|Interview of the CEO, Guillaume Viallaneix|
Why did you decide to co-found Eden Spine, LLC in 2006?
Two words... “Team” and “Science.” In my view, the most important component to any startup is the team. With the right team working together for the right reasons, challenges can be overcome, strategic adjustments become manageable, creativity is maximized, and execution is facilitated. If you believe that you have such a team, and in addition you possess highly differentiated technologies in a high growth industry that address an unmet clinical need, the decision to launch a startup is a no-brainer. Those ingredients were in place in 2006. It is why my partners and I decided to launch Eden Spine in August of that year.
You had a team ready to go, as well as some new technologies ready to be developed, what about your finances?
Once again, it is all about the team. Our team was able to communicate our vision to potential investors. We decided that Angel Investment was the way to go. We defined our potential, developed a road map for reaching our objectives, created a rigorous program to execute and achieve our goals and presented our strategy. In a relatively short time, we obtained the initial seed financing that we needed to launch the venture. Our plan was to use the capital for the first few years of activity, to prove our ability to execute our plan, to be subsequently in a solid position to either bring a strategic partner on board or raise growth capital.
How would you describe your role with the company?
I sincerely believe that my role as the CEO is to understand the current spine market, imagine its future, constantly share the vision with the team, make sure that the company develops an appropriate product offering, and give everyone something to shoot for. I also personally like to say that my true title is not CEO but CLO or Chief Listening Officer, as most of my days are spent listening to everyone from surgeons to analysts, including patients and of course the team, to make sure that I get a 360 degree view of our world and our place in the spine industry.
You have not spent your entire 20 year career in the Spine? Do you believe that it is a weakness for the organization or an asset?
I have very strong opinions on this. As Einstein once said “my experience is the only thing that gets in the way of my creativity.” I, of course, believe in education and some level of specialization, but too much specialization in one arena may also be detrimental to finding innovative solutions and creating extreme value. I believe that lateral thinking is the key to innovation and that often the best solutions as well as ground breaking inventions come from multi-disciplinary research and multi-industry analysis. My profile is rather unique. As an American citizen, born and raised in Europe, educated in the US, I have always searched for the uniqueness & expertise of a country, an industry or a person and looked for ways it could be used positively in other areas.
We have spoken a lot about the people, what about the company itself? What makes Eden Spine unique in your eyes?
Firstly, we are a spinal company dedicated to creating value with our portfolio of proprietary highly differentiated non-fusion technologies. Secondly, we are focused on generating a positive cash flow stream from our portfolio of proprietary and licensed traditional fusion technologies. Thirdly, we have created, in collaboration with scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, a range of non-fusion technologies that truly address an immediate “need” in today’s market. Having an R&D subsidiary in Switzerland has allowed us to dig into the immense reservoir of knowledge and clinical experience in motion preservation technologies in that part of world, putting us in a position to develop new generation technologies. Our ability to learn faster than our competition is our competitive advantage.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment at Eden Spine in the past 4 years?
Without a doubt... Execution! Having an exciting vision and a solid business plan is not the biggest challenge. Executing the plan in the midst of a worldwide recession is. If you look at Eden Spine today, you see a company that was created in the summer of 2006, has developed 3 state of the art non-fusion technologies, has a solid IP portfolio, a profitable US and OUS sales and distribution network, a strong Medical Advisory Panel, and most importantly, in spite of limited initial investments, was able to survive and strive during the global financial meltdown. This is a testimony to the expertise of our team and the resilience of our business model.
You mentioned your profitable international sales and distribution network. Can you please tell us more about it?
The combination of US headquarters with a European wholly owned subsidiary in Switzerland, allows us to be ideally configured strategically and logistically to not only develop new technologies, but also to commercialize them globally. As of today, we are selling our technologies in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Greece, Mexico, Costa Rica and Dubai, and we should be in a position to add 10 additional markets by year end. Of course, we are just beginning our voyage and our product offering still needs to be tailored to each market for regulatory reasons, but we are moving one step at a time, controlling growth, gathering clinical data, and ensuring that all sales and marketing activities are self-funded. We believe that this fiscally responsible approach is the formula for value creation in the spine industry of tomorrow.
In light of all the economical and political events taking place in the US today, how do you see the future of the Spine industry?
I see a bright and competitive future... With over 100 spine companies in the US alone today and the top 10 having close to a 90% market share, it does not seem that there is much space left. However, considering that the spine market grew from $100M in 1990 to about $9 billion in 2009, that the population is aging, and that spine technologies are in a transition period, going from the age of “fusion” to the age on “motion,” I believe that there is room for solid ethical organizations, with innovative motion preservation technologies that truly address an unmet clinical need, to flourish and create value. Of course, changing market conditions, such as pricing containment policies, will force companies to work on their cost structure and adapt their business model, and only evidenced based new technologies will get satisfactory reimbursement, but again, we know what’s coming, so let’s get ready and work on solutions.
How do you see Eden Spine 5 years from now in July 2015?
I see Eden Spine as a key player in the industry, having advanced the art and science of spinal surgery through innovative anatomy preserving technologies such as the WELLEX™, the PERFX-2™, and the WELLDISC™. The Eden Spine philosophy of “helping the spine help itself” with motion sparing technologies, will be the mantra in an industry with over 60 million people in the US alone over the age of 65, looking for solutions to maintain an active life style without pain or debilitating spinal surgeries.
Thank you very much!