March 4, 2019
Sometimes the toughest losses come from the softest opponents. Luis Romo ’10, G’12 still remembers the day his light-based disinfection technology lost to a pillow company at an on-campus student entrepreneurship competition.
Romo had developed a disruptive way to deliver and digitally monitor automated light-based medical equipment disinfection as a Syracuse University graduate student, but was still deciding where he could go with it. With support from advisers at SU and in the biomedical industry, Romo forged ahead and put together an entry for the New York State Business Plan competition in 2011.
“I had negative twenty seven dollars and got a ticket on the way to the competition,” said Romo. “I thought it was the worst day ever.”
After a tough start, that day turned out to be one of the best in Romo’s life. He won the New York State Business Plan competition and a $40,000 prize that allowed him to pursue his business dreams. Today, he has come to appreciate his initial loss in the Syracuse entrepreneurial competition and the motivation it gave him.
“If I had won that competition, I never would have applied to the New York State Business Plan competition,” said Romo. “Sometimes doors will be closed because there are bigger doors you have to open. Closed doors are sometimes a blessing.”
Speaking to current Syracuse University College of Engineering and Computer Science students during an Engineering Meets Business presentation, Romo described how he went from campus to CEO of his own company, PurpleSun.
“You have the power to decide what you want for your future,” said Romo. “I woke up one day and realized, this is my life, this is real. I have worked tirelessly to get here and you don’t realize it because you are working so hard, but it is possible.”
PurpleSun has discovered a novel way to package, deliver and digitally monitor the highest quality in automated light-based disinfection for improving the quality and cost of care for hospitals to improve the current manual cleaning processes. About one in 20 patients develop a health care acquired infection while hospitalized, resulting in about a $45 billion dollar problem for the industry. PurpleSun’s technology can integrate into hospital protocols, and has been proven to achieve surface decontamination in the field by up to 98%. In 2013, the company received initial investments and has built collaborations across the health care industry including a $3,000,000 investment from Northwell Health Ventures and additional investments from Hackensack Meridian Health.
“Find solutions to problems a lot of people care about,” said Romo. “That is the thing I took away from my engineering degree–you become master problem-solvers.”
Romo encouraged students to push forward, believe in what they can accomplish and know that when you are faced with adversity, you learn to solve a problem.
“That’s the journey, it’s very difficult and the only person on that road doing that marathon is you, telling yourself to keep going. That’s how it feels to start your own company.”
Luis Romo’s appearance at Syracuse University was part of the ongoing Engineering Meets Business lecture series made possible by a gift from Muss Akram ’10, an alumnus from the College of Engineering and Computer Science.