Broadcast date: 14th Nov 2018
Interview date: May 2018
Link to original interview: Hot Entrepreneur Ep 12
Rick Rowan, Founder of NuroKor was interviewed whilst in Australia about the development of a medication-free electrotherapy technology that helps pain sufferers manage chronic and on-going pain.
Previously a co-founder and CEO in the healthtech space, he ran this new global enterprise during its start up phase from cafes, airports or wherever he could park his laptop. He talks with Elizabeth and Jaci from Melbourne Radio’s JOY FM about why he wants to change world health using therapeutic technology and how to set up and run a successful global business while on the move.
Elizabeth: We've got a pretty extraordinary guest in the show with us morning, Jaci. We're talking about global, creating a global empire from a café [inaudible 00:00:39]. We've got Rick Rowan in with us from NuroKor. Good morning, Rick. Welcome.
Jaci: Welcome, Rick.
Rick Rowan: Good morning, thank you.
Elizabeth: Just for our audience and our listeners, tell us a bit about NuroKor, and what it is that you do inside of that business.
Rick Rowan: NuroKor is a bioelectrical medicine company. We design, develop, and formulate bioelectrical medicine or medical devices that are used for all different types of applications where pharmaceuticals might be not suitable, or as an alternative to particularly for pain relief and physical health.
Elizabeth: So it's electrical pulses that run through the body? How does it … ?
Rick Rowan: Yes, so it uses the peripheral nerve system. It also uses the neuromuscular system for activation, and we also use micro-current, which is a cellular …
Jaci: That's a tough word.
Elizabeth: That is a toughy.
Rick Rowan: It is early. [crosstalk 00:01:32].
Jaci: Say that 10 times.
Rick Rowan: Cellular function, so healthy cells. Cells are electrical, and they need to maintain good electrical current.
Jaci: What are the main ailments, Rick, that people, I guess, would have that would be looking to use your product, essentially?
Rick Rowan: Main ailments would, be anything literally that you can think of that has to do with pain, particularly things like lower back pain, neck pain, period pain, any type of pain that you can think of is an electrical signal that often has inflammation, which is how we manipulate, or can help with regards to neuromuscular stimulation. Then when you've got inflammation, you've got cells which are not so much damaged, but they're lowered in current if they are damaged. Micro-current can help restore that cellular current, and actually help the body heal.
Jaci: That's pretty amazing.
Elizabeth: Isn't it?
Jaci: I'm very anti-taking anything. I don't like it.
Rick Rowan: Well, that's a good way to be.
Elizabeth: Yeah. You talked about arthritis.
Rick Rowan: Yes.
Elizabeth: As you know, I'm arthritic. I was talking to you about breaking my hands open. There's something really, to live in pain is … It is dreadful. How do you take an idea like that, and create a global empire with it? Because you've got me on pain. I'm already listening. I'm engaged, but how do you do that? Tell us about the fundamentals of putting that in place.
“When you have a mission, or a focus on what that outcome is, so for us, it's about easing pain globally, when that is the focus, then everything underneath it should start to fall into place.” - Rick Rowan, CEO & Founder
Rick Rowan: So, okay, working that way backwards, how do we start to create the infrastructure? What do we need by way of formulation design? As in, what's effective for arthritis, and what's effective for back pain? Start to formulate those as our technology.
Rick Rowan: Then what hardware do we need? What hardware is going to allow the consumer to use it easily that they're gonna understand, and be able to fit into their lives? It really is working from the top down. I know that's a bit of a cliché, but that is exactly how it works.
Jaci: So the mission's important?
Elizabeth: He just said that. That was the most important … Everything else takes second place to that, doesn't it?
Rick Rowan: Yeah, I think, well the mission is your focus. It's your why, and if you have a strong-
Elizabeth: Oh, my God, yeah.
Rick Rowan: … focus on your why, then the distractions of what people tell you can't be done, or the things that are challenging from day to day or week to week, they become smaller than the focus.
Jaci: What actually inspired you to go, "Yes, you know, I'm gonna go down this road, I'm going to take on this task of"?
Rick Rowan: Without sounding corny?
Jaci: That's okay.
Elizabeth: Yeah. I can put this to background music if you like. I have the technology. Go for it. Be corny.
Rick Rowan: Yeah, I'm really humbled by being able to help people. I suffered debilitating back pain for 15 or 20 years. The bioelectrical technology or electroceuticals, as the pharma's starting to coin the term as, helped me in a way that no other medical intervention was able to do. I mean, even 2017, in Australia, according to the Bureau of Statistics, nearly 400 people lost their lives to prescription pain killers in Australia.
