This week’s episode reaches spots other podcasts miss as Payman sits down with dentist-turned-inventor Michael Alatsaris.

Michael shares his journey from a dissatisfied clinician and practice owner to a fulfilled product designer and entrepreneur, discussing the highs and lows of the painstaking process of bringing an innovative new toothbrush to market.



In This Episode

00:02:30 – Choosing dentistry

00:06:40 – Practice purchase

00:16:25 – Challenges of practice ownership

00:22:25 – Exit

00:27:00 – Product design

00:30:50 – Problem-solution

00:38:25 – ErgoProx

00:44:00 – Prototyping and tooling

00:51:10 – Going to market

00:56:15 – Execution Vs ideation

01:03:40 – Challenging the status quo

01:05:35 – Blackbox thinking

01:08:10 – Marketing and trajectory

01:09:09 – Fantasy dinner party 

01:12:02 – Last days and legacy


About Michael Alatsaris

Former dental practice owner Michael Alatsaris is the inventor of the ErgoProx toothbrush for cleaning mesial and distal surfaces next to spacing.

Speaker1: If I had acknowledged that by the age of 11 or 12 that, you know, this is what I must do [00:00:05] as an adult and ignore these, you know, classic, you know, astronaut, airline [00:00:10] pilot, doctor, dentist things, you know, just feel, sense and feel. [00:00:15] But what you keep thinking about, what you keep applying your attention to, [00:00:20] what you keep testing and experimenting with. That’s probably. But you [00:00:25] know, as a 12 year old, I can’t really blame myself. But that that was that was where the biggest mistakes started beginning. [00:00:30] And I ended up in this road, this academic pathway, doing this kind of quintessential [00:00:35] professional pathway. So those that’s probably the biggest mistake. But I think then once I was [00:00:40] into it and properly miserable and practice ownership. You’re [00:00:45] really in a rut though, because when you’re so consumed by it, you can’t really see [00:00:50] options. But if somehow I could have found the belief that there are options, [00:00:55] I would have broken away sooner and not consumed the energy and time that I did. [00:01:00]

Speaker2: This [00:01:05] is Dental Leaders, the podcast where you get [00:01:10] to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. Your [00:01:15] hosts Payman Langroudi and Prav [00:01:20] Solanki.

Speaker3: It gives me great pleasure to welcome Michael [00:01:25] Lazzari’s onto the podcast. Um. Michael is a dentist that I was introduced to 2 [00:01:30] or 3 years ago. Uh, when he was starting to develop a new [00:01:35] toothbrush. Um, and, uh, he’s got a very interesting story. Uh, someone who’s been a practice owner [00:01:40] who then stopped to do this kind of work with products. Someone’s [00:01:45] got a real passion for product design. Lovely to have you, Michael.

Speaker1: Good morning. Payman. [00:01:50] It’s a pleasure and an honour.

Speaker3: Where are you right now?

Speaker1: In my office in Edinburgh. Just [00:01:55] ready to chip away at this big project that you know about, but. Yeah, just at home. [00:02:00] Home office. That’s nice.

Speaker3: So, Michael, are you Scottish? Born and bred.

Speaker1: I [00:02:05] was born in Scotland. My dad’s Greek. I very much feel half Greek. [00:02:10] Uh, so guess I’m a bit mixed up like that, but half Greek, half Scottish. So that’s the. [00:02:15] That’s always been the Scotland. Yeah. Grew up here. Spent a lot of time in Greece [00:02:20] whenever I can. It’s Greek. So kind of strong roots there. And, uh. [00:02:25] Yeah. Back in Greece, whenever we can go next week. That’ll be great.

Speaker3: And [00:02:30] you studied dentistry in Glasgow, did you?

Speaker1: Yeah. That’s right. Um, 1998. [00:02:35] Started there. Qualified 2003.

Speaker3: What made you become a dentist? Why? Dentistry. [00:02:40]

Speaker1: Well, ah, I think I think I wanted to become [00:02:45] every profession that was under the sun. Lawyer, accountant, doctor. [00:02:50] I looked at it all really seriously. And, you know, for at least six months, I wanted to do each [00:02:55] of those. And eventually I kind of plumped for dentistry because it was, like, the [00:03:00] best of a bad bunch. Yeah. But essentially under sort of, I think, [00:03:05] parental pressure. Um, ultimately, um, I [00:03:10] think my dad just perhaps had a limited idea of what was [00:03:15] possible within other fields as far as career progression, you know, financial stability, [00:03:20] and could only envisage me becoming one of these quintessential [00:03:25] professions professionals. So that was the one I [00:03:30] went for. It seemed practical, very scientific. Um, [00:03:35] a lot of autonomy. I could see that you could get on with your own sort of little [00:03:40] practice enterprise, whatever. Um, pretty quickly after graduating. [00:03:45] So that was a big thing, and that was it. I just kind of got on with it. But I do remember my first [00:03:50] day at university. I thought, what the f have I done? Me too. And [00:03:55] then sexually, you know.

Speaker3: Was that dissection?

Speaker1: It was actually [00:04:00] it was just the first day of lecturing. First year I thought, why am I here? But I don’t know. This sense of [00:04:05] responsibility just kept me. Going and [00:04:10] before you know it, five years have passed and so did you.

Speaker3: Struggle with the course. [00:04:15]

Speaker1: I struggled with areas that I just had no interest in, like microbiology. [00:04:20] And, um, you know, anatomy is amazing, but I [00:04:25] just couldn’t I wasn’t motivated enough to. So I struggled through the first 1 [00:04:30] or 2 years of academia that I knew would not directly make [00:04:35] me a great dentist, so I struggled with apparent irrelevance [00:04:40] of those things. Um, scraped through first year, scraped through second year. [00:04:45] But once it became practical and really, you know, the engineering of [00:04:50] of dentistry, um, and using my hands, making, just making those [00:04:55] amazing things come to life. Um, restorations and everything. That’s when [00:05:00] I really sort of started tuning in and, you know, got into it.

Speaker3: And [00:05:05] did you had you grown up in Edinburgh or in Glasgow or somewhere else?

Speaker1: Just just say Glasgow. [00:05:10] Yeah.

Speaker3: So didn’t you think, hey, you know, leave, leave home a bit for university. Why [00:05:15] did you stay where you were.

Speaker1: Yes. It’s interesting. On my Ucas application form [00:05:20] from school, it was the first two lines where I was Glasgow Dentistry. Dundee [00:05:25] Dentistry. And then it was Glasgow Electronic Engineering. Glasgow [00:05:30] electronic and Avionic engineering. I just wanted to stay at home. You [00:05:35] know, it’s just I was just too comfortable. It’s funny my parents [00:05:40] moved out from or I didn’t move out. My parents moved out when I was 24. They [00:05:45] just went to Greece for like the next ten, 20 years. Uh huh. Um, and then I realised, [00:05:50] ah, why am I here? Uh, I could work anywhere. So [00:05:55] yeah, I took a job in Dundee, which was exotic for me because it was more than 20 miles [00:06:00] away. And, uh, but then that was that was really good for me, actually. [00:06:05] That kind of opened my mind that I could just work anywhere. Yeah, it was a bit of a home boy at that point. [00:06:10] Um, bit too comfortable, perhaps, but. Yeah.

Speaker3: And tell us about your Dental career, your first few [00:06:15] jobs. How did you get on?

Speaker1: Yeah. I mean, you know, the show, the opportunity to be an show, [00:06:20] which I had a few I had a few show positions was just incredible, [00:06:25] you know, a training job and you’re being paid and the atmosphere is just is light. [00:06:30] But it’s, you know, it’s so immersive as well working beside specialists. What, [00:06:35] what a what a privilege. And that was I had sensed [00:06:40] that, you know, coming out with a BDS. It wasn’t it wasn’t adequate, it wasn’t enough. [00:06:45] But it was a great foundation. But I knew I had to be more [00:06:50] prepared to practice than what the BDS gave me. So I pursued those show jobs. And then [00:06:55] after after that, it was, you know, getting into private practice as soon as possible. [00:07:00] Um, because that had been my vision. I could see the, the NHS, [00:07:05] uh, business model wouldn’t support what we had learned at university even. [00:07:10] And, and furthermore, what I was to learn as a, as an show which [00:07:15] was basically practising in line with the evidence, the science, what the science was telling us to do [00:07:20] that had. No, no. Um. I didn’t have any [00:07:25] belief in the government’s approach to how I was to apply the science, [00:07:30] so I needed that autonomy ultimately, and give myself that [00:07:35] foundation and then look for the autonomy to apply it.

Speaker3: To which year are we talking now? [00:07:40]

Speaker1: So that was, um, when into private practice in 2007, [00:07:45] I think. So just, you know, three years after qualifying, [00:07:50] I didn’t buy the practice at that point, but I just I phoned around all [00:07:55] the practises in Edinburgh just asking if they had a job. And a couple did have private associate [00:08:00] jobs and got into one. And then that led me to the next associate job. Um, [00:08:05] and the principle in that job, he offered me the practice. [00:08:10] It was very early on in the job was like six weeks, I think they said, I want you to take [00:08:15] over the practice. I was like, let’s go for it.

Speaker3: Six weeks in.

