've got to persevere. You can never, ever, you know, let the rejection that you receive as an entrepreneur deter you from the mission that you have in front of you.
And that's completing whatever the project is you happen to be working on. The other thing is, and it didn't come easily to me and I'm sure it doesn't come easy to most entrepreneurs, but you have to be open and Frank and conversive with your board of directors, your shareholders, those individuals that are taking money out of their pocket to fund you.
And you have to have credibility with those investors. So I've sort of practiced being an open book in my 30 year career as an entrepreneur, if you have a question as a shareholder or you have a question and as a potential shareholder, Do not hesitate to call me, do not hesitate to email me. I am always available to you.
And there's no dumb question. And look, it's frustrating for an investor, especially our early investors that have been in this company, writing checks for 22 years, to not have an exit at this point in time. And oftentimes certain investors will look at that experience of taking longer and costing more and attribute blame to the management team.
And my comeback to all of that, and my sort of response to that is that what you really need to look at in your management team and your CEO who who's formed that management team is what challenges have they been presented with? And have they mitigated risk worked or problem solved and worked around those challenges? Because it will always cost more and take longer than what you originally believe it will be.
And if I'm not mitigating risk, and if I'm not problem solving and getting around those challenges with my team, then you have something to pick on. Then you have something to criticize. Then you may need to consider getting rid of your CEO and some of your management team, butALung is a company that historically has been presented with so many regulatory challenges, so many funding challenges, so many technology challenges that if you're not a person who can persevere and work around those things, you'll have a hard time being successful as an entrepreneur.
Watson: And I would also imagine, you know, the $100 million raised for this, and the fact that you were recruited to join this company that was already in existence, and these investors knew that, or had the belief that you were someone who could execute speaks to the fact that some people were listening to you when you were talking 10 years ago, but also the track record that you had already built led to this opportunity.
So preceeding ALung, you'd helped build renal solutions for eight years, you raised $40 million there, a $200 million exit. So can you talk a little bit about what has been similar versus what's been different between those two experiences and how that kind of laid the groundwork for the position that you're now in?
DeComo: Sure. You know, when I started renal solutions, it was year 2000. And then you're probably too young to remember this, but some of your listeners may, but we were just coming out of the tech bubble burst thing at that point in time. And it caused a significant shift in how venture capital looked at investments, investments in technology, be it information technology or medical technology.
Very, very difficult time to raise money. There was a great contraction by venture capital in terms of raising money. And so I had to raise angel money at that point in time as well, but much less angel money that I've had the raise at ALung, and venture capital was quite different back in the early 2000s than it is now.
Venture capital to me means, it's a firm, an institution that's willing to take risk and invest early venture capital really doesn't mean that any longer. So to give you an example, my series, a round of investing that renal solutions was a syndicate of eight venture capital firms at $21 million in the company in a round based on a business plan without even a prototype of the technology at that point in time. You contrast that with ALung today, you can't raise venture capital money in an A round a B round or a C round. To be Frank about it, venture capital has become more growth, equity investment. In other words, they want to invest in you when your technology is far beyond proof of concept that you have FDA approval and you may have even have a revenue stream at that point in time.
And so life has changed when I joined ALung in 2009. You couldn't raise venture capital. Our entire A round was angel investors, high net worth individuals in the Pittsburgh region. And of the $100 million plus that I've helped to raise over the last 10 years, probably 65 to 70% of that is angel money, high net worth individuals, not venture capital.
Although we've had some smaller regional venture capital firms from the Western Pennsylvania area, Eastern Ohio area that have invested in us, but for the most part, it's been angel money. And, you know, most recently we've gotten some intention from strategic investors as well. So, you know, technologically, I would tell you both being extra corporeal devices.
The renal solutions device was much more complicated than the ALung device. And we got both CE Mark approval in Europe, and we also got FDA approval in the United States. And we were pre-revenue when a large strategic came in and bought us for $200 million. And, that will never happen today. We're much further along in terms of human use and validating safety and efficacy with the ALung device than we were with the renal solutions device, and yet we cannot attract strategic buyers primarily because we're not FDA approved yet, and we're not in the market yet. We'll gain a lot more interest once we are FDA approved and in the market. And that's why we struggle so hard to get there.
