Eelko Ronner is founder of Zoekbeter B.V. providing BedBasedEcho. He participated in the last edition of StartupLeap, part of the medical startups, as well as a member of the community.
Why did you decide to become a founder?
In my cardiology practice, shortage of ultrasound capacity forms a daily problem. When I discovered the global scale of this shortage three other things motivated me to make the step to establish this company.
Firstly, is the enormous impact of ultrasound because if a cardiac disease is found, cheap treatment can make a tremendous difference in peoples health.
Furthermore, the possibilities that Robotics, AI and the Delft – Rotterdam tech-community offer in combination with the well-coached student teams for high quality prototype development, convinced me to make this step.
My belief is that if you persist, and get adequate training and support, money can be found for a good plan
How did you find the problem and the solution?
The problem is too obvious, we lack timely ultrasounds of the heart. As a cardiologist, I wonder how the heart and the valves function, more often than not, ultrasound information is key to treatment. Having to wait, or preselect who get’s a fast ultrasound is a daily frustration. The solution was a colleague who works at the Cognitive Robotic department, professor. Babuska. While having a beer, and discussing the burden of healthcare to society, he asked “isn’t there anything that can be robotised in cardiology?”, the robot ultrasound idea arose within minutes. The availability of options to work with well-coached student teams made it doable to have a first start with private investments.
What’s the best thing about your co-founder?
It is very inspiring to be corrected, learn and discover from an engineering and managerial standpoint. Last year has added more to my personnel knowledge and skill set than I could have imagined due to critical and talented co-founders (and others).
What surprised you the most about being a startup founder?
Regulatory affairs (privacy/GDPR and Medical Device Regulations 2020) form a hurdle, very hard to tackle for a Startup. Policy makers obviously address important risks (privacy, safety) with regulations, but the regulations implemented, should be balanced against the other risks. The new risks are less health tech innovation, higher costs due to entry barriers and not using AI where proven. Or, as an advisor from a notified body told us, better start in another continent if you develop health tech.
What’s the coolest thing about being a founder?
There is so much to mention, e.g. creativity, close contact with team members of different background, speed of developments and etc.
What’s the worst thing about being a founder?
It is comparable to one of the main perceived drawbacks of working in a hospital too. That is, the near endless amount of paperwork and texts that are needed to ascertain others, funders, regulatory affairs, legal documents, ethical boards, that quality is okay and taken care of diligently.
If you can go back in time, what would you do differently?
I would have liked to have the “index to the book” in advance, being a description of all the documents and actions needed to get our product and business developed. Like, which documents are needed for funding, for product development, for GDPR, for a hospital trial, for co-workers contracts like shares and IP, for website and branding; all texts, of which contents are mostly pre-defined and same no matter what you develop. With this knowledge, I would have known what we would face, but also handle the produced texts more efficiently (like a file of summaries of the product, 200 words, one page, two pages, a pitch) in order to prevent doing things over and over again.
How did you approach your first customers?
To follow, I just ask many people.
What’s your advice on approaching investors?
Do not think that the product, or its use is key. A solid financial basis for a near guaranteed return on investment and profitability should be clear in any pitch.
What advice would you give to an early stage entrepreneur?
You have to like typing texts in English, and select and prepare co-workers for this task.
How do you see your idea in 10 years?
I dream that heart diseases are discovered on a wide global scale and cheap treatments are started in time to contribute to quality of life.