An Implanted Idea Shows Its Teeth
Have you ever considered how orally fixated English idioms are? No? I won’t lie through my teeth, neither had I until I started writing this article. In all seriousness, however, Andreas Bayerle (48), co-founder of the Austrian MedTec startup Jeder GmbH, gives two bits of sage advice when it comes to (quite literally) losing one’s teeth: “If you lose teeth in your upper jaw, don’t neglect it. In the end it will be more complicated to treat. And if you need a sinus lift,” – a traditionally painful, invasive and expensive procedure to install dental implants into the bone mass beneath the sinus cavity – “call me and I will introduce you to some doctors who are going to do it in a way that hurts much less.”
Though not a doctor himself, Bayerle knows a few quite personally. Jeder’s co-founders, for example: Dr. Klaus Eder, a dentist with 30 years of practice under his belt (though he’s certainly not long in the tooth); Dr. Philip Jesch, whose family owns one of the biggest dental clinics in Vienna (Jesch + Eder = Jeder); and Dr. Eder’s daughter, Michaela Bayerle-Eder, a MD since 1998 who also happens to be Andreas’s wife and the mother of his two sons.
Jeder’s co-founders (from L to R): Dr. Jesch, Dr. Bayerle-Eder, Dr. Eder and Mag. Bayerle (photo credit: Jeder GmbH)
Andreas, a native of Vienna, studied at his hometown business school (WU) before going to Fontainebleau, France, to get his MBA at INSEAD. After getting his degree in 1998, he cut his teeth by working at McKinsey for six years. He says he grew tired of “being a consultant and not the one really in charge,” so the next step was becoming a CFO of Skandia Austria in 2004 and, three years later, of Austrian electronics retailer Niedermeyer/Cosmos.
By the end of the decade, Andreas realised that “the logical next step for me was to own my own company.” Fortunately for him, his dentist father-in-law had not only developed his innovative technique for a less-invasive (therefore less risky and painful) sinus lift, but was already armed to the teeth, so to speak, with patents for developing it into a medical device.
Dr. Eder, whose father invented a method for making the hard concrete for building alpine dams, understood how important patents were. “Many doctors make great inventions,” claims Andreas, “but without patents, their hard work is simply stolen,” leaving them down in the mouth, indeed.
Andreas decided to sink his teeth into the family startup and abandoned his climb up the corporate ladder. Dr. Eder had neither the experience nor the intention to become an entrepreurial businessman, so he gladly delegated this role to Andreas. Jeder GmbH was incorporated in 2010, the same year they received 600 thousand euros seed financing from the Austrian federal promotional bank (AWS).
Though the family had already put its money where its mouth is, by providing initial capital for developing a prototype, “This company would not exist without the public support in its early stage,” says Andreas. “In MedTech, there is just no way to start selling right away. There is an enormous upfront investment needed and there is huge risk.” AWS also provided valuable feedback and connections with other MedTec entrepreneurs, who had already negotiated the rough waters of clinical trials, CE certification and serial production of medical devices.
Not wanting to bite off more than they could chew, Andreas and Dr. Eder availed themselves of co-founder Dr. Michaela Bayerle-Eder’s expertise in conducting clinical trials at the University of Vienna. “The results of the study, which lasted until February 2011, were quite good,” smiles Andreas. The trials demonstrated that patients reap enormous benefits from the procedure in terms of lowering overall pain, post-operative complications and recovery time, and that normal dentists (as opposed to oral surgery specialists) could carry out the procedure without advanced expertise.
According to Andreas, Jeder’s innovative procedure benefits patients, “particularly women who after a traditional sinus lift procedure often look like they’ve gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.” (If you really want to set your teeth on edge, just Google “sinus lift” and grit your teeth as you see the gory evidence of standard surgery gone wrong). “For the dentists it offers a chance for competitive advantage. They want to be the ‘non-ouch’ doctor and to do it for less cost.”[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8BbONhLrGo]
After successfully completing the clinical trials, Jeder needed to obtain the obligatory CE certification. Like pulling teeth, it’s a painful, costly process for a small startup to tackle alone. So Jeder partnered with the Austrian medical supply company Biegler, which contributed its technical and manufacturing expertise and fought tooth and nail to get the product successfully certified in the E.U. (now by the FDA in the U.S.A., as well).
In June 2013, the Lower Austrian VC equity firm tecnet equity took a minority stake in Jeder. “Their goal is to build up the company now that we have a product,” says Andreas. “They are helping us set up a global sales and distribution network and marketing to key opinion leaders in the field, through specialty journals in the Austrian and German markets.
By 2014, Jeder could finally sink its teeth into its sales and distribution efforts. Already Jeder has made distribution deals in Poland and Israel, sold about 100 units (at 10 thousand euros each), garnered very positive feedback and is poised to go global, most likely by partnering with (or exiting to) a large international MedTec firm.
It works from a medical point of view, but now we are getting proof of its commercial concept, that doctors are willing to buy it and are happy with it.
The clinical trials have proven that “it works from a medical point of view, but now we are getting proof of its commercial concept, that doctors are willing to buy it and are happy with it,” says Andreas, whose experiences going through the increasingly difficult certification process has left a bad taste in his mouth.
“What’s really difficult has been to overcome the increase in regulation in Europe for medical devices, resulting from some cases. Sure, there are problems in the industry from a few unscrupulous crooks, like that breast-implant scandal in France. However the public-policy backlash is that MedTec devices should be regulated as tightly as new medicines are. Overregulation will kill all the small MedTec startups, making Europe even more dependent on large companies and reducing global competitiveness. Surely, we must keep differentiating medical devices by their risk class – a simple syringe shouldn’t be held to the same regulatory standards as a high-risk pacemaker. International harmonisation of regulatory standards would also be of enormous benefit to small MedTec startups like ours.”
However, Andreas is not personally interested in advancing public policy (“I find politics a very frustrating business,” he admits). Assuming all goes to plan and Jeder GmbH achieves worldwide success, he’d rather use his amassed experience to continue on as an entrepreneur developing new products, “especially in the area where medical infrastructure intersects with IT – a very hot area at the moment.”
Being an entrepreneur gives him a good reason to smile: “What’s really nice about being an entrepreneur is that every time I go to the office, I see that something exists that didn’t exist before. In the corporate world, I didn’t have that direct satisfaction.”
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