I came across the German Accelerator Life Sciences program through my startup network as well as recommendations of our investors and other stakeholders. It was the only program – out of all accelerators that I looked at – which offered assistance with what we needed as a company. Other factors that made us apply for German Accelerator Life Sciences, aside from recommendations, were success stories from other companies that had completed the GALS program. The location of the German Accelerator Life Sciences office in Cambridge/Boston, Massachusetts was also a deciding factor because it is a major hub for medical device companies.
In September 2016, I decided to go to Cambridge, MA for three weeks to work with the German Accelerator Life Sciences team on establishing a U.S. network of potential distribution partners and investors and on setting up the U.S. entity. At this time, our business model was applicable to over 50 countries outside of the U.S. German Accelerator Life Sciences validated the business model and assisted with improving it specifically for the U.S. market. The key aspect was to align our successful product portfolio to the specific customer needs in the U.S. and to focus on identifying one major distribution company with strong sales and support infrastructure. German Accelerator Life Sciences’ support was substantial also in establishing a network of major companies, investors, and other successful founders.
The German Accelerator Life Sciences team also provided assistance with the FDA approval, which is a challenging but well-structured process. It is a vital step when going into talks with companies about distributing your product. Without prior submission of the application, approaching potential partners is very difficult.
One of my recommendations to future German Accelerator Life Sciences participants is to be open to learning about the U.S. market in their respective fields and to be aware of the potentially different workflows. In our case, the way surgeons utilized the devices turned out to be quite different in the U.S. It is therefore important to understand not only which solutions are being used but also how they are used. Oftentimes, workflows and products are different, payment models are different, and workflow utilization is dissimilar. Therefore, products and business models might need to be adjusted in order to introduce them into the U.S. market.
After establishing a legal entity in the U.S. and filing for FDA approval in the beginning of 2017, we were able to target big companies, which is how we started to collaborate with Stryker. This then lead to our acquisition by Stryker in November 2017. German Accelerator Life Sciences helped me navigate the very complex M&A process, which was very helpful for me as CEO in this critical time of setting the company on a new strategic trajectory.
The motivation to join Stryker was to become even more successful with our innovative products. Before our relationship with Stryker, we competed with multibillion-dollar companies in terms of distribution. I think that we provide one of the best products for sinus surgery and utilizing augmented reality technology; it is also the most advanced solution in the market. From the day we launched Scopis, our goal had always been to have a positive impact on surgical outcomes and therefore patient’s lives. Joining Stryker meant that our products would be more widely used by surgeons around the world. Our product was already excellent from a technology standpoint and with Stryker it now also becomes a commercial success.
German Accelerator Life Sciences was one of the most important programs we participated in, contributing significantly to the global success of our company.
Scopis is a medical device company that was founded in July 2010 out of Charité and Fraunhofer in Berlin. The company designs surgical navigation systems that use augmented reality (AR) technology, where real-world imaging data from the surgical environment is enhanced by integrating computer-generated imaging data.
Currently, they offer systems for otorhinolaryngology (ENT), cranio-maxillofacial (CMF), spine, and neurosurgery in 50 countries worldwide. They established a U.S. presence in Cambridge, MA to make our disruptive technologies and solutions more readily available to patients and providers in the North American markets.