Startupbootcamp Digital Health Berlin Accelerator has opened new horizons for Raccoon.World with its solution for the rehabilitation namely Raccoon.Recovery — from helping to build a business to changing the positioning of the solution and new useful contacts on the German market. Svitlana Malovana, the co-founder of the startup, shared her experience of participation in acceleration.
Innovation House has already told about the unusual project of technology company Raccoon.World. All who are interested in innovations in Ukraine knows the solution for the hand rehabilitation for patients after injuries or neurological diseases using video games. And since our acquaintance, the startup managed to go through a three-month acceleration program at Startupbootcamp Digital Health Berlin in Germany. Today we met with Svitlana Malovana, CEO and co-founder of the company, and she told us about the features of acceleration in the EU, advantages and disadvantages of the German market in comparison with the Ukrainian, useful contacts received and the most important lessons learned from participating in the program.
— Svitlana, with your startup you went to the acceleration program in Berlin and received a grant.
— This summer we decided to apply to the acceleration program with our solution for rehabilitation and successfully passed the selection to the Startupbootcamp Digital Health Berlin accelerator. In addition to the program in Germany, this also meant getting a 15,000 euros grant.
— Was a grant given under a separate program or as the promotion for top startups that got into the program?
— Yes, it can be called a reward for those teams that have passed both stages of selection.
And before that, we also received a grant from Horizon 2020 — this is a separate program, not related to the accelerator.
— How did you succeed to defeat your competitors and to get into the program?
— I want to note that other startups can hardly be called competitors. Of course, in the context for obtaining investment and passing into the accelerator — yes, we are competitors. But we have absolutely different solutions, so our products do not compete. During the program, we supported each other, and now we are even negotiating partnership with one of the projects.
And yet we were one of 12 teams selected from 750 applications. As far as I can tell, our Raccoon.Recovery project was highly appreciated due to its innovativeness in terms of the combination of technologies, the development of Machine Learning and the collection of Big Data, as well as remote patient monitoring, which is now becoming a trend, if not a necessity. They also evaluated our unique approach to rehabilitation, as well as the way to achieve the goal — the patient can choose any existing video game for rehabilitation.
Also, an important aspect when choosing a company was the desire to work with the team. And there were quite good reviews from mentors and partners about our team.
— How long did it take to prepare for Startupbootcamp Digital Health? What did you do?
— Preparation consisted of choosing an accelerator and preparing an application.
We get serious about choosing accelerator. We found that staying at Startupbootcamp Digital Health Berlin can give us information, help structure our activities, and bring useful contacts of institutions and rehabilitation centers in the German market, as well as the opportunity to talk with mentors who will share with us algorithms of sales and certification in the medical field.
Selection to the accelerator also consisted of two stages: applying online and visiting Selection Days in Berlin.
We spent a little time on the application, because before that we had been preparing for the Horizon 2020 application, and it took about a month for our team and partners. Thanks to it, we have already completed the preparation of information about the product, technology, competitors, the market; plans were described, finances were calculated, a business plan and a roadmap were worked out.
We applied to Startupbootcamp at the end of June, two weeks before the deadline, so we did not wait for the result of the first stage for long. After that, we spent two days on the Selection Days in Berlin, after which we already knew that we were going to participate in the acceleration program.
— On what conditions did you get into the acceleration program?
— Each company signed an agreement, under the terms of which a startup is provided with a three-month program, coworking space, work of mentors and 15,000 euros, and in return we give 6% of the company equity.
By the way, not a person goes to the accelerator, but a team, so the number of representatives from a startup can be any. Two of the co-founders, me and COO Alex Radovichenko, spent three months in Berlin. And, alternating work in the office in Kyiv and in the accelerator, CMO Anna Bezrodnaya joined from time to time.
— How is the program going? Which blocks are the three months of acceleration divided into?
— Startupbootcamp is not a school or a university where you visit classes, listen and make notes, you set yourself the task — what exactly you want to pump in the accelerator. Thus, here you are not taught, here you must learn by yourself. They, of course, give a certain base, but each participant makes own accents, develops his product and simply uses the received tools to continue moving according to his own inner motivation.
here you are not taught, you must learn by yourself
Conventionally, the program can be divided into four stages:
1) At the workshop stage, we were taught, or, more precisely, we were helped to substantiate our own decisions and structure the knowledge that founders and top managers of projects should already possess. For example, the hiring of employees, the organization of working time and the approach to work.
2) The next stage, which I called Sparta, took only a few days, but during this time we managed to communicate with an incredible number of mentors and partners. There were about a hundred of them. What it looked like? A lot of tables — and 20 minutes per table to visit all of them. Three to five persons sit at every table, and in a short time you are not just trying to convey the vision of your project, but also get feedback and agree on further cooperation. This mega intense communication lasted from morning to evening, and that is probably why I associated it with Sparta trainings.
3) Further work in the accelerator included work on our goals: meetings, analysis of the project, work on the technical description, certification. In parallel, there were lectures and workshops on specific topics from a specialist in each specific field.
