Below is the story of Visual Tech-Lab, a participant in the MedTech Meetups in Zabrze and HealthTech Hub community in Zabrze, as parts of the Startup City Zabrze city programme.
Visual Tech-Lab, is an innovative Polish company that is bringing to the dental market the world's first non-invasive system for measuring tissue density, primarily bone tissue. The tool allows the dentist to significantly lower the threshold for the risk of complications already at the planning stage of a dental implant procedure. They have already raised PLN 2.5 million to build the product and are opening a third round for investors.
Janusz Dramski, Head at Startup City Zabrze:
– How do you manage a startup in order to develop it steadily in two years and build a recognisable brand, because I guess you could say that Visual Tech-Lab is already recognisable?
Marek Uziel, Co-founder and CTO at Visual Tech-Lab:
– There are probably as many recipes as there are successful start-ups. A lot is written and talked about in the media space, and we have our own, which is perhaps a little different:
- Firstly, our product, is one that is perfectly in line with the standards of investors`, expectations`, i.e. it addresses a real need and introduces unique values that were unavailable in the existing medical practice, it is scalable, has negligible competition and, in the short term, global applicability.
- Secondly, the team, is designed to be complementary for the execution of tasks, each of our five fills a different key area for company and product development.
- Thirdly, the absolute game changer of our development is planning. Before we took the first step by applying to the incubation programme at the Pulawy Science and Technology Park and set up the company, we planned all our next business steps and sources of funding three years ahead until we entered the market. And they just worked out.
– I understand that you have planned a business model from the beginning, that`s fundamental, but to plan and execute funding sources two to three years ahead with only an idea on the table? If it`s possible and it works, this way is like a holy grall for Startups, will you reveal it?
– With pleasure, if only our story can help start-up innovators. Of course, you can start in two ways: firstly by starting to get grant support from PARP, NCBiR or other competitions, and secondly with commercial funding from investors or funds. We started with a different approach. After analysing the market, we chose the Netrix Ventures fund, which had a suitable investment area for us and very good feedback, and asked if our project was interesting for them. It turned out that it was. For us, however, this was not the impetus for the next standard step, which was to submit an investment application. We knew that although we had put three IP security patents on the table, the road to authentication and a satisfactory negotiating position was long and difficult ….
Mark, what kind of lock pick did you find?
– We said we didn't come to you today for cash (Oops!), at least not now. If our idea is OK, then show us the path of what we need to do to make the decision of capital entry as easy as possible for you if we make it, which we will inform you about step by step. And it surprised. The fund`s guidelines were:
- 1 – incubation, because we will know that you are well prepared and your business plan well vetted,
- 2 – to minimise the risk, because we don't want to be the first to put up the money, so you have to get the first support yourself,
- 3 – you have to go through our vetting procedures, but this will already be easier if we can monitor you at every earlier stage.
– And that`s how you came up with the financing plan, which you agreed with the fund from the beginning and implemented under its control. To minimise its financial risk, they monitored you all the way through. Mark: That does indeed sound like a recipe for success …
– Yes. After incubating at WAB PPNT and doing our homework solidly – as the best startup of the 2021 edition – we snatched up the PLN 1 million grant for graduates of the incubation programme at PARP in a jiffy and …. we had two points ticked off the list. But do you know what was the most important part of our plan? By the time we submitted the investment application to the fund in the next step we had all the worst problems a startup can have in such negotiations taken care of!!! We were no longer in the middle of nowhere, they had known us for a year and a half, we tried to keep in regular and frequent contact and we got to know their key team. They monitored our development. They advised when we asked for it. They trusted us as we executed the entire plan and developed our project strongly. We minimised their investment risk because we already had the first million. We simply listened to their advice and gained their trust.
– This really looks like a new model for getting an equity investor. Working together for a long time and gaining mutual trust allowed you to avoid the ritual pitching in front of funds. You have turned the element of risk involved in succeeding in winning the next financing round into an element of
the company`s financing plan !
– (laughs !) You hit the nail on the head. But we also did our homework on pitching very solidly. Especially thanks to the InCredibles programme under Jarek Sroka and the training during the Carpathian Startup Fest organised by the Rzeszów-based RARR and Dawid Adamski. Well, and we have won several prizes and awards in various competitions. This is an important part of development. You get evaluated by many different boards, you catch the weak points of your project, you improve communication and you make a lot of contacts. The team and the project have become recognisable.
– I am very impressed. And coming back to your technological solution and product, tell me, could the application of your non-invasive bone density measurement system have any future use other than the area of dental implantology currently indicated in your information?
– We have several important areas defined for the development of our system, including in orthodontics and periodontics. There is also the area of medical engineering. Already today, as a result of interest from CBCT manufacturers, we are preparing to work on a solution to integrate our SIMDENSITY software into the CT scanner software as an important new functionality for these devices.
– You recently announced a research and implementation alliance with one of the leading manufacturers of dental implants – the Swiss company Thommen Medical and its distributor C.Witt Dental. This seems like a big success for a company that is only about to enter the medical market with the new year.
– Yes, and we will soon be announcing important new partners. Simply put, we are following our global market entry strategy as planned. It will not be a solo voyage around the world. We want reputable partners to accompany us from the beginning.
– Entering the medical market with a new product and service, which is before you, is a major financial undertaking. Are you planning another round of funding….
MU: – Right now is the right time to have a few months to start another funding round and to attract, preferably a target, a strategic investor for Visual Tech-Lab. We will use the funds to cover our entry into global markets. We want to be providing our service for 30 million annual dental implants within five years.
– Mark, please pass on our wishes for success to the whole team. See you at the next MedTech Meetups in Zabrze. Thank you for the interview.