Jan Akervall, MD PhD, an ENT surgeon ranked among the top 1% in his field 4 times in a row, invented the SISU Mouthguard in the operation room, to better protect the teeth of his patients. Together with Johannes Schwank, a world renowned Chemical Engineer from the University of Michigan, he founded Akervall Technologies Inc. (ATI) in 2009. The ultra thin, ultra strong and comfortable mouthguard turned out to be perfect for sports. Sassa Akervall, Jan’s wife, has a strong background in media, advertising, and communications, and started marketing the product from the kitchen table. Ann Arbor SPARK was important for ATI throughout the first initial years by providing expert consulting assistance and offered a network that quickly expanded ATI’s operations. In only 2 years, ATI, was profitable with 6 employees. The product line had grown to cater to all age groups and a wide variety of sports, and a night guard was added to accommodate demands from customers.
“…it has been our goal to bring groundbreaking, protective technology out of the operating room and into the home of every athlete and night grinder.”
Sassa Akervall grew the business grew from the kitchen table to the basement of the Akervall’s residence, and later into a 16,000 sq ft plant in 2014. Packaging and fulfillment of the US manufactured products were brought in-house and the marketing and sales departments grew. A large research laboratory was built and ATI received a phase I SBIR grant from DoD in 2012 and has received phase I, phase II and phase IIB grants from NSF for advanced polymer science.
Today, ATI employs 27 people, 4 of which in Sweden, and the mouthguards are distributed all over the world. ATI has strategic partnerships with CCM/Reebok and a number of national sports organizations. The company grows 50-60% annually and has received multiple awards throughout the years. In 2016 & 2017 ATI received the Inc. 5000 awards as one the fastest growing privately held companies in the USA and Jan and Sassa recently received Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award.
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