4) The final stage was Demo Day and preparation for it. This is not just improvement on the project — it is also self-improvement. For the past few weeks, the emphasis has been on improving the oratorical skills that, anyway, are necessary for start-ups in order to equally clearly convey information to completely different people with different interests, experience and goals. Demo Day itself can be compared rather with a graduation party than with a final exam. It included the presentation of the project on the stage in front of 400 mentors and potential and already existing partners, a space for communication, the exhibition area, and video surprises from the accelerator and a festive banquet with champagne.
— What kind of support did you get in Berlin? What support was the most useful?
— The main thing is that we got acquainted with the market and business processes in Germany from the inside. Partly it was with the help of our mentors, partners, networking. Everything was useful. I would like to express special thanks to the mentors.
All the mentors of this accelerator are associated with medical technology, ranging from specialists in certification, sales of medical equipment and ending with practicing doctors, scientists and journalists in the medical field. Using the well-known saying, none of them is trying to give you a fish, but everyone is trying to teach you to catch a fish, which is why this help and support are invaluable.
— What did you expect to receive and what did you actually receive during the program?
— Reality is radically different from expectations. But what we received is of much greater value, although it was received in a different way.
Rather, we expected to share with us ready-made algorithms, databases and templates. But in the accelerator, we began to realize that the world is different than we thought.
The reality is completely different from the expectations
And I am very grateful to our accelerator team and mentors that we were not provided with ready-made patterns of doing business, unlike many other accelerators do, as far as I know, but they taught us to divide the project into a million of processes, to go through our own school and get our own experience.
— What did you change in your startup after completing the program?
— Everything! (Svitlana laughs)
At the same time, nothing globally changed in the product itself — we only slightly supplemented its functionality according to the information received. Because we had the opportunity to interview physiotherapists and patients directly and test the product in the conditions of the market we are trying to reach first. But these are the details that occur during the finalization of any IT-product.
As for business, we have radically changed everything, including our point of view on how a business, various ecosystems, economics, and politics are built.
In particular, we changed the positioning of the solution — we used to say that it was created for the rehabilitation of people with hand problems with the ability to scale to the legs and the whole body. Now we concluded that the solution is for the rehabilitation of the whole body, but we begin with the restoration of the function of the hands. Also, there we formulated an important advantage, which for some reason we did not focus on earlier — our solution is goal-oriented. This means that we offer the opportunity to choose a specific goal of rehabilitation, whether it be playing the piano or cutting salad. Compare with meaningless goals for the patient like “increase the finger bending angle by 3%,” as other solutions on the market do. And this is very important.
Our solution is goal-oriented
And we found a big problem that we can solve. It turned out that physiotherapists conduct various tests and use different indicators and measurements. And this is even though there is an initiative by WHO (World Health Organization) to create a single standard of examination and diagnostics. But it is difficult to use it, and it takes a lot of time. We can digitalize this process, transforming any data into a single standard, one might say, to become Esperanto for physiotherapy.
We create Esperanto for physiotherapy
— What are the most important lessons you have learned from an educational program about the specifics of building a business in the EU healthtech industry?
— As for Germany, the bureaucracy is strongly felt here, as well as the fact that the market is quite regulated by law. We were pointed out to this specificity and were advised that it would be easier to enter simpler markets, in particular, our native, Ukrainian. But it turned out that just for us — it is not.
In the German market, any task can be divided into understandable parts, according to legal regulations. It is easier to determine the sequence of actions and understand what result will be obtained. Which can’t be said about many other markets, in particular, about the Ukrainian. In addition, the German market is ready for innovations; there are laws and initiatives in the field of telemedicine. Our project relates to telerehabilitation — rehabilitation without the need to visit the hospital, with the exchange of data in digital form, and this direction is already actively developed in Germany.
— What contacts in Berlin were the most important and why?
— As usual, the most important contacts appear by chance. These can be people whom you meet at non-topical events, among friends. We spent a lot of time searching for the right people, and the accelerator helped us to get the right contacts among investors, rehabilitation centers, institutions, but we got the most useful contacts just from a non-professional environment.
The most important contacts appear by chance
I will give two examples of such contacts. One of them was our random roommate in the apartment we lived in for three weeks. This man was not only the PhD in neurology, but also an employee of an IT startup engaged in the study of neurological diseases. We are grateful to him for the contacts of the Charite, the largest hospital in Europe, and the Max Planck Institute.
And a second example. A girl from Ukraine who has been living in Germany for a long time helped us with translations. Her friend’s son-in-law turned out to be a physiotherapist at the German Olympic Committee’s rehabilitation center. As a result, we received good reviews about our solution and interesting insights about how the work and requirements for certification of the equipment used in such institutions differs from other rehabilitation centers.
Considering that our solution Raccoon.Recovery was created for the rehabilitation of people with injuries and neurological diseases, both casual acquaintances turned out to be very useful for us.
— What is the most important lesson you learned in Berlin?
— We learned a lot during acceleration program. Perhaps the most important thing is to understand that there are no ready-made business templates that suit everyone. For us, being in the accelerator, as well as receiving a grant from Horizon 2020, was not a goal, but extremely useful tool.
There are no ready-made business templates that suit everyone
Each startup, considering its scope, chosen vector and level of development, can find other accelerators, funds, programs, partnership options and development paths. The main thing is to understand your product, to see your goal and not to stop on the way to achieve it. And everyone chooses own tools to achieve it.