Imagine you have just invented a new method for the non-invasive detection of melanoma, a form of skin cancer. It uses a handheld digital microscope connected via WiFi to an iPad and you have developed a smart algorithm that determines whether a suspicious mole is actually a melanoma or a benign lesion. How do you bring this lifesaving product to market? Your first step in the commercialisation odyssey will be to raise the necessary capital.
CapeRay has its origins in a joint venture between De Beers and the University of Cape Town 12 years ago when we received $1m in funding from the Innovation Fund, an initiative of the South African government, to develop medical applications for low dose X-rays. A competitive grant of $275,000 was subsequently secured from the National Institutes of Health in the USA in 2005 to adapt slot scanning digital X-rays for detecting breast cancer. Then in late 2009 CapeRay’s management team negotiated an investment of $2m in venture capital from the Industrial Development Corporation to begin commercialisation.
For the past two-and-a-half years we have worked diligently to bring our PantoScanner product to market. We have recently embarked on our fourth and final round of fund raising and one of our first contacts was Wesgro, the official investment and trade promotion agency for the Western Cape. Through Wesgro we learned about an online service called Gust that functions as an investor relations platform, matching entrepreneurs to investors, and providing search and filtering tools. Gust has signed up over 750 investment organisations from 65 countries, enabling more than 125,000 start-up companies to connect and collaborate with accredited investors.
We have just completed our submission that incorporates both a public and a private site. There is a company profile, including a one-minute video or elevator pitch (the elevator door opens and there stands your ideal investor but your opportunity to make an impression only lasts as long as the ride). Other sections – all limited to just 450 characters – include a description of the customer problem, our target market, our products, management team, marketing strategy, business model, competitive advantage and, of course, financial information. You can click here to see CapeRay’s public profile (to view our private site you would need to be a registered investor).
What about your method to diagnose melanoma? Maybe now’s the time for the entrepreneur to sit down and write a persuasive business plan!