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Bobby Betros of SwabTek: “Believe in yourself”

Believe in yourself: Have confidence in everything you attempt to do. With the internet at your fingertips, every person has access to the training, examples and guidance necessary to do almost anything. You can learn and do just about anything with an infinite amount of information available online. As part of my series about “individuals […]

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Believe in yourself: Have confidence in everything you attempt to do. With the internet at your fingertips, every person has access to the training, examples and guidance necessary to do almost anything. You can learn and do just about anything with an infinite amount of information available online.


As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bobby Betros, CEO of SwabTek.

MIT graduate with 25 years’ executive management experience for global technology product companies across government, business-to-business and consumer markets; proven leader for venture growth, rapid scaling and business development and a specialist in creating and leading all-star teams.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

With me, it’s always been about technology innovation. My entire career has been spent identifying and advancing new technologies that can transform markets. That journey has included bringing advanced spacecraft technology to the automotive space, bringing internet access to consumers and businesses, developing new mobile applications for consumer markets, plus advancing online and wireless technology to transform the lottery and gaming markets. The first time I saw SwabTek’s technology, I immediately realized it was poised to bring presumptive testing out of the existing niche markets and to the masses. The pervasiveness of this technology will protect adults and kids from drug abuse, secure their environments and save lives.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

SwabTek supplies its presumptive field test kits to schools, airports, law enforcement and other government entities. Many of our customers use personal protective equipment (PPE) while using our test kits so as not to contaminate the test results, which we were supplying as a complimentary product. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, schools were closed, air travel ceased, and law enforcement were preoccupied with keeping the public safe from the pandemic. Our law enforcement and first responder customers were having a very difficult time securing PPE as the federal government was focused on acquiring PPE for health care workers. SwabTek mobilized its workforce to help our first responder customers secure PPE by creating a buyers collective that aggregated orders from the individual law enforcement, fire and EMS groups. We then purchased and distributed PPE gear in bulk. We also joined forces with the National Sheriffs Association, Under Armour, UPS and Motorola Solutions Foundation to distribute face masks to sheriff’s offices nationwide. These efforts continue to this day with our Buy One, Give One face mask program benefitting first responders. The PPE product business has grown from a low volume complementary product to a significant part of our business.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The most challenging part about demonstrating SwabTek’s narcotics and explosives test kits is acquiring samples for testing. The first time I went to see a potential client, I realized that I had forgotten to bring test samples. Luckily the client was in California where recreational marijuana is legal, so I drove all around town to find an open dispensary and purchase a marijuana vape pen and some marijuana edibles to demonstrate our test kits to the client. I also learned to always carry a copy of the Today Show feature about SwabTek on my mobile phone so I can demonstrate the product via video.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

SwabTek’s products are helping to combat two of the more serious problems in society today: the spread of fentanyl and the growth of narcotic-laced vaping and edibles use among our youth.

The advent of fentanyl in the US drug supply has caused countless deaths among recreational drug users and addicts. So many of law enforcement, fire service personnel, EMS and other first responders have come in contact with fentanyl during the course of their duties and died or nearly died that they all regularly carry Narcan to counteract the effects of fentanyl. SwabTek has developed a presumptive field test kit that detects fentanyl and many of its analogues. This test kit is being used to detect the presence of fentanyl in narcotic samples to help avoid interactions with the drug and prevent its consumption.

Vape pens and electronic cigarettes burst on the scene promising a safer way to smoke than traditional cigarettes. The “vape juice” was flavored and claimed to not contain any of the hazardous toxins found in regular cigarettes. Unfortunately, since the industry was mostly unregulated, many of the vaping products available in the market were online and contained very high levels of nicotine, as well as other narcotics and adulterants. These vaping products turned out to be very dangerous to users, especially young users to whom they were being marketed. SwabTek developed a presumptive test kit that detects nicotine and other drugs of abuse in vape oils and juices. This test kit is being used by adults, schools and parents to test their vaping products to ensure they are safe to use.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

The legalization of marijuana combined with the advent of vape pens and e-cigarettes have created a crisis in American schools. Students have started bringing vape pens and candy edibles laced with marijuana into school. School administrators had no way to detect the marijuana and therefore were limited in what they could do to combat the problem. A group of school resource officers (SROs) in Williamson County, Tennessee, were so impressed with the ease-of-use of SwabTek test kits, they created an online PSA to educate students and parents on the dangers of vaping and announced the plan to use the products to test vape pens and edibles for the presence marijuana. The PSA included a demo of the product in action, proving to the students that there was now a way to detect this. The deployment of the SwabTek test kits has made a positive impact on this issue in the school district and several others across the country

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

SwabTek’s mission is to help secure your environment with user-safe, highly accurate presumptive testing solutions. Our products test for the presence of narcotics and explosives. These things can help address the root problem we are trying to solve:

Education on the risks of fentanyl and its contamination of the nation’s drug supply to help stop the growing numbers of overdose deaths.

Increased awareness on the dangers of vaping by our children.

Additional regulations around e-cigarette and vaping products to ensure they are safe for consumers.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is empowering your team members with an understanding of the mission and the execution plan, and then giving them the training, confidence and tools they need to achieve the stated goals. Regular reinforcement of these goals and the tactical plan help keep the team members motivated, which is key to achieving consistent improvement in execution.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Believe in yourself: Have confidence in everything you attempt to do. With the internet at your fingertips, every person has access to the training, examples and guidance necessary to do almost anything. You can learn and do just about anything with an infinite amount of information available online.

Think outside the box: Use your life experiences to think about solutions to problems, before you research all of the ways other people have approached solving it. This will give you a chance to truly think about solutions without the filter of others.

Never give up: Success is oftentimes the result of learning from challenges or past failure. As they say, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.

Try new things: Experience as many things as possible in your life. Each new experience will make you stronger and more qualified. A vast number of varied experiences will help you excel at most things you attempt in life.

Have fun: While you go through your life and career, don’t forget to enjoy the ride. You’ll find that if you are enjoying what you are doing, you will excel at it.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Through our work at SwabTek, we have seen the devastation that narcotics abuse causes on families and individuals. I would try to help prevent our youth from wanting to try drugs early in their lives. The statistics show that early drug use often leads to addiction, which can lead to crime, health problems and early death.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose.” ~ Khalil Gibran

Always be optimistic and don’t focus on problems. That will make it difficult to turn the problems into solutions. This outlook has definitely helped me in my career as an entrepreneur.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

Lowell Wood. Lowell is America’s most prolific inventor with over 1,761 patents to his name. It’s incredible to think that one person could create so many unique concepts and innovations. I would ask him to explain to me his approach to problem-solving.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow SwabTek on LinkedIn, @swab_tek on Twitter and Instagram, and on Facebook for more updates. You can also connect with me personally on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/betros.

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