The overall health, well-being, and safety of employees, leaders, and teams is a top priority for Cisco as we transition to an inclusive hybrid work model. In preparation for office re-entry, Cisco is developing the support systems employees will need to succeed when working from a combination of onsite and offsite locations. A fundamental component is Cisco’s technology solutions for workplace transformation. These solutions include social density monitoring, intelligent workplaces, asset and facility monitoring, and smart buildings. Cisco’s solutions will empower employees to collaborate in a hybrid work environment safely and securely.

To further protect employees from the risk of infection and reduce the spread of illness when the workplace reopens, what if there was a data-driven solution that could test facility surfaces for bacteria, clean and disinfect surfaces, validate the effectiveness of the cleaning method, and then digitize the results to assure employees and customers who work onsite?

Roots in entrepreneurship and Cisco Networking Academy

In June 2020, Cisco Networking Academy alumni Dom Chavez and Malcolm Smith co-founded Victory Lab Micro-Clean, an infection-prevention service that utilizes the most innovative technologies to disinfect and protect network operations centers, offices, churches, and other facilities. Dom and Malcolm met in the workplace after completing their Networking Academy coursework a few years apart from one another. When Malcolm interviewed with Dom for a networking role on his team, they learned that they had both participated in the Networking Academy program. The two alumni-turned-colleagues formed a close bond.

In his early years, Malcolm’s fascination with electronics tinkering and an uncanny obsession with vacuum cleaners inspired him to start a carpet cleaning business at the ripe age of eight. He used the Bissell Carpet Cleaner he had begged his mom to buy him for Christmas to professionally clean carpets within the homes of family and friends.

Years later, after completing a prison sentence for a cannabis-related charge at the age of twenty, Malcolm struggled to find steady employment (read more here: Cisco Networking Academy alumnus Malcolm Smith shares his story of transformation). Returning to his entrepreneurial roots, he launched a commercial cleaning business which he operated for six years. Four years into running his business, Malcolm decided to go back to school where he enrolled in Networking Academy courses.

It is this entrepreneurial spirit combined with the skills that Malcolm and Dom developed as Networking Academy students—the ability to identify a problem, troubleshoot it, and design a solution—that propelled and equipped them to launch Victory Lab Micro-Clean.

Cisco Networking Academy alumni Dom and Malcolm
L to R: Cisco Networking Academy alumni Dom Chavez and Malcolm Smith

Victory Lab Micro-Clean’s solution

Prior to the pandemic, Dom was impacted by the rapid spread of illness and infection when he was managing a network operations center and sending his son to a daycare facility. “I was dealing with a ton of call outs from my team members every fall when school started because they had caught something from their kids and were unable to come in for their shifts. At the same time, my son was in daycare, and I was pulling him out every month due to him being sick.”

Aware that he once ran a commercial cleaning service, Dom turned to Malcom to discuss the problem of improper disinfecting processes in facilities and the lack of surface test data to validate these processes. These shortfalls could result in contaminated surfaces and sick individuals. To address this, they developed Victory Lab Micro-Clean’s Infection Prevention as a Service (IPaaS) model.

Surface testing is conducted to determine the level of microbes harbored on high-touch surfaces and is performed during every visit to a customer’s facility, before and after treating surfaces. This step is essential to validating the effectiveness of Victory Lab Micro-Clean’s solution.

Victory Lab Micro-Clean’s technicians are equipped and trained to treat high-touch surfaces including electronic devices to complete the disinfection protocol. Workplace infection outbreaks are prevented through continuous antimicrobial surface protection by applying a safe solution for surfaces that kills viruses and bacteria on contact. Technicians will return to a customer’s facility a minimum of every 60-90 days to perform the service.

The pandemic led Dom and Malcolm to incorporate a technological component into Victory Lab Micro-Clean’s IPaaS model to address the need for potential clients to provide assurance to employees and visitors working onsite that measures are taken to protect their well-being. All surface test results for facilities are uploaded into Victory Lab Micro-Clean’s portal, providing tangible evidence to employees and visitors who engage with the portal that the surfaces they are interfacing with are properly disinfected and protected.

Patent Pending Micro-View Portal
Patent Pending Micro-View Portal: Facility High-Touch Surface RLU levels. It includes air quality data points, capacity and facility details, and additional information/instructions partners wish to present to visitors.

A solid partnership drives successful outcomes

Dom and Malcolm attribute their success in establishing Victory Lab Micro-Clean to their diverse skill set, which enabled them to form a strong business partnership. “The synergy of our partnership is what Victory Lab Micro-Clean is made of. We’re engineers, so solving a problem is an infatuation. Once we get something in the crosshairs, we’re not going to let it go. It’s like having a puzzle that’s not finished; for me that’s insufferable,” said Malcolm. Dom noted that he and Malcolm have similar career backgrounds and are both creative individuals. They benefit from one another’s strengths, but they also compensate for each other’s weaknesses.

Both fathers to young children, Dom and Malcolm were balancing caring for their families, navigating through the early months of the pandemic, working full-time jobs, and nurturing their new business venture. They admit that their journey in starting Victory Lab Micro-Clean has been overwhelming at times. Dom shared, “We spent every spare minute we had on this business, including the weekends. In between being fathers and working, it was a lot to manage.” Malcolm added that time management was a key factor to their success although the long, sleepless nights were often unavoidable.

As business partners, Dom and Malcolm depend on one another for the encouragement, motivation, and support needed to continue driving Victory Lab Micro-Clean. Dom shared, “I knew that we were going to take Victory Lab Micro-Clean the whole way when Malcolm showed me that Christmas picture of him opening up the vacuum cleaner. I was like, oh man, I got the right partner. I got the right partner!”

Left: A park bench at 288,888 RLU. RLU stands for Relative Light Units and are the units used to quantify ATP or Microbial life on a given surface. Middle: Malcolm conducting a Micro-View Surface Assessment. Right: Malcolm conducting electrostatic seat protection.

 Standardizing data-driven solutions to maintain facility hygiene

In August 2021, Victory Lab Micro-Clean received a grant from the McKinney Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Innovation Fund for its unique IPaaS approach to managing facility cleanliness. Currently, Dom and Malcolm are exploring potential partnerships within the foodservice and assisted living sectors.

While they have experienced their fair share of challenges in launching Victory Lab Micro-Clean, Dom and Malcolm agree that their desire to continue derives from their shared belief that they can make a difference in eliminating the spread of illness and infection within facilities to help keep people healthy and safe. Through Victory Lab Micro-Clean, they hope to standardize cleaning methods validated by conveniently consumable data as the new normal in maintaining facility hygiene.

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Raquel Aguilar

Executive Assistant

Cisco Networking Academy