Hi Madalina, FEM-START is happy to have you with us today! Tell us, what inspired you to start your own business, and how did you come up with Madglove?
It started when I worked with stroke survivors. I studied physiotherapy for my Bachelor’s degree. I was always passionate about the neurological aspect, I thought it was interesting how the brain connects to everything and the impact of brain injuries have on human-beings. Figuring out how to best rehabilitate stroke survivors was the most important thing to me. That is the Madglove origin story and I ended up doing my first prototype during my studies.
Beyond the test of the concept, I got to learn what these patients need, want and the care needed post-clinic at home, which is what Madglove focuses on. Individuals are not helped enough at home. This was a snowball effect that turned into a venture. I never dreamed of having a company, it was more about helping people. Turns out that being entrepreneurial ticks all the boxes to create an impactful product; helping people was a driver before the company was born.
What are some essential steps and actions you took to get your business off the ground?
Building a support structure around the company. We have several institutions who promote us and help us. An essential step for us was the Demonstrator lab, where we continued our prototype process with all alterations in an office space with a network-access. It was important for us and it shaped the business side of our company. We also got to join the Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE incubator) and the Amsterdam Startup Launch program. Setting up a space for student entrepreneurs that helps with product development and getting the opportunity to build our business literacy through these two programs were key steps for getting the company off the ground. We are 5 co-founders, two of us are full-time, and the rest of our team have advisory roles and support the company’s growth.
Was there a specific time or instance where you had to pivot your business model? Or maybe quickly implement changes in how you work as a CEO and with your team?
We had to pivot multiple times. It can be hard to explain to investors that a smaller market is not necessarily negative. We had to expand our concept to be able to tap into more markets. We moved on from solely focusing on strokes to neurological disorders in general. We also are currently looking beyond that and look at rehabilitation to see what other markets are there for us to look at and develop more products. We are still working on diversifying our revenue stream and product range, using the glove as a platform and stacking therapeutic solutions on top of it, based on various software applications.
You have a large ecosystem of partners around you and have won several awards including a Silicon Valley trip as a runner-up for Pitch XL. How did this influence your business and customer base?
As a CEO, I have to pitch often and I enjoy it. I enjoy communicating our mission and convincing people of how important disability management is. All the pitching competitions we participated in have been good practice for talking to investors, streamlining our message, and becoming visible in the rehabilitation community. We improved along the way, and got discovered by people like dr. Pauline Goossens, an important voice in this community, someone that’s been an instrumental champion of our mission.
My co-founder went to Silicon Valley and saw the difference in investment mindset in the United States versus the one in The Netherlands. A lot of opportunities came up and made us visible in the Amsterdam ecosystem. In the US, the approach and size is different. We noticed investors are less risk-averse, they are more interested in the bigger vision so you need to sell the long term story. You fail faster and can succeed faster. In The Netherlands and the EU, investors are more focused on what you can do currently and within a 3-4 years margin. It is a more pragmatic and conservative trajectory, but also one that yields more secure results. The European investment landscape pushed us to really think about our business model and go-to-market strategy, always test your assumptions, and be ready to answer difficult questions.
Hopefully we keep growing, we have a grant of 40,000 EUR to do our feasibility study and now we’ve received 300,000 EUR for our product development and proof of concept. We need another co-financing of 100,000 to complete our project and bring in more talent. We have an ambitious plan, the vision is to have a bigger team and sell on international markets in 3-5 years.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you made along the way, and what did you learn from them?
Too much ‘yes’ and avoiding filtering opportunities you have. Saying ‘yes’ to everything fills your schedule fast and keeps you away from what you have to focus on. You want to see everyone, speak to everyone, attend every competition but it is not sustainable. So we created our guiding policy which informs our action and operational plan, anything that falls outside is placed lower on the priority scale. There is not enough time unfortunately, so we need to prioritise. It is important to take a step back and see if you can gain something from it. You want people to benefit from seeing us where our target audience and market will be.
What is your biggest achievement since founding the company, and how did you get there?
My proudest achievement to date is the 300,000 EUR raised from Innovatiefonds Noord Holland. Also, I am very proud to have reached the point where we are able to work with the right people in design and engineering, so we move our product to the next level. We are able to move forward with the feasibility study with a test model; knowing that in 2024, we will be able to have a market ready product.
What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs, particularly those who do not seem to believe they can do it?
I would say lean on other female founders, look at your surroundings for people you can relate to and who relate to you. Create a community around it. In my team, three founders out of five are women. We are a diverse team as well. What helps me is to take things one day at a time, remember my mission clearly: I am doing this to help people. The core of our product is to improve lives. Hardships happen but I can always solve them. I can always ask someone, I am not afraid of asking for help and there is always someone who has expertise to help out and find the answer.
What’s next for Madglove? What can we expect?
You can expect more pitches; In November we went to Berlin to Stage 2 and we just pitched at NEMO for the Amsterdam Science Innovation Award. We want to complete our study by the end of the year 2023 and process all the feedback from our users to have a product ready for 2024! Keep an eye out for our website relaunch at the beginning of the new year and a pre-sale near the end of 2024, we are very excited!
If you would like to know more about Madalina’s company MadGlove, click here!