Founder of Former i.Lab Startup Named to Forbes 30 Under 30
By Jay Hodgkins
The 2018 edition of Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 list includes a familiar face to the W.L. Lyons Brown III i.Lab at UVA, which is operated by the Darden School of Business Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Kevin Eisenfrats, who founded the male contraception company Contraline as an undergraduate engineering student, made the list at just 24 years old. Eisenfrats was a member of the 2015 i.Lab Incubator program, the intensive 10-week summer startup accelerator that supports ventures created by UVA students, faculty, alumni and members of the Charlottesville community. As the incubator wrapped up in 2015, Eisenfrats discussed how his time in the i.Lab helped him pivot his original plans for Contraline and keep the venture on a successful track.
The endgame for Contraline was always to offer nonsurgical contraception for men, Eisenfrats just thought that providing a more humane alternative to neutering male dogs and cats would serve as a promising first market for the product.
As it turns out, even solid demand from consumers and a unique, effective product aren’t always enough to crack the nut. Especially when a middleman is involved.
In this case, those middle men and women are veterinarians, who have been profitably neutering animals for decades with little incentive to change. Eisenfrats discovered many vets were not familiar with the latest research on the dangers of neutering and that change was a complication they weren’t yet willing to take on.
“Following the principles of lean startup, the market research should be done before product development,” said Eisenfrats. “When I was coming up with the idea for cats and dogs, I didn’t talk to vets first. I saw demand from pet owners and figured that would do. It was our fault for not doing enough market research.”
That setback didn’t change the fact that Eisenfrats had led the development of a unique product. Contraline has enough potential that, after winning multiple UVA entrepreneurship competitions, the venture was selected as one of only seven finalists for the nationwide Collegiate Inventors Competition.
Unlike other contraceptive polymer gels that block the vas deferens and thus block the flow of sperm, Contraline is “echogenic” — the gel can be imaged using ultrasound devices so that doctors and nurses can check its stability and ongoing effectiveness. Contraline can also be applied “percutaneously,” which means no surgery — a major advantage over traditional vasectomies. It is effective for years but can be reversed at any time, and the end result is a vastly preferable alternative to vasectomy.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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