Go big or go home – but where to go to go big? Internationalization is an important aspect of today’s startup business but possibilities can quickly become overwhelming. To prepare startups right from the beginning for this journey, German Accelerator launched the Kickstart International program and has a special focus for the life sciences industry in October. We spoke to Philip Mertes, Co-Founder of our alumni EVOCAL Health, about his experience with the program.
Hello Philip, good to see you again! How are things going at EVOCAL Health and what’s new?
Thank you, good to see you again, and glad to be back in the German Accelerator family. We are making excellent progress on our biomarker and product commercialization pathway, have recently received our first medical device approval, and are in the process of further strengthening our IP portfolio. Our interdisciplinary team is growing and we are currently building up valuable partnerships with research facilities and providers.
What sets Kickstart International apart from other comparable programs?
The program is dedicated to addressing the specific needs and challenges of German companies on their internationalization roadmap to the U.S. and Asia, but the program goes much further: A successful internationalization strategy is interconnected with many factors and requires a deep understanding of foreign markets, business models, and fundraising strategy. The program highlights many of the interconnected aspects of internationalization and provides a solid basis for decision making as well as access to a valuable mentor network across the U.S. and Asia. Consisting of a general program part as well as individual and industry-specific mentoring sessions, the program combines knowledge, experience, and application in the best possible way.
You decided to take part in German Accelerator’s Kickstart International program to prepare your company for internationalization. Why is this important to you?
From the very beginning of EVOCAL Health’s journey, looking across the Atlantic has been of utmost importance. The U.S. represents the largest homogeneous market in the Western world – innovations in healthcare and longevity technology are redefining the industry right now, and the public markets are booming with direct listings and SPACs.
However, from our management team’s previous experience in expanding businesses internationally, we knew that successfully building an international business is expensive and the U.S. markets are highly competitive. We found the structured program to be an excellent opportunity to gain a solid basis for decision-making, prioritize the right aspects to focus on, and avoid costly and timely mistakes with the support of German Accelerator’s global mentor network.
|EVOCAL Health is a digital diagnostics company. Using Vocal Biomarkers and Artificial Intelligence and by developing sophisticated algorithms that digitize, parameterize and normalize the human voice, EVOCAL Health analyzes the human voice, breathing sounds, and coughing. By correlating these results to typical symptoms and biomarkers, diseases can be detected early. The company’s origin is in Hamburg, Germany.
Do you think it’s important to start thoughts around internationalization early and if so, why?
Internationalization is all about finding the right timing and prioritizing the right things. Both require founders to focus on, reevaluate and maybe redefine product, market, business model, as well as demand-side and supply-side factors.
In advance of our participation, we have defined a strategic agenda for internationalization in our management team with clear milestones and hypotheses. Our main goal within the program was to validate our strategic goals and operational roadmap with the help of outstanding mentors and make adjustments where needed.
Why was the program helpful for you and what was the most important/most interesting lesson you learned?
German Accelerator allowed us to understand what it takes to succeed in the U.S. market and helped our entire management team have a solid basis for setting the strategic and operational agenda and prioritization. Entrepreneurs tend to immerse themselves in daily operations and execution. Thinking strategically and in long-term time horizons often falls short in daily operations. German Accelerator provided us with countless opportunities to reflect on strategic topics: The weeks were like having lots of sparring partners continuously “holding a mirror” in front of us as the company’s leaders and our business.
Who from the life sciences sector should apply to the Kickstart International program, and what would you recommend to future participants?
Especially for Life Sciences companies with significantly longer and more complex product commercialization cycles, creating a viable roadmap for international expansion that includes clinical, regulatory, and reimbursement strategy in your target markets is time-consuming and requires a lot of work to get the basics right. The participation in the program offers the opportunity to evaluate the readiness for internationalization, build and redefine a solid strategy, and gain the knowledge needed to build a successful global business within a short time.
From our experience, I would recommend future participants to prepare for the program as much as possible: This includes an honest reflection with the entire founding team before the start of the program. Ask yourself what being an “international” company means to you individually. Prepare a first internationalization roadmap that covers personnel, capital, and time resources to then join the German Accelerator learning journey with maximum openness for adjustments.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us! We wish you all the best for your future journey in Germany and abroad!