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San Antonio Business Journal - W. Scott Bailey AirStrip

Technologies Inc. has secured $30 million in equity funding from Menlo Park, Calif.-based Sequoia Capital. Dr. Cameron Powell, president and co-founder of AirStrip, confirms the investment, which is revealed in documents the company filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and says the backing from the prominent venture capital firm will boost the San Antonio-based medical software developer’s efforts to expand its reach nationally and internationally.

AirStrip expects to double the size of its staff as a result of the Sequoia support but still keep its headquarters in San Antonio. If the company achieves the level of growth company officials expect, it would represent a major boost for the Alamo City’s emerging bioscience industry.

“Sequoia is a premier VC (venture capital) firm,” Powell says. “They have a portfolio of the most successful companies in the world. They have vast experience in companies at all stages and they have a lot of experience in helping to guide companies toward the next level.

“The funding helps us ensure that we can grow the business and take advantage of the opportunities before us,” he adds. AirStrip officials say they have focused on an area of concern in health care where they can offer a unique solution, providing hospitals and medical professionals with the wireless delivery of remote patient-monitoring data retrievable on digital devices such as BlackBerries and iPhones.

“In the U.S., the No. 1 cause of patient injury in a hospital is communication errors,” Powell contends. “What we are trying to do is close that communication gap by delivering the critical visual data that a physician or nurse has to see if they are temporarily away from the bedside and need to make a decision.”

Broader reach

Powell says some 250 U.S. hospitals are already using AirStrip OB, a product which allows a physician to monitor an obstetric patients’ vital data — such as fetal heartbeat and maternal contraction patterns — in virtual real-time from a mobile wireless device.

Late last month, the Business Journal reported that AirStrip had entered into a collaborative deal with Alere Health LLC, an Altanta-based company that provides clients with an array of health management services. As a result of that partnership, Alere’s Women & Children’s Health division will begin marketing AirStrip OB to its health care provider network.

“Alere supported more than 225,000 pregnancies in 2009 and our collaboration with AirStrip Technologies will empower us to expand into new areas of in-patient and home care management,” says Gregg Raybuck, president of Alere’s Women’s & Children’s Health.

“This is a huge partnership and it brings us into the home health space for obstetrics,” Powell explains.

But he says AirStrip wants to expand its reach into the “broader in-patient monitoring space — the ICU, the emergency department, the operating room.”

Powell says that expansion could draw interest from “hundreds of thousands” of potential product users in the U.S. alone.

“We’re now focused on monitoring per bed,” he says. “You may have one patient in an ICU, but you could have 12 people taking care of him.”

Powell says his company has received a clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market AirStrip RPM (Remote Patient Monitoring) CRITICAL CARE and AirStrip RPM CARDIOLOGY. That clearance paves the way for AirStrip to extend its remote patient monitoring technology to a much larger audience.

“That’s a huge deal because the demand is big,” says Powell about the FDA clearance and the opportunity to extend AirStrip’s reach. “It gives us a lot of competitive advantages.”

Billion-dollar company

Karutz Flavin Wells Investment Bankers, which provides mergers and acquisition, private placement and advisory services to middle market companies and larger corporate clients, says it raised the seed capital for AirStrip a couple of years ago and co-brokered the recent Sequoia deal with Shattuck Hammond, a division of Morgan Keegan.

“Sequoia’s investment provides the capital to really accelerate AirStrip’s growth, allowing for a broader and more immediate impact on the U.S. and overseas health care systems,” says KFW’s George Karutz. “As importantly, Sequoia brings its deep experience, knowledge and key contacts that are extremely valuable to a high-growth company like AirStrip.”

Patrick Tobin, managing partner for Jackson Walker LLP’s San Antonio law office, says Sequoia’s investment in AirStrip represents a “strong endorsement from one of the most savvy investors around.”

Says Tobin, whose areas of expertise include corporate, securities, energy and technology law: “Sequoia is among the leading venture capital firms in the world. They invested in Google and in Rackspace at an early stage.”

Tobin says AirStrip could face some challenges from competitors attempting to capitalize on its technologies. But he expects that the San Antonio company will aggressively defend and protect its turf and work to position itself as a “dominant market leader.”

Back in May, the Business Journal reported that San Antonio-based BiO2 Medical Inc. had undertaken a $7.5 million private equity offering. BiO2 said it planned to use those funds to secure a CE Mark in Europe and FDA approval here in the U.S. so that it could sell and distribute its Angel Vena Cava Filter Catheter medical device.

“The snowball seems to be rolling down the hill faster now,” says York Duncan, president of the Texas Research & Technology Foundation, about increased outside investment in San Antonio’s bioscience industry.

He says the AirStrip funding especially represents another step in building a “critical mass” of growth-driven players in that multibillion-dollar industry.

Powell says Sequoia’s investment will allow AirStrip to hire more personnel, including product developers, and to grow its sales staff. He says prior to receiving the commitment from Sequoia, AirStrip employed about 32 people.

“We’ll be doubling the size of the company pretty rapidly,” he says. “I imagine by the end of 2011, we can easily be at 70 or 80 people.”

Powell says AirStrip plans to keep its headquarters in San Antonio. But it may need larger digs to accommodate the expected growth.

Trey Moore, co-founder of AirStrip and its chief technology officer, created a software development platform, AppPoint, that is the backbone of the company’s mobile applications effort. Moore, who describes that platform as the engine that is driving the company’s growth opportunities, says, “We don’t see any limits to this, even beyond health care. This technology can be used in other arenas as well.”

Says Powell, “I want this to be a billion-dollar company. There is a huge global market opportunity. The burden is now on us to go out there and capitalize on all of this, to take advantage of the opportunities."

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