Ryan Shelton has been able to secure numerous patents for PhotoniCare's clinical diagnostic technology, which has helped attract several early-stage investors and grants. Shelton says the company's OtoSightâ„¢ Middle Ear Scope, and the portability of its technology to other clinical applications, is a solution to a huge problem, one that affects billions of people worldwide.

"Nearly everybody has ear infections at some point in their lives and we're doing it with a solution that basically says, let's just look straight through this barrier that's keeping us from seeing what we need to see," he says.

Coupled with a billion-dollar-a-year annual market in the U.S., PhotoniCare has been able to raise more than $8 million between grants and early-stage funding, including a $5.2 million Series A in late 2020 led by i2E Management Company Inc.

That 2020 raise, Shelton, the company's CEO, says was most interesting fundraise, in large part because of the pandemic.

"There are some applications and technologies out there that the pandemic only kind of helped," he says. "We weren't necessarily in that category. So, it was a very interesting time for a fundraise."

Fortunately, he says the company had long-term relationships with some of these funding firms, and they like what the company is doing. Still, PhotoniCare was able to draw into the round OSF Ventures as well as Sony Innovation Fund and Dreampact Ventures, in order to put together a syndicate that was attractive.

This raise, along with the other funding the company has been able to attract, has continued to increase the company's valuation. To ensure he's building an enterprise value that continues to go up while spending time developing the company, its products, technology and team, Shelton says the company is being very intentional about making sure they keep an up-to-date, three- to five-year plan that includes financial projections that have been validated in some way by the data the company has gathered on the early commercial side.

"Being able to show that and get to essentially a math equation that makes sense for enterprise value as you grow is incredibly important," he says.

The other aspect of that is making sure there's a platform to build on.

"This is ultimately an imaging technology," he says. "We've shown in publications that we can use it to image skin, teeth, eyes. There are a lot of other potential directions we can go, so that really helps to say this isn't just this big opportunity. We've got all these other places we can expand as we grow."

Shelton spoke at the Chicago Smart Business Dealmakers Conference about PhotoniCare, raising funds, and the company's future. Hit play on the video to catch the full interview.