Ryan Kole’s career path was anything but typical. He contemplated medicine, law, psychology, even being a sports agent. Eventually he gave in to the entrepreneurial itch.
Through trial and error, his journey led to the world of trading, pursuing a career at the Chicago Board Options Exchange. “Being a trader allowed me to foster my competitive nature. To me, trading was playing a professional sport without the physicality,” says Ryan. “But eventually I wanted more and gave in to the entrepreneurial itch.”
Ryan started coming up with novel ideas, filing for numerous patents and sponsoring Northwestern and University of Illinois at Chicago’s senior engineering classes for their capstone course. He currently has four issued patents with a few more in the works.
“Most of my projects have failed to go anywhere from an IP standpoint and licensing or commercializing them,” says Ryan. “But I am always working on something, including a faucet handle that reduces cross contamination and an innovative shaving razor. My first one that has had some success is a product called the Foot Gym, which I licensed out. The Foot Gym is the “Swiss-army knife” for foot and ankle therapy plus a way for athletes to get an edge.” It is being used by numerous professional sports teams as well as everyday people looking to strengthen their feet and improve their balance. This product can be seen at The Foot Gym or on Amazon.
When he is not exploring entrepreneurial opportunities, Ryan is a Partner at VCapital, which provides venture capital investment opportunities to accredited investors and Family Offices. VCapital allows for investors to access top tier venture capital deals without having to make a huge minimum investment, $500K-$1M, most VCs firms require. The minimum investment is $25K with VCapital and an investor can pick and choose when he/she wants to invest on a “one-off” basis. CEO and former Glencoe resident Len Batterson has been investing for over 40 years and has four unicorns (billon dollar exits) in his career.
He’s been a tremendous mentor to Ryan, as Ryan sources investment opportunities, completes due diligence, and works with the companies after making an investment.
“VCapital gives me the chance to read about and meet fascinating people working on technologies that can change the world for the better,” says Ryan. “We are Series A focused, looking at frontier tech/deep tech, healthcare and Life Sciences with a preference for Midwest-based companies. I can honestly say I love my job.” Ryan was not short on words when describing their portfolio companies and you could see his excitement for each.
Outside of VCapital, Ryan is most excited about a company he co-founded along with MDs, PhDs, and JDs from Northwestern University (Ryan was a recent MBA graduate from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business) in 2015 – Beyond Barriers Therapeutics, Inc.
Beyond Barriers has one simple goal: to create a simple, cost-effective, rapid treatment for concussions that decreases the short- and long-term side effects associated with traumatic brain injury.
“Every 15 seconds, someone in the U.S. suffers a concussion,” says Ryan. “The effects can be debilitating and include headaches, cognitive impairment and emotional or behavioral issues. The current standard of care is rest and avoidance of stimulation. That’s not good enough in 2021.”
By offering a proprietary drug with an active ingredient already been proven for safe consumption, Ryan and his partners hope to revolutionize the way concussions are treated.
“We recently completed our first-in-human study, are now a finalist for a grant from Cures Within Reach, earned an endorsement from the NFLPA and also received FDA clearance to begin a Phase Ib investigator-initiated trial in concussed patients. We plan on beginning Phase II FDA trials in 12 months,” explains Ryan.
Getting to this point took years. After winning the National Institutes of Health Neuro Startup Challenge in 2015, Ryan and his partners won entry into a competitive program called The National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program. They worked with several doctors, one who used the same drug as Beyond Barriers with concussed soldiers, only it was given orally instead of inhaled through the nose like Beyond Barriers.
“The results from Dr. Hoffer’s study were great, showing a reduction in symptoms. Our scientists and Dr. Hoffer, believe that the nose-to-brain pathway will be much quicker and efficient” says Ryan. “The drug we are using has been FDA-approved for other indications for over 60 years, allowing us to pursue an expedited pathway to FDA approval.”
To accomplish this, Ryan and his co-founders put their own money into the company, plus they completed a small Friends-and-Family round. Glencoe residents have been extremely supportive.
“Our next step is completing a seed round to complete the Phase Ib study, hire a regulatory consultant, complete some additional pre-clinical (animal) work, and finalize a case to house the device,” says Ryan. “The goal is to have a user-friendly, non-invasive, pre-loaded intranasal device ready to be used immediately following a head injury. Minutes to treatment matter and we want this on every sideline, whether it’s kid’s soccer, high school football, or an NFL game. This device should also be in schools for playground injuries, with paramedics, and in every soldier’s backpack (this part was stated by another of their advisors, a Retired Four Star General).”
Currently, there is no FDA approved treatment for concussions and up to 40% of mild concussions lead to post-concussive symptoms for 3-6 months. Up to 20% experience persistent cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and physical impairments for more than a year following their injury.
“There have been numerous breakthroughs in the concussion space. I am most excited about some recent FDA approved blood-based biomarkers for diagnosing concussions, plus another company with a saliva-based biomarker. The next logical step is to provide a therapeutic—and that’s where we come in,” says Ryan. He is hopeful that his startup could hit the necessary milestones to become a candidate for VCapital, ultimately merging his two career paths.
When Ryan isn’t working on either of his businesses, he is spending time with his family – his wife, Betsy, and children, Rachel, 11, and Adam, 9.
“My kids are future entrepreneurs and I enjoy discussing my projects and hearing their ideas,” says Ryan. “I told them they need to find me the next Roblox for VCapital, which is now worth $57B. They play it all the time and I wish I’d picked up on that much earlier.”
The future of VCapital shines bright with Ryan Kole on the team. Contact him with your comments.
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