Speaker1: Yeah. It [00:08:20] was just it was great. It was a nice small team. Just everything [00:08:25] just clicked. Um, it was, he was. I could tell he was a bit more senior. And I thought, [00:08:30] yeah, maybe in five, ten years he’ll want to retire. This is this is a possible opportunity [00:08:35] in the future as an associate, I could take it on from him. I had thought of that when I met him. If he was a really [00:08:40] young principal, I thought there’s no real unless it would be partnership. I wasn’t keen on that. [00:08:45] I wanted to be the sole owner and I thought, yeah, he’s kind of old enough, but [00:08:50] I may be able to succeed him. And uh, but yeah, right enough. I didn’t realise he was [00:08:55] planning to retire so suddenly. He was 55. Um, and that was it? Yeah. Just [00:09:00] took that over. And it was January 2008. It was. Did you [00:09:05] have the money already?

Speaker3: Did you have you had some savings or how did that side of it.

Speaker1: At that time [00:09:10] banks were throwing money at you. So. Oh that’s right. That was not.

Speaker3: 100%, 110% mortgages. [00:09:15] Like.

Speaker1: Yeah, yeah. It was I remember him saying, do you want, do you want any more. You know, we had agreed on [00:09:20] the sums like is that all you need. And I was like, okay, stick another 20 on, you know, just in case. And [00:09:25] I remember actually paying them that back like just a few months in, I thought, I don’t [00:09:30] need that. Um, it was. Yeah. It’s very different nowadays isn’t it.

Speaker3: And you were, you were very [00:09:35] young. But can you remember what was going through your head as you were buying this practice? Were you thinking this [00:09:40] potential to change it, or were you just thinking it’s running like clockwork, [00:09:45] so I’ll just take it over. What was going through your head?

Speaker1: I really appreciated what they had there already [00:09:50] and it was all paper based. It was very analogue. It was, but it worked [00:09:55] sweetly. The patients were happy. There was a long established practice. 40 years, I think. Very [00:10:00] dedicated. Normal, pleasant. A patience [00:10:05] and same to same for the team. You know, long established [00:10:10] loyal team. Just a really sweet, healthy place to be. And [00:10:15] on that basis, I plan to change nothing for at least six [00:10:20] months. Just find my feet. I’m sure there’s a lot for me to learn and integrate into, uh, [00:10:25] embrace what’s there, embrace what’s working and see where to take it from [00:10:30] there. And actually, after that, it really wasn’t much to change about [00:10:35] the practice. As such, it was more just to continue developing myself as a dentist [00:10:40] and learn from my on going experiences and get better and better. [00:10:45] So I was very much a value add type rather than volume. But volume [00:10:50] never really appealed to me in dentistry, so it was just constant. This journey of value add, [00:10:55] you know, and upskilling all the time. Um, and [00:11:00] that was the approach. And in the end, you know, it probably [00:11:05] served me so far, you know, served me for 11 years. But that’s [00:11:10] that’s another story as to how I reached my limit with that, you know. But that was that was my approach in the beginning. [00:11:15]

Speaker3: So what kind of dentist were you becoming? What was what kind of work were you doing?

Speaker1: I [00:11:20] did, um, I think the first few years are really focussed on being great [00:11:25] at being general. Yeah. I really valued, you know, doing dentistry [00:11:30] that most people needed, but doing it extremely well. So just being really proud of [00:11:35] my, my handle, you know, my restorative work. Yeah. And being great at what [00:11:40] maintaining percent of people needed, which is what general dentistry was. And so [00:11:45] that was, that was that was my focus in the first few years. And it was actually [00:11:50] in maybe fourth or fifth year, maybe that I started looking at courses [00:11:55] and CPD requirements. I thought, I actually am going to this next CPD [00:12:00] cycle. I’ve got nothing to show. Um, I’ve just been reflecting mostly [00:12:05] until then and, you know, just making my work better and better under my own steam type of thing. [00:12:10] But then I get into the courses and implants, um, or so, [00:12:15] um, that type of thing. Um, I never really get into the cosmetic [00:12:20] as a core cosmetic work as a core. Everything I [00:12:25] did, I wanted to achieve a cosmetic result, but the cosmetic side didn’t really ever [00:12:30] draw me. I was very much about function and health, uh, that [00:12:35] type of thing, and making it look nice when I’ve done it. But not cosmetic [00:12:40] as I Corps. But everything else I did kind of, um, have an interest in [00:12:45] enough to get into it.

Speaker1: But I must say though, that with the implants I had. Actually [00:12:50] previously decided never to get into it, but by [00:12:55] this point, I’d become so miserable and lost in practice [00:13:00] that I thought if I need to do something. I was in such a quandary, [00:13:05] which I can go into, um. But basically I was so lost and miserable I [00:13:10] thought, I need to do something. So I threw myself at the Strowman uh, course at the I.T [00:13:15] course, which changed my life, um, personally [00:13:20] and professionally, and breathed out a bit of life back into [00:13:25] the practice and to myself as a principle. And actually, maybe it helped [00:13:30] it survive because it was another big value add. The practice wasn’t growing in numbers, [00:13:35] it was just very, very static and stable. But I knew that wasn’t future proof enough. [00:13:40] So again, it was a next stage of sort of value add, but it was through the implant course that I met my wife, [00:13:45] through a friend that I’d made on the implant course, and meeting on these other great people [00:13:50] on the course and getting myself exposed to that community, because I had become just too [00:13:55] isolated in practice prior to then as well. And so that course just [00:14:00] helped so much.

Speaker3: But it wasn’t enough. So go on, tell me why. [00:14:05] Why were you so lost?

Speaker1: Essentially, I working [00:14:10] directly with the public and the nature of employment law [00:14:15] in Britain had me quite disillusioned because of 1 or 2 undesirable characters [00:14:20] that I had working for me along the way. Um, but essentially, you [00:14:25] know, chatting to 15 different members of the public each day was exhausting for me. Yeah, [00:14:30] I loved the analysis and strategy and the technical work [00:14:35] of the industry. Um, but the chat I would rather get into deep and meaningful [00:14:40] with three people every day about talk about the deepest subjects, [00:14:45] rather than chit chat with 15 or 20 people. That was exhausting for me. So [00:14:50] perhaps if I’d managed to cut down to say, 1 or 2 days a week, it would have been healthier. [00:14:55] I was also terrible at delegation, so by design, I’m just going to get exposed [00:15:00] to. You know, NGOs that just pull me, tear me apart [00:15:05] from all, all sides, you know. So that was that was, you [00:15:10] know, probably the summary of why it was a toxic place for me, a toxic situation. [00:15:15] Ultimately, um, when you say employment, say.

Speaker3: You mean you mean you wanted to [00:15:20] fire someone and you couldn’t like that sort of thing?

Speaker1: Yeah. I mean, it’s, um, I [00:15:25] because because of this was the wrong environment for me ultimately, even though it [00:15:30] was going extremely well on paper and clinically, it was just fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. [00:15:35] But for me personally, it was really not not right. Which [00:15:40] meant that as my energy was consumed and I was distracted, it meant I wasn’t a [00:15:45] great leader in that environment. Um, the team knew what to do. They [00:15:50] were so responsible, um, but meant I wasn’t a great leader. Which also meant that [00:15:55] if 1 or 2 unsavoury characters crept into the team over the years, I didn’t deal with them. [00:16:00] Well enough. I just wasn’t able or willing [00:16:05] to deal with them correctly. The team were great though. I mean, we kind of dealt with them as a team, [00:16:10] and it’s funny to see that acting out. Um, team are great. [00:16:15] Yeah, it’s it’s, um, the employment law in [00:16:20] Britain. I felt put some employers like myself at [00:16:25] risk to, to these people ultimately who I’m talking about, they didn’t do any [00:16:30] long term harm to the practice or patients or to me. It’s just hard at the time to deal [00:16:35] with, though. So.

Speaker3: But did you know, did you not think that, you know, that [00:16:40] is a business problem rather than a dentistry problem?

Speaker1: Yeah. I mean, it’s [00:16:45] I think it was a me problem. I think I was the problem there because I was just in the wrong environment, [00:16:50] and I just had no reserves to deal with this character. [00:16:55] It’s as simple as that. And I know what I would do now, but it took me two [00:17:00] years to. Get them out. Um, they’re very toxic. And [00:17:05] the team, um, and I just. I just had nothing. I had nothing left. My [00:17:10] focus was on my responsibilities to the patient. My technical skills [00:17:15] and serving the patient. And, you know, keeping the rest of that team [00:17:20] happy and keeping that peaceful, happy place. But driving [00:17:25] the practice, I just didn’t have enough interest in it to [00:17:30] drive it.

Speaker3: It’s interesting, isn’t it? Like, what is it about your job or one’s [00:17:35] job that drives us? Right? And in dentistry, I mean, [00:17:40] personally, I was the opposite of you. I didn’t like the Meccano, didn’t like the [00:17:45] putting bits together, and even the treatment planning piece didn’t like it. Always worried [00:17:50] I was doing the wrong thing and that sort of thing. Um, but I enjoyed the human [00:17:55] side of it. And I hear what you’re saying about the, you know, it’s a bit too [00:18:00] surface. Um, you can’t get into it deep and meaningful. But somehow I felt like I was, [00:18:05] I was, I was, but you know what drives us? That other people are driven by the staff management [00:18:10] bit, other people are driven by now in your new project, the the [00:18:15] marketing and design and all of that. Um, but now [00:18:20] that you’re out of it, do you not recognise dentistry as, um, better [00:18:25] than you thought it was when you were in it? Because I certainly did when I, when I stopped practising, [00:18:30] um, I realised that it’s, it’s actually I mean, it’s a hard job, [00:18:35] but anyone can do it was the way I was thinking.

