The hot University of Wisconsin-Madison startup Tasso was launched by bright entrepreneur, and my tech-savvy nephew – Ben Casavant. Tasso is developing a cutting edge blood-sampling device, the HemoLink, which enables people to easily collect a sample of blood at home and mail it to the laboratory for analysis.
Tasso’s the brainchild of Ben Casavant and Erwin Berthier, Biomedical PHD graduates from UW – Madison who were introduced in the lab. The duo brought in seasoned veteran Ben Moga (also an alum). Although Ben recently played an integral role in two previous startups, it is still very early in his career.
Casavant and Erwin developed the product “in the basement” three years ago but didn’t fully launch Tasso until a little over a year ago, when Casavant completed his PHD thesis and could devote time to this venture. Their product was inspired by their looking at the industry in broad terms for where there were universal problems with administering healthcare. What came from their discussions was a product that was a revolutionary self administered blood collection system, placing the user at the center of the diagnostic process. Patients are able to sample their own blood with a device that is safe, simple, convenient, and cost efficient. They did their due diligence to determine viability, doing extensive research on who were the players in the marketplace and how were they positioned; they also determined their strategy for differentiation.
There have been many developments since their inception. When they approached Moga to be a part of their team, Casavant and Berthier knew he had a depth in product launching that would give them a business acumen dimension necessary to round out their team. Moga was instrumental in developing their business structure; bylaws, and articles of incorporation, along with their advisory board. UW – Madison has one of the best engineering programs in the country and offers its students free legal clinics for advice and patent development. Tasso took full advantage of the service; they have a patent fully established and are beginning to expand.
From a product-idea standpoint Casavant uses the term “disruptive” to describe his theory on products that are launched by startups.
“You have to be 2.5 products ahead of those competitors that are well established and have money,” he says. “[You must keep] imagining new ways of doing things and trying [them] out.”
Tasso is now a 7-person company that is well positioned to be nimble and competitive. But every day they have to be on the lookout for their idea to hit that wall, where their product is no longer viable.
My nephew sums up his first year in business as a whirlwind experience with no guarantees.
“There will always be naysayers out there who will tell you that your offering isn’t going to work. It’s important to keep the proper perspective, having perseverance, knowing who to listen to and/or not, and that product timing is critical. “Build it and they will come” can be an elusive goal when many factors are unknown in the startup business.”
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Vantage Point is led by Jay Casavant, who founded the firm in 2007 after being in the high tech recruitment business for 22 years.