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Combining Passions: A Spotlight on Andrews Launch Accelerator Startup

Portrait of Irina Perdew

At the beginning of her veterinary school career, Irina Perdew was struck with an idea: a pneumatic compression device designed specifically for horses. Her vision – now a reality – is the flagship device for Vetletics, a research and development organization of veterinary products for the medical and athletic sectors. 

Perdew, a doctorate of veterinary medicine candidate at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), started the company to improve animal health and enhance athletic recovery to maximize performance.

She dreamt of Vetletics’ flagship device after learning of a colleague’s experience with human pneumatic compression devices. This led her to begin researching the importance of lymphatic systems. “I soon realized that no such device existed in the veterinary world and began to consider how one might alleviate issues common in horses,” Perdew says. 

Perdew’s colleague connected her with Mego Afek, the manufacturer of the human device. 

“As we began to discuss commercializing pneumatic compression devices for the animal space, it became apparent that this vision could be fulfilled with veterinary expertise,” she says.

Perdew brought her idea to Dr. Lauren Schnabel, associate professor of equine orthopedic surgery at NC State’s CVM. Schnabel has been involved in equine research for more than 15 years and is board certified in both the American College of Veterinary Surgery and the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. 

“Her excitement about the possibility of an equine pneumatic compression device convinced me to move forward with it,” Perdew says. “So with the help of my classmate Aryn Krueger, I began to develop drawings and put my thoughts on paper.” 

After meeting with Dr. Matthew Breen, NC State professor of genomics, and Oscar J. Fletcher Distinguished Professor of comparative oncology genetics in the CVM, Perdew realized just how innovative her idea was.

“Dr. Breen immediately advised me to work with NC State’s Office of Research Commercialization to file a patent,” Perdew says. “I truly felt that I was creating something unique.”

As Perdew moved forward in developing and distributing the device, she began to realize its larger implications. 

“The further I went, the bigger it seemed – and it evolved into the dream of starting a business that involves other animals as well,” Perdew says. “While I have always been an entrepreneur at heart, it took me almost two years to realize this product is the perfect segue into my dream of combining two passions of mine – veterinary care and business.”

To bring her vision to life, Perdew formed a team for her start-up, including Barak Hoffer, CEO of Mego Afek, and doctorate of veterinary medicine candidate Ali Schubert – as well as two of her first supporters, Schnabel and Breen. 

“We have a terrific team and a phenomenal product,” Perdew says. “And I truly believe that the product can revolutionize the veterinary athletic and medical sectors.”

To maximize that potential, Vetletics applied for the Andrews Launch Accelerator, a 14-week summer program designed to help NC State entrepreneurs take their startups to the next level. The Accelerator also allocates equity-free seed capital to startups that complete the program.

Anyone can start a business, but it is a challenge to develop and sustain a successful one

“Anyone can start a business, but it is a challenge to develop and sustain a successful one,” Perdew says. “The Accelerator program is a once in a lifetime opportunity to network and learn from experts as we structure and plan our business – and I know it will help us avoid common pitfalls so that we don’t waste our opportunity to impact these veterinary sectors.”

As Perdew navigates the various challenges associated with building a business, she also does so with a language barrier. Perdew, who spent most of her life in Kyrgyzstan and Germany, moved to the United States when she was 24 years old. “Though I’m very conversational in English, I’m finding that the language of the business world is another one altogether,” Perdew says. “Because it’s a new language within a foreign language, I find it very difficult.”

As she tackles these challenges head-on, Perdew draws on the lessons learned in her time at NC State.

“NC State has taught me that I can ‘think and do’ the extraordinary,” Perdew says. “Plus, I have access to a breadth of technical and business expertise.”

This post was originally published in Poole College of Management News.