Speaker1: Right? Um, [00:18:40] I mean, I do appreciate everything I got out of it. I knew along the way [00:18:45] with every challenge that I was going to learn something, every, every brutal [00:18:50] challenge that dentistry brings you. I just, you know. Got my head [00:18:55] down and dealt with it and learned and conquered it. And there was there was [00:19:00] so much that was great about it. And I, and I still describe it as an amazing profession. I really do. [00:19:05] Um, I have so much appreciation for it. And and yes, I could go back [00:19:10] and probably enjoy an associate job for a day or two. It [00:19:15] doesn’t appeal to me just now, and I kind of don’t need to. But yeah, there’s there is a lot that I [00:19:20] that I look back on and I do appreciate and I was appreciating those things at the [00:19:25] time, but it is so demanding as a practice owner, a small practice owner, [00:19:30] you have to love it. You just have to love it. Yeah. And that’s [00:19:35] that’s all it was. That’s all it was missing. I just didn’t love it. And that can be enough [00:19:40] to send some people over the edge. And it almost sent me over the edge. So yeah, [00:19:45] the 90% or 80% that I liked was was amazing stuff. But [00:19:50] you also need that 20%, let’s say, and that such a demanding [00:19:55] environment and that 20% that I missed was just the passion and [00:20:00] that to be in that environment. So yeah, I do have big appreciation for it.

Speaker3: Do you remember [00:20:05] then thinking my way out of this is to sell this practice? Was that a moment that [00:20:10] you decided to do that?

Speaker1: It was a very, [00:20:15] very emotional event to realise that that [00:20:20] has to happen. And it was with my wife, the support of my wife, who, incidentally, is a dentist as well. [00:20:25] Was she working.

Speaker3: In the same practice?

Speaker1: She did a little bit, yeah. Uh, [00:20:30] she’s an orthodontist, and but it was together. She’s very, very [00:20:35] spiritual and in touch with, you know. All [00:20:40] of that and we just. I just realised that I have to go. I have to I [00:20:45] have to sell this. And the kind of the exit strategy began and [00:20:50] I realised also there was a halfway house of. And this seems so basic [00:20:55] to everybody who’s listening, but to get an associate, because I was single handed [00:21:00] with a therapist, a dental therapist, and I had had [00:21:05] my fingers burnt with a few associates before and, and had gone [00:21:10] single handed after that for a good five years. And I thought, [00:21:15] I need to readdress this kind of associate model and how can [00:21:20] I make it work? And I came up with this whole structure that, you know, especially [00:21:25] the the remuneration structure sort of tapered, um, remuneration [00:21:30] structure, which I don’t know how. Sliding. Sliding scale. Yeah. [00:21:35] Sliding scale. Yeah. Um, so I worked really hard on that sliding scale structure. [00:21:40] And got an associate and I thought, okay, if [00:21:45] if I can get a great associate, I could actually drop down to a day, a week. And [00:21:50] this might actually be healthy for me. And equally, if. I’m not [00:21:55] entirely happy with the associate, but they’re good enough. Then I might just. They [00:22:00] might make it easier to sell the practice as well.

Speaker1: The fact that the associates didn’t say 90% of [00:22:05] the work. And in the end, I wasn’t entirely [00:22:10] happy with what was going on. It was a it was a good associate, but just [00:22:15] not quite how I wanted it to be. And that did make it easier to sell. [00:22:20] And then I sold. And that was it was a [00:22:25] very, very easy sell because I had just fine tuned this [00:22:30] practice to, you know, everything was working so slick. [00:22:35] It was just such a transparent practice to [00:22:40] assess as a purchase and had been so fine tuned. And [00:22:45] systems and the team. It was just a lovely package to pass [00:22:50] on, something that was very proud of and something I knew that whoever took [00:22:55] it on, they weren’t going to get burnt with anything that had left lingering, not dealt with, [00:23:00] whether it was, you know, toxic stuff or broken systems or that type [00:23:05] of thing. It was just a nice package to pass on. And so thankfully. That [00:23:10] made it a very smooth sail because I couldn’t I wouldn’t have coped with a sail [00:23:15] that took 2 or 3 years. I know that happens to people. Um, I wouldn’t [00:23:20] have I don’t know what would have happened to me, but I had nothing left at that point. And did [00:23:25] you have a plan?

Speaker3: Did you have a plan for what you were going to do after? Or was it like I went out first and [00:23:30] I want to then decide, yeah.

Speaker1: And this is the this is the thing as well. I had through it, [00:23:35] through it maybe, maybe since a teenager I had lots of ideas for products [00:23:40] and reinvent and redesigning things. And this [00:23:45] growing list that I’d been keeping since I was a teenager, there must have been, you know, there’s probably [00:23:50] originally 100 products and it scored a 40, and I was now left with 50 or 60 products on [00:23:55] this list. And I’m seeing some of these products going appear in the market. Others [00:24:00] had actually come up with it, and I see it actually become a success. I’m like, oh, I better score that one off. That’s somebody [00:24:05] else ended up doing that. And to continually see these ideas come [00:24:10] and the possibility for success and bringing a product to market was [00:24:15] this kind of burning passion in the background the whole time. And [00:24:20] I thought, there’s I need to give one of these a try. I [00:24:25] also had discovered that my previous passion of [00:24:30] becoming an airline pilot as a child was actually very feasible with [00:24:35] today’s, uh, affordable and flexible modular training pathways. So [00:24:40] I thought I could train as an airline pilot, but also have some [00:24:45] products developing on the side. And I had understood the the model of licensing [00:24:50] where you come up with IP, a design and you. Two, though to [00:24:55] accompany, and they take on the rights to the IP in return for a royalty. So I thought, [00:25:00] I can churn out these ideas and be an airline pilot and also start [00:25:05] a family. So that all kind of lined up. And [00:25:10] so that was the plan to start all of the above. And [00:25:15] and I did I did start over. Um, and also to get into investing [00:25:20] and learn a bit more about that. And so actually property was an interest. [00:25:25]

Speaker1: I had a couple of rental flats that give me a taste of things, but I’d [00:25:30] also learned that there were so many ways within property to to do well. So [00:25:35] the other plan that came up after I sold was to get into house building [00:25:40] with my dad. So I was training to be a pilot. I was [00:25:45] writing these patents for products. We had already had a first child, second one was on the way, and [00:25:50] I was also starting the business with my dad to start to build houses. And then Covid happened [00:25:55] and basically wiped out the property game [00:26:00] and the aviation industry. And by then I was getting [00:26:05] on for 40 and I had planned, I had decided that if [00:26:10] I’m going to become a become a pilot, I need to do this by the time I’m 40, because [00:26:15] it’s such a gruelling, physically demanding lifestyle. That, [00:26:20] combined with family and everything else, that was going to be my deadline and then Covid [00:26:25] basically. Destroyed that deadline by, it would need another 3 or 4 years then [00:26:30] with the unknown that it presented. So I gave up on the aviation idea, [00:26:35] gave up on the property, um, business. That was for six months until that. [00:26:40] Thankfully, we didn’t start digging because I don’t know what would have happened. But [00:26:45] yeah, the supply issues with materials and things in the building industry, [00:26:50] um, was the was the thing that threw the whole business plan. And [00:26:55] just the shift change in how people use property affected the [00:27:00] whole strategy. So, um, yeah, so I just focussed on products and [00:27:05] family and uh, yeah, the rest is kind of can [00:27:10] talk more about that if you like, but lots of product ideas. But I’d say focus on the one which was [00:27:15] the toothbrush, ergo prox toothbrush.

Speaker3: I’d like to get to a good prox, but [00:27:20] I would like to know some of the other ones. But what was one? What was one that you thought up when you were [00:27:25] 17 and then someone else brought to market?

Speaker1: Or the idea just to think [00:27:30] another day that the idea of a sort of CCTV system within a car. I [00:27:35] think I was maybe 16 or 17. And now everybody has these, you know, dash cams [00:27:40] and it’s like the technology is so cheap. And another one was, uh [00:27:45] oh, I had have you ever seen these old LCD alarm clocks where the LCD [00:27:50] sits on a glass pane, so it’s completely see through, but the LCD numbers are on it. And [00:27:55] I thought if this could be enlarged into a massive window, you could have like [00:28:00] a window that can go pick at the flick of a switch. And then. I [00:28:05] think it was maybe a year.

Speaker3: That exists, isn’t it?

Speaker1: It [00:28:10] does. Yeah. And then it came out, you know, like five, ten years later I actually came out. I think it was like dental [00:28:15] surgery in Glasgow. I really high end one. And they, they have this surgery [00:28:20] and it’s, you know, maybe 5 or 6 big panes of glass and that flick of a switch, it just becomes this white opaque. [00:28:25]

Speaker3: Yeah. I think attic attic practice at that.

Speaker1: Yeah. Yeah yeah.

