Askel Healthcare is a medtech company finding solutions to the pressing problem of cartilage damage. Askel's team is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of orthopedic and material scientists, and cell biologists who, after years of scientific research, spun off their research from the University of Helsinki and into a company of its own. Invesdor's team sat down for a chat with the founders Virpi Muhonen and Anne-Marie Haaparanta to pick their brains on the switch from the academia to entrepreneurship.
Virpi and Anne-Marie, why did you become entrepreneurs?
"As scientists, we have the responsibility to create new knowledge to mankind. It’s a fairly simple task. As scientist in medical field, we have always believed that our responsibility is to bring new knowledge for the benefit of patients. Thus, when we succeeded in our quest for finding the solution to the unmet medical problem of cartilage damage, the next question in our minds was: how can we bring this invention to the clinics around the world? We felt entrepreneurship was the right answer. We still do."
What are you like as entrepreneurs?
"We were scientists with a business twist, now we are entrepreneurs with a scientific twist. We want to bring evidence-based solutions to medical care: not just another medical device that might work or not for the sake of making a few bucks. Our research background makes us ambitious to have the best product for the particular medical need in the market. Our love and care for all creatures would not make it possible to sell 'just something', but to bring our innovation to those who really need it while not compromising our values."
What makes the story of your personal careers interesting?
"We both have a PhD, we both are work-oriented mothers and we share the same dream: to get our innovation to those who really need it. We have worked towards this dream for more than four years now. In addition to us, our core team includes three wonderful women, with whom we had the pleasure to start this entrepreneurial journey. Kaisa, Laura and Constance are brave women who took the leap from the academic world to work at Askel Healthcare. We know we don’t know it all (yes, really), and because of that we have gathered around us a vast network of amazing professionals to complement our weaknesses."
What are your biggest professional accomplishments?
"Getting the PhD was nice, but SLUSH 2015 made a big difference in our entrepreneurial career. SLUSH is the Europe’s leading startup event and we participated to the Science Pitching Competition - a competition where scientist pitch their innovative idea to a panel of business experts - and we won! That really boosted our motivation and gave us trust in our capabilities to make the shift from scientist to entrepreneurs."
What are your biggest professional blunders?
"Not getting the grant, getting your article rejected numerous times by numerous academic journals, giving awful lectures when you are in a bad mood (probably due the previous), getting nasty public remarks from a respected elderly academic after your conference presentation, experiments that turned to… well, let’s say experiments that didn’t work as planned. The career of scientist is a career full of blunders. So, entrepreneurship, bring it on! We’re ready :)"
What are your dreams for your company?
"To become a trustworthy and financially successful medical device company with an excellent product portfolio to solve major medical needs. To be a great place to work - to provide motivating challenges for professional and personal growth. To stand strong behind our values of evidence-based treatments and true interspecies partnership for the benefit of animals and humans."
Who are your role models and why?
People who dare and care. Everyone who is not afraid to follow their dream. Everyone who accomplishes their goals while not compromising the wellbeing of others, but rather giving something to others as well.
What motivates you?
To be able to increase the wellbeing of others. Our patients, their owners and the veterinary staff, all of those deserve better quality of life and better outcome on treatments. And it is truly amazing to be in a position where you’re able to give that. We are determined to provide the best cartilage repair treatment to humans while not compromising our ethical values. We will lead by an example and challenge the status quo of bringing a medical device to the market - we believe it can be done quicker and more ethically than it is currently accomplished.
Why equity crowdfunding and why with Invesdor?
At this point, while being a young, innovative startup, equity crowdfunding suits us well. To be honest, there’s a bit of 'rebel against the norm' there too. But just a bit - after evaluating the options thoroughly, equity crowdfunding was clearly the best choice. Invesdor was chosen after careful due diligence of different equity-based platforms. Invesdor has an excellent track record, their way of operating suits ours, and they received excellent reviews from past campaign leaders.
Why would you invest in your company? Give three reasons.
- We have the best product to solve the unmet medical need of cartilage damage.
- We have an excellent, motivated and action-driven team with a strong track record of accomplishment.
- We have a solid business case with the potential for excellent return on investment - and we are steadfast in succeeding for those who believed in us.