January 6, 2016

Local group invests in drowning-prevention device

Virginia Business
by Joan Tupponce

SEAL Innovations swimmerAfter seeing children die from drowning, Dr. Graham Snyder knew he had to do something to help prevent this type of tragedy. “I think what is so tough about it for me as a dad and an emergency-room physician is that, unlike most of the death we see in the ER, this is so preventable,” he says. “This is most often a perfectly healthy kid who was out having fun and suddenly his or her life is snuffed out.”

Snyder’s company, SEAL Innovation, makes SEAL SwimSafe, a monitor worn by swimmers. The necklace-style device displays a strobe light and sounds a siren if the swimmer seems to be in distress under water. The same signals appear on a device either worn or carried by an adult.

“I simply started the company about seven-and-a-half years ago as an idea for a solution,” he says, noting that moving the product from a rough prototype to mass production has been challenging.

The company, based in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park, received a boost in April 2014 from The Launch Place in Danville, an organization trying to grow employment in Southern Virginia. The Launch Place originally invested $250,000 from its seed fund in the company and later added another $100,000.

“We have the chance to invest a potential extra $100,000 in the company if it is doing well,” says Eva Doss, the president and CEO of The Launch Place. “The money goes toward finishing product development. That’s what we did with SEAL.”

Companies receiving Launch Place investments must commit to creating during a three-year period at least five jobs in Danville paying salaries of $50,000 or more. “SEAL is scaling up and hiring. They already have two people in Danville,” Doss says.

SEAL was referred to The Launch Place by a member of its seed fund advisory board. “We went through a due-diligence process,” Doss says. “This is a product that is needed, and the company has an excellent management team. It’s a good fit.”