Speaker3: And [00:28:30] Chris all centres got that as well. Um but don’t you think [00:28:35] dude. Yeah. That, you know, the execution is much more important than idea [00:28:40] anyway.

Speaker1: Um, I mean, yeah, it has to. That’s that’s the stage for that now [00:28:45] with the business.

Speaker3: And but you know, like, you know what I mean. We’ve we’ve all had ideas haven’t we all had ideas. [00:28:50] Ideas. Yeah. Is, is I know what you mean though about that being [00:28:55] the driver for you saying, God damn it, I’m going to execute this time. Yeah. Because [00:29:00] I’ve felt that feeling too, you know, that, you know, this is the thing that pushes you into actually doing [00:29:05] it is when you see someone else executing on your your idea. Right? Yeah. [00:29:10]

Speaker1: It’s, uh, and it was thing is, it was giving myself that chance to execute because [00:29:15] I was so swamped and density that had all these ideas and couldn’t execute. [00:29:20] And now I love I love the design engineering. So engineering [00:29:25] an idea to become, to be able to become a physical reality and also to become manufacturable [00:29:30] and at scale, not just manufacturable, but at scale as well. [00:29:35] So designing the machines, the tools that allow that object to come to life is [00:29:40] great. So that’s the that’s the physical execution. And then there’s the execution of the business. And always being [00:29:45] having been entrepreneurial all my life without actually. Giving [00:29:50] it enough credit to be honest along the way. But now I’m doing that. It’s I can now now [00:29:55] execute in the business, making a business out of it, which is just as exciting to me.

Speaker3: So [00:30:00] okay, let’s let’s get to Ergo Proxy. When was the first [00:30:05] time you thought that there’s a problem? Let’s describe the problem first. The problem is [00:30:10] missing teeth. The teeth next to the abutment, teeth next to the missing teeth, and [00:30:15] how clean you can keep those and, you know, the general public, how they can [00:30:20] angle their brushes and so forth. Is that right? Is that what we’re talking about?

Speaker1: Absolutely. So ten years [00:30:25] ago now actually, that I realised in practice that we were not able, over [00:30:30] decades of attrition with these patients seeing a hygienist. But we’re not able to coach these [00:30:35] clever, keen able patients. To [00:30:40] clean these sites. So I thought, let’s do a study on my own patients. So I just had [00:30:45] two columns and a bit of paper beside my desk. I didn’t even label the columns. My staff had no idea what I was [00:30:50] writing down. I just started like creating these stats for what was going on. And I found [00:30:55] that in this private practice, 95% of people with a missing tooth [00:31:00] could not clean all of the plaque from all of the teeth adjacent [00:31:05] to this edentulous site.

Speaker3: Are you talking about the ones with removable dentures? [00:31:10] The ones with a gap?

Speaker1: The ones anyone who’s lost a tooth other than a wisdom tooth. [00:31:15] So they’ve lost one two, seven, one, two, five six however many. I [00:31:20] counted all the sites. Just surfaces next to the Dental space, [00:31:25] and 95% of them could not clean all of the sites next to [00:31:30] all of their edentulous spaces, so they might have managed to clean.

Speaker3: A bit of it. You know.

Speaker1: Four out of the [00:31:35] five sites that were next to the initial space. But there was one that they just couldn’t. Yeah, yeah, yeah. [00:31:40] And so it was named and they might not have disease there. Fair enough. But you get [00:31:45] you get the path to and I thought this is massive. This is an ergonomic issue. We cannot [00:31:50] coach these people. I had a patient who had missing uppers and lower [00:31:55] left five present round to lower right four. Uh, sorry. It was [00:32:00] a three was a 4 to 3. So lower left, four to lower right. Three. The four I had just [00:32:05] crowned because of caries. And she’s still getting plaque at the distal. [00:32:10] Now with her dentures out, she has full access with any [00:32:15] old toothbrush to clean the back of that four to clean the distal of that four. And she [00:32:20] simply couldn’t in her mind’s eye, get her hand round at the correct angle consistently [00:32:25] every day to remove that plaque. And I said, you’re going to get caries here [00:32:30] because you’re still not cleaning there. And she’s basically burst into tears. [00:32:35] She knows that she’s about to lose. She might lose this critical tooth. It’s just [00:32:40] that helps to support the occlusion for our upper denture and something [00:32:45] to brace against for the lower one. This is a critical anchor tooth in your mouth. And [00:32:50] but she’s she’s perilous. I thought enough is enough that this this their toothbrush [00:32:55] architecture needs completely redesigned to deal with this. And [00:33:00] that was that was the that was the moment. I realise something has to be done [00:33:05] and. Yeah, and I thought if it’s 95% of my private patients, then what is it. What’s [00:33:10] it like in the general population. Mhm.

Speaker3: Yeah. And so you must have looked at research [00:33:15] now is there work out there confirming this.

Speaker1: Yeah I mean [00:33:20] the I think the partial denture case is, is, is brilliant because [00:33:25] um, these people, these people are at an even higher risk of this domino [00:33:30] effect of disease. And they are statistically, [00:33:35] they feel disempowered with their oral hygiene. They statistically feel out [00:33:40] of control. They statistically are not clear on what their [00:33:45] oral hygiene regime is, should be. And that that [00:33:50] that he traced that back to their experience in the surgery with the hygienist. The [00:33:55] hygienist is having to make up for the current toothbrushes are having to describe [00:34:00] and prescribe and coach a regime. Once you’re coaching somebody [00:34:05] beyond 30s how to clean a site, it’s probably not going to [00:34:10] work in the long term for that patient. If it needs that much tuition, you’re [00:34:15] entering the realms of spatial awareness, manual dexterity, motivation, [00:34:20] forming good habits for the rest of their life. And [00:34:25] you’re just you’re up against it. So it’s been unfair, [00:34:30] but what choice have we had? But it’s unfair to expect a patient to to take [00:34:35] on such a surgical technique essentially. So basically statistically [00:34:40] this is a serious issue. And I reached out to, I think, 150 hygienists and [00:34:45] therapists personally and engaged in dialogue with all of them about this problem. And [00:34:50] every single one was pulling their hair out with us. I even had hygienist saying, [00:34:55] I don’t know what to do about these areas. I just prescribe single tufted brush. [00:35:00] But no, it doesn’t work.

Speaker1: Or a bent toothbrush, which doesn’t work either. [00:35:05] So they’re actually telling me we’re prescribing something that doesn’t work, which is [00:35:10] a horrible position to be in. It sets them up for disappointment. The patient [00:35:15] comes back to me today what’s basically being patronised. You’re not cleaning. [00:35:20] They’re even though we understood and we told you and you agreed it’s not their fault, [00:35:25] it’s the tool. And so as I recognise the issue there and [00:35:30] it’s global. So yeah, that’s, you know, just through writing the patent, I did the [00:35:35] research and the prior art, which is basically all of the existing toothbrush designs. [00:35:40] And, and it has never been addressed. And the funny thing here [00:35:45] is, you know, I thought, am I reinventing the toothbrush here? Is this when I say, what am I doing here? [00:35:50] Why has this never been invented in the hundreds of years that we’ve been extracting teeth? [00:35:55] And here it is. The thing is, when the tooth is lost, we think space [00:36:00] has been created. Therefore, we should be able to clean the adjacent surfaces. Yeah. [00:36:05] And that’s it. Because there’s space. Because the hygienist can see [00:36:10] it. We believe the patient should also be able to see it or reach it. And [00:36:15] that’s it. But the angle required is impossible with [00:36:20] current toothbrushes and also the size of the toothbrush heads. But it’s all about the angle. Um, [00:36:25] so yeah, it’s a global issue.

Speaker3: Quickly describe it [00:36:30] for someone who’s listening. Kind of to me, looks like a closet, but [00:36:35] with the brushes.

Speaker1: Like a wishbone, sort of wishbone. Yeah. It’s like, almost [00:36:40] like a wishbone structure at the end of a handle. Yeah. And suspended between the legs of the [00:36:45] wishbone is a double sided brush head. Yeah. The bristles are [00:36:50] angled slightly towards the gingival margin. So it’s got the bass technique built [00:36:55] in and it’s very forgiving. And because of that you can just [00:37:00] use any brushing action. Push pull left right up and down. It’s so efficient [00:37:05] at applying pressure at the bristle tips to exactly [00:37:10] where it’s needed on a single tooth. Just because [00:37:15] of the positioning, because of the architecture, the layout.

Speaker3: And the curve. The curve of [00:37:20] the filaments. Right.

Speaker1: Yeah. So the the. Yeah, the curve of the head, it’s [00:37:25] um, it’s curved on two planes, uh, the two relevant planes in that position [00:37:30] and also deforms under under excess pressure. [00:37:35]

Speaker3: And they’re not filaments. They’re. What is it? Silicone.

Speaker1: It’s elastomer. [00:37:40] Yeah. And, you know, if it was nylon on a rigid base, which [00:37:45] is what nylon, the nylon bristles would need, it would actually be. This [00:37:50] is so efficient at directing the bristles where they need to go that the nylon structure would actually [00:37:55] be traumatic for tissues. So we had to de de risk de distress [00:38:00] the bristle tips. It’s so effective at brushing their. And, [00:38:05] you know, a lot of a lot of brush designs, even, you know, a Philips Sonicare [00:38:10] brush head. There’s a lot built into that that bristles set to account for inefficiency [00:38:15] with the positioning of the brush head. You know, long ones, short ones. It’s kind of covering [00:38:20] all covering all eventualities. But this brush head is positioned [00:38:25] so precisely that we had to basically de-stress the [00:38:30] the contact points, the contact between the bristle tips and the tooth. So [00:38:35] hence um, ferm elastomer, but a deformable head and [00:38:40] also curved to distribute the load.

