We Got Funded: UAE Healthtech Smileneo Raises US$2 Million Seed Funding
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Smileneo, a UAE healthtech startup, has successfully raised US$2 million in a seed funding round led by Kingsway Capital.
FJ Labs, a fund led by José Marin and Fabrice Grinda, founder of OLX Group, joined the round, as well as a number of global angel investors, including Mato Peric, founder of MPGI, Leonard Stiegeler, founder of Pulse, and Tom Stafford, Managing Partner at DST Global.
Launched in 2019 by Dr. Jonathan Doerr, Smileneo enables patients to access dental clinics which provide safe, effective, doctor-prescribed and monitored clear aligners. Its business model is based on connecting patients with local clinics through its partner network.
An e-commerce veteran, Doerr came to Dubai with a goal to build a “patient-focused brand that would bridge a gap between patienets and doctors, while focusing on patient happiness.” After extensive research and market anaylsis, Doerr and his team saw that 85% of people across the MENA region could benefit from orthodontic treatments, but only less than 1% actually receive them each year. A large number of people don’t have access to quality orthodontic care that fits their budget and lifestyles. “We finally decided to dive into the space by digitizing orthodontics to modernize and improve patient experiences while enhancing convenience and affordability," he says. "Our mission is to give everyone a straighter and brighter smile with less of the cost and hassle of traditional dental-office driven treatment. We want to empower people to make a positive change with a new smile that brings confidence to unlock limitless opportunities.”
Being a healthtech startup in a traditionally offline-based industry, convincing patients and merchant partners to try out their service requires a strategy. Therefore, the team offers a free online assessment for patients to know ahead whether or not they are a candidate to Smileneo, saving them any prior unnecessary investment in their time and money. “Our partner clinics only use 3D intraoral scanners and X-ray to deliver more accurate and precise results," Doerr says. "In today’s world, people are looking for convenience and for affordable solutions that fit their busy lifestyle." This approach has worked well to the advantage of both patients and partner clinics as it offered affordable and faster solutions, without compromising on patient care and high-quality treatment.
Currently, the startup is operating in the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, and Bahrain. With the new funding, Doerr plans to hire top talent in MENA and expand the startup’s operations, starting with six new markets this year. “We will be heavily investing in go-to-market strategies and technologies as we look for more impactful ways to make it easier for doctors to digitize orthodontics and for patients to have convenient and affordable access to teeth straightening solutions,” notes Doerr.
Considering Smileneo’s line up of investors, which includes a mix of investors who are very familiar with MENA and some of whom who are investing in the region for the first time, Doerr advises fellow entrepreneurs, “To those seeking to attract either foreign or local investment, I advise them to first ensure that their current business model delivers the product market fit, ensuring their product or service provides value for people and that they have a solid growth plan with the right talent in place. Finally, it is very crucial to always focus on the core and not lose sight of their main drivers.”
‘TREP TALK: Dr. Jonathan Doerr, founder and CEO, Smileneo
What business tactics are you keeping in mind to lengthen the burn rate of your new capital and use it efficiently, as well as attract new patients and keep sales up during the pandemic?
“First, one of our main priorities to maintain efficiency is to ensure technology is always at the core of our processes and to deploy the right tools to automate them. This has already proven to reduce the burn rate of our capital. Second, ensuring that we are deploying the right engines of growth with the right marketing channels, namely online, and constantly test, measure and iterate to intensify acquisition and scale accordingly. Our first and foremost priority will always be our patients' happiness and experience. We don’t only offer high quality treatments that are affordable, but we also ensure we’re catering to our patients with the highest level of service at any point during their journey. The pandemic has actually fueled the need for remote monitoring even further and that is why we have capitalized a lot on the development on our app. With remote monitoring, patients cut on their clinic visits and track their progress from the comfort of their home.”