"Startups must always grow"
Difficult conditions, but also fresh opportunities. Sebastian Sujka tells us how his startup is getting through the coronavirus pandemic.
Sebastian Sujka used to work in advertising technology. When his mother fell seriously ill, he noticed that more modern technology was being used in advertising than in medicine. So he founded xbird and now offers individual therapies to chronically ill people using artificial intelligence.
"We entrepreneurs are all optimists. That's why I see the coronavirus pandemic as an exciting market moment for a digital healthcare company like ours. Our startup xbird offers artificial intelligence that enables chronically ill patients to receive personalized treatment also between regular doctor's appointments. For example, our smartphone app can detect when diabetes patients are going through stressful phases, getting little sleep and travelling a lot. And it offers advice on how to avoid low blood sugar, for example. The coronavirus pandemic has radically increased the general level of acceptance of digital solutions in the healthcare system – among both patients and manufacturers.
But of course, as a startup we are suffering from the restrictions that came with the pandemic. Suddenly not being able to travel was a shock. Although we have several partner companies like Bayer and Novo Nordisk, a startup always has to grow and the classic channels for canvassing customers are currently restricted. Skype conferences work really well when the two sides already know each other. But in-person meetings are very important for getting to know one another and for convincing business partners of your value.
We had actually planned a financing round for 2020 and wanted to primarily attract American investors to it. But American investors usually only invest in a young company if they can to get to know its management personally for a while. In the end we were lucky to have strong support from our existing shareholder base. They have supported us with one million euros despite the crisis, together with the venture-capital company of Investment Bank Berlin, IBB Bet.
In the meantime, our two new employees from Egypt and India can also now work for us. Both initially had problems getting visas because of the restrictions. But now we have found solutions: one is working for us from his home country, the other is here in Berlin."
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