Rachel Chase, 24
COFOUNDER AND CEO
Life Story: A childhood friend with a sleep disorder set Rachel Chase on the path to entrepreneurship. “He didn’t find out until he was 25 that he had obstructive sleep apnea,” says Chase, who grew up in South Surrey and earned a bachelor of business administration from SFU’s Beedie School of Business, concentrating in finance, management information systems, and innovation and entrepreneurship. “He was always told that he was a bit slow, when in fact he was just very tired,” she explains, pointing out that sleep apnea in children is not only common but also difficult to diagnose because it doesn’t involve snoring.
After researching obstructive sleep apnea and chronic snoring, Chase and Zennea Technologies co-founders Nell Du and Oliver Luo developed a device to treat the conditions. It will be the first clinically proven medical device approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use when a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine would not be prescribed. Zennea uses neuro-stimulation technology that externally activates cranial nerves to contract the main dilator muscles of the tongue and reduce upper airway restrictions.
Bottom Line: With its medical device navigating the FDA’s clearance process, Zennea, which has one employee in addition to the three co-founders, is completing pre-clinical testing so it can begin a clinical trial this year with 30 to 40 people. The company plans to enter the U.S. market in two to three years, pending clearance from the FDA, and then turn its attention to China’s and Japan’s medical device markets. Zennea is funded through Creative Destruction Lab and San Francisco’s SOSV Hax portfolios.