IGW Episode 6: Colleen & James | Killing Bacteria and Saving Lives

Colleen and James

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Bio:Vital Vio

Colleen Costello and James Peterson are the founders of Vital Vio, a company which produces lights that kill bacteria. Both Colleen & James went to the very prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), and decided to pursue their company rather than the traditional workforce. To date they have raised over a million in funding, and are going through clinical trials for their product. Their passion and enthusiasm for change in both health care and technology is clear, and is sure to make a huge impact through Vital Vio.

Episode Takeaways

I am so happy to be able to have someone from my alma mater (RPI) on the show! Today I welcome on not one…but two guests! Colleen Costello and James Peterson sit down and talk about their company, Vital Vio. What their company is focused on doing, is creating a light which is used to kill bacteria in primarily hospitals, but also food storage/preparation areas as well. This in turn will decrease illnesses and disease from bacteria, resulting in a much safer and healthier environment.

Colleen shares that she first saw the effects an illness can have on a family early on, when her brother was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. This lit a spark to take action, and would be the catalyst to Vital Vio. After this passion had been ignited, Colleen took in all the information she could and eventually stumbled upon an article about airborne bacteria infections in hospitals. She knew this was a problem she needed to tackle, and she did. In the preliminary stages of Vital Vio she partnered with James Peterson (CTO), the technology guru that could bring this venture to the next level. For more information on Vital Vio check out:


With the background of the company in mind, the discussion of Colleen and James individually was very interesting. As the topic of authentic self came up, they shared similar ideas of being flexible and always changing. James had an awesome point of view, that being to make sure that you are “acutely aware of what interests you.” This allows you to understand what you are passionate about, by taking in everything around you and then seeing what you want to pursue.

When we spoke about personal brand, both shared that they do not really partake in social media. Kudos to you two! I personally believe that social media is an all or nothing affair, and is not something that you can force. If you’re not into it, then don’t take place in it. This is perfectly aligned with their authentic self! Also in regards to their business, being very analytically oriented (the RPI in them), they realized that the ROI wouldn’t be good enough to manage an online presence.

In regards to focus, they had some very useful strategies. Being that they are knee deep in startups, they have to focus on their objectives and manage a ton of moving parts. One thing that they find useful is making a three month plan, and then only taking meetings or working on objectives that fit in with their goals for those three months. This concept doesn’t have to just be used in startups, it can really be used anywhere – school, work, sports, etc. I highly suggest thinking in this manner, and it is something that I’m going to be doing going forward as well! James added here that he uses a process of taking in A TON of information everywhere he goes, and “crystalizing it” later. Meaning that he will take in info on the industry, his surroundings, competition – what have you, and then sort it and (crystalize) ideas off that information. That is pure gold, stop the interview right there…brilliant!

Risk and challenge is something that James and Colleen are well aware of, being that they started a company out of college, with a Bachelors degree and no business experience. They did something that a lot of people in Gen Y are doing, and that is taking Calculated Risk. This concept is so important to remember, and one to never lose sight of. They realized that they didn’t have a family to support or a mortgage to pay, and could take that risk now. As they said, “worst case scenario, if it fails we could always get a real job.”

And finally the success question. Both had very insightful answers, and perspectives that I really enjoyed. In one regard through their product and the lives they save, they are successful. In another, the legacy they leave and the lasting impact in society is success. No matter which point of view is used to measure success, both want to make their contribution to the world.






Brandon Galluppi

Brandon Galluppi is a recent graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he majored in Business and Management. Along with being the founder and host of Influencing Generation Why, Brandon is going to be working at Johnson & Johnson, in June of 2014.

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