Arizona Technology Council’s Magazine, Tech Connect, December 2008 Issue
Love of Science and technology leads her into entrepreneurial world.
By Gremlyn Bradley-Waddell
Catherine Leyen has a knack for successfully combining the worlds of science, technology and entrepreneurship, but she’s not the type to flaunt it. “I’m just a country girl who loves horses,” enthuses the longtime polo player who stables five assorted equines at her Gilbert home.
Of course, it’s not every country girl who loves magnetic resonance imaging and counts inventor Nikola Tesla as her personal hero. And though, as Leyen is quick to point out, she doesn’t have a Ph.D or a wall full of degrees, she possesses something else that may very well be more important: a passion for all things scientific and technological – and good old fashioned experience.
The self described Air Force brat attended radiology school and became interested in the science of magnetic resonance imaging. She worked at what is now Scottsdale Healthcare Shea before joining Siemens Medical USA, where she became one of the first women in the United States to teach ultra high-field imaging, or “3T,” (the letter referring to Tesla), as it’s known in the field.
About a year ago, though, Leyen opted out of corporate life. She went on to found Wisteria House Products, LLC of which she is CEO, the primary investor and the majority shareholder. Ron Hatton, was one of her business partners as was their friend, Travis Merrick. And to say these folks have been busy is an understatement.
Wisteria House – the name comes from her mother’s side of the family, which is Japanese and whose familial crest is represented by a wisteria flower – launched the Armadillo Dollar in December 2007. The device prevents ID theft via radio frequency with a piece of identity-protection hardware that gets placed in one’s wallet. Leyen says interest in the product has been strong and police agencies have liked what they’ve seen as well.
NO SLOWING DOWN
In September 2008, Leyen and another partner brought MRI Optimize Consultants, PLLC, to the market. The service, she says, helps healthcare providers maximize the potential of one of their biggest investments, the MRI scanner. “We can optimize patient flow, and get patients in and out, and improve image quality, she says. Merrick, a former U.S. Marine and high school teacher, quips that the service is “like an office manager with a triple Ph.D.”
One of the firm’s latest endeavors is mEYEsign MarPat Marketing, which can create a motion-based internet signature for clients. It’s basically embedding a custom video message into the area where one would normally leave a signature on an e-mail message.
Then there’s also Club HHO, dedicated to sharing free information about how to make hydrogen-assist drives for cars. Leyen says the project got rolling after she lamented to Hatton who at one time worked on missile guidance systems for the Navy, that she didn’t yet have one of those “flying cars” that had been promised in the futuristic loving 1970’s. Now, since she’s had her Land Rover outfitted with such a drive, she says she roughly gets 30 percent better gas mileage. “Nothing there is a product – yet,” Leyen says, adding that the site’s had hits from at least 25 countries thus far.
And if that weren’t enough, the folks at Wisteria House are gearing up for another venture, MyFinalParty.com will be a Web site on which members may leave their legacies after they’ve passed on, even e-mail messages that can be delivered to their children and grandchildren. Yes, essentially messages from beyond the grave.
And that’s par for the course for the multi-talented and multi-faceted Leyen, a woman who, in her own words, thinks “way, way, way outside the box.”