An Interview with Maxwell Cohen, Winner of Market Disrupt 2019 at HEALTHCARE ЯEVOLUTION (Healthcare Revolution), Founder and CEO of Peel Away Labs, the Innovative Startup Revolutionizing the Medical Bedding Industry
Medical Tourism Magazine recently sat with Maxwell Cohen, Founder and CEO of Peel Away Labs, to talk about his product, ‘peel-away’ bedsheets, and how it can revolutionize healthcare.
Medical Tourism Magazine: What is Peel Away Labs and how did it all begin?
Maxwell: When I was in college, I noticed many of my friends never washed their sheets. When I came home from college, I noticed that my elderly grandmother and grandfather had trouble washing their sheets as well. That was the impetus behind starting a product of peel-away bedsheets.
I come from a family of serial entrepreneurs where I was pushed to start businesses before I turned 27, and this was between juggling my major in college: Environmental Water Resource Economics.
MTM: You just alluded to a bit of what the product is. Can you elaborate more on what Peel Away Labs is?
Maxwell: We manufacture and design multilayer peel-away disposable products. For healthcare purposes, it’s 100% latex-free and one bedsheet has up to five layers on top depending on the application, with each layer lasting 7 to 10 days. So, a pack of five can last about 54 nights if it doesn’t get soiled.
Each layer is incredibly soft, 100% waterproof, and when it gets dirty, you simply just peel it off and then you instantly have a brand new sheet below and you just dispose of that layer. Each layer is a mattress protector as well as a bed sheet and is softer than traditional bed sheets.
MTM: Do you have any numbers related to cost savings side by side – the traditional versus the new?
Maxwell: With Peel Away Labs, there are so many benefits compared to traditional bed sheets. When used in hospitals, our products were proven to be 32% softer than those found in traditional healthcare settings, which means better patient comfort and less skin irritation. Each layer is 100% waterproof, so we save a lot of incontinence pads being used in healthcare facilities.
Most importantly is if somebody is bedridden, you could change sheets within 60 seconds or less. So compared to the traditional way, which could take two professionals almost 15 minutes, we save money in both labor and quality patient comfort.
Also, since it’s disposable, we believe there’s a lower risk of hospital-acquired infection as the contaminated sheets are not going throughout the facility. They get thrown away immediately. So we believe we could save each hospital bed per day in the United States about $3.80.
When it comes to labor and laundry costs, the traditional sheets could be laundered 58 times before they fall apart or disintegrate. About 25 percent of sheets and linens are thrown out anyway at the end of the year due to them being torn or being stained.
So there are many great benefits for a product like ours and we believe it’s perfect for the ICU, postpartum, isolation, ER, and so many other great uses.
MTM: When it comes to peeling away of each layer, how does that impact the patient that’s lying in the bed?
Maxwell: It makes it so much better if they’re bedridden. For instance, after surgery or injuries, our product allows patients to have a brand new sheet within 60 seconds. So, the patient is not in an uncomfortable position for more than 20, 30 seconds at a time compared to the old traditional way where they could be on their side for up to 6 to 7, 8 minutes. A product like ours has tremendous benefits for hospitals and healthcare facilities.
MTM: Tell us a little about an experience – a case study of the product’s impact not only on the bottom line or the efficiency for the hospital – but the end user, the actual patient.
Maxwell: When we started this business, we went after markets I was familiar with: summer camps and college students. But when I put the product online and we started searching for who needs a product like ours, we recognized that home care is the sweetest spot for it.
If you’re taking care of somebody that’s bed-bound at home, this is a product that has tremendous benefits for the caregiver and the patient. We’ve recognized that our product is a fantastic product when it comes to potty training also. We also have many people that buy our products that have either children or spouses or loved ones that have a disability.
There was an instance where a particular customer’s son wore adult diapers due to bed wetting. For adults, diapers don’t fit as well as the children’s diapers and, of course, they have a larger bladder.
