The Art of the Start and Dignify Therapeutics

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dignify_logoThe story of Morrisville-based start-up Dignify Therapeutics could have come straight off the pages of Guy Kawasaki’s seminal book, “The Art of the Start”.  Here’s their pitch:

To restore voluntary control of bladder and bowel function to patients with spinal injuries, as well as patients with multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and stroke.

Imagine the physical and emotional impact on your everyday life knowing that;

  • At any given moment you could lose control of your bladder or bowel, regardless of the situation, where you were, or who you were with;
  • You had to insert a catheter into your bladder through your urethra to drain your urine 4 to 5 times a day;
  • If you couldn’t do it on your own, you would need the assistance of others to help with the digital extraction of bowel contents, today and every day.

Now imagine a more dignified daily routine, with voluntary control of bladder and bowel function, so you could;

  • Wheel yourself into a private toilet when it was convenient;
  • Take medicine that induced urination and defecation within minutes, and then;
  • Leave the toilet with your bladder and bowel empty.

Mix in details about your management team, market sizing, why you’ll succeed, and funding requirements, and you have Dignify Therapeutics investor pitch neatly wrapped up in a 10-slide presentation.  This is classic Kawasaki, but there’s more behind Dignify Therapeutics that is capturing the hearts and minds of prospective investors.  Most noteworthy is the Dignify team’s commitment to their future customers.

Ed Burgard“Drug development is very expensive and time consuming,” says Dr. Ed Burgard, Vice President of Dignify Therapeutics.  “You need to make sure that you and your associates are fully committed to the patient population that you will eventually serve.  That has to be the priority above any money or recognition that may come in the distant future. It’s a long hard path but worth every minute.”

Having the right management team in place is the most essential element of the Kawasaki start-up model.  Management has to be qualified, driven, resilient, and passionate.  The team also has to have the right chemistry, to take them through the ups and downs of the start-up lifecycle.  Here again Dignify has a solid story to tell.

“We are fortunate to have a management team that has, for the most part, worked together through a number of successful startups,” says Dr. Ed.  “Many startup teams experience growing pains due to different personalities and approaches.  We have already worked through all that and now have a team that is fully integrated and, above all, really like to work together.”

Dignify recently received a $50,000 company inception loan from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.  When asked what they would do with the money, Dignify responded that they would use it to advance their intellectual property and prepare SBIR grant applications. Their strategy for funding however goes far deeper than this, right into the very customer base they hope to serve.

“Our approach to fundraising is a real grass-roots effort.  Non-dilutive funding is, of course, our first choice but obtaining grants can be time consuming and unpredictable.  So we have also been building relationships with informed investors, those individuals with a vested interest in our cause.  These include urologists, spinal cord injury specialists, rehabilitation clinicians and caregivers.   In addition, patient advocacy groups, people with spinal injury, their families and caregivers are particularly important to us as they deal with these issues on a daily basis.  They share our passion for bringing much needed treatments to improve the quality of life for so many individuals.”

From a start-up perspective, Dignify Therapeutics is doing everything right.  Their biggest challenge right now is obtaining the initial funding and backing of the few key individuals they need in order for their business to really take off.  Of paramount importance to Dignify is finding new partners and associates that are as passionate as they are about and can interact well with the existing team.

If you are interested in finding out more about Dignify Therapeutics you can reach out directly to Dr. Ed Burgard at


Dignify Therapeutics was one of five companies selected to participate in the 2013 Morrisville Chamber and Innovation Foundation’s “Heart Of The Triangle” program, which provided office space, internet service, mentoring and support to help them bring their ideas into reality.  Other support through the Morrisville Chamber “Heart of The Triangle” program included free membership in the Morrisville Chamber,  Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) and TiE Carolinas.

Steve Greene is CEO of ALPHA Marketing, Inc. , a channel marketing agency based in Raleigh, NC and recipient of the Morrisville Chamber’s 2014 James Pugh Small Business of the Year Award.