A young Finnish company is expanding into the global healthcare market, helped by a significant international investment.
DAVID J. CORD
ABOUT three per cent of the world’s population has diabetes. It is more prevalent in developed economies: the Finnish Diabetes Association estimates that up to nine per cent of Finns could have it. Moreover, the number of sufferers could double within the next twenty years. With such an exploding public health problem, one Finnish company has devoted itself to helping those with diabetes to manage their illness.
Mendor is a six year-old Finnish company that has created a blood glucose meter and online software for those with diabetes. It has attracted a wealth of talent from the global health care industry to its board of directors, and last year closed a significant financing round from domestic and international investors.
“We are doing great this year: scaling up our operations and sales. 2012 is the first real full year of sales for us, and we are very excited finally being able to go international in a proper manner,” says Kristian Ranta, CEO of Mendor. “In March, we launched in the UK with Merck Serono and are now widely available for patients. We have also just recently started selling in Sweden and the Baltics.”
Hard- and software
“Our glucose meter, the Discreet, is the only truly integrated glucose meter for all kinds of diabetes patients,” Ranta explains. “It includes test strips, lancing device, meter and carry-case all in one unit. It is very easy, quick and convenient to use.”
The meter is small, light, and works fast: the company says it can go from “pocket to pocket” in twenty seconds. Yet the hardware is only part of Mendor’s offering. It also provides software to help users get a clear picture of their overall glucose behaviour and set goals with their doctors.
“Then we have the cloud-based glucose analysis platform called Balance,” continues Ranta. “Balance is the solution for future diabetes treatment at practices and clinics across the globe. It helps professionals focus their resources on the right patients who need the most help, and to treat them better with pre-analysed data – what is really essential in deciding on treatment actions and the right regimen.”
€8 million round
With a powerful offering in a growing market, the company raised €8.1 million last summer from Nokia Chairman and venture capitalist Risto Siilasmaa, Finnish Industry Investment, Ilmarinen, Biothom and Finnvera Venture Capital.
“What makes Mendor’s business so interesting is its potential,” Siilasmaa explained at the time of the investment. “A large part of the company’s added-value in the future is based on the patient data collected through blood glucose measurements. The material compiled by Mendor’s service can be processed in research and patient self-care. Through this investment, I have an opportunity to explore both an interesting new growth company and the healthcare sector.”
In addition to the Finnish investors, the Dutch venture capitalist Life Science Partners (LSP) bought a stake in Mendor. One of LSP’s partners, Anne Portwich, also became a member of Mendor’s board of directors, joining several other international venture capital and health care professionals.
“LSP has a great contact network and understanding of the European medical device business and markets,” says Ranta. “They are also very well-connected to other funds and companies. Our foreign and domestic board members have been a tremendous asset to Mendor. It’s a privilege to be able to work with such great professionals from various different backgrounds. I have personally learned a lot from these people and Mendor would not be here without them. It’s also very important to have strong international experience on the board and in the management to build companies such as Mendor who are aiming directly to global markets from day one.”
The financing has allowed the firm to greatly expand. Mendor has built a professional team by doubling their headcount, created a supply network and signed several cooperation agreements with international companies such as Merck Serono and Mediq.
Into the future
Ranta is happy with being headquartered in Finland, citing the country’s great research and development resources, access to government funding agencies and a great environment for growth entrepreneurship in general. Yet his time with the company has not always been easy. He recalls October 2010 vividly, when a board meeting brought up the real possibility of a bankruptcy.
“The following week was probably one of the toughest times in my life,” he recalls. “I was really nervous all the time and worked franticly. I even had some sleeping problems, which normally never happens to me. Luckily, we managed to find more investors and also to convince the existing investors to invest still a bit more to keep us going.”
Ranta is grateful for all the investors, partners, customers and staff that have helped Mendor survive and focus on future growth and success. He is particularly looking forward to large potential deals he is working on with major international pharmaceutical and medical device companies.
“The whole Mendor history so far has been a wonderful learning experience and I’m ever thankful for being so lucky to be able to be a part of all this.”
Did you know?
Founded: March 2006
Founders: Jukka Planman, Tuomas Planman, Kristian Ranta, Henri Andell and Juho Konsti
Described as: “a Finnish company committed to the design, development and marketing of advanced diabetes management products.”
Funding: €8.1 million in Series B round
Staff: about 37