// Perth based medical startup REX Ortho Screw has raised $1.15 million from local private investors…
Set up in 2017, local orthopaedic medical device company REX Ortho is developing a removable, expandable orthopaedic screw. The device looks to benefit patients who require complex surgeries, especially those with poor bone quality.
The journey that founders Dr Matt Oldakowski and Intan Oldakowska embarked on was a challenging one. As a medical startup in WA, REX Ortho fell into a highly specialised niche, set amongst a relatively small investor community.
Making the right move
The project began with the idea for an orthopaedic screw for the spine. The project pivoted a few times, becoming a screw for the shoulder, and now for hip fractures.
When executive chairman Ian Brown joined the team, they began to talk about what would best demonstrate the value of the product, because the technology was applicable across many fractures around the body.
“We went through a process of, ‘which option would be best to get us going?’ and get the attention of the large multinational partners first. We went through a journey of talking to a lot of surgeons and experts, and we started to drill into the hip fracture side of it.”Ian Brown, Executive Chairman REX Ortho
Investing in time
Founders Matt and Intan spent thousands of hours in the developmental stages of the hip screw. They have also spoken to more than 300 people in the process, including 500 hours of interviews and consultations.
The time spent interviewing surgeons, experts and other stakeholders has been invaluable, says the REX Ortho team. It allows for greater depth and teases out important details.
“You really need to understand what people want before you design anything,” said co-founder Matt Oldakowski. “It’s important to know that you’re both addressing a real problem, and that you’re actually addressing that problem with your solution.”
When interviewing surgeons, Intan said that, “it was important to listen and tease out their pain points, rather than just give them a solution”.
Being such a specialised startup in Perth meant that the pool of investors was relatively small.
Ian Brown said that although the entrepreneurial spirit is alive in Perth, what is lacking is a way to skill up investors.
“There are a number of high net worth, sophisticated investors in Western Australia that have the capacity to invest in early stage companies, but there aren’t many doing it.”Ian Brown
Perth investors stay mostly in property or mining, which is their comfort zone. A larger and more diverse community of investors could be the catalyst for a boom in the Perth startup industry.
The work that organisations like Perth Angels do, could be an answer to this need. Running educational programs on investing in early-stage ventures, Perth Angels is so dedicated to the cause, Ian said that, “Perth Angels run these courses without any concern for whether people become a member of Perth Angels or not”.
Advice for aspiring startups
Ian’s advice for startups is to understand the time commitments that you’ll need to make.
“Set the expectation that it will take a year or two to start. Then getting investors on board typically takes 6-12 months and sometimes up to 24 or more.”
Ian, along with Matt and Intan, also said that building a good team, running lean and being patient was vital.
Intan’s advice was to leverage non-diluted funding sources. Awards tend to come with prizes and have, “intangible benefits like validation from the community which helps with capital raising, and also gives some cash in the bank to do a bit more prototyping or product validation.”
Matt also said that, “it’s important to think about the particular investor that you want, and how you can align what you want and what they want, and then understand what the investor is interested in so that you can highlight your relevant strengths”.
Something else Ian, Matt and Intan all agreed on was finding a good pub with a good beer menu for team bonding.
Now with the necessary funding, REX Ortho is on a 24-month runway to the completion of the development of the REX screw. They also were awarded a $20K state government innovation voucher in the recent announcement.
Matt and Intan are working on the REX Ortho project and are continuing with their scientific work as part of their NHMRC Development Grant at Curtin University, and with their collaborators at Royal Perth Hospital and St John of God Hospital.
MAIN IMAGE: Matt and Intan with the REX Ortho screw (Supplied).
For more: https://rexortho.com/