You're so vein

Published Sep 17, 2018

Recognising the global potential of an idea born out of the Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp in 2014, a Dutch startup incubator has invited two Victoria University of Wellington alumni to attend an intensive eight-week market validation lab for medical technology (medtech) devices. 

Winning their places against tough competition from hundreds of other aspiring entrepreneurs, Georgia Lee and Ben Palmer will travel across Europe with 10 other teams to discover the business potential of their idea—a tool for better vein visualisation—helped by leading universities, healthcare companies, and world-class hospitals. They will also work with mentors who are highly skilled entrepreneurs with business development backgrounds in the medtech sector. 

“At Bootcamp, we wanted to create a non-invasive device that would make it quick and easy for healthcare workers to locate traditionally hard-to-find veins—so they could draw blood or provide intravenous therapies,” says Georgia, who co-founded start-up company Viewpoint Medical with Ben in 2016. She says that sometimes veins can be difficult to find if they are too small, deep or fragile—or if the patient is obese or experiencing oedema, i.e. fluid retention. 

“Our solution to the problem was to use multi-spectral imaging in a portable—think cellphone size—cost-effective package that could be taken virtually anywhere and used to locate even the most difficult veins.” 

She says the potential applications for the product are huge—from hospital and paramedic use to people at home—and its portability could also prove ideal for helping patients in developing countries, or in the aftermath of a disaster. 

“We’ve got so many ideas on how our device could be used, we need to validate which options are the right ones to start with,” says Georgia, who holds a Masters in biomedical science. “Being able to take part in this market validation lab is the perfect chance for us to work that out, and ensure our product meets customer needs.” 

So how exactly did the opportunity arise? Ben explains. 

“We’d got as far as developing a prototype, but decided to put Viewpoint Medical on hold while I did my OE and Georgia completed her Masters in Melbourne. I was living in the Netherlands when applications opened for the Bootcamp Validation Lab; I called Georgia and said ‘we need to finish this thing’." 

At the time, Georgia was working for Viclink as a Commercialisation and Intellectual Property Intern—a position funded by KiwiNet to grow and support New Zealand’s future innovation ecosystem.

“We agreed that our project had so much potential for creating real and rewarding impact that we just had to grab the opportunity and run with it,” says Georgia, who is grateful to both Viclink and KiwiNet for supporting that decision. 

“KiwiNet is proud to back the next generation of aspiring entrepreneurs, like Georgia and Ben, as they take their ideas to the world,” says Seumas McCroskery, Commercialisation Manager, KiwiNet. “Through our intern programme, we’re helping to expose talented graduates to the exciting world of research commercialisation and we’re delighted with the results being achieved.”

The Validation Lab is a partnership between YES!Delft (the Delft University of Technology’s business incubator) and EIT Health. While most of the biotech teams are from Europe, Ben says they also welcomed applicants from other parts of the world, more interested in an entrepreneurial mindset than the applicant’s country. 

“The Lab has such a strong, proven record—they’ve been operating for 35 years, and currently have over 50 start-ups operating on the Delft University of Technology campus,” says Ben, who holds a Bachelor of Design Innovation in Industrial Design. 

He says that if Viewpoint Medical can successfully validate a market, that could lead to more support from Yes!Delft—including an accelerator programme which commences in 2019—and potentially enable them to fast-track their device into production. 

Georgia says that it all began with the Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp. “It helped me to see where I could go in life, and put me on the path to achieving what I previously thought was impossible—being able to create my own career.”