Speaker3: I mean, ergo proxicom [00:38:45] if you want to look at a picture of it, I’m looking at it right now. Is the is the brush head piece replaceable. [00:38:50] Is that and the handles is the same. Is that what it is?

Speaker1: Different colour at the moment. At the moment it’s not replaceable [00:38:55] as a whole. Other level of engineering that will come in the future, but it’s really [00:39:00] easy to snip that head off and the handle is fully recyclable. So [00:39:05] for every ergo proxy toothbrush is 97% recyclable material and [00:39:10] you know, we can easily move to compostable plastics and things later as well, [00:39:15] you know. But yeah, just normal domestic scissors. Cut the head off and recycle the handle. [00:39:20]

Speaker3: So look, obviously I’m involved in product design, right. So I [00:39:25] appreciate how much work has gone into that. And a lot of people wouldn’t appreciate [00:39:30] it. But, um, I, it makes me think of, uh, with our latest version [00:39:35] of enlightened, we decided to change the tray case, uh, and, [00:39:40] and we didn’t want it to be plastic. We wanted it to be metal. And having [00:39:45] having been through this process many times before myself, I did not want to design [00:39:50] it ourselves. I wanted just to buy it off the shelf somewhere. Someone, you know, OEM stick [00:39:55] my name on it, but we couldn’t find one. Could not find one. Um, so [00:40:00] all it is? Dude, I don’t know if you’ve seen it. All it is is a case. Like, that’s all it [00:40:05] is. It’s aluminium round. Looks like a flying saucer, let’s say. Yeah. Uh, the [00:40:10] number of iterations that we had to go through for it. And [00:40:15] by the way, it’s still not right. It’s never right, is it? Um, I wanted it to open with one hand or whatever. [00:40:20] And, you know, sticking a hinge in there became a cost issue. Uh, just a whole [00:40:25] lot of problems. Yeah. Um, so, yeah.

Speaker1: It’s very involved, [00:40:30] isn’t it? Yeah, it is engineering. A lot of eyeballing, engineering, a lot of, uh, kind of sensing, [00:40:35] like, and density where you kind of just need to judge, you know, with your senses, through [00:40:40] experience about how to bring that tool together or bring those two pieces together. [00:40:45]

Speaker3: And then the cost of tooling I found, you know, just surprising, [00:40:50] surprisingly high. Um, so let’s go [00:40:55] through the process. Okay. You realise this was a problem. You started making some drawings, I guess [00:41:00] some 3D drawings after that. Well, the first thing.

Speaker1: I did was I got some modelling [00:41:05] clay. Yeah, and just mocked it up into shape. That felt right. [00:41:10] Uh, did a couple of iterations of that and felt I had enough to start doing [00:41:15] 3D drawings. I got somebody to do the drawing, just told them where to put the curves [00:41:20] and what angles and things, and then got that 3D printed, and [00:41:25] from then it was reiterations of 3D printed models.

Speaker3: So [00:41:30] maybe 3D printing makes it a lot easier, doesn’t it?

Speaker1: Yeah, yeah. [00:41:35] And um, because your main die can be fantastic, but once you get it in [00:41:40] your hand, you really can feel it and sense what the market will perceive it like, the size [00:41:45] of it, or how somebody would want to hold it. And you can even just pass it to somebody and see how [00:41:50] how they manage it in their hands. How many, how many.

Speaker3: Iterations did you go through before [00:41:55] getting to this?

Speaker1: Raw prototypes, probably [00:42:00] 10 to 15, however. Within within the [00:42:05] design process. And there must have been. There must have been another [00:42:10] sort of. 1020. Iterations to [00:42:15] tweak. And that’s before that’s before tooling started. And then when [00:42:20] you have the tool made, the tool then needs redesigned and [00:42:25] tweaked. So there were another 5 or 6 iterations in the tool itself, [00:42:30] which that in its in its own consumed six months, I think 6 to [00:42:35] 9 months. Those reiterations just within the tool. So you think you have this product [00:42:40] and yes, on on in A3D print, it’s perfect. But [00:42:45] then it needs to be manufacturable at scale and the tool needs to be fine tuned to produce that. [00:42:50] So that was that was really interesting as well. I think a lot of people might have been really frustrated by that process. [00:42:55] It took me a year longer than I had planned for, but it was technical. [00:43:00] It was, you know, even the a three engineers involved along the way putting their opinion [00:43:05] in and the tool maker, at one point, he actually wasn’t sure if it was even going to be possible, but [00:43:10] I just felt I knew what I needed these bristles to do and [00:43:15] therefore what the tool needed to make. And I [00:43:20] think he was actually he wasn’t used to dealing with things that this [00:43:25] such small dimension, but I was very familiar with dealing with fractions, tiny fractions [00:43:30] of a millimetre through implant dentistry and everything. So I felt completely at home [00:43:35] there. So I was able to help him, you know, make decisions on [00:43:40] the tool. I felt I knew what the material was going to do once it was injected under tons [00:43:45] of pressure, and how it would flow and reach those cavities within the tool, [00:43:50] and how it would all bond together and that molten state and then produce [00:43:55] the brush that I need. So that was that was a an amazing [00:44:00] process.

Speaker3: But I guess you wouldn’t have even gotten into this process before you’d written the patent, right? [00:44:05]

Speaker1: Correct. Yeah.

Speaker3: So, so so you wrote the patent, you checked [00:44:10] if the if it had been designed before you, I don’t know, you hire a patent [00:44:15] attorney or whatever.

Speaker1: Yeah. How much, how much.

Speaker3: How much does it cost you patent wise to get to [00:44:20] that point? Not much. Not too much. Um.

Speaker1: Well. Just [00:44:25] to just to quickly add because you mentioned there about not considering the manufacturing. But as I was writing [00:44:30] the patent, I had considered how this would be manufactured as I was writing the patent, because I’d always [00:44:35] been interested in how things were manufactured. So I just thought, if this is like a two piece [00:44:40] opening tool or injection moulding tool, it needs to be able to come out. Yeah. And [00:44:45] on that one dimension ideally. But yeah, the patent process I had kind of learned [00:44:50] through some tuition I had on, on patent licensing how [00:44:55] to write a very basic, basic patent draft, which is really cheap. You can file [00:45:00] one for £70 and. Had. By then I had written a few [00:45:05] patent applications, such a good idea of what was technically required. And [00:45:10] I knew ultimately, the more I could put on paper and describe clearly, the less work my patent [00:45:15] attorney would need to do. Yeah, so I am not even sure how much I’ve spent [00:45:20] on the patent attorney up until now on this product. Um, but it’s it’s [00:45:25] probably it’s probably it must be over. It must be over 10,000 [00:45:30] by now. And it’s probably not necessary to go that far. But my [00:45:35] applications are global. So as US, Europe and China. So there’s a bit [00:45:40] more involved.

Speaker3: So this is now. This is now to get it to the patent pending stage. [00:45:45]

Speaker1: So a patent pending can start with £70, and you file your own draft document [00:45:50] under your own steam. If you’re really clear technically about what your innovation is, why it’s innovative and [00:45:55] include lots of drawings, you can have a patent pending with £70. And for one year you’ve [00:46:00] got this grace period to look at the commercial viability of it. You can start looking at what’s [00:46:05] possible. You can even present it to companies if you just want to go down the licensing route. Um, but [00:46:10] you can basically explore the whole venture and with a huge degree of protection because you’ve got [00:46:15] that filed document. But within that year, you need to start making your decision [00:46:20] and then raise it to the next level of filing, at which point you want to [00:46:25] really drill down and articulate in the legally and [00:46:30] legal terminology what your innovation is within that document. And that’s where a patent attorney [00:46:35] can help. So my first draft for this patent was like 10,000 words long. And [00:46:40] my patent. A patent attorney. Added another 3000 words, I think. [00:46:45]

Speaker3: Is that it? I mean, I always understood the full cost of patenting in all [00:46:50] those different regions was into the hundreds of thousands. Is that incorrect?

Speaker1: I don’t think it’s going to come [00:46:55] to that. So it’s the number of communications that you need [00:47:00] to have with the patent office. Will affect the amount you have to spend [00:47:05] on getting it to grant. So if you and your patent attorney can be [00:47:10] clear and efficient as possible, then it will reduce the number of exchanges between your patent attorney [00:47:15] and the the the patent office. And, you [00:47:20] know, for example, once it’s approved in Europe, it’s then maybe [00:47:25] it then gets assigned to whichever countries within Europe that you want it to be sitting [00:47:30] in. So I think for like 5 or 6 biggest countries, it’s then maybe 7 [00:47:35] or £8000 to have it assigned to those countries. But the legwork prior [00:47:40] to that is really kind of how long is a piece of string. And if you can be clear and [00:47:45] efficient with your patent attorney, you can really minimise those costs. I think it [00:47:50] does come down to complexity of the product as well. A toothbrush is essentially pretty simple. [00:47:55] Yeah. Um, you’d be surprised at how complex the patent [00:48:00] is for a simple object. So my advice would be to stick to a simple product if [00:48:05] somebody wants to go down this road, but something that’s far more engineered and complex. [00:48:10] And so it must be into, as you said, you know, over £100,000.

