HTC Graduate Spotlight
OrthoAccel® Technologies, Inc. was launched from a very simple insight: patients considering orthodontic treatment get excited about the clinical outcome - a great smile - but are oftentimes reluctant to begin treatment because of the time duration required. In 2008, OrthoAccel introduced the solution to this barrier to treatment, AcceleDent®, a hands-free medical device that speeds up orthodontic treatment by as much as 50 percent.
The product was developed after Michael K. Lowe, OrthoAccel’s president and CEO, was introduced to a university researcher who discovered the therapeutic effect of pulsatile forces in accelerating bone modeling and remodeling in the craniofacial region. Lowe obtained the licensing for this scientific discovery and OrthoAccel commercialized it as SoftPulse Technology ™, the micro vibrations emitted through the AcceleDent unit to accelerate tooth movement.
With initial funding from a Texas-based venture capital fund, Lowe developed the company by taking a staged approach to building the “organization.” In the early years, OrthoAccel’s approach was purposefully fragmented and decentralized, minimizing the number of full-time employee headcount and relying very heavily on service provider partners. As the company methodically hit milestones, OrthoAccel decreased its risk one year and one quarter at a time, systematically converting key business areas from outsourced relationships into institutional competencies.
Continuing to hit key milestones, in the first quarter of 2014 the FDA-cleared AcceleDent was available in nearly 1,500 orthodontic locations in the U.S. as OrthoAccel was coming off the heels of a $9 million combined equity and debt financing round in partnership with the company’s lead investors, HealthpointCapital and S3 Ventures, and other current stockholders.
“In a word, this capital will be used for growth,” said Lowe. “With a 170 percent increase in sales last year, our focus in 2014 will be on sales and marketing programs that further penetrate the market while also focusing on driving reliability up and factory costs down.”
A Rice University alumnus, Lowe says that the growth and successful development of OrthoAccel into an award-winning technology company can be attributed to Houston being such an ideal market for medical businesses.
“I describe Houston and the Texas region to my colleagues on the east and west coasts as an exciting market with all of the right ingredients to cook ‘start-up’ and ‘growth company’ dishes,” said Lowe. “There is plenty of capital available at all stages for business cases that address large med-tech markets through innovation and that make fundamental commercial sense.”
With gratitude to organizations like the Houston Technology Center, Lowe adds that the dual business and community mindset of Houston is an asset that provides real advantages to management teams headquartered here as well as entrepreneurs considering Houston for company headquarters.
“Boasting the most expansive medical and healthcare services infrastructure in the country, there’s a focused network of organizations that are intent on establishing Houston as a technology nucleus that runs wide and deep,” said Lowe who has also found that the fabric of Houston’s technology network makes it an achievable endeavor to recruit great managers to the city.