But, you know, back in the renal solutions days, You could find a strategic buyer on a pre-revenue basis on a, on a pre FDA basis, and in today's world, that's highly unlikely for that to happen. And things happen much quicker in the renal solutions days. From the time I raised my A round, which I'll never forget, entrepreneurs don't forget these things, I raised my round and we closed on November 27th , 2002 and the company was sold and the deal was closed on November 27th, 2007, five years to the day after we raised. And here at ALung we're 22 years old, and we still have not been acquired. And we have a much larger market, a much more developed technology than we did in those days, but it's the way the world works.
And we've got to deal with it. And that's again, why perseverance is so important as an entrepreneur, because who would have thought 22 years later, a valuable technology like this would still be struggling to get FDA approval and be acquired by a larger strategic.
Watson: That's wild, and it really says a lot about you and your entire team's composition to be able to continue to persevere through all that.
You've been so generous with your time. I want to get to our last couple of questions, but before we do that, you seem perfectly positioned to maybe create some more clarity around the larger, I don't know if we want to call it healthcare or biotech startup space, generally, not just because of the past companies that you've helped build and run and sell, but also your role with Pittsburgh life sciences greenhouse, which incubates other similar types of startups.
And I'm going to basically pause it. My hypothesis or my understanding from my vantage point. And then you can poke holes in it or tell me where I'm misaligned, but there's a lot of experimentation kind of in small labs or like universities where this stuff gets maybe funded, or kind of first developed in like an academic setting, it gets spun out, and you know, whether this is through university technology transfer or these other startups, or the professor that found it deciding, Hey, I want to try to commercialize this thing myself. But very, very few get through the FDA process and very few get the funding that they need to even see it through that entire arc.
But once they go to market, it is very likely that the end result will be something more like an acquisition by one of the large players in the space, perhaps as opposed to an IPO, because there's this real gap between like what even a relatively well capitalized startup can do from actual production distribution relationships, with all the different insurers and every nuance and nook and cranny of all these different markets, but simultaneously those large strategics.
Those large kind of players in this space, they can't necessarily take on the risk of trying to start something from its infancy through that process. So they leave those startups to kind of be the, the wild West, the Darwinistic evolution, like whatever comes up from the primordial ooze.
And then, you know, they compete with one another to pick off the most promising startups once they've made it through that kind of survival alley, so to speak.
DeComo: Yeah, yeah. Again, a very astute observation, Aaron. That gap that you talk about, we call the Valley of death and you know, that Valley of death can be just that for so many startups that, you know, spin out from the bench, whether it be a university or an R and D house somewhere. You know, one of the issues that we deal with here in the Pittsburgh region that has been present for decades, going all the way back to the late nineties and early two thousands is the lack of capital. And that creates that Valley of death. We don't have a strong venture capital community here in the Pittsburgh area. The support infrastructure is extremely positive.
I mean, you've got the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne, these organizations, are in the creative process, in the innovation process. And they want to get these technologies patented, licensed, and spawn out, they've got executives and residents that support young entrepreneurs.
Many of these executives and residents become entrepreneurs, spin these companies out and they take them out. Yeah, the one of the other strong attributes of the Pittsburgh region is there's early stage money. You can find grant money from the state. You can find early investment from organizations like Pittsburgh life sciences greenhouse innovations works and others, but it's beyond that where the Valley of death comes in because you can find this early stage money, but oftentimes that early stage money isn't enough to get you through the evolutionary process, and to a point where that strategic is interested in investing in you or that venture capital firm is interested in investing in you. And that's where a stronger base of venture capital in the region would be helpful, and there are some new venture capital firms that have been formed.
They're smaller in nature, but they're there. The Pittsburgh life sciences greenhouse has a venture fund. Innovation works as a venture fund. Blue tree angels has a venture fund, but we need more and we need larger venture firms. Without them what we're reliant on in Pittsburgh is having to attract money from the East coast or the West coast.
And that's very challenging to do. Some do it, but most don't. And, you know, venture capital firms like to be close to home, they like to be close to the companies they're involved with. It takes a very differentiated technology with a very large market to attract big venture capital into Pittsburgh and other metropolitan areas.
