11health: Michael Seres
The healthtech founder tells us how personal experience inspired him to create a nonexistent product and the challenges – and rewards – in doing so...
Name: Michael Seres
Company name: 11health
Location: South East
Date launched: 12/12/14
Number of Employees: 2
Tell us what your business does:
11Health has developed the first ever sensor technology for stoma care. The Ostom-i Alert sensor is a FDA approved, discrete and innovative device that alerts patients as to how full their stoma bags are so that they can decide when to empty them.
The device clips on to any ostomy bag sending Bluetooth alerts to an app on your mobile device to tell you when your bag is filling up. You can set individual alerts as to when you wish to be notified. The device also captures guidance information about volume of output over a time period, which is safely stored on our website and allows you to email that information if needed.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Personal experience. I was the eleventh person in the UK to undergo a rare bowel transplant and so experienced first hand what it is like coping with a stoma. I experienced the day-to-day difficulties that all patients have to cope with as well as what clinicians need.
I just assumed that I could buy something to help me but when it didn’t exist I created it.
How did you know there was a market for it?
UK statistics have shown that there are over 150,000 stoma patients growing at a rate of 10% every year. Further industry due diligence has shown that there are approximately five million patients worldwide.
What were you doing before starting up?
I was lying in a hospital bed for two years. I had intestinal failure, which meant that I was kept alive via intravenous feeding. I then had a further seven months in hospital after my transplant. Prior to my illness I had a career in consumer product marketing, working across both sport and entertainment.
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Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Absolutely, from the moment I ran an alternative tuck shop from my school locker! I have always wanted to build my own business but this one came completely by accident.
How did you raise the money?
I did the traditional funding of going through my network – friends of friends etc. – until someone believed in me. My investor understood what I was trying to do and gave me an investment agreement within 20 minutes.
Describe your business model and how you make money:
We manufacture the sensor device both in the the UK and US, and it retails for £50/$75 respectively. Our sales channels are various;
1. Direct to patients via our website.
2. Direct to hospitals where we already have 10 major US centres taking the device and a number in the UK.
3. The device is fully regulated in the UK and US. It is also fully insurance reimbursable in the US and we are now working to get it on the NHS drug tariff. This will enable it to be prescribed.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
There have been so many. I decided that the key to our success would be getting regulatory approval before we launched. However I wanted to test the device to a new market and present it to patients. This was done at a major US conference where we won technology Product of the Year and that validated the device. However we also found bugs so had to go back to the drawing board for three months.
We then went through UK regulatory approval and at the same time embarked on US FDA approval. This entailed a huge amount of work, hospital trials, laboratory testing, validation and around nine months of work. In the end we became one of only nine devices to be regulated by the FDA in 2014 in the sensor device sector, so it was a huge achievement and we were finally ready to launch.
All of this was done from scratch and I had to learn every single process myself. It was very hard working across two time zones but in the end incredibly rewarding.
What was your first big breakthrough
Seeing the hand built prototype that I had built stuck to my belly and light up when the bag expanded. That was the moment I knew that I had created something and nothing beats that very first time when your hand built prototype actually takes off.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
There is nothing that you cannot do if you truly believe in it. Passion, tenacity and a willingness to keep going are vital. Above all I would say it is about building relationships, it is amazing what you can achieve by showing respect and warmth to someone.
Also be yourself, never pretend you are someone else.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
I want to have a business that is truly changing the lives of patients around the world and I believe this will happen.