MedTech and Implantables are both market titans in their own right. The European medical technology market was estimated at roughly €140 billion in 2020. The medical implants market is expected to reach $147,464 million by 2027.
Combine the two, and you get Impli – a ‘cute little implant’ that’s revolutionizing both markets by globalizing access to personal medical data. For now. It also aims to tackle fertility issues, heart disease and even improve dialysis.
Addition are proud to support Impli on its journey of impactful innovation. For our latest feature of ‘When It All Adds Up’, we asked Impli co-founder and BioTech genius Anna Luisa Schaffgotsch to share her mission of implantable healthcare.
How did the idea for Impli come about?
It was really random! I was working in a pharmaceutical scale-up. I had a really challenging job and was travelling like crazy. One day, I travelled to the office (2 hours away) and tried to get in – but realised I’d forgotten my key card! I had to go all the way home and back again, and it added 4 hours of extra work to my day. It was so frustrating and annoying. I thought ‘It can’t be possible that this system only works when I have a card on me’. So I did some research and found implantables that would solve the issue. From that perspective, I was able to see the opportunities that implants provide.
We started with ImpliCaspian, because the biggest impact driver was healthcare. These are the implantables that can save lives, make a difference, and also need more R&D. Once you do that, you can do everything else too. That’s how the idea came about – just a really random thought on my way to work!
It took me 3 months to find a name. There was a lot of fear around implantables, and so many of the brands were simply ignoring those fears and not addressing it in their marketing. I thought ‘This is tech for everyone, not just people who want to be fast movers, or in a specific segment of the population’. I asked myself, ‘How can I make an implant cute and non-threatening?’.
I’m German by origin, and in German to make something cute, you just put an ‘i’ at the end of the word – then it’s ultra cute. I said, ‘Implant… Impli’ – just a very cute little implant!
How did you grow your business during the pandemic?
Covid was a bit of a blessing and a curse. We launched our first product in the second week of March 2020. By the fourth week, we had shut down thanks to Covid. We had just spent 90k developing this product and we had bootstrapped from our own savings. We had to shut all our clinics. I was stuck in Geneva, really ill with Covid. I remember having a 39 degree fever, lying on the bed with my computer thinking ‘Oh my god, my business!’.
What do you do when sales go to zero? You pivot. We stopped all our Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns, and focused on product development instead. We asked ‘What can we do to make our product more attractive when we open again?’.
We thought it would be over in 2 months – then it just dragged on to a year and half! It was a nightmare as a business from a cashflow perspective. We’d restart the business, then they would shut things down again. From a development point of view, however, it really helped us to build our sensor base products. We would never be where we are without Covid. These new products are extreme value drivers both to us and the tech world.
Yes, we lost a lot of revenue and only acquired about 48 customers in that time. At the same time, it’s a blessing because we made some products that can really change the world. It extends beyond the straightforward medical record identifier and goes much more into an intelligent system to help us live healthier, better and safer. So Covid was a double-edged sword in that sense.
How is your product making an impact?
Our biggest goal and vision is to decentralise medical information. At the moment, many countries have individual medical cards, like the NHS. But when people go abroad, especially those with underlying health conditions such as allergies or invisible illness, this information isn’t shared.
With Impli, you simply enter your information into your Impli phone app, and it automatically uploads this to your implant. All that medical staff need to do is scan it. Alternatively, you can just hit the SOS button on the app and your details will appear. This means you can access your medical history from anywhere, anytime. And as it’s an implantable, it can’t be stolen – meaning your information is safe.
What has been the most satisfying moment in your business?
My biggest ‘wow’ moment was definitely when we put our team together. I remember thinking ‘We’ve got a strong team now – we can really do this!’
Aside from that, I do think any time someone speaks positively about our product or mission is a ‘wow’ moment for me. We’ve come through so much adversity to get here, so it really means a lot. There will always be moments when people criticise our business model or times when stuff ‘hits the fan’, so I think it’s important to celebrate each ‘wow’ – it keeps you moving forward!
What motivates you?
For me personally, my motivation lies in wanting to do something that makes the world a better, safer place. I want to create something that has some impact on people’s lives on loads of levels. I studied biotech, so I combine my passion with my reason for going that way. It’s the same with my team. I try to motivate them by ensuring they can work on what they love. If not, they won’t be good at it.
‘Wow’ moments are great – like eating a delicious chocolate bar. But they’re not enough to sustain you long-term. Empowering people to utilise the skills they want to learn in the best possible way. That kind of culture is what keeps you going!
What advice would you give to students coming out of university who are looking to start their own business?
Just out of university, it’s difficult. You likely have zero work experience, you don’t know how to write an email, how to do accounts (without Addition, we would not be here today), you’ve never played any office politics. If you’d like to start a business, I’d say ‘go for it’ – you learn a lot. Just make sure you learn as quickly as you possibly can. The quicker you learn, the better. We have been in four accelerator programs. We all make mistakes, every day, all the time and most of us have 10+ years work experience.
The other thing I would say is: stay true to your own values. It’s very easy to get dragged into doing things that don’t align with your beliefs because you are put under pressure. Without staying true to your core values, you will never build a sustainable business. It’s that honesty and trust, the values you get brought up with. We have all fallen into traps where we compromise our integrity, then have to backpedal. It’s just not a mistake worth making.
One major example is data-sharing. We don’t share it without the explicit consent of our customers, so we can only decrypt the data with permission of the account holder. We constantly have people who want to monetise that data. You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I have to say ‘We can only monetise with complete consent’. A lot of people might be tempted to negotiate on that – but your integrity should remain non-negotiable.
What has your experience been as a female founder in tech?
I think there is still a long way to go. The problem lies both with women and men, on both sides. We, as women, get educated to be motherly, caring and non conflict oriented. If you try to run a business that way, it becomes tricky. You have to find ways of coping. You can’t change the way you think or make decisions, but you can change how you cope with other people’s decisions. Innovation-wise, I don’t think we suffered too much. If anything, it was an advantage in terms of fresh approaches to common problems.
Funding-wise, I feel like it’s been trickier. Nobody has ever said outright ‘But you’re a woman’. It’s more that the way that we communicate our pitch is different. Men are seen as secure investments, whereas women are a risk – and that mindset needs to change. I’m almost making my company more vulnerable by being a female founder. Having said that, I’ve faced a lot more discrimination in my old workplace than in funding a business. You do see the bias more during the investment journey than while building partnerships or hiring people.
I’d recommend women to look at US funding. It’s further along in terms of intellectualising and understanding gender bias in funding. There are a lot of talks and think tanks about why women get asked questions differently than male founders. In the US, they tend to be more progressive.
Lastly, women have to be strong too. We can’t just say ‘Oh my god – they don’t love us’. If we want it to change, we will have to work twice as hard. It’s not easy – being a founder is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
What are three things you would change in the world if you had unlimited resources?
I feel like we are going through global bouts of depression. There’s a huge lack of communication between us all built up on ego. We take ourselves way too seriously. It causes narcissism and unhappiness.
2. Unequal wealth distribution
If it was humanly possible, I would like to make people’s lives more equal in terms of dropping the disparity between the ultra rich and the ultra poor. Communism and capitalism have both failed at this – but there must be something that can work?
3. Unhelpful fear.
Many people are scared of too many things: innovation, saying what they think, taking chances to improve their lives etc.
Solving these things would have a knock-on effect and solve a lot of the huge problems in the world like war, poverty, social tensions and mental wellbeing issues.
Anna Luisa Schaffgotsch is an Addition client and co-founder of Impli.