And that's where the Valley of death comes in. So there, there are good technologies to great technologies that are dying on the vine. Because they're stuck in this Valley of death and they can't raise more money. And then the other problem, Aaron, is that because strategics have moved so far later stage in acquiring a company, they may invest sooner, but they've moved so far later stage in a corner or your company.
They don't want to take on the burn, the cash burn that the company has, especially if they're involved in large clinical trials. And if they're a publicly traded strategic, they don't want that to affect their earnings per share. So they would rather invest in you, help you develop the technology, build the infrastructure, get you to market, and then acquire you later on when you're revenue producing.
And again, that sort of contributes to the Valley of death because you gotta be able to get to the point where that strategic has some interest in you and is willing to invest in you. To bring that product into their portfolio of products, which could be beneficial to them in terms of enhancing their revenue in future years.
And you've got to find the right company as well. You've got to find a company where your product is synergistic to the product portfolio that they already have. And that's sometimes not easy to do. The good thing for us, as life sciences companies and medical device companies in general. Is that a lot of these strategics do not have strong R and D pipelines.
So they're relying on companies like ALung to be the innovators in the world, and they're willing to help you get to a certain point and then acquire you at the right time. The R and D pipelines, even though these companies are typically strong in terms of the cash they have on the balance sheet, for whatever reasons, not many of these companies are investing in R and D and innovation. And one of the things about entrepreneurial based companies like ALung is we typically can move a lot faster. We have less bureaucracy, the development process happens faster. The regulatory process seems to happen faster.
And so a lot of these larger strategics, like to keep the small company separate and distinct and allow them to go through their process, and get to market much faster than they can do it internally.
Watson: Makes sense. I'm glad that people like you are doing this type of work, and it does seem like, you know, if it is that COVID breaks the dam that hopefully changes some of the speed or the attention, or the appetite for capital will be allocated these spaces, I guess that's, you know, maybe the silver lining or the opportunity that comes from a problem like this, that gives me some hope. Maybe that's just youthful naivete, and I'll get that beaten out of me in time.
But Pete, I do appreciate you coming on the show and I do want to ask our standard last two questions. Anything else though, that you were hoping to share that I didn't give you a chance to?
DeComo: Yeah. You know, I like to always point out to entrepreneurs, not only should you persevere, but also always remember that your, your best teacher is your last mistake.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes. That's what entrepreneurship is all about. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. If they were easy to create an artificial lung, there'd be thousands of companies out there doing it. You know, don't be afraid to make a mistake. It will help you move through the process much quicker.
Watson: Amen. Well, for folks that want to keep up to date with ALung, with you, Pete, where can we point them in the digital world to do so?
DeComo: Well, you can certainly go to our website, which is www.alung.com. And my email is first initial P for Pete. Last name Decoma D E C O M PDeComo@Alung.com.
Watson: Awesome. We're going to link that in the show notes. You can find it for this and every episode of the show in the podcast app, you're probably listening to this right now, or at goingdeepwithaaron.com/podcast. In those show notes, we have a bunch of other characters around the Pittsburgh medical scenes, so we've spoken with Matt Kessinger from Forrest devices. We've spoken with Dr. Gordon Vanscoy from Panther Rare pharmaceuticals. Those episodes will pair nicely with the conversation we just had with Pete. But before I let you go, Pete, I want to give you the mic one final time to issue an actionable personal challenge for the audience.
DeComo: Don't be afraid to take some risk. I got to be an entrepreneur in the circuitous way. But don't be afraid to take some risk and, and start your entrepreneurial ship career much earlier than I did. And, for me, I worked in a lot of big companies before I decided to be an entrepreneur, and before the term entrepreneurship was popular, but get out there and do it. If you've got an interest in a passion in creating something, go do it. And if I can help you in any way, don't feel hesitant to contact me.
Watson: Beautiful. And I think that your career epitomizes that same idea of the stair-step approach, where you kind of build a little bit of a competency, you're able to stomach a little more risk, and then you kind of understand how to hit that next level.
Once you've gotten that under your feet, but you'll never get to the third step without hitting the first in the exactly. Awesome. Well, Pete, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I learned a ton from speaking with you. I really appreciate you sharing some time.
DeComo: Well thank you, man. It was a pleasure. Take care and stay safe out there.
Watson: We just went deep with Pete DeComo, hope everyone out there has a fantastic day.