Valentin Splett has 13 years of experience in life science and healthcare ventures, including building sales from ground up for a Swiss company in the US, and being the CCO & co-owner of ETH Zurich medical device/ robotics spin-off, which he scaled from 0 revenues to a successful exit. In 2018, he founded Peak Spirit, which provides executive advisory & business coaching for entrepreneurs, executives and investors in health technology / ehealth and medtech companies. This makes him the perfect coach and expert for our new HealthTech Startup Academy!
Valentin, why did you choose to focus on healthcare/ life science?
My interest in the life sciences and health care space started a bit by chance: After graduating from university, I got the opportunity to build the US business for a Swiss SME in the pharma / biotech space. This is how I started to learn about and become fascinated by how innovation grows and matures from an idea into reaching patients at scale. After repeating the experience to build sales from nothing to 7-figure revenues for a medtech startup and being exposed to hundreds of medical technology companies and projects over the years, I remain intrigued by the equally fascinating and complex challenges in healthcare innovation.
What kind of traits do you consider to be special traits of entrepreneurs in the healthcare sector?
Domain knowledge or at least great curiosity in the domain, persistence, and keeping a beginners' mind are equally important. I, however, find that the first and the last don't always work well together.
What exactly is Peak Spirit about and how did the idea for your business come about?
3 years ago, as my startup was integrated into the company who acquired us and our product became firmly established in its global distribution channels, it was time to start something new for me. I knew that I wanted to help healthcare innovators make the right commercial decisions early on, because that was what my past projects were challenged by the most. I felt that going solopreneur and just starting to talk to as many people as possible would set me off to the right course, and it turned out to be true. Today, I'm extremely fortunate to work with numerous incubators, startups, and established companies advancing healthcare through technology and business model innovation as an advisor, board member, and I am in the process of co-founding one or two new ventures in the field over the next months.
What was your biggest learning on your entrepreneurial journey so far?
Let's start with the challenging part: our health systems, and that applies to just about every single country on the planet with a few notable exceptions, are a mine field of vested interest and politics, with patients and medical outcomes taking the back seat. This is a huge obstacle for innovators addressing an unmet clinical need - often, they waste months and years just understanding how the system works and how they can overcome its biases and inertia. But here's the positive side: Great teams and great products will eventually find a way to become commercially successful. It's all a matter of persistence, passion, patience, and keeping a beginner’s mind.
What were some of the most exciting projects you were able to work on in the past?
I am currently working on a number of exciting projects - including a smartphone add-on that can detect the fertility window by analyzing a saliva sample, innovations looking to deploy 3D printing and AR/VR into surgery with the potential to disrupt established medtech markets, and many great projects in ageing, just to name a few. And of course starting sales from 0 revenues and then - after many years of blood, sweat and tears - see our technology become the new gold standard in clinics at my former startup was beyond exciting.
What drives you personally to be an advisor for other professionals?
It is very inspiring to constantly getting to meet new people who are smart and passionate about their idea. And in the context of improving healthcare, there is always such a promising, underlying impact waiting to happen: innovation in this space literally saves lives.
What advice would you give somebody who just jumped into their entrepreneurial adventure?
Always focus on how you can provide value to your customers and your ecosystem, always maintain a beginners mind, and the rest is quite simply all about action.
What are the hottest topics in HealthTech at the moment?
From a business model perspective: I would say telehealth, digital therapeutics, consumerization and platformization of data. The big challenge we have is to break up old silos without destroying value for either stakeholder. From a technology perspective: AI and ML, AR/VR, 3D printing, and wearable technology.
You are also involved in a new format called HealthTech Startup Academy. What is it about and what’s your role in it?
The goal of the HealthTech Startup Academy is to help healthcare innovators transition from an employment role into a full-time role as a startup cofounder. I think it thus addresses a very important need for innovators; how do you realistically become an entrepreneur without going broke or risking your career. I'm happy to be part of the program as an expert and coach, helping participants understand the health tech innovation journey from idea to patient and how to avoid costly mistakes and ask the right questions early on.