Alli Truttmann, CEO of Wicked Technologies, is on a mission to solve an extremely painful and costly problem among the elderly and their caregivers: bed sores. Perhaps better known as pressure ulcers, these sores are made much worse by a person’s incontinence and lack of a timely response from caregivers. When I met Alli, she shared the story of her grandma, Shirley, and how it inspired her to create the Wicked-Smart Pad™, a solution that has the potential to bring dignity and dryness back to the elderly and enable for responsive care. I invited Alli to a VisionTech Angels Screening Committee. The group immediately saw the potential and invited her to present at our October 26 pitch events. Here’s a preview.
BP: How did you find out about VisionTech Angels?
AT: I was working with Elevate Ventures and participating in one of their life sciences pitch competitions. Knowing how strong Indiana’s life sciences ecosystem is, particularly medical device and drug discovery, I asked Elevate if there were angel groups in the state that might be interested in investing in my company. The first group out of their mouth was VisionTech Angels. Meeting Ben and learning more about the group’s members and expertise, I knew it was the perfect group to engage with.
BP: Tell me a little about yourself and your background as an entrepreneur.
AT: I went to college to become a child psychologist working with kids on the spectrum. After tearing my ACL playing indoor soccer, I realized I would not be able to do active physical therapy with kids—I’m a get down on the floor kind of therapist. So I had to find something else. I pivoted to health care when I began having night sweats. Realizing there had to be a better option than regular sheets, I developed moisture wicking sheets and founded Wicked Sheets, LLC, in 2008.
I’ve always been close to my grandma, Shirley Truttman. In her 90s, she suffered from dementia, mild incontinence and bedsores. She also had very sensitive skin, which was aggravated by the moisture of incontinence. So I got her on Wicked Sheets to help keep her dry. Unfortunately, she died from incontinence-related bedsores at age 94 in 2017. See grandma and grandpa suffer through this inspired me find a better solution for elderly people, their families and caregivers.
BP: Where did the idea for Wicked Technologies come from?
AT: I have to give COVID some credit here. Because of supply chain issues caused by COVID, I had sheets sitting on ships off the coast of California. Wanting to keep my team busy, we started working on an incontinence pad. I even filed a patent on the idea without the technology. I had a friend who was an entrepreneur in residence at the University of Louisville. There was a professor who had a wearable sensor to detect sweat. Sweat’s a lot like urine. I thought, ‘Why can’t we use this sensor to detect urine and help stop moisture-related bed sores?’ So I applied for an SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and was awarded $500,000. I put Wicked Sheets on pause, and it was off to the races with Wicked Technologies and the Wicked-Smart Pad.
BP: How big is the problem?
AT: Huge! Incontinence in older adults is very common. It’s estimated 13 million live with incontinence. One in ten will develop incontinence-related bedsores from urine, which is very acidic and painful on thinning skin. From a financial perspective, the cost of bed sore treatment is estimated to be $39 billion. And that doesn’t include the 17,000 annual lawsuits over bedsores.
BP: Explain your solution.
AT: The Wicked-Smart Pad is designed for senior care facilities, with future versions for aging in place and hospice It is a washable, dryable pad with sensors that detect in real time a moisture event and sends an alert to the caregiver. This alert goes to a dashboard of choice: nurses’ station desktop, smart phone or tablet. A second alert is sent to ensure a timely response of cleaning the person up, changing undergarments or diaper, and replacing the pad. The soiled pad is laundered for reuse. What’s impressive is the sensors detect can detect as little as one ounce of urine in less than 15 seconds.
There are a number of benefits. First, quicker response to incontinence events that helps avoid a person lying or sitting in urine-soaked garments or beds. Second, it is so much easier to replace a pad than it is to strip, sanitize, and remake a bed after an incontinence event. It’s also safer for the patient. Third, the data from monitoring patients and the frequency and volume of their events is invaluable to understanding their conditions and care needs. Also, communications are encrypted and wirelessly transmitted. Watch a demo here.
BP: Do you have intellectual property protection?
AT: We have one non-provisional patent, two provisional patents, an exclusive option with the University of Louisville Research Foundation and another that we are considering.
BP: Where are you in terms of commercialization?
AT: We’ve got a lot going on. We’re working with regulatory and quality management consultants on our FDA clearance and manufacturing controls. We’re pursuing an FDA approval as a Class 1 medical device, which is 510(k) exempt. We think that will take five to six months to clear. We’ve hired a quality consultant in Indianapolis who came highly recommended. We’re also working on our reimbursement code.
What’s very exciting is we have an active NIH pilot in Louisville with an Atria Senior Living and have two-paid pilots with Atria Senior Living scheduled to begin in the next several months.
BP: What’s your go to market strategy?
AT: We are learning a lot with our current pilot. A key validation is a 300% improvement in staff response time to incontinence events. Once the three scheduled pilots are completed and we have our FDA clearance, reimbursement code and manufacturing processes locked in, we will be ready to scale. In 2024, that includes implementing across Atria Senior Living’s portfolio of 370 communities. Followed in 2025 with implementations at Glennis Solutions properties. They currently have more than 1,000 communities in their portfolio. We’ll also start looking at a new category, assisted living communities, for additional expansion.
BP: Any competitors? How are you different?
AT: There are a lot of incontinence management products on the market, the most recognizable being adult diapers. Most, however, are single use, do not have sensor capabilities or monitoring, and are more about capturing urine rather than detecting when a person urinates. The Wicked-Smart Pad is truly tech-enabled with real-time detection and monitoring, caregiver alerts, being wireless, and finally reusable through simple laundering. Finally, it takes five minutes to change our pad versus the 45 minutes it takes to clean up a person, change their clothes, and sanitize and remake a bed.
BP: What round is this?
AT: This is a Series A round with the goal of raising $1.58 million This gives us 16 months of runway, and potentially more based on sales.
BP: What is your planned use of funds?
AT: Half of what’s raised will go to building our inventory. Another 25% will go to continuing product development and the rest to salaries and selling, general and administrative expenses.
BP: Why should VisionTech Angels members invest in Wicked Technologies.
AT: First, when you look at the comfort, health and dignity of the elderly coupled with labor shortages in the senior care space, the need for a high-impact, technology-enabled solution is great. Second, I’ve spent the last 14 years developing high performance wicking fabrics that I’m now enhancing with sensor technology. Third, we have a clear path ahead with our pilots and roll-out strategy in 2024-2025. Lastly, our approach to developing the Wicked-Smart Pad has been to go to senior living stakeholders and ask patient care directors what they need and build to those needs.
VisionTech Angels’ Virtual Pitch Events will be held Thursday, October 26 at Noon and 6 p.m. ET. Pitch events are open to our members and accredited investors interested in joining our group. To register, check your email for an invitation, go to our Events page where you’ll find event information and the RSVP links. You can also email Ben Pidgeon at email@example.com.