Following the sudden deaths of an infant son and a year later a newborn daughter, Shante Nixon found herself on a personal mission stemming from the anguish she experienced from neonatal intensive care. Nixon has returned to her day job but spends much of her spare time looking for a way for technology to help others who find themselves dealing with the unfamiliar neonatal environment and terminology.
“That is my driving force,” Nixon said. “Not everybody walks around with a medical dictionary.”
Nixon, 35, took her concept for an app to a developer in Charleston in late 2012 and that led to a product, Connect2nicu, which has been in Google Play and Apple iTunes stores since 2013. Nixon’s efforts to make the app more user friendly and to possibly develop a company led her to a new Greenville chapter of the Founders Institute, an entrepreneur training and startup launch program.
“I want to do some of it on my own,” Nixon said. “I will be a non-technical founder.”
She describes Connect2NICU as an early stage startup company focused on providing “mobile solutions to parents who have a little one in the neonatal intensive care unit,” or NICU.
Nixon, who works in auditing and order processing at Windstream in Greenville, impressed the Swamp Rabbit Angels investment group with her app and business plan and is receiving their first Diversity Scholarship. The award pays the $750 tuition for the institute training and mentoring resources.
“Any parent who needs this app is in a very stressful point in life,” Nixon said. “While in the NICU many of the resources that were available to us were either book, pamphlet or leaflet form. Other information that I was unclear about was left up to me to search through online research. I thought there had to be a simpler way to get important resources to parents.”
Swamp Rabbit Angels founder Jason Premo said Nixon’s persistence attracted attention at the Next Innovation Center before she came to the institute. He said she “really showed a lot of initiative there and has a passion for the neonatal intensive care product that she wants to build. She makes time to seek out sources of knowledge never quit.” He said Nixon also presented a business plan to earn the scholarship.
“She has bootstrapped it,” Premo said. “She is way beyond what most people are at the idea stage. When she is ready to present a full plan to investors that is going to show really well.” Premo said Nixon “will definitely need more resources to help develop it but it’s all the other aspects of running a company, learn about sales and marketing and all the budgeting, how to recruit and staff employees.”
Nixon said her husband, a teacher, has been supportive.
Scholarship recipient refining neonatal app for new business
In late fall 2011 she stopped in to her OB-GYN office for a check-up “because my hands and face had started to swell.”
“My blood pressure at that time was severely high, my limbs were swollen, and I began suffering from headaches,” she said. “This was all occurring two days before Thanksgiving, while we were preparing for our families to join us for the holidays. The doctors admitted me into the hospital immediately that same day. While I was there, the doctors discovered that I had developed severe pre-eclampsia. The day after Thanksgiving my son was born. This was the beginning of our tumultuous journey in the NICU.”
Nixon said the app is free and the “goal is try to keep it free. We’re not sure yet. We will try to figure it out.”