Elizabeth: Is that [crosstalk 00:04:43]-
Jaci: And I think a lot of that would be too … I mean, some of it would be intentional just to try and get on top of the pain, and then some of them are mistakes, right?
Rick Rowan: Yeah. When you are in that much pain, you do become desperate. I know I did. I took cocktails that I definitely shouldn't have. So just knowing that we have the ability to help people, help them get off painkillers, or opioids, or other pharmaceuticals which might not be good for them. It was the push then to think, okay, well, how can we help more people? Because we were doing it on a smaller scale, or have done it on a smaller scale: face-to-face, events, experiential events, in stores, this type of thing. How do we take this larger, more mainstream, so that we can help more people? That's what's drives me.
Elizabeth: Isn't that beautiful? That's a great little mission.
Jaci: I think, and look, I don't think it's corny at all, because I mean, being, we talk about on this program the traits of an entrepreneur. There are some that are driven by money, but most of us, I know myself and yourself included, are driven by achieving, assisting people, or making a difference. That underlying is, yeah, something pretty amazing to-
Elizabeth: Taking on pain, because I think I said this to you earlier. I turn on the TV, and all I see now is pain medication ads, so they must be making [crosstalk 00:06:00]. So really, they're talking about, it's all about pain. If you've got a solution that doesn't require taking those medications, that's pretty extraordinary.
Rick Rowan: Yeah.
Elizabeth: How did you go from mission to … because there's some fundamentals that have to be put in place too as well, so how did that look?
Rick Rowan: Putting all the pieces together, putting in the infrastructure, the systems in place, talking to the right people, specialists in the area of bioelectrical medicine, specialists in the area of electrotherapy, as well as then of course you've got the marketing side of things, you've got compliance. I mean, Australia, there's a Therapeutic Goods Association. In the UK, there's Medical CE, and US FDA. All of these things, there are, it seems like thousands of moving parts.
Rick Rowan: Then of course there's all about R & D to create effective formulations that actually work, because it first has to work. Second of all, people have to be able to use it. It has to fit into their lives, so we've gone to an ultra-wearable device, or we're creating as much as we can in the ultra-wearable space, because people can simply pop it on, get dressed, and off they go. It fits into their lives, yeah.
Elizabeth: Gosh, that's good, isn't it?
Jaci: Mm-hmm (affirmative) [crosstalk 00:07:10].
Elizabeth: So you're at home, you've created the moving parts, but you're not actually going into the UK. How do you become the face of the entity without being there? How does that gain advantage?
Rick Rowan: Well, yeah, that's not … You can't replace face-to-face. You can't replace on the ground. With technology, you can literally do anything, and even with technology or without technology, it doesn't help with timezones.
Elizabeth: Yeah. God, you must have been up at like 3:00 a.m. to have conversations.
Rick Rowan: Oh my goodness. Yes. Even when I was in the CO position of the Australian business, the office was in Queensland, and I was based in New South Wales, so I already was used to handling the running of things remotely. I'd only visit there every week or second week for a day. The UK, when that started to come on in the previous position, I was there every couple of months or so.
Rick Rowan: But yeah, look, it definitely has challenges. But again, we're going back to that focus. If you are focusing on the why and the mission, then these are just things that you just deal with. If you have to deal with it, you have to deal with it. It shouldn't deter you.
Rick Rowan: No.
Elizabeth: There's something about … As you know, I sell real estate, and I do it over the phone at home in my UGG boots, you know [crosstalk 00:08:25] online, you feel it. I'm in my Uggies. There's something about creating a connection with the people that you speak to on the phone. It's something about inviting them through voice into your lounge, and sitting at your couch, so they understand that they're in a safe space, even though you're on the phone. So you must be an incredible practitioner in that space if you can go from a café in New South Wales-
Rick Rowan: Maybe it was from the real estate background.
Elizabeth: Right there, right at ya.
Rick Rowan: Yes.
Elizabeth: Because there's something about that too, because you have to invite them into a place of trust where they know without meeting you that you're gonna take care of them.
Rick Rowan: You do, and occasionally there's accidents. I remember walking around when I was on a board meeting room screen, and I forgot my camera was on the computer, and I was walking around in my pyjamas.
Elizabeth: Oh yes. We've all … Yes.
Rick Rowan: Wasn't quite as bad as the, what was it, the CBN incident?
Elizabeth: Oh yeah, yeah. That was great. It was so good.
