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Hi, my name is Marty Steyn. I was born in the “lowfeld” of South Africa and was fortunate enough to be raised between these African savannahs and the gumtrees of Australia. Prior to coming to Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, I spent 8 years as a management consultant, where I helped management teams develop and implement turnaround strategies for their failing businesses.

But I always knew that this was only a means to an end. I wanted to invest myself in an industry that I felt more connected to and where I could see myself making a difference in the long term. More specifically, I had my eyes set on Health-tech startups. Companies that were using the latest technologies to solve some of today’s most pressing health challenges.

It would be this goal of mine that would drive me uproot myself, leaving the white beaches of Sydney behind to come and settle in Durham, North Carolina. I had heard rumors about the innovation that was happening in the Research Triangle area and the extent to which Fuqua was tapped into and had access to this network. In my mind, this was the perfect opportunity for me to, not only improve myself as a business leader and get an MBA behind my name, but to through myself at opportunities, rub shoulders with like-minded individuals and get involved in something that got me excited.

As soon as I got onto campus, I realized that I had completely underestimated the amount of opportunities I had access to. From professional clubs to company presentations to social events – there would always be something that was willing to take up my time. It became clear as daylight to me that I had to take on board what so many people had told me and to become “intentional” about where I invested my time.

It was after a very fortunate chat with my career fellow, where he encouraged me to get involved in Fuqua’s mentored study program, that I applied to a small startup called Protect3d. Between all the “fancy” private equity and established company projects, I ended up being the only student who indicated a preference to work with this very unknown company.

Protect3d is a small team of former Duke Football players and engineers who are driven by a mission to impact the health of athletes everywhere by using a new toolset that leverages powerful 3D technology. Imagine personalized protective pads that are designed to fit your body perfectly. After a quick scan on an iPad it is created hours later by a 3D printer – that’s what we do.

I got involved from the “get-go.” I assisted the team to pull together a presentation that would lead them to win an innovation award from the NFL, at the Super Bowl in Miami, for advancements in player health and safety. Building off this momentum, I focused my attention on financial forecasting. This enabled us to articulate how much, we believed, we could get of an estimated annual $6B industry. I got involved in business development discussions that would see the team collaborate with athletic trainers at 7 schools, creating over 100 custom devices for preventing and protecting a range of injuries.

When COVID-19 hit, it significantly hamstrung our ability to further conversations with partners interested in exploring ways in which our technology can improve their athletes’ performance by delivering personalized protective gear that the athletes are excited to wear. But, together with the Pratt School of Engineering, we were able to refocus our attention, technology and skillsets to contribute to our community and print over 150 surgical masks that went to Duke University.

As I am drafting this blog, we are in the process of launching a mass marketing campaign to initiate conversations with College Football teams across the country. This unplanned opportunity has been one of my highlights of my first year at Fuqua and I fully intend to continue to work with the team at Protect3d – so check in with me later to see how the story unfolds!