An interview with Peter Bertone, founder of Expansa and a Engineering Graduate.
Engineering Graduate student Peter Bertone naturally found his way into entrepreneurship through his love of taking things he enjoys doing and applying them to things people also enjoy. This led him to create his first venture in the basement of his dorm. It was a screen printing business, where he was able to combine his love for art with the creation of stylish clothing.
At the Venture Lab, he has continued his interest in entrepreneurship with the start of another venture: Expansa.
What is Expansa?
Expansa is a venture structured around a patented medical prototype of a deployable, expandable pessary device, designed to treat symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. The venture was developed by Bertone, Penn Mechanical Engineering Professor Jordan Raney, and OB-GYN at Penn Medicine Dr. Christopher Hong.
Why was Expansa created?
Dr. Hong found in his everyday clinical activities that inserting current devices such as the Gellhorn pessary is often a “challenging, time consuming process for clinicians and a stressful, inconvenient and painful experience for patients,” suffering from pelvic organ prolapse. After discovering this problem, Dr. Hong attended the Penn Health Conference in search of engineers interested in developing a solution. It was there that he met Raney. Bertone was then hired on the project as a graduate student.
"Expansa’s user-friendly design and deployment mechanism will ultimately enable OB/GYN physicians to provide their patients with a more simple, effective and comfortable treatment option that will improve the overall clinical experiences and outcomes of using a pessary,” said Bertone.
How has Bertone and his co-founder depended on the Venture Lab to grow Expansa?
After joining VIP-C last year, Bertone stated that there are many things at the Venture Lab that he has found to be useful to the venture. Particularly, he has found attending bootcamps on topics such as marketing strategy and asking questions to experts like Professor Jeffrey Babin to be invaluable.
In addition, with the opening of Tangen Hall, Bertone has registered for training in the Hall’s 3D design studios, which will allow him to make prototypes and do mechanical testing. He has already designed a few CAD designs.
“It's a wonderful space,” said Bertone. “It's so nice and has so many rooms to work in.”
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far from your time at the Venture Lab?
Berton has learned to make the most out of the relationships he builds both inside and outside the Venture Lab. He stated that he has learned from and been supported by many of the people he has connected with.
“They are the most valuable resource in terms of just learning more about how you can define the problems or find solutions or even just to talk through things and support you in every way,” said Bertone.
In addition, he has found learning how to leverage those relationships he’s built rewarding.
What goals does Bertone have for his time in VIP-C?
While Bertone has interests in licensing the product, he ultimately strives to learn as much as he can about the process people go through to execute a venture idea.
“I want to position myself in a place where I really understand the ideas—stages of the idea, stage of bringing something to market or bringing something to application,” said Bertone.
With this holistic knowledge, he hopes to be able to one day play a role in any stage whether as an investor, founder, etc.
“I've been really learning all of the valuable tools and ways in which I can really support ideas that not aren't necessarily even my own, but support these ideas to make them develop and work well,” said Bertone.