How these founders are disrupting the $500 million a year dental industry


disrupting the dental industry

Startup

By Momoko Metham

Dental professional Dr Mark Wotherspoon and entrepreneur Steve Plakotaris are the co-founders of dental appliance cleaner Dr Mark’s HyGenie, which has raised over $2m in investment.


The idea

“After 30 years of assessing germs, calculus and food scraps that would build up my patient’s dentures, occlusal splints and other removable dental appliances, I decided something had to be done,” said Wotherspoon.

His patients’ struggles combined with his own mother’s necessity for a better solution to cleaning, storing and protecting dentures, Wotherspoon created Dr Mark’s HyGenie in October 2014.

In Australia, the oral hygiene market is a $500 million a year industry, with over 850,000 removable dental appliances sold a year in Australia, proving high profit potential for HyGenie.

Funding 

Wotherspoon and Plakotaris initially sought seed capital to raise money for their start up, which was provided by the founders.

They further raised capital privately through their first Information Memorandum in September 2017.

From there, the series ‘A’ capital raise was fully subscribed in a matter of months.

After researching and pursuing some grants provided by the State and Commonwealth, HyGenie was awarded a bit of $1ml AUD in grants.

This supported HyGenie’s R&D, business development and commercialisation, intellectual property protection and export market development.

Dr Mark Wotherspoon with the HyGenie system.

“We would not be the company we are today or have the opportunities we have in front of us if it were not for the support and contribution of the Government” said Steve Plakotaris.

Market research 

As an entirely new product in the dental industry, Wotherspoon approached Plakotaris who had a background in brand strategy, marketing and communications and startups for advice.

Steve carried out market research to understand what the dental market looked like as well as competition and dental professionals’ thoughts on the product.

Co-founder Steve Plakotaris

“Perhaps the most compelling finding among the research was the potential market for the concept – which is enormous, not just in Australia, but world-wide,” said Plakotaris, now Managing Director of the company.

With this in mind, HyGenie was presented at International Dental Show 2019, the largest dental showcase in the world that comes around every 2 years in Cologne, Germany.

HyGenie left IDS with interest from close to 100 distributors, agents and dental companies from around the world, all of which the company is methodically following up on now that the business is launched in Australia.

“The dental professional community’s participation is essential to the success of the brand” said Plakotaris.

“Whilst we are a consumer oral hygiene brand, it is the dental professions that provide their patients with dental appliances, so it is important that community endorses the concept and products” said Plakotaris.

International expansion 

The company has just launched its first OS distributor in Switzerland and is looking into the U.S. market.

“Given that people all over the world use removable dental appliances and given the care protocols for those appliances are lacking world-wide, we know this is a global business opportunity”, said Plakotaris.

The U.S. market is perhaps the most important market for oral hygiene, considering the population’s high-quality attention and rates of practice around oral health and hygiene.

HyGenie currently has a U.S. based colleague who is working with a retail strategy group on the development of the dental, e-commerce and retail markets.

“Retail in the US is a massive opportunity for our brand, and we are pursuing that with every available resource we have to put toward it,” said Plakotaris, who expects to be trading in the U.S. by autumn 2020.

In the future, HyGenie looks to trade in every developed nation where removable dental appliances are used and poorly maintained.

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