With just 10 days left on his Kickstarter campaign and still two-thirds of the way to go to his goal of $15,000, Edmond Dougherty was a humbled professor when we met recently on the Villanova University campus.
"I didn't want to put this thing up there for a fairly modest amount of money and then have it flop," said Dougherty, Villanova's director of engineering entrepreneur-
ship. "That's the embarrassing part."
But whether the inventor's social-media appeal achieved the desired contributions by its Sept. 19 deadline, Dougherty said he would press on to get his brain-injury measuring device to market.
"A big part of being an entrepreneur is to be persistent," he said.
He will also return to the classroom with a better understanding of a topic he lectures a great deal about, but never had direct knowledge of until now - crowd-funding.
"Never in my life have I sold product. Never in my life have I marketed a product," said the prolific 67-year-old inventor, who usually is designing for others' commercial use. "It's a great lesson to bring back to the students: You also have to close the deal."
Dougherty's BandaVida, which is in its fourth prototype, is currently a six-inch, one-ounce strip - designed to be worn in a headband - that electronically monitors the direction, duration, and magnitude of impacts and vibrations to the head for better understanding of the long-term effects of traumatic brain injury.
Money raised through Kickstarter was to fund alterations to make BandaVida half its current size, and thus easier to wear.
"We really think, mostly, it will be useful for youth sports," Dougherty said. "There's very little data around."
Nor, he said, is there consensus in the medical community on the importance of head impacts that are not full-blown concussions.
"They can't decide because there's no data," Dougherty said. "As an academic, that's what's driving me. I want to get the data."
It's a worthy pursuit, said R. Robert Franks, co-medical director of the Jefferson Comprehensive Concussion Center and director of the Rothman Concussion Institute. He has no connection to the BandaVida project, and first learned of it when he was contacted for this column.
"We are in such a rudimentary stage of understanding concussion," Franks said. "Anything that gives us data to assist in diagnosis and long-term care certainly helps us."
He noted a five-year study released in 2014 that compiled data from eight collegiate football teams whose players wore helmets fitted with sensors to measure the biomechanics of more than one million head impacts. It showed that football helmets can be designed to reduce the risk of concussions.
BandaVida can achieve equally valuable assessments "across many more sports" because of its headband design, Franks said.
William Crowder, a retired Army colonel, has collaborated with Dougherty as part of his role in logistics development at Logistics Management Institute, a nonprofit in McLean, Va. That work has included a unique concept for off-loading ships in the open ocean.
Calling Dougherty "a practical engineer - he looks for ways to apply technology for a specific problem" - Crowder sees potential for BandaVida beyond sports, including the military.
"Once you've figured out how to do this in some reliable manner, it's going to have application everywhere," he said.
Which likely is why "there are a lot of people trying to fill this space," said Vince Nicastro, Villanova's former athletic director and the new associate director of its Jeffrey S. Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law. "I have people seemingly coming at me each week with a new thing."
The same can be said about Kickstarter, said Sunil Wattal, an associate professor in management information systems at Temple University's Fox School of Business.
"There's many, many more projects competing for attention," Wattal said. That's why "buzz" around a product is essential for fund-raising goals to be reached, he said.
Noting few comments posted on BandaVida's Kickstarter page from the 42 backers who had pledged a total of $5,530 at the time Wattal and I spoke, he said: "The buzz around the product doesn't seem much."
That's another lesson learned, Dougherty said:
"There's a reason why they call it a Kickstarter campaign. You have to work every single day to let people know about it."
That's foreign territory for Dougherty, who, as founder of Ablaze Development Corp. in Villanova, is usually hired to design prototypes for others, who then take care of marketing the products.
"I like attention," he said, laughing, "but I'm not going to be knocking on people's doors asking, 'Do you want to buy this?' "