Here is my seventh contribution to EPFL’s start-up of the month. It is about medtech and specifically KB medical. It’s also about the Swiss innovation ecosystem.
KB Medical, a new start-up in the world of medical technology, just announced that its fundraising effort raised 4 million Swiss francs.
The news is surprising in more ways than one. KB was founded on October 4, 2012, and the fundraising announced on October 29. It is rare for a start-up to launch with initial funding without having to go through the agonies of surviving in our ecosystem that subsists on subsidies. What’s more, this start-ups is active in an area in which private funding is less common than with the Internet and biotechnology.
These apparent surprises are, however, misleading. Szymon Kostrzewski and Philippe Bérard (the K and B of KB Medical) have been pursuing their research for years in the Biorobotics Laboratory at EPFL. They were supported by an Innogrant. Furthermore, they also received a boost from the Liechti Foundation and were winners of the National Venture 2012. Also, Szymon spent time in Boston as the winner of VentureLeaders. Therefore, the research upstream has been discreet but effective. There is probably a lesson to this announcement: there is no point in creating a start-up prematurely if it is not necessary.
Medical Technology in the Footsteps of the Watchmaking Tradition
Perhaps more importantly, the Lake Geneva region is fertile for medical technology research from the fields of micro-technologies and robotics. The famous Delta Robot is from the same laboratory of Professor Clavel. More recently, start-ups such as Endoart, Sensimed, and Aleva Neurotherapeutics succeeded at raising significant capital. And even more recently, DistalMotion from Ricardo Beira and StereoTools from Remi Charrier were launched through the support of their laboratory plus an Innogrant. These three young start-ups are distinctive for their use of extreme mechanical precision to improve the performance of delicate surgical procedures.
We often speak of engineering for local technology clusters. In the footsteps of the watch industry, the substance of SMEs specializing in medical technology was created in Switzerland. Today start-ups enrich what could resemble a Medical Valley, in the shadow of pharmaceutical giants such as Roche and Novartis and under the friendly gaze of Medtronic and Johnson and Johnson (J&J).
On the Board of KB Medical, one finds Malgosia Iwankowska who worked at J&J, Medtronic, and Sensimed. This is a technology cluster, but even more, it is human talent and a network of connections that develops and grows over the course of years. This Swiss tradition of precision quality and bespoke, however, is widely recognized, and that somewhat demystifies the intrigue of KB Medical’s remarkable news.
Several Medtech Start-ups at EPFL