Judge PR client featured in Science Insider

Story by John Travis

 This story is a bonus online element for the package on science entrepreneurship that appears in the 12 June issue of Science.
Last month, millions of people watching ABC’s prime-time television show Shark Tank learned what Christopher Sakezles says his wife already knew—that he can sweat a lot when nervous. Despite a perspiration-drenched presentation on 8 May in front of the show’s five celebrity investors—he ignored his wife’s suggestion to spray his face with antiperspirant—the polymer scientist landed the biggest deal in Shark Tank’s history.
With a life-size synthetic cadaver as a prop, Sakezles persuaded technology entrepreneur Robert Herjavec to pay $3 million for a 25% stake in SynDaver Labs, a firm that Sakezles founded a decade ago to create realistic artificial tissues, organs, and whole bodies for surgical training and other purposes.
But as fans of Shark Tank know well, not every deal struck on the show lasts once the cameras turn off. After Sakezles and Herjavec traded further information and initial terms, the partnership fell apart.
One sticking point was obvious on the show, as the investors challenged Sakezles’s plan to invest SynDaver’s immediate profits back into the company for further product development. “They wanted to replace me as CEO and this is not something I will allow at this point,” Sakezles says. (Herjavec doesn’t comment on deals that aren’t completed, one of his publicists says.)
Don’t feel sorry for Sakezles, however. SynDaver is on track to make $10 million this year, he says, adding that the company has lined up investors who place an even higher valuation on the company than Herjavec did. Sakezles predicts SynDaver will expand from its current 100 employees to 500 within 3 years. “We’re growing like wildfire.”
The company’s history traces back to the 1990s, when Sakezles, a graduate student at University of Florida, set out to evaluate a new endotracheal tube his lab had designed. The team couldn’t afford to test it on animals, so they bought an artificial trachea from an outside company. Sakezles recalls it as being little more than a plastic tube.
“It was a pure piece of crap. I took one look and threw it in the circular file. I had to essentially build my own model.” So he and colleagues crafted a trachea from multiple polymers, realistically simulating cartilage rings, muscles, and a mucosal layer.After getting his Ph.D. in 1998, Sakezles eventually began consulting for medical device firms. He found they were interested in his experience building realistic models of tissues and organs. “The company grew out of that. It wasn’t a burst of lightning. It was a gradual thing. I never thought of it as a standalone business.”
Sakezles did eventually write a business plan for a synthetic tissues company that he pitched to potential investors. He failed miserably, he says. “Everyone thought I was insane. I’m a terrible pitchman. I’m the scientist. I’m the tech guy.”
But Sakezles was able to scramble together money from friends, family, and his own bank account to push ahead with the company.He started developing tissue analogs first, only later moving onto organs and then whole bodies. The company now markets some 100 artificial body parts made from materials that mimic the mechanical, thermal, and physicochemical properties of live tissue and can replace the use of animals or human cadavers. Medical device companies, medical schools interested in surgical training, and companies doing ballistic tests are just some of SynDaver’s customers. “I proved the naysayers wrong. There definitely is a market,” Sakezles says.And although he may not personally be a great salesman, his company’s artificial cadavers—the flagship model costs about $40,000—have been a boon for publicity.
SynDaver’s products have popped up in many TV shows, including Grey’s Anatomy and MythBusters. Sakezles, who notes Shark Tank’s producers deftly edited his more than 2 hours with the investors panel into just a 10-minute segment, says he went on the show truly looking to land an investment partner. He specifically wanted Herjavec or Mark Cuban, another shark who specializes in technology. But he admits publicity for the company was also a major motivation. “From the exposure side, we knocked it out of the park,” Sakezles says.

Tampa website hacked by cyber-jihadists

Tampa website hacked by cyber-jihadists

TREASURE ISLAND, Fla., – A Tampa Bay area drug and alcohol treatment center’s website is back up and running after being hacked by Islamic extremist supporters this weekend.

On Sunday, Footprints Beachside Recovery Center’s website was hacked by a group identified as El Moujahidin. The website, which includes information about substance abuse and rehabilitation, was replaced with a white screen and a message supporting Palestine and other Islamic ideologies.

On The Map Internet Marketing, which hosts Footprintsbeachside.com, was able to mostly resolve the issue Monday, but is continuing to work on a permanent solution.

“We’re working hard to make sure this issue is resolved entirely as soon as possible, so people who need our services will be able to find us online and get the help they need,” said John Templeton, president and founder of Footprints Beachside Recovery Center.

This hacking appears to be by the same group that took down Air France’s website at the end of March. According to past news reports about El Moujahidin, they are a group of hackers out of Algeria.

The term Moujahidin, or Moujahideen, has been used to refer to those who are engaged in jihad. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Moujahideen were known as “holy warriors,” who were already given their last rites.

hacked-by-el-moujahidinFootprints Beachside Recovery Center has notified the FBI.

Footprints Beachside Recovery Center offers a unique, holistic approach that treats the whole individual instead of just the addiction.

Founded in 2008, Footprints Beachside Recovery Center is a drug and alcohol treatment facility located in Pinellas County, Fla. In addition to treating patients from throughout the U.S. and around the world, Footprints provides Florida clinicians with continuing education events and hosts community workshops on addiction related treatment and psychoeducation.



Tampa company offers solution to non-Florida resident ticket ban for Stanley Cup Finals

StanleyCupTixTAMPA, Fla. – Hockey fans attempting to catch a game at Amalie Arena in Tampa may have trouble ordering tickets due to a policy on Ticketmaster’s website that only allows purchases from credit card holders who reside in the state of Florida. But a national ticket sales company headquartered in Tampa has plenty of tickets for sale on their website, MySeatRocks.com.

On Ticketmaster’s website, a disclaimer reads, “Amalie Arena is located in Tampa, FL. Sales to this event will be restricted to residents of Florida. Residency will be based on credit card billing address. Orders by residents outside the selected area will be canceled without notice and refunds given.”

“It’s easy to understand why many folks from outside of Florida are upset,” said Daks Davis, president of My Seat Rocks, Inc. “At MySeatRocks.com, we’re more than happy to accommodate Lightning and Blackhawk fans, regardless of their zip code.”

Davis also offers the following tips for ticket seekers:

  • People who are value-driven and would like to save some money, should wait until 36-48 hours before the game to see if tickets prices have fallen to the desired price.
  • People who are looking for an experience and don’t mind spending a little more should buy their tickets now, so they know they will have them.
  • The more seats you need, the more costly it will be. Families who would like to save some money should consider looking for multiple pairs of tickets in or near the same section, instead of one large group.
  • Weekday games are usually going to be cheaper to attend than weekend games.

“It’s really remarkable, but throughout the playoffs, we have seen ticket prices climb the first 24-28 hours after the teams are announced, but by the day of the game, ticket prices have gone down 20 to 40 percent,” Davis said. “If someone has questions or needs assistance with any ticket purchase, our customer service representatives are always happy to help.”