As part of FoodQualityNews’s series of 60-second interviews with the movers and shakers of the food and beverage industry, we caught up with Benjamin Pascal, chief business officer at Invisible Sentinel, Inc.
What do you do?
I’m the co-founder and chief business officer of Invisible Sentinel, a Philadelphia-based molecular diagnostic developer and manufacturer.
My company invented Veriflow, a first-in-class test system for the food and beverage industries. Our technology couples the ease of use of a flow-based diagnostic with the speed and accuracy associated with molecular methods.
In doing so, our AOAC certified technology eliminates the need for extensive sample preparation, increases the accuracy of testing, and significantly reduces the costs associated with conventional molecular systems.
Tell us about your current role?
We’re experiencing exponential growth. As CBO, I’m charged with developing the strategy and executing on our marketing efforts to support the sales functions of the company. With a crowded field for food safety diagnostics, it was important that our marketing strategy clearly demonstrated the competitive advantages of our first-in-class Veriflow technology.
We’ve worked with thought-leaders, executed on our public relations efforts, and worked to brand ourselves as the most accessible, simple, and reliable molecular diagnostic available. It’s exciting to see the customer uptake across the US and throughout multiple industries.
A good example of our diversification has been the partnership we forged with Jackson Family Wines, where we developed a test for a wine spoilage yeast, and thus entered the fermentation industry with our game-changing technology.
What do you like most about your job?
My partner and I worked to build a strong culture at Invisible Sentinel, where every employee knows they have an important part to play and a stake in the game. We have a motto at the company, “Whatever it takes.”
Our culture makes it a fast and fun place to work in, but also we know we can count on our team to get the job done. Additionally, we’ve worked to build great partnerships with our clients.
It’s not just about having a great technology that meets some of our clients needs; it’s about working with our clients to develop solutions that meet all of their needs. It’s been a tremendous learning experience that I’ve enjoyed immensely.
Consequently, the time spent with each of our clients has led us to adapt our technology to solve difficult problems like detection of organisms in the presence of challenging food and beverage matrices.
What's the hardest thing about your job?
I wear a lot of hats. Because of our growth rate, I’m forced to tackle all aspects of marketing, sales, technical services, public relations, and advertising plans.
It becomes even more challenging, now that we are moving into very different markets, where the target audience for our technology has a different set of values and beliefs. At the same time, it’s a source of constant learning and it keeps things fresh.
Is there such a thing as a typical day for you? If so, what does it look like?
If you mean by a typical 9 to 5, than no. I’m constantly on the move. I took 8 flights over the past two weeks working on the food safety market with clients in Georgia and North Carolina and than changing gears to deliver solutions in the wine industry for clients in Oregon and California.
When I’m at our offices in Philadelphia, it’s usually to plan for my next series of trips including training sessions, installations, and trade shows.
What advice would you give people interested in a job in your field?
I think it’s important to have a good technical background. Food safety is critical, so its important to know the risks, understand the challenges, and communicate effectively to customers on the technical advantages of your system.
Also, there is a certain passion required, in that your working to prevent people from developing illness from adulterated products. In the wine industry, you ensuring the quality and taste of the wine, and that the hard work of the wine making team is not marginalized by a spoilage organism.
What areas are the firm looking to explore in the future?
We have a first-in-class technology that can be utilized across multiple industries. The ability of our R&D teams to develop custom solutions in under 12 weeks for clients has helped accelerate our growth into new markets.
We’re currently expanding our food safety offerings and our quality indicator offerings in the wine industry. We are making a push into the craft brewing industries as well exploring the veterinary and clinical applications of our technology.
What do you see as the next top trend in five years’ time?
Food safety regulations are going to become stricter throughout the world. Volume of testing will undoubtedly increase, so the push for more cost-effective and faster technologies will continue.
I think we’ll start to see some new molecular methods come to fruition along with better methods of sample collection in order to reduce time to results.
Tell us something interesting that no-one knows about you?
I think this fits well with the food industry. I’m actually a competitive eater. Since college, I’ve found that I have a talent for eating large quantities as well as extremely spicy food. Similar to the television show, “Man Versus Food,” I’ve entered and won numerous eating challenges.
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