SXSW Startups: Sempulse Saves Lives

The Forrest Four-Cast: February 28, 2018

Hugh Forrest
5 min readFeb 28, 2018


At the 2018 SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event on March 10 and 11, 50 diverse startups will attempt to impress a panel of judges with their skills, creativity and innovation. Winners in each of 10 categories will be honored at the Accelerator Award Ceremony at 7 pm Sunday, March 11, at the Hilton Austin, Salon AB. Network with all the finalists from 11 am to 1:30 pm on Monday, March 12, at SXSW Accelerator Demo Day, at the Hilton Austin, Salon C. The SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event (as well as the Demo Day) takes place within the Startup & Tech Sectors track of programming.

A finalist in the category of Health and Wearables Technology, the San Diego-based Sempulse aims to address the reality that too many patients don’t make it to the hospital before it’s too late or they fail to be diagnosed early enough. The Halo sensor system they have developed is able to wirelessly monitor 100+ vital signs non-invasively in non-sterile conditions. First deployed in military training and combat for the United States Special Operations Command and Department of Defense, it is being adapted for civilian use in medical triage situations. See the Sempulse pitch at 5 pm Sunday, March 11, at the Hilton Austin, Salon AB.

Sempulse founder Kurt Stump (pictured above) answered questions for this interview.

What is your competitive advantage ?
Affordability, efficacy, durability and portability to save lives non-invasively in non-sterile environments.

What does Sempulse hope to accomplish in 2018?
We expect to develop a pre-sales and MOU pipeline for the Department of Defense and select medical niche audiences. We also will conduct customer trials with over 500 field deployed units.

What inspired your team to apply for SXSW Accelerator?
While technology has grown around the healthcare industry, the triage market is critical, but has been neglected as the technology required for portability and durability hasn’t been available. The technology has now come of age and we combined it with body placement and other customer requirements as we explored market needs.

What kinds of people is your team looking to network with at SXSW 2018?
Medical professional, medical administrators and investors who want to help us save lives.

What are the goals for Sempulse at SXSW 2018?
Winning! We came out of stealth mode at the beginning of the year. We are looking to accelerate our momentum and exposure.

What session are you most excited about attending at SXSW 2018? Christiane Amanpour. She goes where the story is and reveals it to the audience in a candid and honest fashion.

Has Sempulse been involved with previous pitch events?
In two month since moving out of stealth, we have won Health Tech Austin and been accepted to Mass Challenge Texas cohort for the spring.

How long has the Sempulse team been together?
Just over two years. Usual startup formation and team challenges, but we have put those to rest and created some great momentum developing product concept, obtaining patent and conducting user testing.

Sempulse is based in San Diego. We know the startup scene in Los Angeles is red hot. Does that energy extend all the way down the coast to San Diego?
Yes. San Diego is great. It’s a hot bed of medical device startups. Establishing our beachhead with DoD also makes San Diego a great location. Medical markets, particularly in triage, frequently follow the technologies proven out in military markets.

If your team wasn’t involved in building Sempulse, what would they be doing?
Causing trouble. We are a fun team of technologist, military, and business leaders that have a distinct approach to asymentric strategies and market disruptions.

Looking at the entire tech industry, what trend does your team think is most underrated at present?
AI is both the most overrated and most underrated.

What podcasts are your team listening to now and why?
Love the local-to-Austin NPR podcast, Two Guys on Your Head with Art Markman and Bob Duke.

What aspect of the startup experience do you enjoy most?
Problem solving.

What do you enjoy least?
People who talk, but don’t take action.

What has the startup experience taught you about life?
Corporations have clear metrics and rhythms. Not always good ones, but long built systems. Startups need to understand rate and pace. It isn’t about failing faster. It is about learning faster, adapting, being truly customer centric and understanding that ecosystem. It is even more critical to explicitly manage your signal to noise ratio to achieve success.

For what you do on a day-to-day basis at Sempulse, what does work-life balance look like?
The cool thing about balance is everyone does it differently. Life is too short not to love what you are doing, so it is about achieving outcomes and enjoying the process.

Person, company, thing or goal. What inspires you to work harder?
My kids. They amaze me every day. I like to think they look up to me, but I look up to them.

You can invite any three living people from anywhere in the world to dinner. Who do you invite and why?
First would be Susan Taylor Martin, who is President of Thomson Reuters legal, for her amazing diligence and insights as a person and as a leader. Next is Pele: an amazing competitor in a truly worldwide sport. The final invite goes to Henry Kissinger. Presidents come and go, but the keen understanding of world dynamics remain.

What do you know now that you wish you had known before you began the startup journey with Sempulse?
There is so much we didn’t know and still don’t know. To be successful, you have to enjoy your work. The challenge of what we don’t know, learning, overcoming, is part of the fun.

Look for interviews with other SXSW Accelerator finalists in this space between now and March. Startups already profiled as part of this series include 70MillionJobs, AfterNow, ARwall, Bluefield, Cambridge Cancer Genomics, Commutifi, DashTag, FanFood,, Goalsetter, HealthTensor, Instreamatic, Leaf, Moms Can: Code, Pawame, PolyPort, Sceenic, Switchboard, UPGRADED, USHR and Vochlea.

Or, click here to browse the full lineup of startups for SXSW Accelerator 2018.

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.



Hugh Forrest

Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.