Victor Donker | Usono
Around eleven startups are housed at High Tech Campus no. 12, better known as High Tech Plaza. Surrounded by the enormous former Philips offices, this is a strikingly small building. Back in the days home to a particle accelerator, now a place for young tech companies.
Things went fast for Usono last year. Victor Donker, COO of the startup, explains it really hit him when he walked through the corridors of High Tech Plaza a few weeks back. Only a year ago, the startup moved to this place with just three people. Now he was on his way to a team party to conclude their Leapfunder campaign. Usono raised 176,000 euros, well above the target amount of 150,000 euros. Raising such an amount of money was great, no doubt. But the fact that his team had grown into ten persons ("ten people dedicated to make Usono big") was what touched him most.
"The Netherlands is like a city. And within that city, Eindhoven sure is a good place to be in."
Hospitals and sports
Usono is developing a product that basically does something quite simple: it allows you to make echoes without having to hold the ultrasound device. With the ProbeFix, as it is called, you can fix an ultrasound device around the chest or on a knee, for example. Very useful for cardiologists who otherwise have to keep the device pressed on the patient's body for up to 10 minutes. The other application is mainly developed for the sports world. It can be a tool for athletes to monitor muscles dynamically while running or cycling.
The first step is to get the ProbeFix on the market. Now that they have raised 176,000 euros, the startup has the resources to realize it. Usono initially focuses on hospitals. Physicians from six hospitals have already tried it and agreed to buy the ProbeFix once it is available.
How did Victor get the cardiologists on board? “Well.. we just called them", he replies. “We literally went to the reception desk of a hospital and asked if we could talk to a cardiologist.” He also used LinkedIn to find specialists involved in innovations in the healthcare sector. He shows us a video that a cardiologist recently sent him. We see him testing the device and talking to Victor about what could be improved. It is exactly what Victor has in mind: developing the ProbeFix in collaboration with its users.
Every time the team receives valuable feedback, the designers at Usono adjust the prototype accordingly. The two most important tools are the sewing machine and the 3D printer. The Usono designers come from around the globe. For example, there is Juan Restrepo, who emailed Victor from Colombia about a year ago. He is now doing his internship at the company. And recently, Ahmad Khzndar joined the team, a graphic designer from Syria. Other internationals are financial manager Natalicio Costa from Brazil and Tiffany Dimona, from Bulgaria, supporting the business development.
The Eindhoven vibe
When Victor explains what made Usono grow so fast, many informal encounters turned out to be crucial. Meeting people after a hockey game, at the monthly Drinks & Demos or joining a lunch where he met startup ambassador Prince Constantijn. HighTechXL also played an important role, the incubator program in Eindhoven, one of the top five in the world. Its reputation and network helped to open doors, and brought him in contact with a number of valuable advisers. “People I can call day and night." That positive atmosphere is what Victor calls the Eindhoven vibe.
But it’s not about one city being better than the other, he says. The Netherlands is such a small country, it’s like one big city itself. And within that city, Eindhoven is a damn good place to be in.