By GREGORY ZELLER //
Sharone Piontkowksi loves feet. Jonathan Glibert predicts “a forever stream of income.” Paul Schwartz is on board, literally. And don’t get Shlomo Piontkowski started.
That’s the team of inventors, executives and entrepreneurs behind SyNC Ny, which leverages Sharone’s designs, Shlomo’s medical knowledge and three patents in an effort to build and market a better shoe.
It started as Sharone’s personal quest to spare women – starting with herself – from the aches and pains associated with high-heeled shoes. Although she didn’t follow Shlomo into medicine – he helped pioneer arthroscopic surgery at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital, she chose a career as an architectural designer – her father’s influences are obvious.
Sharone’s research into a pain-reducing insert led to a “dynamic wedge system” that earned an initial U.S. patent, encouraging her to found SyNC Ny. But neither Sharone, who earned a master’s degree in architecture from Columbia University, nor Shlomo, now retired and residing on the East End, have much business experience.
So, with their R&D suggesting a breakthrough of Air Jordan-esque proportions – their biomechanics apply not only to high heels, it turns out, but to athletics – they’ve called in professional reinforcements. This month, the company brought on Gilbert as its first-ever chief financial officer and introduced an advisory board featuring an experienced patent attorney, an international shoe-distribution expert and Schwartz, CEO of Stony Brook clean-energy juggernaut ThermoLift.
With the heavy-hitting lineup in place and two additional U.S. patents in hand, the little startup is thinking big: For the first time, the Piontkowskis have a solid business plan atop their strong scientific foundation.
That science is not simple. The dynamic wedge system covered by the first patent essentially facilitates rotation between the front and back parts of the sole when weight is applied; the two subsequent patents, issued in October and on Dec. 8, are both “variations on the same theme,” according to Shlomo, including a method for stabilizing a semi-rigid arch and a next-step system using the dynamic wedges to further manipulate the foot.
All told, the company boasts three “patented and effective solutions ready for market” – including a potentially first-to-market solution for high heel-itus – with seven more in development. That’s part of the pitch Gilbert will make as he executes SyNC Ny’s revamped business model, which focuses on licensing agreements.
“I’m just flying high with my theories and working it all out,” Shlomo noted. “But Jonathan will really make a business out of it.”
Gilbert, a longtime hedge-fund manager who’s helped steer Great Neck healthy living enterprise Decision Nutrition to the edge of multimedia stardom, agreed with Shlomo that mass-producing shoes stocked with SyNC Ny’s patented biomechanics is cost-prohibitive. That makes selling or leasing those patents the company’s best bet, according to the CFO.
“That’s definitely the plan,” Gilbert told Innovate LI. “I think their dream was to develop the prototypes and become manufacturers themselves, but through the advice of myself and Noam and Brad, they realize a licensing play makes more sense.”
Noam and Brad are Noam Krugar and Bradley Behar, who fill the advisory board alongside Schwartz. Krugar is the international footwear expert, with experience designing and producing brands carried by major retailers around the globe; Behar specializes in intellectual property, patents and corporate structuring as managing partner of Mineola firm Brad M. Behar & Associates.
Schwartz, the guiding force behind ThermoLift’s next-level water- and environment-control units, is there primarily “to shut me up,” Shlomo noted.
“I get carried away and nobody wants to hear it,” the CEO said. “Paul has a talent for getting all the information onto one page and getting the money. His talent is in raising venture capital.”
Whatever their particular expertise, the advisors are all in lockstep on the licensing plan, which Gilbert termed “the fastest way to profitability.”
“There’s no further cost to the company, beyond your efforts to sell the patents,” the CFO noted. “It’s so much easier to become profitable and create a forever stream of income.”
The science behind the shoes is thick. Shlomo pointed to years of research and several spirited debates with his daughter, with the younger generation challenging the older’s dogmatic beliefs about foot-injury prevention. Those “fairly big arguments” have paid off, he added, in biomechanical advancements that “nobody else appears to be doing, and I really checked.”
And while the science can boggle the layman, the retired surgeon is confident it will sell, primarily because it makes good on decades of empty promises by athletic footwear manufacturers: In addition to relieving high heel-related stresses, SyNC Ny’s science “can make you jump higher and run faster,” according to Shlomo, who in addition to his surgical work maintained a private sports-medicine practice in Patchogue before retiring.
“If I can reach somebody in major shoe companies who will listen, I think we can sell it,” he said. “Nike has a lot of patents. Adidas has patents. But all they have is material and some sort of shoe design. None of them have any biomechanics in them.”