Daniel Mendez ‘10 M.B.A ’14 was having a casual chat with friends one evening when one of them, a neonatal nurse, mentioned something about her workplace: Part of her routine was rotating the heads of newborns to keep their soft skulls from becoming deformed.
“We decided—why not try and create something so these nurses don’t have to rotate their heads and prevent deformation?” Mendez said.
Mendez and fellow UTSA engineering students Nicholas Louis Flores and Israel Gonzalez were already on the lookout for a good idea to help them stand out at the university’s $100,000 Student Technology Venture Competition. Five years later, their creation, GELShield™, has received FDA approval and is already in production. Their student team, Invictus, is now Invictus Medical.
Mendez and his team first presented their prototype of GELShield™ at the competition in 2010. The headband-like protection device contains an aqueous gel that distributes the weight of the head and reduces points of high pressure.
“We’re very hopeful that the market will see its benefits and really embrace it,” Mendez said. “I didn’t really have any expectations in terms of the success of the product. All I knew was it was innovative and the doctors we talked to wanted it. It truly was addressing an unmet need.”
His former professor at the College of Engineering, Cory Hallam, said the quick FDA approval is just another result of the phenomenal team at Invictus, which sprouted at UTSA and is now a major San Antonio company in its own right.
“I think what’s important is really understanding that UTSA has created this annual flow of young entrepreneurs in town that are coming up with great ideas,” Hallam said. “They have phenomenal ideas and phenomenal energy, but they lack experience. So what we try to do is make a connection to the seasoned professionals from industries who can take those companies further.”
Mendez agreed that the competition and making connections at UTSA was vital to Invictus’ growth from a student project team to a real-life company with a board of directors. His experience was instrumental in his decision to return to UTSA to earn his M.B.A. at the College of Business.
“I wanted to be able to attend a larger university because of the connections you’re able to make, especially with a program like the M.B.A. It’s really important in moving forward in your career,” he said. “It’s a lot more than a piece of paper, it’s the professors you have, their backgrounds and lots of intangibles that contribute to your degree.”