Alumni Spotlight: Q&A with Josh Herwig SOMAVAC Medical Founder


Founders of SOMAVAC Josh Herwig and Dr. Esra Roan.

Founders of SOMAVAC Josh Herwig and Dr. Esra Roan.

Josh Herwig is a jack-of-all-trades with professional experience in machine design, electronics, and manufacturing. Herwig and co-founder Esra Roan- with over fifteen years experience in biomedical research- established SOMAVAC Medical Solutions Inc. to address ongoing issues experienced by patients recovering from major surgeries. SOMAVAC created an inconspicuous device to continually draw together tissue through suction. Their solution restores a patient’s dignity and allows for mobility while recuperating. Josh Herwig shares his incomparable experience in the 2016 Summer of Acceleration.


Q: Where did the idea for your business come from?

A: In our case, the clinical problem originated from a series of conversations that my co-founder, Dr. Esra Roan, and I had with several surgeons who we previously collaborated with in the academic setting. The real idea for a medical device then grew from a combination of that clinical problem and our in-depth interviews with patients experiencing problems recovering from major surgeries.

Q: What was your favorite or most impactful experience at Start Co.?

A: The most impactful experience at Start Co. was the initial programming we received. Both Dr. Esra Roan and I have technical backgrounds. So the business “boot camp” was invaluable in terms of getting us up to speed with what it means to really construct a sustainable business.

Q: What were your expectations coming into the Start Co. program and how did that change?

A: As an engineer, I can be pretty skeptical. I honestly expected the program to be filled with a lot of the fluff and hype that’s typically associated with the startup world. But Eric, Andre, Mara, and the other mentors, really created a succinct, focused program that was aimed at uncovering the core principles and drivers of a business.   

Q: If you were to sell another founder on why Start Co. and why Memphis what would you say?  

A: There are several important components to Start Co. that make it unique. The program is intense and hands-on. The folks who run the program and the mentors are constantly accessible and continually pushing founders to do the things necessary to test, understand, and grow their companies. You are put in contact with potential investors from day one; the program itself is really an interview for follow-up funding. Another unique feature of Start Co. is its location in Memphis, TN. Most of the country doesn’t look like New York or San Francisco. Memphis is much more indicative of the rest of the country and serves as an actual representative proving ground for customer discovery. Memphis is also extremely affordable. This means you have a much longer runway creating the potential for more pivots and product iterations. Also, people in Memphis are very accessible and genuinely interested in your success, which really helps when you’re stuck and need someone to guide your next move.

Q: How can people reach you?

A: Anybody can reach us personally at and They can also contact us through Facebook and Twitter at @SOMAVACMedical or through our website

About Emma MacCurdy

Rhodes College'17 Business Major 2017 Start Co. Associate