Initiated by E52 and High Tech Campus, the 10 most promising startups-to-watch from the Brainport Eindhoven region have been announced for the fourth consecutive year. On July 12th they received a Gerard & Anton Award. The winning companies are highlighted one by one in an interview. Today part 5: Stentit and their regenerating arteries. read the whole series here.
Name: Sol Cabrera and Bart Sanders
Startup: Stentit B.V.
Year of establishment startup: 2017
What is the goal of your business?
“Regenerating arteries without invasive surgery.”
Is this your first startup?
How did the idea come about for your startup?
“During the 4 years of our PhDs, our research was focused on the development of a growing heart valve for kids that could be implanted on a stent to prevent invasive surgery. Sol had the expertise in stent development, Bart in cardiovascular regeneration. After graduating, we ambitioned to bring our collaboration to a new level by pursuing the challenge to bring a new product to the patient. After evaluating different possibilities, we realized that combining our strengths could allow us to make a unique proposal: restore diseased arteries without the need for invasive surgery.”
Has there ever been a change of focus, a pivot? Can you tell us something about the cause and the result?
I’m sure there was a moment when you lost faith in your startup. Can you describe that moment?
“Starting a sustainable business from scratch, with a bold idea and pure sacrifice, is a really challenging endeavour. Even more, for scientists who dare to take this step in their careers. Soon you are confronted with all sorts of issues that, as a pure engineer by training, you haven’t faced before. Sometimes you need to do the job of 4 or 5 persons at the same time and your responsibilities also increase proportionally.
Loss of faith in the company so far might not be the right word for us, because we never lost faith in our approach. What does happen instead, is that acting and adapting can sometimes make it very hard to move forward and makes you experience so much difficulty that you wonder if you are capable of doing it all. Nevertheless, every challenge that you overcome also gives you more confidence, new energy and the strength to move forward in pursuing your dreams. In the end, you realize that will only come out of it stronger, with more knowledge and more experience.”
Are there startups/entrepreneurs that you see as an example?
“The two faces on the award will speak for themselves. Not only Gerard and Anton built a great company, they actually built a whole city. Imagine yourself today, making an entire city grow based on the growth of your company… I think it’s quite impossible to achieve anything alike.”
Where will you be with your company in 5 years’ time?
“In 5 years, Stentit ambitions to have matured into a full-fledged company having investors, staff, facilities and a growing product pipeline. We will be running clinical trials around the globe, while we keep on pushing development forward to improve the current clinical treatment paradigms.”
What does Eindhoven mean for your company?
“We have been shaped at the Eindhoven University of Technology and the idea of the regenerative stent was born in their labs. Thanks to the growing regenerative medicine ecosystem that is emerging in the region, there are resources and facilities to get new companies started.”
And for yourself?
Both of us live in Eindhoven today, and we are not thinking about leaving it any time soon. Bart was born and raised in Eindhoven. His father and grandfather always worked with pride for Philips in their glory days, which played an important role in Bart’s life as well. Sol initially came to the Netherlands for a couple of years and it didn’t take long for her to decide that Eindhoven was the place to start her own family.”
What is the startup climate in Eindhoven like? Do you feel part of it? If so, how is this to be seen?
“There are several other start-ups in the region where we have good contacts. Although not all of them are working in the same field, we always try to be connected, advising and helping each other in case of questions or to learn from each other’s mistakes.”
At what point could the Eindhoven startup ecosystem improve?
“Good initiatives have currently been established to make start-ups connect with each other more easily. Also, within our own connections, we have been considering the possibility to set something ourselves as well since saw the added value of sharing experiences. Organizing informal drinks combined with a good speaker from a regional start-up might also work to learn from each other and open the doors to anyone that has the thought of starting an initiative and test their ideas.”