We had two young, utterly fascinating entrepreneurs – Dhruv Agrawal and Anupama Engineer – on our webinar last week. Both are building deep tech ventures in healthcare. We would urge you to listen to the webinar on the Times Techies Facebook page if you want to be a deep tech entrepreneur.
Dhruv, co-founder & CEO of Aether Biomedical, is just 22. His parents are doctors, and he too briefly thought he would become one. But in the second year of his MBBS, he dropped out, and extended work he had started in college – around assistive devices like prosthetics and exoskeletons – into a startup. The idea was to build a communication layer between these devices and the human body, so that the mind could be used to operate these devices. And also to communicate the muscular skeletal health of a person to a doctor so that appropriate therapies could be recommended.
Dhruv and team built sensors and algorithms. “Whenever you think of doing something with your hand, there is a particular neural signature that arises in your muscle. Our sensors capture that signature, and process that to understand the exact intent of the user; and then the prosthetic hand does that particular action. Our system also provides tactile feedback to the user,” Dhruv said. Today, Aether’s 20-member team is divided between India and Poland. Dhruv moved to Poland to take advantage of Europe’s robotics, motor systems, and gearing systems expertise, as also to leverage Europe’s grants, investors and market.
For Anupama, it all started when she and two colleagues – all doing PhDs in microbiology/nanotechnology – one day decided they should apply their research work to real life applications. They found that hospital-acquired infections were a big issue in hospitals and for patients. With grants from government bodies, and later from Chiratae Ventures, they developed high quality silver nanoparticles that could act against viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The process has been patented, and the product has passed all toxicity, safety, biocompatibility studies.
Their company, WeInnovate Biosolutions, is close to launching their first product, a urinary catheter impregnated with silver nanoparticles. “Urinary catheters are a big source of hospital infections. So we chose to address that first. But we can use it in a number of other areas,” Anupama said.
Dhruv & Anupama’s advice on building deep tech ventures
* Have clarity on why you have started the company, and then don’t deviate from your prime focus
* Look at the end-to-end journey of the customer. That will allow you to find problems which can be solved parallely with your product, and which will be able to provide a much better solution
* Start building your network from Day 1. Start interacting with VCs, other entrepreneurs
* Don’t try to build a product in weeks. Think long term. Divide the bigger goal into smaller milestones
* Fundraising should be a continuous process. If you wait till you are close to running out of money, your bargaining power will be less
* Build mechanisms to constantly keep investors and stakeholders updated
* Ensure a well-rounded co-founding team and early hires, a mix of technology and business expertise, people you can count on to be with you a long time
* Don’t shy away from hiring people smarter than you
* Don’t try to do everything yourself; disseminate power