Speaker3: So the conversations, [00:48:15] the conversations with the hygienists made you think, yeah, they’re enthusiastic. [00:48:20] They know the problem I’m talking about. So there is a market here. And [00:48:25] did you feel like that was enough to say, I’m going for this? And or [00:48:30] was there was there had you talked to any other companies regarding, um, licensing? [00:48:35] I had this is where the real, real risk and cost starts now doesn’t [00:48:40] it? At this point in the, in the cycle.

Speaker1: Front load the risk. [00:48:45] I’ve tried to, you know, through speaking to the profession and through speaking to companies as well, [00:48:50] but mostly the profession. When I had a unanimous response from the profession [00:48:55] about number one, but the seriousness of the problem and number two, [00:49:00] about the solution that I was presenting to them, it was it was such [00:49:05] a it was a no brainer. You know, there was simply no doubt from anyone [00:49:10] of the 150 of them. And that was just as resounding, [00:49:15] you know, proof of product market fit. And yes, [00:49:20] it was it was very much on that basis, along with other serious factors like [00:49:25] commercial viability of it, you know, how cheaply can this be produced and [00:49:30] will it actually work? And just with the material science from, from uni, [00:49:35] from, from dentistry, I knew that we could get the performance out of the materials. Uh, [00:49:40] the rough idea of how my manufactured with a simple kind of sliding [00:49:45] mechanism with a tool rather than extra. You know, uh, [00:49:50] cause they call it, um, other aspects of the tool that would make [00:49:55] for a much more complex machine and development process. So [00:50:00] yeah, it was proof of the product market fit. Um, the materials they knew the materials could [00:50:05] perform and that it could be manufactured at scale and be accessible, [00:50:10] accessible to the masses.

Speaker1: It wasn’t some wild, you know, £200 [00:50:15] electric toothbrush or something that was, you know, £5 and it [00:50:20] works and can transform people’s oral health overnight. So I think that was [00:50:25] as much evidence as anybody could ever gather. And and yes, then it came down [00:50:30] to whether companies would take it on under licence. And these behemoths, you know, they move pretty [00:50:35] slowly. And because this seemed like a niche product to them, it [00:50:40] felt like too much of a punt to them. And they were like, they loved it. But they’re like, yeah, but [00:50:45] no thanks. We’re we’re just not sure enough about this. And I could sense they didn’t have [00:50:50] that clinical insight, that real world insight, seeing how a patient holds [00:50:55] a toothbrush, how that the mind’s eye of a patient works. You know, that member [00:51:00] of the public for this situation, it was completely new to them. And [00:51:05] it was on that basis I decided. Well, I’m just going to dip myself. [00:51:10] A had committed to just licensing out IP, but because [00:51:15] I like the manufacturing and because having spoken to the companies and understanding their position, [00:51:20] it just encouraged me more. How many did you get on with it?

Speaker3: How many did you speak to?

Speaker1: 30, [00:51:25] maybe.

Speaker3: 30. Toothbrush type manufacturers? Yeah. [00:51:30] And how did you how did you go about getting their details and how did you approach them?

Speaker1: Linkedin. Linkedin. [00:51:35] And you know, the biggest ones like Unilever and Colgate, they have open innovation [00:51:40] portals. So you submit your product idea [00:51:45] and they you know, they respond. So I think, you know, top five big [00:51:50] players, they they have open innovation portals. But otherwise you’re reaching out personally to people [00:51:55] through LinkedIn.

Speaker3: So you’re going on LinkedIn finding out who’s the CEO of, I don’t know, the TP [00:52:00] or whatever. And and then or somebody in.

Speaker1: Yeah, somebody in [00:52:05] marketing or in R&D. Yeah.

Speaker3: And then sending them a message saying I’ve got [00:52:10] this new product for like go on step by step. What happened?

Speaker1: Okay. I mean, you [00:52:15] know, they’re obviously busy people and I don’t know how many pitches they get every day and things. But just [00:52:20] to introduce that, I might be able to add value to their range [00:52:25] and if they might be willing to look at what I have, and, [00:52:30] you know, I might have needed to reach out to ten people within the same company to get a response. [00:52:35] And it wasn’t necessarily under the Arima, or they just weren’t willing [00:52:40] to respond, whatever. Um, you just have to respect that. So it’s just perseverance [00:52:45] and, you know, trying to reach out to the right people, the relevant people. But [00:52:50] I originally thought it would always need to be sort of R&D people to reach out to because they’re at [00:52:55] the product development end. But often it’s the marketing people because they [00:53:00] are the ones that, you know, they they sell it, they know what the market likes, and they [00:53:05] can feed back the business potential to their boss for for considering this innovation [00:53:10] to add to the range. So it can be it can be surprising people that. You [00:53:15] need to speak to.

Speaker3: Yeah, it’s interesting, isn’t it? So someone listening to this might [00:53:20] be thinking. I’ve not. I haven’t got this in me because I haven’t got the engineering [00:53:25] mind to think about these things. Yeah, but [00:53:30] I think the I think you and I both know, right, that the tapestry that goes [00:53:35] into a successful product, one aspect is engineering and design. Yeah. [00:53:40] But then another aspect is marketing and another aspect is funding. [00:53:45] And you could be any of these guys, you know, your particular interest could be marketing, let’s say. [00:53:50] Yeah. And then absolutely. And then you go to a product designer who’s got someone like Michael sitting there [00:53:55] who likes putting things together and, and and so on. So did it not [00:54:00] put you off that all these big companies didn’t want to know? Did you not think, well, what makes [00:54:05] me think I can do it?

Speaker1: I could understand their position, and I was very much approached it [00:54:10] from wanting to understand their position. And having had having been coached on licensing [00:54:15] to big companies, I had some insight and [00:54:20] I knew what kind of holds them back and how they, you know, they might have a budget [00:54:25] allocation and, you know, a pipeline of projects that, you know, they [00:54:30] like it, but this would be a kind of year two in their pipeline. And [00:54:35] I didn’t want to wait a year or two to see if it fits in their pipeline. So [00:54:40] I could sense the lack of agility within those companies. Yeah. And [00:54:45] also their never ending pursuit of what I would call as a dentist. [00:54:50] Quite gimmicky designs. Of toothbrush. And when I say game, [00:54:55] I mean it’s just it’s just an aesthetic reiteration of the same function and [00:55:00] that it bores me and it excites me, you know? So [00:55:05] I like functional development and I love building beauty into Israel. [00:55:10] Absolutely. But I could see them just changing the visual design all the time and [00:55:15] understood what their business model was to largely stick with what works. And [00:55:20] this is a whole new. Toothbrush. It works on a whole new way, [00:55:25] and I could sense it was just too much of a leap for them to truly measure and understand, [00:55:30] and a sense they didn’t have that broad kind of [00:55:35] understanding of. Just the patient, the member of the public and how they would [00:55:40] how they would respond to this and also how the hygienist would respond to it. [00:55:45] You know, I don’t know how closely they they work with hygienists. I’m sure they have some [00:55:50] in their development, um, departments and things. But I felt I just understood [00:55:55] it from all these angles that the product market fit was just so clear to me.

Speaker3: And, you know, dude, [00:56:00] it might be that a lot of times the product market fit comes in a few years time when when this [00:56:05] problem becomes more obvious and, you know, however much you’re responsible for making this problem [00:56:10] more obvious. But it’s interesting that as a, as a profession, [00:56:15] this issue isn’t really emphasised in our training. Yeah. And so you’re you’re [00:56:20] having to tell dentists hygienists that this is a problem. What [00:56:25] about the communication direct to consumer. Have you have you looked at that. And [00:56:30] and does that have you had any traction there or have you found it easier or harder than [00:56:35] talking to a professional?

Speaker1: It’s, uh it’s interesting. They they are [00:56:40] worried about these teeth. They’ve just lost the tooth, so they’re highly motivated. Somebody [00:56:45] has lost a tooth. They’re on a whole other psychological mindset now about their teeth. [00:56:50] If they’ve developed a finite, you know, outlook for their dentition [00:56:55] and they don’t want to lose more. So highly motivated. And they do [00:57:00] worry about the teeth next to the partial dentures like all the time. And [00:57:05] when once this is in their hand and they put it there at that site, they just get [00:57:10] it, they just get it. And they suddenly feel empowered. They feel in control now [00:57:15] of this area. They suddenly feel not too bad about having a partial denture there. [00:57:20] They I tell them that your denture is actually a wonderful piece of engineering. [00:57:25] It’s been made for your mouth. It does work. You don’t need to lose the teeth next [00:57:30] to it. You can control your oral health completely. And this [00:57:35] is the missing piece. You’ve got your electric toothbrush for everywhere else. Maybe a water flosser for in between [00:57:40] your teeth. And this is for those sites. There are three distinct mechanical [00:57:45] ways of cleaning your mouth reliably every day, so they really get it. Um, [00:57:50] and yeah, so that’s, that’s actually the basis of a big sort of TikTok, [00:57:55] uh, campaign we’re about to launch.

