A shortage of ventilators, he told Scott Cohen and Marcel Botha, was a critical problem in Italy, and he warned that it soon would be in the United States, too. He urged the pair to apply their skills to the ventilator challenge.
Both Mr. Cohen, co-founder of a technology center for researchers and start-ups, and Mr. Botha, chief executive of a product design and development company, were skeptical. A standard ventilator, with thousands of parts requiring a complex global supply chain, was hardly a device that could be manufactured quickly and affordably.
“I was dismissive at first,” said Mr. Botha, whose company is called 10XBeta. “It looked impossible.”