I happen to have the story written right in front of me. “Every morning I washed sheets and scrubbed the mattress. I even got to the point where I had to throw out his mattress a few times a year. So we got them an air mattress because we couldn’t afford to keep buying a new mattress every six months, but with peel away, it changed all of that. Now he’s back in a regular bed and he continues to have his bedwetting issues, but his mattress stays dry and I can have a brand-new sheet instantly.”
That is something that warms our hearts and that’s the real reason that we do what we do.
MTM: Do you think what you’ve created is something that we could see every facility with a bed using in the next 10 years?
Maxwell: I believe Peel Away Labs is the next generation of healthcare bedding and the next generation of bedding in general. Everybody knows they have to wash their sheets. It’s a universal weekly hassle. So I believe within the next four to seven years, this will be a product that will become a regular annuity product in healthcare facilities and households around the world, whether it’s my product or something similar.
MTM: What is it the first reaction of an investor when you’re telling them about your product?
Maxwell: There are many reactions and it depends on what type of investors you’re speaking to – there are angel investors, there are venture capitalists, and then there are people who invest in startups. And everybody gets incredibly excited about the business.
Everybody has his own opinion. It’s about keeping the people that are excited, excited. Many people get excited immediately and you know, sometimes the fire in the belly calms down. But we have investors that continue to be excited about us and continue to invest in us and continue to believe in what we believe.
However, it’s not a home run every time; we get rejected by investors and venture capitalists all the time. Even with all the great things we have in the pipeline and our product being in the ‘Walmarts’ of the world; it’s not always an easy sell, so everybody has big opinions on it.
Everybody looks at it as a business as well as a healthcare product and it all depends on the angle that we’re pitching it.
MTM: If you could change these investors’ minds, those that have said no to you, what would be the one thing that you would say that would get them to change their minds?
Maxwell: Investors, many times if not the majority of the time, unfortunately, strictly look at the scoreboard – how much money, how much revenue do you have, to date? So the only thing that would change investor’s minds, at least to the ones that said no to us, is a scoreboard that continues to rise and rise, every week, every month, which we have been performing on.
However, in many cases, they want to see much bigger, faster everything. They want to see the scoreboards now. They don’t care what it’s going to look like in six months. In many cases, they want to know what it says now.
MTM: Where are the biggest opportunities for Peel Away Labs?
Maxwell: This is a product that everybody could use. There are people that you believe should use it, and when you’re starting a business, you hone in on the people that you believe need a product like yours. So the home care market; the health care facilities, mostly hospitals, hospice, acute care are where we believe the product belongs, at least the first generation of the product out in the space.
But we also target countries that have low infrastructure and water supply for laundry. Also, in places that are affected by drought, a product like ours allows these facilities to continue to have clean, fitted bed sheets for every patient no matter what the infrastructure is in their country. So we target places that have low access to water, electricity, and infrastructure.
More specifically, as the population in the United States is getting older and older, the market for our product is getting larger and larger as we know it helps the elderly community tremendously.
MTM: As a young entrepreneur, what is one piece of advice you would give to other startups within the health care and health niche?
Maxwell: It’s all about persistence: the timeline, the pipeline, and getting through the gatekeepers and meeting the right connections.
Having the conversion takes much longer for pilot programs. It takes a very long time, if you’re lucky enough, to even land one in the space. So persistence; making sure you have enough capital in your bank account – your business bank account – to allow you to last at least 18 months until the deals and connections you have solidify to actual business. Like I said earlier, we’ve been rejected by hundreds of people, so persistence is key.
MTM: What did the platform at Market Disrupt during HEALTHCARE ЯEVOLUTION (Healthcare Revolution) do for you?
Maxwell: Being selected as a winner at Market Disrupt is exactly what I needed to take my business to where it needs to be in 2019. Your team at Global Healthcare Resources has all of the connections in the healthcare industry, and it’s like a dream come true. So far, every person your team has introduced me to has been the perfect person to do business with. It hasn’t happened overnight, but I am so glad it has picked up and snowballed since it’s kicked off.
MTM: We are so glad we had the opportunity to chat and learn a little bit more about your business off the stage and what it’s doing for the healthcare world and medical travel. We hope this is a product that we can see being talked about more and more over the coming years.
Maxwell: Awesome. Thank you so much.