Speaker1: And because it’s so you’re speaking [00:58:00] to them directly and they’ll be sort of live events and things on TikTok [00:58:05] and they’re, you know, they’re sitting at home, they’re not distracted. They’re [00:58:10] they know their problem. They see the solution, they get it. And it’s [00:58:15] just so direct. I’m really looking forward to that part of it. Um, at the moment, interestingly, although [00:58:20] all the hygienists love it and they rave about it, there’s so much friction [00:58:25] to getting this product into their patients hands. You know, their principal needs to agree to stock [00:58:30] the brush and transpose. You know, they don’t want to clutter up reception area more [00:58:35] with more products. And they’re like, yeah, but okay, it’s a £5 toothbrush. And [00:58:40] like, what’s the point of stocking this? And but yeah, we agree it does the job. Can you not just [00:58:45] recommend it to patients. But then if you just recommend it to the patient then patient needs to remember you need [00:58:50] to go home. You need to look it up and then they might lose interest. Yeah. There’s all these layers of [00:58:55] uh obstacles to the patient.

Speaker3: From from from the hygienist. It does need demonstrating. [00:59:00] You know, that’s that’s the important point of hygiene. Shows the guy what to do. [00:59:05] And, you know, before you said £5 price point three accessible, [00:59:10] you know, but from a from a business perspective, it makes it much harder [00:59:15] because cost of acquisition of a new customer has to be below £5. You know, I mean, you [00:59:20] can look at lifetime value and all that, but it has to be way below because of your margins and all that. [00:59:25] What do you what do you sell the package to a practice? I mean, do you sell them a package of [00:59:30] a number of them or how does that work?

Speaker1: Yeah, I mean, sell 20 packs, you know, about [00:59:35] £3 each. Um, so, you know, they can sell it for, you know, [00:59:40] places in London sell it for over £10. Oh, really? Um, yeah. But I mean, [00:59:45] there’s places that they only want to sell it for £4. £4.50. Uh, you know, [00:59:50] they’ll cover their costs and they provide a service to their patient. The patient can access what [00:59:55] they need. And the reality is, most people that need this, you [01:00:00] know, they maybe cannot afford, you know, another £30 [01:00:05] device in their bathroom to use every day. And £5 suddenly empowers them. [01:00:10] Um, you get three months use out of it. That’s, um, [01:00:15] I want I really want the masses to have this in their hands. The masses need it, [01:00:20] and they should have it. So it’s on that basis that I wanted to make it [01:00:25] manufacturable at scale and cheaply and yet perform clinically in anybody’s hands. [01:00:30] And yet on top of that, you could build a business around, you know, a £10 price point, make it more [01:00:35] glittery and fancy shiny, you know? Yeah, all of those things, you know, you can always add that later. [01:00:40] But my focus was, how do I get this to the masses? Because the masses need it.

Speaker3: So [01:00:45] what’s your advice to. Yeah, I mean, loads of dentists have ideas [01:00:50] about different things they can do. Outside of dentistry. [01:00:55] I mean, and, you know, both me and you are kind of still in dentistry, aren’t we? I mean, we’re not we’re not practising, [01:01:00] but we’re in dentistry. Um, let’s let’s say I come across [01:01:05] so many dentists who want to do toothpaste and mouthwash and toothbrushes. And [01:01:10] what’s your advice? What’s your advice? The the pitfalls. What should [01:01:15] they do?

Speaker1: So a year to find somebody who wants to get out of the industry, and [01:01:20] not.

Speaker3: Necessarily someone who wants to do a thing like like, you know, in a way, I’d call you an inventor. [01:01:25] Yeah. Um, and by the way, there’s I say there’s another era. Some people [01:01:30] make people think they have to come up with something completely new to do a new business. And [01:01:35] that’s not necessarily true. You could you could have re-engineered the toothbrush right into a [01:01:40] better TP brush and not have to, you know, explain a whole new thing to people, [01:01:45] for instance, for the sake of the argument. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker1: And you know, you’re right. I mean, within [01:01:50] everything around you there are, there are, there are assumptions built into [01:01:55] every object. And, you know, things that we’ve taken for granted that are limitations [01:02:00] to everything you touch and hold and what you’re holding and using might have been [01:02:05] engineered 15 years ago and the market might have changed. The market interest [01:02:10] might have changed, materials might have changed, manufacturing processes might have changed. [01:02:15] So if they have a if they have an urge for a fresh approach to something, you [01:02:20] know, if they can, if they can do a bit of market research, if enough people enough [01:02:25] other people share that, you know, passion and urge for that change, [01:02:30] then, you know, they could get on with it. They could pursue it. This [01:02:35] don’t take it for granted that the way we do things, it needs to stay that way. I, [01:02:40] by nature have always questioned the status quo. Everything, every, every [01:02:45] how, every y, every y. Why is it the way it is? And I’ve always questioned [01:02:50] that just out of interest. This is a bit of a nuisance to people, because I kind of go in and [01:02:55] kind of meddle with things and reconfigure things and like, but [01:03:00] and I say, but is this not easier now? Is this I’ve just made your life easier. Oh yeah. Okay. [01:03:05] And you didn’t realise they had been just trying to adapt the whole time [01:03:10] and accepting this limited tool and a tool. It could be a tool, [01:03:15] it could be a toy, it could be any household object. It could be anything we use every [01:03:20] day. So yeah, it’s I do I do encourage people to scratch that itch if they [01:03:25] have that interest in design or creativity.

Speaker3: It’s [01:03:30] so true. What you said that really resonates for me is that the assumptions [01:03:35] the product relied on may be out of date, but they [01:03:40] may be. They may be completely random. You know, I’ve been trying to get my head [01:03:45] around particularly. I mean, you’re looking at sort of objects, right? I’ve been trying to get my head around chemistry. [01:03:50] Right. The chemistry. Why is the chemistry of this like that? And I [01:03:55] was talking to a couple of professors, you know, like leaders in [01:04:00] the field, many, many formulators chemists at, at contract manufacturers, [01:04:05] many, many dentists, competitors are trying to find out why. [01:04:10] Why is this thing like. And no one can tell me no one. Yeah, yeah. [01:04:15]

Speaker1: Yeah I love that I love that.

Speaker3: Yeah yeah yeah, yeah. Um, and you know it’s like a where [01:04:20] time question, right. Why one hour. Why not all night type thing. Yeah. Is it toxicity. Is [01:04:25] it. You know, what is it. What’s the it. It looks to me now that it just [01:04:30] was just a convention someone decided on in the 70s. Yeah, [01:04:35] yeah. And that’s it. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, I love it.

Speaker1: And that excites [01:04:40] me so much. It’s such a an inspiration that. Because you think what else [01:04:45] can be invented, you know, and are we reinventing the wheel here? And it’s like, it’s not that [01:04:50] dramatic. There’s, you know, there’s always scope and I always will be.

Speaker3: Tell [01:04:55] me about things you would have done differently, mistakes you made.

Speaker1: Yeah. [01:05:00] Uh, I think my interest in product design, [01:05:05] you know, it’s my life now and business. So product design and business was with me from [01:05:10] very early on in my childhood, and. As [01:05:15] I dunno, is it my fault? Should I have communicated it more? Those were. Those were the fire in my belly. [01:05:20] And if I had acknowledged that by the age of 11 or 12 that, [01:05:25] you know, this is what I must do as an adult and ignore these, you know, classic, [01:05:30] you know, astronaut, airline pilot, doctor, dentist things, you [01:05:35] know, just feel sense and feel what what you keep thinking about, what [01:05:40] you keep applying your attention to, what you keep testing and experimenting [01:05:45] with. That’s probably. But you know, as a 12 year old, I can’t really blame myself. [01:05:50] But that that was that was where the biggest mistake started beginning. And I ended up in this road, [01:05:55] this academic pathway and this kind of quintessential professional pathway. Um, so [01:06:00] those that’s probably the biggest mistake. Um, but I think then once, once I was into [01:06:05] it and properly miserable and practice ownership. But [01:06:10] it’s kind of it’s a hard it’s a really you’re really in a rut though, because when you’re so [01:06:15] consumed by it, you can’t really see options. But if, if somehow I could have. [01:06:20] And the belief that there are options. I would have broken away sooner [01:06:25] and not consumed the energy and time that I did. Those [01:06:30] are the two probably the biggest aspects of my life that, you know, you [01:06:35] might call a mistake, you know?

Speaker3: We’ll do this. And I’m really impressed by [01:06:40] how far you’ve come since the last time me and you spoke. Um, I’m [01:06:45] excited about the TikTok. I’m interested to see who these denture wearers are on TikTok. But [01:06:50] I know why you’re doing it. I know why you’re doing it. I’m also doing. We [01:06:55] need to compare notes on that. Yeah.

Speaker1: That’s an interesting [01:07:00] idea. Yeah. It’s just it’s a young audience at the moment with TikTok, but it is expanding. They [01:07:05] have to take.

