While dining at a Chinese restaurant with his vice president of sales, Buzz Peddicord got an interesting message.
“A wacky invention will lead to your success,” the fortune cookie said.
Several weeks later, in late February, the Brookfield entrepreneur received clearance from federal regulators to begin marketing what he says is the world’s only inflatable female incontinence device that provides quantitative data about the user’s progress to the physician.
InTone is a rose-colored device that looks like a curling iron and costs $595. It is designed to stimulate the pelvic floor muscles to contract, which strengthens them. Weak muscles can be a cause of incontinence.
InControl Medical LLC has raised $3.2 million from six angel investors and some service providers to develop and market the product, said Peddicord, who founded InControl in 2010.
InControl has 19 employees and is planning to double its production staff by adding 12 employees by the end of March, Peddicord said. The company also hopes to hire 20 to 25 national salespeople by the end of the year, he said.
At least 20 million women in the U.S. suffer from urine leakage, said Jeanette Tries, director of therapy services at the Aurora Women’s Pavilion Continence and Pelvic Floor Disorders Center.
“There’s a place for this device in the clinic and it will be useful for many forms of incontinence,” said Tries, who went from being a skeptic to a consultant for InControl.
After receiving instructions from their doctor, patients take the device home and use it for 10 minutes a day. Biofeedback, electro-stimulation and voice-controlled education teach InTone users how to exercise their pelvic floor muscles and monitor the progress they’re making.
“Some people are more responsive than others, but generally it fixes the problem within 90 days,” Peddicord said.
There are competing products out there, but they either have to be used in a doctor’s office or are so complicated they’re dangerous to use at home, he said.
The biggest risk InControl faces is the possibility a big company could come up with a competing product and have deep enough pockets to outspend InControl on marketing, said Steve Barth, a lawyer at Foley and Lardner who has invested in InControl.
“But there’s nothing like this – that’s what’s exciting about it,” Barth said.
Peddicord has an undergraduate degree in anatomy and physiology and worked for many years in the medical device industry before founding HomMed LLC in 1999. He sold the provider of home health tele-monitoring equipment to Honeywell in 2004 for $128 million.
Peddicord’s other entrepreneurial venture wasn’t as successful. In 2007 he launched BoomerTowne.com, a website that provided information on health, travel and other topics. The site was named one of PC Magazine’s “Top 10 Sites for Baby Boomers” in 2008, but later that year Peddicord shut it down. He and his investors sued Laughlin/Constable Inc., which built and marketed the site, saying the Milwaukee advertising agency misled them and failed to act in the company’s best interest. Laughlin/Constable denied any blame. The dispute ended in a confidential settlement.
Back to making medical devices, Peddicord said his new product has a big potential market and he’s expecting demand to be high.
“At HomMed we had to buck a lot of trends,” Peddicord said. “This is a market waiting for a solution.”