Sidney Collin is the inventor of the NexStride, and is the co-founder and CEO of De Oro Devices. De Oro Devices is a VC-backed biomedical device start-up whose mission is to develop products to improve mobility, independence, and quality of life for those who suffer from mobility disorders and the aging population. NexStride is a small, portable device that uses research-backed sensory cues to help people with Parkinson’s overcome freezing of gait and be able to walk smoothly. Sidney started the company while studying Biomedical Engineering at Cal Poly. She has an academic research background in computational neuroscience, with a recent research paper published in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology. In addition, she has experience working in R&D at a past medical device start-up during their product launch. Sidney was awarded Cal Poly’s 2019 Outstanding Woman in Engineering Award, Outstanding Student Award, Lisa Hufford Scholarship Award, and was also identified as one of the most influential women at Cal Poly by the Wire in their 30 under 30 list. The Pacific Coast Business Times recognized Sidney as an accomplished young business leader in their 40 under 40 list as well as their Who’s Who in Health Care, Insurance & Life Science lineup.
Where did the idea for De Oro Devices come from?
While I was studying biomedical engineering at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, I met a local veteran named Jack who struggled with freezing of gait and was looking for a solution. I invented a device just for him that has now transformed into NexStride. He was so thrilled with the results that he took me along to a local Parkinson’s support group, where I met 10 to 15 other people who had the exact same problem. They asked me when they could get their own prototype, and that is when I realized the tremendous impact this device could have on people and their quality of life. I thought to myself that if I didn’t get this device out to the people who needed it, who will? So, we raised some money and launched NexStride. De Oro Devices has a mission to build products that can be depended on to improve mobility, independence, and quality of life.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I usually wake up at 6:00 AM. Before I eat breakfast and start work, I do some type of outdoor activity, whether that be hiking, walking the dogs, biking, or yoga. I try to go at least an hour before opening my email or starting work in the morning. Working from home, my schedule has become much more regular without constant traveling. Before COVID-19, I was spending a lot of time attending conferences, meeting with investors or partners, overseeing manufacturing, etc. Now I spend much more time in virtual meetings.
I make my days productive by planning out each hour. I’ve found that if I schedule in work time, meeting, time to strategize problems, as well as exercise, short breaks, and meals. In fact, this usually helps me not forget to eat lunch!
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing ideas to life takes planning. I start by setting goals around where I want that specific idea to be in the end. Then, I break it down into smaller tasks and begin working on it from there. By doing this, I find that bringing an idea to life makes it so much more manageable.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Working from home/being able to work from anywhere. This era of COVID has changed the way we work, and I think that it will continue to shape the way we do business moving forward. Some people work better in an office, and some work better from home. However, the fact that people might be able to choose what works for them could make organizations much more productive. Additionally, the sudden transition to remote working forced people to put clear, measurable KPIs in place to track progress. I have always found that KPIs are crucial to success.
The fact that people can work from anywhere is so exciting to me because it gives people the freedom to create the best life for themselves. People won’t have to sacrifice a good job to live in a great place, or the other way around.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
One habit that makes me more productive is to list my important to-dos daily. I have a running to-do list that follows the Rotter-Covey Square categories (urgent/important). I am the type of person who wants to get everything done as fast as possible. This practice can be detrimental in running a business because there are always a million things to do. I have found that if you don’t ruthlessly prioritize, you will either fail to complete the important tasks or end up burning yourself out quickly. This urgent/important categorization system has helped me successfully prioritize my tasks and make me more productive as an entrepreneur.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t try to be what you think a CEO is. Instead of changing yourself to fit this certain vision, mold the “CEO” role to you and who you want to be. That is not to say that you should not be constantly learning and improving your management and leadership style; you should be, but in a way that uses your strengths.
I never saw myself as an “entrepreneur” or a “CEO.” When I decided to pursue this venture and start De Oro Devices, I felt like I had to all of a sudden be this business-minded, over-confident salesperson. This didn’t fit my quieter, curious, engineer-like demeanor, and so I had to learn over time that there is no one way to be successful as a leader or as an entrepreneur. I am so grateful to have met so many different people who have been successful in building great companies, and I have noticed that they each come with their own set of skills and experiences. The common denominator is that they all found a way to play to their strengths and find the right partners to fill the gaps in their weaknesses. I was able to identify people to learn from as mentors and advisors, and I think this is the key to success in any industry.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Nobody agrees, but I think it is totally normal to have a favorite theoretical physicist. Sean Carroll is my personal favorite. He has this great skill of taking complex problems and explaining them in simple, straightforward terms.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
One thing I am always doing is taking notes, writing things down, and adding ideas to a whiteboard. It helps me focus and remember the key takeaways from each interaction that I have. I would recommend this practice to others as it boosts my productivity and helps me to keep things from slipping through the cracks.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One of the main strategies that have helped grow De Oro Devices is listening to our customers. I got on a call with 30 customers within the first month of launching NexStride to ask them what was working for them and what wasn’t. That direct communication is crucial to understanding your customers’ pain points, to then be able to solve them effectively. We created NexStride with the feedback of the Parkinson’s community, and it is something we continue to seek out.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When first founding De Oro Devices, my team and I failed to be aggressive enough in our goals. We were able to overcome this by realizing the full potential of the product and realigning ourselves and the company behind that bigger vision. We just needed to have a little more confidence that what we were building was going to make a significant impact on people’s lives.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I am constantly getting tangled in my dog’s leash when I take them on walks and runs. One idea that I would be willing to give away and would someday love to purchase would be a cordless dog leash.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought an office chair for working at home, and it was well worth it! I was having back pain from working in a plastic chair, so I finally invested in an ergonomic chair. I believe that it is important to take care of your body so that you can focus on your work; this was a huge step in the right direction for me, and it has already made an incredible difference.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
HubSpot is a powerful piece of software we have implemented into our work lives here at De Oro Devices. It has allowed us to streamline our marketing and sales efforts, making our team more successful and productive in these areas. HubSpot has so many different tools to use that we are constantly learning how to take advantage of all of its capabilities. But, I find that email extensions, social media analytics, and sales funnels are some of our most used features.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz
This book does a fantastic job of explaining the challenges entrepreneurs face when starting a company and how to overcome them. It gave me a lot of practical insight into solving tough business problems as well as what being a CEO is and what it means.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote by Dwight Eisenhower is “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” I love this quote because it shows the importance of predicting and thinking through issues and scenarios that might come up, but it also acknowledges the fact that nothing ever goes according to plan. It’s important to be as prepared as you can be, but you will never be ready for everything that’s going to be thrown at you, and you have to use those valuable planning skills to adapt.
- No matter what industry you are in, seek out mentors and advisors.
- Mold your position to you, everyone does things differently and there is no one way to be successful.
- Listen to your customers and communicate with them, they are the key to improvement.
- Take care of your body and your mind so that you can give your best effort at work.
- Write everything down!
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.