SPOTLIGHT on Astia Entrepreneur
Opportunity is around every corner—how a lot of hard work and a little luck has built Zenflow—one step at a time.
Shreya Mehta is the CTO and Co-Founder of Zenflow, a medical device startup that’s creating ground-breaking advancements in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH - enlarged prostate).
Shreya is a female entrepreneur helping to build a company that creates a product to better men’s health. How she ended up in this field is an interesting journey.
Shreya is a biomedical engineer by training but fell into the field quite by accident. She always loved engineering, as she enjoyed taking things apart and figuring out how things worked. But she also found biology interesting, so it was this combination of engineering and biology that she would eventually
pursue “I was one of those kids that would take the toaster apart and get in trouble with my mom,” she says. “With biology it was a little more elusive and I found that attractive too.” So, becoming a biomedical engineer and learning how to engineer a device that would address a biological and health problem seemed like a natural fit.
After college, Shreya worked at St. Jude Medical, where her interest in biomechanics heightened. She later accepted a job at the FDA as a lead reviewer, where she was responsible for evaluating medical devices for approval or denial. This turned into a fortuitous experience as it taught her what new
companies had to go through in order to have devices approved by the FDA, an experience that would later be helpful to her as she embarked on getting her own company’s devices approved by the FDA.
After a few years at the FDA, Shreya heard about the Biodesign Innovation Fellowship Program at Stanford and decided to apply. Every year the Biodesign Fellowship focuses on a different clinical area of study, and the year she attended the focus was on Urology and Nephrology. This was a whole new
clinical area for Shreya as up until then her interest was in the cardiovascular area, so it meant that she had a lot of learning to do.
It was at Stanford that Shreya met her future business partner (and co-founder of Zenflow) Nick Damiano. Nick and Shreya were teammates in the fellowship program, and this is where they both learned about benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). “We found at Stanford that there was an opportunity to help patients that were suffering from these symptoms but didn’t want to undergo
invasive surgery” she said. “We developed a solution that was minimally invasive for patients suffering from this condition.”
With Shreya as the technical expert and with Nick’s previous experience launching a company, the next step, naturally, was to form a company and take their device to market. In July, 2014, Nick and Shreya bootstrapped their company with Nick’s garage being Zenflow’s prestigious headquarters, until they
finally moved to an office in South San Francisco in 2015
Funding had been an issue for the new company, but as luck would have it Shreya met someone who introduced her to an investor at Astia. After speaking with the investor, Shreya applied to Astia and went through the steps of Astia’s Expert Sift™ program. Shreya did her first presentation to investors via webcast, and then made it to the next step, an in-person presentation to the Astia investors.
The investors were supportive and excited about Zenflow’s product and the company’s future. Shreya secured funding for their seed round through Astia and they were on their way. Since that first round of funding, Shreya and Nick have been back to present to Astia Angels when they were looking for
additional funding, and Astia has always come through for them. She feels as though she’s built a community around Astia, and has enjoyed meeting and learning from other Astia entrepreneurs.
What’s ahead for Zenflow?
The company is up to 10 people now, and is prepping for a 200-person study in the US. They’re also launching a multi-national European 40-50 patient trial. Exciting times lie ahead. The path that has led to Shreya’s current success has been fueled by a lot of learning, perseverance, and a little luck. From her early interest in biomedical engineering to learning how to navigate the path of
FDA approvals while working there, to studying urology and nephrology at the Stanford fellowship, using her technical skills to develop a groundbreaking device to help men dealing with BPH, and jumpstarting her company’s funding through Astia, each step has taken Shreya further along this road to success.
As a woman who once road her bike from San Francisco to LA and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the launching of Zenflow has also been an exciting journey professionally for her. A journey that she has taken one step at a time. As Shreya puts it “You have to have the endurance to take it a step at a time and understand that if you put the work in now, then you’ll reach your goal eventually.”
~Blog post written by BrandLightning