RIVANNA was founded in 2010 by graduate students at the University of Virginia. Co-founder Will Mauldin initiated the founding of RIVANNA after taking a course at the Darden School of Business as a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering (BME). Will saw an opportunity to apply his expertise in medical ultrasound technologies to address the high failure rates associated with epidural and spinal anesthesia placement. Fortunately, one of Will’s fellow BME graduate students had industrial product development experience, and so Kevin Owen was recruited to round out the team and formally establish the company.
With no company facilities or funding, early-stage development was performed in Kevin’s home attic, including assembling the first circuit boards in a toaster oven. Will created the first prototype ultrasound transducers using a trailer hitch and hot glue, which was tested in a deer spine phantom with materials obtained from a recent hunting trip. This initial prototype provided the basic concept and preliminary data to attract RIVANNA’s first outside funding from the National Institutes of Health.