An innovator’s journey from idea to market can be challenging and complicated – but also rewarding. Our Innovator Spotlight series explores how inventor-entrepreneurs in our network have evolved since they started their journey. Our goal is to share key learnings and best practices with early-stage science and technology inventors embarking on a path of innovation and entrepreneurship. Our latest Innovator Spotlight is Blake Dubé, CEO and Co-Founder of Aeronics, Inc. Dubé is an E-Team grantee and ASPIRE participant. The company developed a portable and easy-to-use oxygen therapy device that provides a safe, low-pressure supply of medical oxygen.
What was the inspiration behind your innovation?
As a chemical engineering student, I wanted to use my research expertise to make an impact. I was investigating gas storage and the cutting-edge materials that can make the process more efficient. It seemed that a lot of the research in the field was dedicated to energy sources such as hydrogen and natural gas for next generation fuels. Oxygen, a gas with applications in healthcare, space travel, and manufacturing, was largely neglected. Having seen the large oxygen tanks that people carry around to manage respiratory disease, I thought there was an opportunity to substantially improve people’s lives with a smaller, lighter oxygen tank. I went to my soon-to-be co-founder, Mark Spitz, who worked with respiratory disease patients at the Center for COPD in Pittsburgh. He shared the vision immediately, having seen first hand how impactful a more portable oxygen supply could be.
How has your mission evolved?
Since we started, we have expanded our mission to help people across the entire spectrum of lung function. Our first product, Everyday Oxygen, is a non-prescription oxygen supply that can be used to alleviate altitude sickness, bolster mental clarity, and improve endurance. We’re working on our medical product, which will allow prescribed individuals to use smaller, portable oxygen equipment.
Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
Listened to advice. We’ve pitched our idea to a lot of people—and received a lot of feedback. I now pay more attention to that advice. I even use a notebook to get more out of those interactions. I review my notes after the discussion to uncover something that might not have been apparent in the moment.
Throughout your journey, what’s been your most valuable skill?
Clearly communicating our idea and vision to investors, customers, partners, and other stakeholders along the way has been critical.
What advice do you have for other student inventors?
Don’t operate in a vacuum. As an engineer, I have a tendency to want to solve problems on my own, even when it’s not the most efficient approach. Take advantage of resources both on and off campus to help you learn faster. That means talking with customers, mentors, community members, and other founders and inventors. These conversations often lead to solutions and opportunities that you may not encounter on your own.
What’s next for you?
We’re launching our first product, Everyday Oxygen, in just a few months. That means growing our team to manage sales and marketing while we continue to bring our second product to market in the medical oxygen space.
Watch a video of Blake Dubé highlighting the benefit of the VentureWell E-Team program.