This field is so very fluid, constantly changing in many ways and this is refreshing to me personally, as I come from a professional background where frankly things are much slower, almost glacially moving due to the cautious use of new technology and inherent lack of desire to take risks in avionics.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Don Feak. With over 30 years experience in aerospace, avionics and medical electronics engineering, Don Feak is Azure Medical’s Chief Technologist. Prior to joining Azure, Feak’s focus was on High Reliability Avionics and Spaceborne Electrical and Systems Engineering, in positions from Flight Avionics for Boeing/McDonnell Douglas and Lear Astronics, to Satellite Communications with Hughes / Raytheon Space, to his most recent position of managing a group of engineers for numerous JPL Pasadena NASA and Goddard Space Flight projects. He is a graduate in computer science by Cal Polytechnic University.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Myexperience prior to Azure Medical Technologies (Azure) focused on high reliability avionics and space borne electrical and systems engineering in positions from flight avionics for Boeing/McDonnell Douglas and lear astronics to satellite communications with Hughes / Raytheon Space to my last gig managing a group of engineers for numerous JPL Pasadena NASA and Goddard Space Flight projects. So I managed to learn a few things about lasers and LEDs in high reliability designs. This mentality is “built into me” and into what Azure designs and produces.
What brought me into a consumer product realm from the particularly rigid environments of my prior endeavors? Short answer — — my wife.
She bought some LED gadget from Nordstrom that supposedly was to reduce wrinkles and keep her youthful appearance going strong. It did nothing. She said something like “you know a few things about lasers, correct?” She asked me to investigate this LED/laser “thing” and see if I could make something that works. So I did.
I’m set on my successful aerospace career — — done a lot of pretty cool stuff — — now hoping to broaden the “what I’ve done” part of my story.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Not so much a particular story, but rather some observations made. My experience in rigid design environments where everything done was subject to strict control parameters to meet intense performance requirements with a “zero defect” mindset has taken some readjustment effort to understand how this consumer-focused market functions. This medical consumer market environment where performance criteria are “fluffy,” with so many transitory trends and “fads” coming and going, mixed in with a vast field of manufactures from flimsy junk to top of the line professional products, is certainly perplexing. With that said, Azure will blend in to traffic starting with the rightmost lane and rapidly and carefully move our way over to the fast lane.
What will not happen is Azure will not homogenize and sacrifice our core design principles. Azure will not cut corners — — there will be no box corner cutting so many times that the boxes end up as circles. Because my reputation/legacy is now based on Azure’s reputation.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
Azure’s tipping point came with the realization that no matter how much better a product we design than our competitors, without “the other side of the coin” being competent marketing and brand building, Azure would disappear “into the weeds” like so many other companies have.
Apple is a perfect example: no matter how good Steve Wozniak was with his fantastically innovative design concepts, no matter how good a product concept and marketing guy Steve Jobs was, neither would likely have gone very far without Jobs making the world aware of what Wozniak had come up with.
Azure recognized this as we were stumbling along never making much of a dent. We then brought in Kultura PR as our partner — — an on again off again relationship we hope to continue. What will tip your point positively is to strive for the highest peak of course, but further to plan for and implement the best marketing and brand building effort you can muster.
Azure is in a niche market supplying FDA Cleared OTC medical devices. There are few legitimate competitors and having limited competition is an advantage for consumers looking for what we all make.
Health / Wellness / Beauty sector “soft technology / skincare pharma” companies are comprised of gargantuan entities all the way down to mom and pop operations. Those mom and pops and every one “in between” cannot climb much against the gargantuan competition without aggressive market and brand building as early as possible, leading to sales channels opening up.
As an aside, I’d like to think if you make junk and market it well you will fail. The nature of the beast proves that is not be the case though. Companies can and will continue to make trash and market it very well. Best advice for your reputation is — — don’t make junk. Good for you — — good for consumers — — good for our industry as a whole.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The beauty industry today has access to technology that was inconceivable only a short time ago. Can you tell us about the “cutting edge” (pardon the pun) technologies that you are working with or introducing? How do you think that will help people?
Azure’s core plan is to design for the home-use consumer, medispa and dermatological practice energy emitting devices that are USFDA OTC 510K certified utilizing emerging technologies in LEDs , mid-infrared “eye safe” lasers , directed RF, thermal acoustic methods AND where possible to add as naturally derived as possible, reagents and serums that positively and safely assist in success of a specific treatment protocol.
Azure has the requisite “horsepower” with electro-optic engineering experience coupled with two premier doctors — one cellular regenerative medicine expert and author of more than 105 US patents, as well as sitting as a Prestigious Allergan Fellow; the second is a celebrity multi-board certified dermatologist with four Los Angeles offices and is a UCLA Medical School professor. Both are conference speakers at worldwide specialist symposiums, conduct USFDA clinical trials and are internationally peer reviewed and published in numerous journals.
Most of our device competitors have their designs done by consultants. I’m personally aware of this as my company has been approached numerous times to perform exactly that engineering study, design and implementation service.
On a larger scale company wise — two recent examples of this “outsource” method for Azure’s design efforts come from LVMH and L’Oréal.
Azure’s Orion and Radiance handheld devices are now in the market. These two devices are clinically efficacious in dermal collagen regrowth and full face wrinkle reduction.
Later this year Azure will introduce variants of Orion and Radiance using three novel wavelengths of LEDs alongside photoreactive serums for reduction of acne and scarring alongside the same anti-aging and anti-acne therapies with full sized array of Genesis medispa and dermatology office devices.
- SuperIntense LEDs : For Azure, as scientist/engineers with a current core of LED focused devices, we are at the forefront of implementing the latest LED material science.
