Team of the company ADORA-MED is developing the interactive medical screen ADORA, which helps display a patient’s information to surgeons during surgery inside a sterile field with help of hand gestures or voice commands. After placing 2nd on the global finals of the Imagine Cup competition in 2013, and receiving Slovene Enterprise Fund’s 50,000 EUR convertible loan last year, the team hasn’t stopped at all. The four competitive, sacrificing and ambitious co-founders of the company successfully completed a new financing round in the amount of 200,000 EUR in which Tim Draper, the elder of American investors, is collaborating with the Bulgarian investment fund Eleven. Otherwise ADORA is planning to complete the complicated certifying procedure this year, while at the same time there are internal test installations in Slovenian and European hospitals as well as talks with distributers.
The investment isn’t all that big and it’s going fast
According to Kristjan Košič, CEO and founder – besides him, the driving force of the company ADORA-MED are Andraž Leitgeb, Matej Vogrinčič and Zedin Salkanović – the new investment round isn’t that high of an amount for making a breakthrough in the branch of medical devices. “Certification procedures take a long time, they’re complex and expensive, and can reach up to 30,000 EUR or more. Then there are also visits to international conferences, and many presentations and meetings abroad. The resources are going fast so we’ll be looking for a new investment round shortly,” explains Košič.
Financing the first steps to the product/market fit
Microsoft’s scholarship in the amount of 50,000 USD, which they’ve received for an excellent 2nd
place in the world finals of the student competition Imagine up, and Slovene Enterprise Fund’s 50,000 EUR convertible loan helped the team finance the first steps to product/market fit. Meanwhile they’ll spend the funds of this year’s summer round mostly to accelerate the completion of certification, and intense market breakthrough or agreements with distributers. They’ll also use it to obtain more hospitals that will use smart doctor assistants in complex surgeries.
Investors thrilled about the team and product
In the new financing round, waiting for them shortly, the team wishes to collaborate with the fund Eleven and esteemed American investor Tim Draper from company DFJ and founder of Draper University. By participating in the entrepreneurship programme of the Draper University, which Andraž Leitgeb attended after Imagine Cup, they succeeded in making contact with Draper who, thrilled about the team and the idea’s potential, invested into further development and marketing of their product.
Competitiveness and self-sacrifice
To get Tim Draper as an investor, it absolutely helped that Andraž proved himself at the bootcamp with his competitiveness and self-sacrifice. The bootcamp has the slogan “Fail and fail again, until you succeed”, and it forces entrepreneurs to step out of their comfort zone and test new, crazy and innovative things. It also takes the participants through different lectures and tests, such as nature survival skills, by throwing them into the ocean and making them swim back or leaving them outside, in the rain, for two nights.
Failure as the foundation for a new beginning
Among the most interesting experiences of bootcamp, Andraž lists building his own parachute and listening to inspiring speakers, such as Trip Hawkins, Elon Musk, Tim Draper Sr. and other legends of the startup scene who additionally help participants understand why failure isn’t the end but rather an experience, a new, fresh and even better beginning.
Knowledge worth ten times more in the US
Through contacts with the American startup environment, the ADORA-MED team also realized that their engineering knowledge, which they might take for granted all too often, means ten times more in the US. “There, everyone has a lot of ideas, but they lack competent engineers and developers who would actually transform these ideas into products,” says Kristjan Košič.
The secret to success
But what is the secret to success of the product itself and the fact that Slovenian and foreign investors as well as customers are recognizing it as one of the more promising innovative medical devices? “It’s not just the technology – that is, movement and sound sensors, and wireless remote display of the patient’s information. Our trump card is expert knowledge, allowing us to show medical information during surgery and in a sterile environment to surgeons in the best possible way. This way, we can ensure an optimal user experience for doctors who don’t always have enough time to prep or they, for example, join the surgery during it.”
Renovation and upgrade
In the past six months, ADORA Assistant experienced a whole design renovation and user experience upgrade, with an even simpler human-computer interaction and introduction of a bracelet that reads muscle signals and detects hand or finger movements of the surgeon, thus enabling them to manage data on the screen even more easily. While developing the primary product from the prototype stage into a perfected product and dealing with certification procedures, the team also tirelessly worked on developing their new product ADORA HealthSuite.
Study for evaluating savings and improvements
“While ADORA Assistant is lowering the costs and decreasing the threat of infections or longer anaesthesia, ADORA HealthSuite is a management system that helps hospital staff and surgeons more effectively plan departments, prepare for complex surgeries, and collect and review numerous statistical data. The additional advantage of both is simple, fast and cheap integration into existing hospital systems. We’re planning a business study for evaluating the savings and improvements in work processes with ADORA HealthSuite in a hospital in Ireland,” explains Kristjan Košič.
Long sales cycles and addressing the right target group
The path to a global breakthrough of both solutions will take quite some time, because the sales cycles in public and health systems are very long. “If we address a hospital in January, we might be chosen a year and a half later at a tender,” explains Košič, “and if I could change something in the past now, I would have addressed the US and other bigger markets at the very beginning and launched the first certification procedures there. For successful sales, it’s also crucial that we address the right users, namely surgeons that do complex, demanding procedures, for example in vascular, abdominal or neurosurgery.
Positive feedback of internal testing
After internal tests and installations in the University Clinical Centre Maribor, which was also the initiator of the original idea for the ADORA surgical assistant, the team managed to present its solution in all other hospitals across Slovenia and received very positive feedback everywhere as well as certain guidelines for further product development. They are also actively making contact with hospitals and distributors outside Slovenia, currently mostly in Ireland and the Netherlands.
“The team is keeping us upright”
Numerous contract colleagues in the fields of testing, sales, design and marketing also expanded the core team of four founders, who otherwise work in Venture Factory, business incubator of the University of Maribor. “We’re still people and the team is what’s keeping us upright, with all the startup ups and downs as well as occasional disagreements or misunderstandings. You have to talk openly about all this, but at the same time you also have to realize that we wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without selfless team members who are also happy that they after all work and create for themselves,” thinks Košič.
Anticipating sales and celebrating certificates
“Like in any relationship, the most important thing with us is also communication, and we’re still learning about it. We have morning sync meetings and we try to be up-to-date with what everyone is working on, where the problems are, what needs to be done… And of course we can’t wait for the first sales and for making bigger business deals, and don’t even get me started on certification. Once we finish it, you’re all invited to a party, which will last at least two days,” is how the leader of the ADORA-MED team invited us to celebrate this important milestone at the end of our conversation.