The Creator of Innovations M. Venslauskas: Participation in “Kaunas Startups” Program is Taking New Businesses to the Next Level
Photo: Mantas Zinkevičius
Their devices held for just a few minutes visibly reduce hand tremor and pain caused by arthritis. Their ideas were born and became real products here in Kaunas. Their vision is to become serious players in the global market, and the biggest motivation is to prove to themselves and others that the commercialization of science is relevant, important and changing lives. Meet small partnership (MB) “Fidens”, whose CEO and founder Dr. Mantas Venslauskas took a step forward after his doctoral studies and today he has already gathered a reliable team and has medical products prepared for sale or for clinical trials. These products brought him fame in innovative business awards and helped him receive support in the “Kaunas startups” program twice.
What inspired you to go into your own startup business?
“I’ve always thought, as I do now, that too little innovations in Lithuania reach the market. Although there are all possibilities, there is a lack of desire and enthusiasm. I also believe that the commercialization of science in Lithuania has so far been underestimated: those who can do this create their own barriers and fears, and, for me, it has become an additional challenge and motivation – to take the bull by the horns, to join the team of scientists who have turned to business and were successful.
While I was writing my scientific dissertation, technological examples of the future device were developed, we created the first prototypes. At that time, I noticed that the development of such a device at a university, being surrounded by specialists of one area, a lack of competences in other fields is experienced, and the processes are taking too much time. The implementation of the idea becomes either very complex, or it might turn into a product that simply will end up on the shelves and will remain there forever.
Of course, what was created during my dissertation was far from what we have today: the development of the device began from mechanics, and there was still a lack of electronics, management and medical knowledge for the present “ViLim Ball” to be created. So naturally, the idea to create a company and attract like-minded people was born as well as the desire to create a team of professionals from different fields and look for opportunities to develop the initial idea into a tangible item/product.”
What products are currently developed by “Fidens”?
“At the moment, our main product is the “ViLim Ball” designed for treating hand tremor and stiffness. Although it is not yet mass-produced, a fully finished device is sold in the Lithuanian market. This is our core product, which we are focusing on and taking all necessary steps to certify it as a medical product. The ball has two versions: one for tremor (shaky hands) and the other for problems caused by arthritis and joint disease.
The second product is purely medical: it is an ultrasound bracelet for people with joint diseases. Although the bracelet prototype is already built, it will only be available on the market after clinical research, which will soon begin at the Republican Hospital of Kaunas.”
How many people are currently working in the company?
“Currently, there are six of us: some work only with these products, some work less – the team includes a scientific advisor and a partner working with the US market. We are based in Kaunas, where we take care of the company’s technical and managerial matters.”
While creating your own business and products, you have successfully used the support many times, including the “Kaunas startups” program.How participation in this program has contributed to the development of the idea?
“We received support from the “Kaunas startups” twice. For the very first time, while still working alone, I received several thousand euros and was able to produce a prototype which I could demonstrate, to let people touch the device and feel how it works. It’s true, later that device went through radical changes until it became the current ball.
The second time when we entered the competition with the “ViLiMed” bracelet, we have already had a prototype and the most important thing for us was to prepare for clinical research, to come up with the design, product imaging, and industrial drawings that could allow mass production of the bracelet.”
What do you suggest for those who would like to participate in “Kaunas startups” program?
“Well, first of all, seek out the benefit to Kaunas in your idea: so that your product would be oriented towards Kaunas residents and the city. For example, in the case of “Fidens”, residents of Kaunas city had the priority to try, touch and test the device, get access to the innovations being developed. We also want to develop our business here, in Kaunas, which has excellent conditions for that.
The second important point: spend a considerable amount of time on your application, prepare, consider the deadlines that, I must warn you, are tight in this program. Thoroughly write down what you want to do and what preparations must be done.
It is important to have not only an idea but also something what you could show – something specific, already achieved and tangible: if it is a software, it would be great to have an app, or perhaps some kind of technological part – an example, a prototype variant that shows that you are already working in the right direction, not just dreaming and looking at the clouds.
In general, I believe that participation in such programs is a very positive experience for new companies: it is only through the selection stages that you will acquire the necessary experience, which will be very useful later when you seek to attract serious investments. I made sure myself that the commission of the “Kaunas startups” is both experienced and able to provide consultations and advise.
How to evaluate the renewed program of “Kaunas startups”?
After looking at the new program of “Kaunas startups”, I see that there is a planned mentoring – a help from professionals who can help determine the direction, share experiences. This, I believe, should be a tremendous help to new businesses and startups. Particularly, let’s say, students who do not have their own business or work experience: the mentor will undoubtedly dot all the i’s and emphasize the points that make inexperienced businesses fail quickly.
Both mentoring and company acceleration, as envisaged in the renewed “Kaunas startups” program, show that this tool for promoting entrepreneurship will be an invaluable help for young people who need knowledge of how to develop their business and how to turn their dream startup into a genuine operating company.