- Other LED device companies in today’s market are using 10 year old LED technology … because 10 year old stuff is cheap, plentiful and they can put tens, hundreds or thousands of these little low power LEDs in their products and they look impressive to the customer.
Azure is actually “New Technology” with SuperIntense industrial grade LEDs.
Here are some examples of the difference this new technology brings.
Azure’s Genesis arrays use 27 of these “Turbo LEDs” that output eight times more therapeutic wavelength energy that the closest dermatologist panel that uses close to 1000 old technology LEDS.
- MicroStructure lenses : What are these new technology lensing things? Azure uses these specially designed proprietary lens arrays in our devices to form or shape the output patterns of LEDs into idealized beneficial “concentrated” treatment areas. Scattered and diffused “non-captured” light patterns that are not focused in optimal intensities on treatment areas just cannot be as efficient or provide the benefits quickly and reliably.
- BioScience : Azure’s two Doctors will be developing proprietary serums with cellular benefiting properties (hyaluronic, glycolics, penta and tetra peptides, Vitamins A, E and C) as well as photo-reactive / photoacidic serums for pre-treatment protocols in anti-aging and acne prevention and scarring therapy (Photoacidic sounds a bit nasty but it’s really quite safe and effective when designed properly — — there’s no “torching your face off” rather this method will be designed to gently cause photo-dissociation or dissociation of protons upon photoassociation to prepare the dermis for optimal therapy.)
- Directed radio frequency, thermal acoustic and laser actuated micro thermal zone therapy. Much of this is Azure proprietary and will be part of Azure’s hair growth and home “reverse of Cool Sculpting” devices in planning stages.
All of these technology leaps are or will be implemented by Azure. It’s why we are in this business.
LEDs in Azure devices are eye and dermal safe so no real issues there — certainly not with Azure’s foundational requirement that all home use devices we make will be USFDA 510K certified, as well as additional applicable EU or Asia FDA type certifications as need arises.
As Azure moves into bioscience, radio frequency and sophisticated non-ablative laser methods, we’ll ensure by way of rigorous testing and certifications that what we make works without contraindications near and far term.
We are in this business to “build up,” not to damage or break down.
Can you share three things that most excite you about the “beauty-tech” industry?
- This field is so very fluid, constantly changing in many ways and this is refreshing to me personally, as I come from a professional background where frankly things are much slower, almost glacially moving due to the cautious use of new technology and inherent lack of desire to take risks in avionics.
- I’ve not been much of a people person to date (my pets are my closest buds other than wife and son and best friends). In the skincare environment, engaging new people from a broad spectrum of doctors through to licensed estheticians at the various events and symposiums is an enjoyable (most times) new experience — — (instead of the stodgy bubble of engineering labs).
- Knowing what has been done and tried, and then looking for both ways to “do it better,” implementing that way to do it better, and then seeking the “what’s behind the next door” to what you just discovered.
Opportunity for advancements in directed energy methods and biosciences/nanotechnology for the beauty/skincare/wellness sectors are growing by leaps and bounds — (Actually somewhat arrogantly stated yet substantively claimed, this will occur when Azure does it) and this particular market has huge receptivity for accepting “new stuff.’
Can you share three things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- Fake news/claims. Bloviation on claims is rampant. People want to believe what they are told and if they see some “photoshop” miracle they many times fall for it. Some of those naive people who see none or little of what they hoped for, go right to Social Media and publicly trash whatever “miracle thing” they bought into. This can be damaging to entire focused sectors like Azure’s where we make LED skincare therapy. These naive unhappy campers who bought some winky-blinky car taillight junk that did nothing post “LED therapy is worthless.” That is further “fake news” from whoever believed the bloviating advertising.
Solution A: US FTC regulation and enforcement of online and airwave advertising of products.
2 . Junk Science: Whatever is the latest trendy junk science can quickly rise to the public peak perception. Phony gold dust particles, dubious stem cell protocols, claims of serums with collagen that mysteriously find some way to penetrate through the dermis while not mysteriously penetrating right back out to the surface of the dermis.
Solution B: Common sense on the consumer’s part.
3 . Lack of oversight from USFDA. The FDA is similar to a paper tiger and typical DMV type organization. There are many devices in Azure’s markets claiming they are FDA 510k devices. Many of them have NO FDA 510k. Many make outlandish phony claims in results or even what can be treated with their device or product. There is not ONE competitor device (and we test them all in our Lab) which meets even the manufacturers claims to the FDA in 510K filings that match what they actually manufacture and sell to market. Azure makes what we FDA 510k Cleared. Azure has certifiable true clinical support trial evidence and will continue to add to that portfolio with new products. There is considerable amount of bold lying with no consequences ever observed, which leads to even more bold lying.
Solution C: About as likely to occur as Solution A.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share 5 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
This will be a bit tough , a little trite and commonly packaged — — I’m a grungy alpha-male.
- Do not follow Keith Richard’s (see Rolling Stones) lifestyle plan in any facet.
- UV is bad, so wear sunscreen.
- Exercise as regularly as possible so people can actually have you around on this earth to admire your beauty as long as possible.
- Buy Azure products, as they’ll bring a smile to your face.
- Do good as much as you can and don’t be evil much at all. When you build yourself up with all the good you do for others, it will overflow to the outside of you and that’s all part of being a cool beautiful person.
You are a person of great 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. 🙂
This is my Forrest Gump moment and frankly I’m drawing a blank.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One plus two extra quotes (covering for my lack of self-recognition in the prior “I’m a Person of Great Influence” section)
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool” — Nobel Laureate Theoretical Physicist Richard P. Feynman
”Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” — Steve Jobs
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to “remember” what you said.”
Passed down from my dad as something that was taught him as well.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for all of these great insights!