Inspirate Medical has come up with a customizable 3D printed CPAP masks for those struggling with Sleep Apnea. It is a potentially serious sleep disorder affecting 5% of the world’s population i.e. a whopping 350 million people! Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where the breathing of the people affected repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night disrupting their sleep cycles. This would lead them to feel tired with lack of sleep even if they might have had a full night’s rest. You might have sleep apnea if you snore loudly during sleep or feel tired even after a full night’s sleep.
The common treatment for sleep apnea is the CPAP masks or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure masks. They produce pressurized air through a tube that prevents your airways from being blocked during your sleep. It comes in the forms of nasal, nasal pillow and full face masks that are supposed to be worn during sleep for a more restful sleep for the users.
However, one problem that Inspirate Medical saw with the current CPAP masks was that 90% of the users complained of a bad fit and 50% of the users quit after some time due to the discomfort. This is where Inspirate sought to find a working solution. They used the latest 3D-printing technology to provide a customized CPAP full face masks. They assure that their masks would be a guaranteed fit for users with “no pain points and annoying air leaks”.
I, Vidhya Bharathi had the opportunity to speak to Norman Wanto (NW) who is the CEO or the “Guild Leader” of Inspirate Medical. He is a young serial entrepreneur who already has two companies under his belt, while in university in NUS, from the age of 19. In the more recent past, Norman founded and built Tee Inkers Pte Ltd at the age of 19 while being an undergraduate at NUS. Norman was able to make Tee Inkers profitable with revenues upwards of $1 million a year and profits northwards of S$ 150,000 per annum all in a span of 3 years. Now, having graduated from NUS as a Chemical Engineer he wants to focus on building a more high-tech start-up like Inspirate in which he can apply the knowledge he learn from University.
When was Inspirate founded? Who are the co-founders of Inspirate?
NW: Inspirate was incorporated in Sep 2015. That was the time we started our company.
Ivan conceived the idea first, after being told that he snores quite a bit during the night. The company is founded by Ivan and Norman. Felisa then joined the company a couple of months later.
Ivan is very attracted to the fields of design and engineering. He has this knack for making things better, faster, stronger, cheaper making him well-forged to helm product development. He is the CTO the technical wizard for Inspirate. Felisa, on the other hand, is the natural numbers person. She has a Masters in Accountancy from the Nanyang Business School and she is motivated by cost control, budgeting and financial forecasting. So, money is never in better hands than with Felisa.
VB: How did you team up with your co-founders to start your company?
NW: Ivan and I were batchmates in NUS chemical Engineering undergraduate course. Ivan has always been a tinker, while Norman has started his company since the first year of college. We teamed up upon graduation to do this.
VB: What is unique about the sleep apnea masks that you sell as compare to others in the market?
NW: Unlike mass-produced masks that are available in S,M,L sizes, we patented a production technology, that includes 3D scanning and printing, that results in a mask with a guaranteed fit.
This solves a huge issue for people with sleep apnea, where 9 out of 10 people complain of the bad fit issue, causing pain points and air leaks.
VB: How was the transition from non-medical start-ups to a medical related start-up?
NW: Well, the difference is quite huge, between non-medical and medical-related startups. There is an additional hurdle of requiring patents as well as regulatory approvals from health authorities. On top of that, since we make hardware, there is a significant upfront cost of engaging contract manufacturers that have ISO13485, manufacturing license, etc.
VB: What are your future plans for Inspirate Medical?
NW: We are at the stage of clearing regulations for our product. So, we are hoping to get all the regulations cleared and get the product out by 2017. We are also looking for funders in Australia, Europe, Japan, US and China to scale up Inspirate in these countries.
Inspirate is focused on making custom interfaces that have the perfect fit. This applies to custom insoles, prosthetic sockets, tennis grips, golf grips and others so we are looking to expanding there as well.
VB: What advice will you give new med-tech or biotech start-ups?
NW: Brace yourself for long development cycles and arduous regulatory clearances. But always keep in mind the gold at the end of the rainbow, and the customer’s happy faces from using your product or service.