Rick Rowan: No, but it is true, and I mean if … but you are forming that relationship. They do understand the remoteness of it, and again, if your conviction is such, and you have got your eye on that focus and that mission, then they feel it. The people that you're doing business with or that you're communicating with can see and feel that energy and that focus, and they believe in you, and believe in your story. I think again, the challenges are overcome simply because they become smaller than the focus.
Elizabeth: How did you market into those new marketplaces?
Rick Rowan: Using PR is-
Elizabeth: Yeah, companies?
Rick Rowan: Yeah. We did. I mean, to get that story out there, unfortunately, we're a very media-driven society, so I mean, here we are, we're talking on a radio station.
Elizabeth: Yeah, of course.
Rick Rowan: So getting that message out there, once the message starts to get momentum, and of course then the more people that are engaged and then getting results, and lives are changing, then it starts to snowball. That was really the tact that we took.
Elizabeth: Yeah, a PR company? So you were hiring a local PR company to manage your PR in the UK and in the US? Or did you hire local PR companies there?
Rick Rowan: Local in the UK we did, and definitely in Australia. With the new products and technology that we're working on right now, we will do similar, because it is just a really effective way of getting your message out there. Of course, it needs to be interesting. It can't be advertising. It needs to be story-based, and it needs to be real.
Elizabeth: The other thing is too, it's to sell without selling, isn't it, really? That's the …
Rick Rowan: Yeah. You know, what we found worked best was sharing the story of others. So results, real results, people who had gotten off painkillers after 10 years, or arthritis sufferers who had all of a sudden got relief. We were doing work with in the UK with the Diabetes Trust, literally helping with lower limb circulation to help lessen the chance of limb amputation. It's pretty amazing stuff.
Elizabeth: It's pretty powerful.
Jaci: Oh, my cousin just lost a leg to diabetes, and he's looking like losing another one.
Elizabeth: Wow. Oh God.
Rick Rowan: And what if that was preventable for a device for a couple hundred dollars?
Jaci: Oh, he'd do it in a heartbeat.
Elizabeth: Isn't that incredible? And just hearing that too, what you realise is it's not just the individuals that are impacted by the pain, it's the entire family. You're all involved in the management of that pain.
Rick Rowan: Yes.
Elizabeth: That's clever you've got PR companies, because they're actually also delivering the message in their own language, which is fantastic. That's great. How do you start managing the supply chain from New South Wales? Because that must be interesting. How do you do supply chain on that scale?
Rick Rowan: We deliver, or supply normally from local centres, as in 3PL, third-party logistics. We manufacture in China, as do 99% of electronics.
Elizabeth: Yeah, 99.9, yeah.
Rick Rowan: Then we import or hold stock locally in, or will hold stock locally in whichever country or area or region that we are operating in. Again, it's not easy. It's not simple.
Rick Rowan: There are many moving parts, but the same story. The same story.
Jaci: So from start to here, how long have you been cracking the whip on this [crosstalk 00:13:04]-
Rick Rowan: Well look, we are right at the moment, NuroKor is at, we're pre-production. We've done a lot of our software development. We've done our hardware design. We are shoring up our partnerships in different countries and areas, and we're about to go into production. We have been running off very, very, very, very lean-
Rick Rowan: … capital.
Elizabeth: We love very, very lean capital, don't we? It's amazing what you can do.
Rick Rowan: Well, it's almost like thin air. Squeeze the air, and something will come out of it.
Elizabeth: There it is.
Rick Rowan: We also to talking to quite a few right at the moment anyways, seed investment or venture capitalists, who are … and we have got a lot of interest, actually, from US, Australia and Europe because, well one, I have some history in the space of what we're able to do in such a short period of time with the position I was in previously, but we are just at next level now.
Elizabeth: Yeah, this credibility that you've already got in that space.
Rick Rowan: Correct, yeah.
Elizabeth: You're gonna use that to platform into this new marketplace, aren't you?
Rick Rowan: Yes, and we're gonna try and be as fast and as nimble as possible, and we believe we are. We've just, of its own accord, it's started to make some waves, and we've garnered interest already.
Elizabeth: Gosh, that's good.
Jaci: Yeah, it's pretty amazing, yeah.
Elizabeth: It's a good word, nimble. You know, I had a conversation with a corporation recently about doing some work with us. Because of the size and scale of their operation, for them to pilot with us, just test with us, it's $500,000 for them, and they have to move this enormous machine in our direction. Being nimble in your own marketplace, what I've got is there's real value in that, isn't there?