Speaker3: Over all the time myself. But I don’t know about you. Yeah, all the time. [01:07:10]

Speaker1: You know that the word on the street is it’s gonna, you know, take market share from Amazon for [01:07:15] for people’s purchasing habits because the TikTok shop, you know, and and [01:07:20] the Amazon experiences to go on to the Amazon website is such a bland experience. And you’ve basically [01:07:25] already made your choice and you’re just kind of looking, flicking like these 2D pictures. [01:07:30] It’s like, so I don’t like using Amazon. It’s I reckon.

Speaker3: So Amazon is also going [01:07:35] to turn more like TikTok though. Yeah, they’ll they’ll have a social feed on the side of Amazon. Yeah. Good [01:07:40] good. You know what I love about TikTok? How with one push of a button on your phone, the [01:07:45] things arriving in your, you know, it’s like it’s even more frictionless than than Apple Pay. I’ve bought things [01:07:50] on it by mistake. Oh, just there it is. Done. Yeah. I [01:07:55] mean.

Speaker1: It’s amazing and it’s immersive. And, you know, people are there. They’re making choices based [01:08:00] on their their their emotion, their the experience being [01:08:05] on, you know, watching and being on the app. They’re [01:08:10] shopping based on an experience. First wear an app and you go to Amazon. You’re shopping based on [01:08:15] a logical choice, which is boring, you know? So it’s like that’s the [01:08:20] way forward.

Speaker3: Tommy, what do you need now? Do you need you know, I guess you need customers. Do [01:08:25] you need do you need investors?

Speaker1: I think we’re okay just now for funds. And, [01:08:30] you know, the TikTok thing is really I’m really excited about that. And it is the perfect [01:08:35] type of product for TikTok for that type of platform. Yeah. So yeah, we’ll just see how it goes [01:08:40] and hopefully it can just continue to be self-funded, you know?

Speaker3: So if someone if someone [01:08:45] wants to get in touch they go through the same website.

Speaker1: Yeah. There’s a contact [01:08:50] form in there. I’d be happy to speak to anybody and, you know, happy to speak to any dentists who, who love [01:08:55] product design and have ideas about that and different options for them within that, [01:09:00] um, realistic risk free options to get an idea into the market. [01:09:05] It doesn’t need to be a massive, risky venture. Yeah.

Speaker3: Amazing. [01:09:10] We’ve come to the end of our time. Let’s let’s get through the final questions, buddy. Yeah. [01:09:15] Fantasy dinner party. Three guests. Dead or alive? Yes. [01:09:20]

Speaker1: Party. Yeah. I think you know, the whole product [01:09:25] and entrepreneurship is my life now. And I totally am immersed in it. [01:09:30] And I’ve been reborn. And so it’d be related to that. I think, you know, James Dyson [01:09:35] and how he has built his empire on redesigning [01:09:40] objects that we have taken for granted in life and found new layers of innovation [01:09:45] and redeployment of current technology into these [01:09:50] stunning and ergonomic, amazing inventions, [01:09:55] and to just to just get an insight. And he seems so peaceful and happy within his life [01:10:00] and path, and where he’s brought his passion and [01:10:05] his skills and that would be cool. Um, also, I think maybe [01:10:10] David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, he, um, you know, I’ve [01:10:15] been a fan of Pink Floyd since I was like 7 or 8. And again, [01:10:20] his his philosophy in life and combining that with his musical talent [01:10:25] to bring us a product which nourishes endlessly [01:10:30] and. Has been such a huge influence to me. Um, [01:10:35] and it’s just, just seems like a great guy to. To hang out with. [01:10:40] Um, so to have him as well. And and also this 1st May surprise you. [01:10:45] This relates to basically having somebody close. To [01:10:50] bounce ideas from who’s maybe a few steps ahead of me, but not so [01:10:55] far ahead. That is legendary, but still massive influence. And it would be [01:11:00] you Payman me. Yeah. So take this [01:11:05] as a as an official invitation. You’re welcome to dinner anytime. And you’re doing [01:11:10] what I want to do. You’re launching amazing products into the market. Is highly respected [01:11:15] figure and, you know, great products that work and making [01:11:20] a real difference to people. Um, you’ve got that kind of tenacious, you know, never [01:11:25] ending pursuit for development and improvement. And, you know, you’re you’re kind [01:11:30] of you’re you’re doing what I want to do. You’re nice guy. And it would just be [01:11:35] great.

Speaker3: Did not expect you to waste a vote on me.

Speaker1: I was I.

Speaker3: Was trying to second guess you. I [01:11:40] was like, Ellen’s coming. Ellen’s coming. Ellen’s coming.

Speaker1: You’re [01:11:45] welcome. Anytime. But yeah.

Speaker3: Yeah, I love, love to do. [01:11:50] And same. Same with you in London, my buddy. Same with you in London. You must come to London once in a while, right?

Speaker1: Yeah, [01:11:55] yeah, I do try to get down, um, just a bit mad. Still here, but. Yeah, maybe [01:12:00] over the summer or into autumn.

Speaker3: Final. Final question. It’s a [01:12:05] deathbed one. On your deathbed, surrounded by your loved ones. You [01:12:10] can give them three pieces of advice. What would they be?

Speaker1: Three [01:12:15] pieces of advice for my loved ones. I think. First one I think [01:12:20] would be. Once. Once you’ve got your attitude sorted [01:12:25] and sorted yourself as a person and you’ve become [01:12:30] a hard working type, whether it’s at school age or even in adulthood. [01:12:35] Once that’s established, follow your passion. And [01:12:40] I know everybody barks on about this in the internet. Like follow your passion, follow your dreams. Get [01:12:45] get your get your shit together first, right as a person. Once [01:12:50] you know that you’re committed to being responsible to serving society, [01:12:55] you have a. Cleanouts should your just. [01:13:00] Just do what you want. Do what you want if you’re going to work hard. Three [01:13:05] one, and I didn’t do that early enough. I should have done that 30 [01:13:10] years ago when I was in my early teens. Yeah. So yeah. Um, [01:13:15] that’s the first one. I think the other one is in life, [01:13:20] in relationships, in business, and a service as a service provider. [01:13:25] Uh, know your audience? Have [01:13:30] an undying and undeniable interest in the person [01:13:35] in front of you. For this contact, [01:13:40] this relationship, this engagement, this service provision under that. No, no. Your [01:13:45] audience, um, whether it’s, you know, dental treatment, whether it’s in conversation, [01:13:50] um. They have a background, they have a, you know, preconception [01:13:55] of things.

Speaker1: They have their own nature, their own needs. And [01:14:00] now that was that was very powerful for me through dentistry and [01:14:05] in business and relationships. That’s the second one. Um, [01:14:10] and the third one. I’ve just written down [01:14:15] here, come in in a crisis. And it’s it’s [01:14:20] when, when life happens, when when shit happens and [01:14:25] you’re on your knees and the the calmness, the the the. [01:14:30] You know the belief in those moments. That [01:14:35] as a way and to stay calm. Through that process [01:14:40] to to to to not add. Emotion [01:14:45] onto what is already a really, really hard situation. If you can stay calm in those [01:14:50] crises and have the belief, the authentic voice [01:14:55] that comes. The that pulls you out [01:15:00] the light. I call it the light and the light that comes [01:15:05] in those dark moments. It comes. It will come and [01:15:10] believe in it. And as you’re falling into the crisis, that [01:15:15] light will appear. And as you’re falling, it doesn’t, it doesn’t doesn’t feel [01:15:20] like that will ever come. And some people never make it out of that, bless them, [01:15:25] you know. But. Crisis happens in life and. But the light comes if [01:15:30] you’re calm and you wait for it and you believe in it. So that’s the other. That would be the third [01:15:35] bit of advice.

Speaker3: Very lovely man. A bit like when you say crisis, you’re not talking [01:15:40] about the lingual side of that tooth falling off, right?

Speaker1: Yeah.

Speaker3: Light [01:15:45] will come. Yeah. Thank you so much for doing [01:15:50] this, buddy. I think I feel like I need to catch up with you again in a couple of years time, see where Ergo Proxy [01:15:55] has gone. And even more exciting, what other products you’ve you’ve come out with and [01:16:00] what other things you’ve turned turned your hand to. But really super impressed that you told me [01:16:05] what you were going to do a couple of years ago, whenever it was. Was it a couple of years ago? It was. It was Covid.

Speaker1: Yeah, I think yeah. [01:16:10] Two years ago. Yeah.

Speaker3: And then at least and then you’ve gone ahead and done it exactly as you said. And [01:16:15] now I wish you the best my buddy. It’s really, really impressive. Well done buddy.

Speaker1: Thank you so much and [01:16:20] thanks for the opportunity. And um, yeah, great to speak to you, buddy. And, uh, I hope to catch up with you in London [01:16:25] someday.

Speaker2: This is Dental Leaders, the [01:16:30] podcast where you get to go one on one with emerging leaders in dentistry. [01:16:35] Your hosts. Payman Langroudi [01:16:40] and Prav Solanki.

Speaker4: Thanks for listening, guys. If [01:16:45] you got this far, you must have listened to the whole thing. And just a huge thank you both from me and pay [01:16:50] for actually sticking through and listening to what we’ve had to say and what our guest has had to say, because [01:16:55] I’m assuming you got some value out of it.

Speaker3: If you did get some value out of it, think about subscribing. [01:17:00] And if you would share this with a friend who you think might get some value [01:17:05] out of it too. Thank you so so, so much for listening. Thanks.

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