This spring, MBET team SmartBandage hit the road to pitch their startup at the Rice International Business Plan Competition in Houston and the New Venture Championships (NVC) in Portland. SmartBandage has developed a sensor-equipped bandage which provides real-time data to monitor early warning signs of chronic wounds, and these competitions offered a great chance to gain feedback, funding, and pitch experience.
We caught up with co-founder Sohaib Imran Rana to hear more about their experiences.
Q: Both of these competitions are known to be intense, with the pitch and Q&A sessions taking up to 45 minutes. How did you prepare?
Sohaib: We prepared for these in-depth questions by studying what we knew investors would be looking for, especially in the US context which is much more aggressive. Being a medtech company, we knew we need to prove ourselves by showing a sound understanding of the system and a good strategy. There was a huge emphasis on patent protection, market access, and reimbursement.
Most judges wanted to know what would motivate physicians to buy and use the product, in relation to the healthcare coding system. So we spent a lot of time understanding the healthcare system and reimbursement nature in the US by speaking to professionals in the medical device industry about their processes. We also wanted to have a sound understanding of the process of selling to hospitals so we spoke to a lot of purchasing departments in hospitals to learn about how hospitals bring in new devices, the role of Value Assessment Committees, etc.
Q: At Rice, you won the $5K People's Choice Award, chosen by popular vote! How did that feel?
Sohaib: We were definitely excited; it's a huge honour for us because it means that we have been recognized outside of the competition for our hard work and our product.
Q: How has your team grown from the experience of attending these competitions?
Sohaib: We have a much better idea of how to pitch our business; our presentation went through millions of iterations. We now have a full understanding of what investors like to see and what is important to them to show how they can get a return. Now we know how to represent that visually in our presentations.
Q: What’s next for SmartBandage?
Sohaib: For us, it's all about clinical trials. We have broken down that goal into a series of mini-goals; first, we need to find a clinician who is a key opinion leader (KOL) in the field of chronic wounds who will support us. We are simultaneously applying to get into a few accelerators to help us with this, as well as connect us with investors and other sources of funding, and to help us align our regulatory strategy, clinical trial testing, and market access strategy simultaneously.