Andrew Martinko, the founder and CEO of Suncayr, spoke Wednesday evening at Daemen College about his entrepreneurial journey in front of about 100 students and faculty in the Wick Campus Center Alumni Lounge, part of the Nancy Haberman Gacioch Entrepreneurship Lecture Series through the school’s entrepreneurship program.
Martinko was a senior at the University of Waterloo when he started his company in 2014 with a friend in the basement of a university building. The product initially was a skin-safe marker that children could use to draw on themselves--the ink would change color if the sunscreen covering it had lost its effectiveness. However, mothers participating in product testing and focus groups noted that encouraging children to draw on themselves with these markers would raise the potential for a Sharpie disaster.
So SPOT, a UV-responsive sticker, was born. To appeal to young children, the stickers are decorated with fun colors and animal images, similar to a Band-Aid from a pediatrician’s office.
Martinko praised Velocity Science at the University of Waterloo, a small incubator lab that was created to provide a space for product testing and science innovation. Suncayr quickly outgrew the space, and the university expanded in nearby Kitchener, Ontario, to accommodate more entrepreneurs looking for room to create prototypes.
“Don’t let anything get in the way of what you’re trying to do,” Martinko said. “If they tell you there’s no place to do this, don’t let that get in your way.”
By 2016, Suncayr had filed its first patents and began to form a parent board of advisors. He credited the Johnson & Johnson JLab incubator space for helping move the product’s clinical trials forward. In 2017, Suncayr realized that there were opportunities to expand product growth in Australia, which has some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Martinko has spent months there, product testing and building relationships in that market.
In October 2017, Martinko moved to Buffalo. Now a resident of Allentown, he said that Buffalo’s close proximity to manufacturing and key partners has made its location a valuable asset. Today, the company has a staff of 10, and the product will launch in North America this summer.