Educator (Associate Professor) / Entrepreneur / Leader of angel communities /
Entrepreneur in residence at PorterShed and BioExcel
Stretching in 3D
On Love Island, the mantra is ‘Casa Amor is the ULTIMATE romance test’.
At some point in a startup’s life, the company faces Casa Amor. The business model goes tits up. The product doesn’t meet the customer’s needs, or competitors change the game. Or your patent fails to issue. Or money runs out because investors break their promises, customers waffle, the market crashes, or the head of tech leaves and you have to pay above retail for scarce talent.
For successful startups, there are many such Casa Amor moments.
Covid-19 is a Casa Amor moment. It’s not different, just more acute. And the companies that survive will have shown the flexibility, scrappiness, grit, and confidence characteristic of the best startups.
And they will have benefitted from the timing and luck that always figures into the mix.
Last winter, I met the team from MedScan3D (medscan3D.ie), a company in the Galway Technology Center. With a combination of data savvy and 3D printing expertise, MedScan3D makes bespoke parts for the human body – from mitral valves to metatarsals. Their major customers are big companies like Medtronic who are pioneering a new era of personalized medicine.
Then Covid-19 hit and business came to an abrupt halt. Since then, we’ve had a standing meeting Wednesday mornings to discuss what to do. All the business modelling, all the customer targeting, all the business model canvases and sales funnels were out the window.
At least for the unforeseeable future.
Over the last two months I’ve watched the company reassess, reach out, experiment, and evolve. They contacted Aerogen and Medtronic and have produced 3D-printed replacement parts (currently in short supply) for ventilators, selling directly to hospitals. They have been making face shields for hospitals and care facilities in Ireland and the USA (at cost or below; they’ve raised money via a successful GoFundMe page. For more information of their work, and to see their products, go to http://www.medscan3d.ie/covid-19/). One of their products is a face shield that is much more comfortable to wear and can be reused (autoclaved).
One that requires a specialized printer. Only one of which exists in Ireland. In their shop.
They’ve received national attention (newspaper, television, social media) and expanded their contact network. Both here and abroad.
Most recently, they have begun reaching out to business who will require protection when customers return – hair and nail salons, physiotherapists, dentists, shopkeepers. And they did it the smart way – cold calling and rapid product iteration. Of the first 20 calls to dentists, they received purchase orders from eight of them.
Almost at once, a new target market identified.
In partnership with some of these dental practices, they are iterating face shields that are easier to use, more comfortable, and made from plastics that are clearer and more durable. And they are looking at product extensions that make dental work possible in an ever more dangerous world (when Covid-19 is used to rate the risk of infection that professionals face from 1-100, dentistry rates a perfect 100). Dentists and hygienists are blogging about their product and their phone is ringing off the hook.
They have a new business model (still evolving). Is it sustainable? Will it survive past the Covid-19 era? Will they ever get back to customized parts for the human body?
All good questions. But for now, this feels like big progress. And more reasons to back (financially and otherwise) a superbly capable bunch of entrepreneurs.
Thanks for reading. See you next week.
PS. In my last post, I linked you to Guy Turner at HPVP. Here’s follow-on information about some of their portfolio companies and responses – like those by MedScan3D – to the current situation:
As always, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments.