Aussie medtech startup Hemideina has raised $4 million as it continues development of its teeny, tiny alternative hearing devices.
The funding comes from a slew of angel investors and high-net-worth individuals, including repeat investors who contributed to its $1 million raise in February this year.
Founded in 2017 by research scientists Dr Kate Lomas and Dr Elizabeth Williams, Hemideina is developing a tiny device, the Hera Wireless Implant, designed to provide an almost imperceptible alternative to traditional cochlear hearing aid devices.
The technology is inspired by New Zealand’s native Wellington tree weta, which is a tiny insect species, but has the same auditory range as humans.
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The funding comes as the startup reaches a significant milestone in its tech development, having validated its core signal processing capabilities.
But this is more than just good timing. The co-founders have been working to a carefully mapped-out schedule, they tell StartupSmart.
The February funding was pegged for work on manufacturing and testing the Hera prototype, as well as to start building out a team and tackling some of the regulatory hurdles that come with medtech.
It was always the plan to raise capital around this time, once they had perfected the core tech, and passed a few other product milestones.
“We planned our milestones, and we’ve been tracking and completing them on time and on budget,” Williams explains.
Now, the founders are entering the next stage of development, honing the power and wireless transmission elements of the device.
“To do that we needed to raise significant capital,” Lomas adds.
This round is set to fund the business for about 18 months — again, the timeline is already meticulously planned.
In that time, the team plans to have a working prototype with power and wireless transmission capabilities.
One of the big challenges in this space is actually getting enough power to the implant to keep it working.
“That’s a big chunk of technical work that we’re doing at the moment,” Williams says.
“Not only do we capture sound differently and have the lifestyle aspects and potential to improve speech outcomes, we’re also going to be developing that power piece which will really significantly add value.”
While the process of raising funds is tricky for any startup, when you’re raising for medical tech, things can get just a tad more complicated.
“You’re asking for quite a lot of money, because of the development you need to do,” Williams says.
Compared to some other startups, Hemideina needs significant capital to develop the product, which means the founders have to prove what they’ve already done.
This, plus the regulatory obligations, mean it will be some time before the product is on the market, and generating returns on investment.
So, having technical timelines is not only a way to track your own progress, it becomes imperative for securing funding.
“You have to have quite patient investors,” Williams says.
“That’s why you have to have these very developed plans, so you can give them confidence that, while it’s a longer timeline, you know the path you need to take to get there.”
Lomas also notes this was likely one of the reasons the founders had such a positive response from their existing investors in this secondary round.
“We’ve delivered on what we said we would,” she says.
The proof is in the pudding
Both Hemideima’s founders come from a science and research background, so the move to startup life meant something of a change of pace for them.
But, two years on, “we’ve evolved into the role”, Lomas says.
“Our skillset has built up as we’ve gone.”
And anyway, she adds, as researchers, they were often out pitching anyway.
“Even as scientists you’re used to asking for money — for grants and things like that. It hasn’t been a huge leap for us.”
But, for others striking out down the same path, the biggest piece of advice Lomas has is to believe in yourself and the work you’re doing.
“So many people are going to tell you it’s not possible … it’s probably the most common thing you hear,” she explains.
“You’ve got to push through those negative comments — and a lot of people don’t,” she adds.
“Have faith that those people don’t actually know what you’ve got, and don’t know the technology as well as you do.”
Maintaining confidence in the face of criticism is often easier said than done, but Williams says “the proof is in the pudding”.
Hemideina, for example, achieved proof of concept fairly quickly, giving the founders a boost of confidence in their tech.
She again stresses the importance of mapping out your timeline, and identifying the milestones that will foster that confidence in others, too.
Really, it’s all about reducing risk in different scenarios — be it the technology, commercial pathway or cashflow.
“How do you keep that risk going down and down?
“Commercialisation is basically just reducing risk until you get to market, and then you’ll hit revenue, basically,” Williams says.