Rick Rowan: Well, yes. Bioelectrical medicine or electroceuticals is a lot more nimble than the pharmaceutical path, as in years of studies and-
Rick Rowan: … bioelectrical studies, biological studies. Essentially, we can change a formulation, an electric formulation, and test it immediately. It either works or it doesn't work. There's no side effects to worry about, or long-term effects. But we could have a clinic ahead of a clinic say to us, "Look, we would like to … We're getting these results. How do you think we could improve this part of the treatment?" We would formulate a new, based on that information, a new formulation, and they can go and try it. We can do that in literally weeks or months, not years.
Jaci: That's the real trick to scalability, particularly in business now. Liz and I, I mean we've interviewed so many people on the show that have been able to scale remarkably quick compared to competitors. Like we talk about the pharmaceutical companies, that it's not in their investment or interest to want to change dynamics-
Elizabeth: No, that's not [crosstalk 00:16:04]-
Jaci: … because we know that's how the bureaucracy, that's how we know they make money, very much so.
Rick Rowan: For sure.
Elizabeth: Well I completely admire what you're doing. I was on a ton of pain medication, and it's an ordinary life when you're on that, because you're not with it. You're just not present to anything.
Rick Rowan: No. Well, I mean our focus is quality of life, improving quality of life. I mean, reducing pain is a positive outcome of that, but ultimately that's exactly what it is. It's improvement of quality of life, and life hours, and life days, because the days that you are in pain, that's not life. That's not living.
Elizabeth: So after you've got your seed funding, you plan on what? Doing what next?
Rick Rowan: We're ready to go into manufacturing now. Everything's ready to go. We are have, shoring up our distribution channels, our partners, those who want to take on the product, and the technology, and become our partners in areas. We're talking to two or three countries, two definitely in Europe. We're talking to USA and Australian distributors right now. That is our primary focus for the next few weeks. I know it sounds fast, but that's-
Elizabeth: That's great too, because what you're doing is you're making sure there's exit strategy for the product that you're creating.
Rick Rowan: Absolutely, absolutely. On top of that, I mean we know when we can get the message out there, through social media and other digital channels, that we create demand simply because of what the product can do, and what the technology can do. It starts there, and then it moves into the major distribution channels.
Elizabeth: I love social media. We were talking about it the other day. It's just such a simple solution, particularly for smaller business owners. Like I'm a small business owner. I can message into that space, and get a return quite easily, whereas-
Rick Rowan: And immediately.
Elizabeth: … back in … Yeah, immediately, whereas in the day, you had to have a budget of 150,000 if you wanted someone to do your marketing for you, so it's extraordinary.
Rick Rowan: Yes, yeah it is.
Elizabeth: Well, we wish you all the best.
Rick Rowan: Thank you.
Jaci: Well done, Rick. Well done.
Elizabeth: [inaudible 00:18:15] mission. Thank you for joining us on the show. We really appreciate it. We want you to come back, and let us know how it's all going.
Rick Rowan: I would love to.
Elizabeth: Yeah, please do, our little global entrepreneur.
Jaci: That's it.
Elizabeth: Jaci Smith, nice seeing you.
Jaci: You too, Liz.
Elizabeth: Have a great week, everyone. We'll be back next week. Stay tuned. If you've got any questions for Rick, please send them to … Go, Rick. How do we get hold of you?
Jaci: Yeah, [inaudible 00:18:40].
Elizabeth: Did you like how I did that?
Rick Rowan: You did.
Elizabeth: I just pointed at him.
Rick Rowan: I was looking behind me.
Elizabeth: And I killed him.
Jaci: NuroKor.com, guys, so that's N-U-R-O-K-O-R.com, so for anyone that's on that pain medication looking for an alternative, that's where you need to go.
Rick Rowan: Thank you.
Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to Hot Entrepreneur. Remember, we rely on your support to make us a success, so subscribe to our podcast. Follow us on socials, and share our episodes with your friends however you can.
Host Elizabeth Jackson is a property investment specialist with 20 years experience navigating the Australian investment property market.
Jaci Smith was founder and CEO of My Local Broker, a network of over 1100 brokers across Australia. She is currently Executive Consultant at Data Hut and is disrupting the travel industry in Bali with a new venture: The Bali Black Book, a luxury travel business.
Founded in 2018, NuroKor is a company committed to the development of bioelectronic technologies. NuroKor develops and formulates programmable bioelectronic software for clinical and therapeutic applications, in a range of easy to use, wearable devices. It provides the highest-quality products, delivering personalised pain relief and recovery support and rehabilitation to patients.