The Custom Surgical team: Borja Sánchez, Federico Acosta, Fernando Benito and Ben Ta (from the left).
Photo: Custom Surgical

Custom Surgical: Digitizing Medicine

Custom Surgical wants to give all people access to high-quality healthcare. The startup’s first products, for example, make it possible for ophthalmologists to record their operations with a smartphone. That facilitates telemedical treatment, the education of physicians and communication with the medical community. The founders also talk about the challenges they’ve overcome in our interview.

Munich Startup: Who are you and what do you do? Please introduce yourselves!

Custom Surgical: The idea behind our company arose roughly two years ago in Chile after our CEO, Federico (32), a mechatronics engineer with an MSc in biomedical computing (TU Munich) and ten years of professional experience as a clinical specialist, met the renowned retina specialist Dr. Daniel Alarcón (43). Together with other doctors, they developed our first product, MicroREC. Since then, our team has grown to include further experts in the fields of marketing and sales, software and biomedical engineering.

Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?

Custom Surgical: The goal of our company is to give every person on the planet access to high-quality healthcare. Due to our network and the expertise of our team, we’re focusing first on the field of ophthalmology. Our product makes it easy for ophthalmologists to digitally record their operations and use their smartphones for telemedical applications. The opportunities that are presented by our product solve communication problems that occur regularly in the field: We make it possible for every ophthalmologist to examine their patients from a distance, to share their work with the medical community regardless of their budget and discuss their examination results with colleagues in difficult cases. Moreover, our product has enormous potential for use in the field of medical education.

Custom Surgical: “Our product is lighter weight, more mobile and, compared to our competitors, much more affordable”

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!

Custom Surgical: Our competitors are essentially a few major manufacturers of medical devices and microscopes. Some of them have developed special cameras that also make it possible to record eye examinations and operations. However, the cameras only work with the respective manufacturer’s device. Our solution, in contrast, is compatible with almost all manufacturers’ microscope systems. Our product is also lighter weight, more mobile and, compared to our competitors, much more affordable to both purchase and use.

Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?

Custom Surgical: We have battled three major challenges so far:

  1. Logistics: In the beginning, taking part in conventions was our main marketing instrument and main channel of distribution. As we continued to grow, however, we received an increasing number of online orders from a variety of different countries. Because every country we want to export our systems to has different import regulations and the shipping costs and potential sales volume vary greatly, we first concentrated on standardizing our shipping process and optimizing our costs to simplify the import process in specific zones and improve the customers’ experience with us.
  2. Scaling: Due to the rapidly growing number of customers from different countries, we made attempts to find solutions to scale our company. We started looking for distributors to sell our devices, which would give us the opportunity to sell in large quantities while simultaneously reaching more end customers. That made it necessary for us on the one hand to change our marketing and sales strategies, and on the other hand, we had to establish efficient processes for negotiations, conducting due diligence and structuring contract documents.
  3. Production: The current pandemic has worked in favor of companies like ours, which bring the advantages of new uses for ICT to medicine. In recent months, we’ve observed an exponential increase in demand and had difficulty producing our products quickly enough. To keep up with growth, we’ve enlarged our team and optimized several of our processes. Business Insider just recently published a list of the fastest growing German startups. We were able to hold our own compared to more than 16,000 startups and came in 36th.

“We knew very early on that we had found a product-market fit”

Munich Startup: How is business going?

Custom Surgical: Thanks to the presentation of our first product on Kickstarter and financing from our customers, we knew very early on that we had found a product-market fit. That’s why we consider ourselves so fortunate to already be generating five-digit monthly turnover with bootstrapping at such an early point in time and to be experiencing such rapid growth. To date, in July 2020, we have sold our product in nearly 30 countries. To establish ourselves even faster on the market in the future, we’ve made some improvements to our product and diversified our range of products. For the coming year, we expect a five-fold increase in revenue compared to this year. For early 2021, we’re planning to complete a Series A round of financing – so to all investors out there: Feel free to contact us if you’re interested!

Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?

Custom Surgical: Munich is a fantastic city for entrepreneurs, especially in the field of medtech. The startup scene offers a lot of events and an excellent network for meeting potential partners and learning from other highly successful entrepreneurs. The city also attracts many investors and has a large number of support programs for young company foundations. We just recently took part in the Xpreneurs Accelerator Program of UnternehmerTUM. The fact that two of the world’s best universities are located in Munich (TUM and LMU) also means the city has quite a lot of young talent. And thanks to the proximity to universities, founding teams also have access to leading research institutions and find experts in virtually every field.

Munich Startup: Coworking or your own office?

Custom Surgical: Our Munich office is currently in the Plug and Play coworking space. There are also several members of our team who live in other countries (Brazil, Columbia, Romania, France…), which means they work from home.

Simon Tischer

Seit Dezember 2015 schreibt Simon Tischer für Munich Startup. Vorzugsweise berichtet er über Studien, Hintergründe und von Veranstaltungen. Er studierte Soziologie an der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in München.

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