Odette Lees discusses how Alimetry, an award-winning NZ healthtech startup, has benefitted from participating in a variety of competitions on its commercialisation journey, including involvement in two recent international challenges.
When a company is in its infancy, you may think applying for awards and competitions to be an unnecessary distraction. The whole company is working at a lightning pace to get the technology off the ground, so who has time to indulge in ‘extracurriculars’? At Alimetry, we’ve found it immensely helpful on our journey to take the time to participate in a variety of awards, competitions, challenges and programs.
There are several ways in which participating in these opportunities adds value, these include:
First and foremost, it provides a boost of publicity and awareness for the company.
The reach of this publicity is wider than we could generate ourselves.
For example, when Alimetry won the Medtronic APAC Innovation Challenge, it was posted on the Medtronic APAC LinkedIn page which has over 69,000 followers. Whenever our company has been shared, we’ve received an influx of interest from patients, clinicians, and other stakeholders.
Not only does this generate an influx of new interest, it also strengthens our current relationships. It creates an opportunity for us to share what Alimetry has been doing and keeps us front of mind. Additionally, it gives staff something to celebrate and boosts morale when their work is highlighted. Our involvement in opportunities within the ecosystem was also of interest to investors when we began our capital raise in late 2021.
Another benefit is that these opportunities expose us to people and resources that we wouldn’t normally have access to. This can come from both participating in challenges, as well as in-kind winnings. Alimetry has been able to build positive relationships with potential collaborators, investors, and mentors in the context of these opportunities. In the future, if we engage with them to explore potential partnerships etc., they are already familiar with the company and our technology. Additionally, we are also able return the favour and offer support and resources when asked. After we entered and won two pins at the Best Design awards, our Chief Design Officer participated as a judge the next year.
When you’re regularly filling out application forms, it also requires you to be fully up to date with the company’s messaging. We are often updating presentations, company bios, and elevator pitches to include in applications. While this can be a large time sink at times, more often it means that we have up to date content ready to go on the fly. It also helps keep everyone aligned with the current strategy and goals of the company. At Alimetry we move quickly, so it saves us from having to do a big overhaul of material before a major company event such as a capital raise.
With all the benefits of participating in challenges and competitions, it would be remiss to ignore some of the downsides.
Each application requires a varying amount of time to be dedicated to it. Some challenges have multiple rounds of application which can take 10s of hours overall to prepare and present. Then, once you’re a part of the cohort, there can be several weeks of seminars and workshops. However, these activities generally contribute to the development of the staff and the company.
Participating in international challenges and competitions can also be quite expensive. For example, we were required to pay to exhibit at the APACMed MedTech Forum and fly our CEO to Singapore as part of the Medtech Innovator Programme. The benefit to the company far outweighed the cost, but when juggling a tight budget as a startup, it is a consideration to make.
Alimetry focuses on opportunities that are value adding within the MedTech space and in markets we’re interested in entering. This means we always have a goal in mind for what we want to get out of something, and don’t invest the time if it’s not the right fit.
In New Zealand, we focus on opportunities that allow us to celebrate our successes in our home market (e.g Hi-Tech Awards, KiwiNet Awards), or gain access to new resources (e.g. HealthTech Activator).
Internationally we focus on markets we’re interested in entering, and opportunities which will expose us to investors, distributors, and Key Opinion Leaders. International opportunities also allow us to test interest in new markets. If there is no interest in our product, then we’re unlikely to be successful in our applications. This is valuable feedback for developing our market entry strategy.
There is an incredible amount of value to be found in engaging with challenges and competitions within your industry. Even if you’re not successful, it still gives you an opportunity to present your company and receive valuable feedback to develop your product further. We’ve had positive experiences with all the opportunities we’ve engaged with, whether we won or not. If you’re tossing up whether it’s worthwhile to apply for something, you might as well give it a go.