POBA and Symple Surgical

Dan Kasprzyk, founder and CEO of medical device companies POBA Medical and Symple Surgical, left, stands with catheter engineer Bryce Igo in POBA's 1,500-square-foot medical clean room at NACET's Flagstaff Business Accelerator in April. The company is one of several biotech startups in Flagstaff.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun

Two former Gore employees who went on to start their own ventures in Flagstaff said they took valuable lessons from their time with the company that they have incorporated into their own businesses.

Rob Kellar spent five years as a product specialist with Gore before going on to found the Flagstaff-based biomedical consulting firm Development Engineering Sciences.

“I never knew really anything about business and marketing until I showed up at Gore. It was an on-the-job MBA,” Kellar said. He said he has carried over several elements from Gore's operations to his consulting firm, including the company's collaborative spirit and end user-driven model of product development.

“A simple way of saying it is not all good ideas make good products. It isn't until you have the end user's input, it’s not until it is in patients or people’s lives are being saved or helped that you know if you have a good product or not,” he said.

Gore has not only indirectly spawned other companies like his, Kellar said, but has also stimulated other startups in the bioscience sector.

"Having an anchor like Gore to stimulate that entrepreneurial spirit is huge. Little guys look at that and say ‘they were little too at some time,’” he said. “They're absolutely an encouragement to other companies that decided to stay put or decided to start in Flagstaff.”

On a side note, Kellar, who also holds faculty positions in biological sciences and mechanical engineering at Northern Arizona University, said Gore has a long history of funding student research projects, specifically mechanical engineering capstone projects.

Dan Kasprzyk, who worked at Gore for three years, said it was a key concession from the company that even enabled him to start his first business in Flagstaff, Machine Solutions, in 1999. Through a settlement agreement that came out of a patent dispute, Gore allowed Machine Solutions to pay royalties for limited use of a technology critical for his company to be able to exist, Kasprzyk said.

"Without that concession I would have been out looking for a job somewhere in California," he said.

After he left Machine Solutions in 2014, Kasprzyk went on to found medical device companies Poba Medical and Symple Surgical, both based in Flagstaff.

Those startups are in a different league than a company like Gore, making it hard to keep up a similar workplace culture or business principles, Kasprzyk said. 

"There's no work/life balance when an entrepreneur branches out on their own," he wrote in an email. "However, creating a fun culture where business success and value creation is rewarded company wide is an important element that I experienced at Gore and tried to carry with me."

Emery Cowan can be reached at (928) 556-2250 or ecowan@azdailysun.com

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Emery Cowan writes about science, health and the environment for the Arizona Daily Sun, covering everything from forest restoration to endangered species recovery efforts.

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