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Health Venture Lab and the CryoHolder

The year 2019 was crucial for the development of the CryoHolder. Half of the year we had the privilege of being a part of the Health Venture Lab accelerator Reactor 2019 in Budapest, Hungary, run by EIT Health and General Electrics Healthcare

Health Venture Lab is operational since 2018, however COVID-19 has been the cause of cancelling or moving most of events to virtual platforms and so the 2020 edition of the Health Venture Lab Reactor has unfortunately been postponed to September. Last year we were lucky enough to attend it, however, and we decided to share some experience on the matter and how it helped us with our CryoHolder.

The CryoHolder

For those of you who don’t know what the CryoHolder is, here’s a brief introduction.

The CryoHolder is a pen-shaped tool for transferring cryovials or cryogenic tubes. It’s made entirely out of aluminium and is therefore sterilisable in the autoclave (at 120°C). You can also sterilise it with ethanol, like any other metal tool in the lab.

CryoHolder’s biggest strength is its simplicity – not only is it shaped like one but it functions similarly to a pen as well. Working with it doesn’t require any additional training as it’s very intuitive. The whole process can be diluted down to four easy steps:

  1. You choose the vial you want to move and plug the tip of the CryoHolder into its cap.
  2. You pick the vial up.
  3. You move the vial to the desired location.
  4. You release the vial by pressing the button on the top of the CryoHolder.

This workflow enables you to move the vials faster and more easily. The tool’s elongated shape  provides safety to the user as the frozen vial is held farther from your hand.

For more information on the CryoHolder or if you are interested in getting one for your lab, I invite you to check out the blogpost here.

Accelerating our development

About a year ago, in April 2019, we started the 7-month venture at the conference spaces of General Electrics Healthcare in Budapest, Hungary. We were excited to see what journey lies ahead and this first 3-day sprint was an introduction to the whole program.

The Pharsol team recieving advice on the CryoHolder from a financial mentor.
Mentorship was one of the key assets of the Health Venture Lab Reactor. Our CEO Miha Rajh (on the left), Jan Kukovec (in the middle) and Aljoša Šinkovič (on the right) are listening to advice from our expert mentor Istvan Molnar.

Sprint 1 – Team Cohesion for Growth

In order to develop a good product, you need a good team and good team dynamics. The team is the basis of every project or business. If you don’t have a great team, success will be difficult to achieve in the long run – a bad team is one of the main factors why startups fail.

This sprint gave us the opportunity to connect before going on the journey of the CryoHolder. When we look back, it was an essential part of the growth of Pharsol as a team.

Sprint 2 – Customer Discovery

Next month, it was all about discovering who will actually be using the CryoHolder. There is no use in developing something that doesn’t get used. Our tool was developed to solve a particular problem for lab workers, but who else could benefit from it?

The CryoHolder is a tool for laboratories working with frozen samples, stored in cryogenic tubes or cryovials. This sprint helped us define who would benefit the most from using the CryoHolder. We dove into the mindset and workflow of these laboratory workers and decided to start our CryoHolder market validation.

Sprint 3 – Customer Awareness

Now that we have end users of the CryoHolder, how do we get the chance to present our tool to them and enable them to work faster, easier and safer?

Marketing is the keyword of the third sprint. We learned how healthcare professionals get information about possible workflow improvements around. The insights helped us emphasise that we need to test marketing ideas as much as (or even more) testing the CryoHolder itself.

Sprint 4 – Customer-centric Finance

Is a business really a business if there are no finances involved? Figuring out what the pricing strategy and resource allocation is best for the CryoHolder was a fundamental part of the journey. And even once you think you’ve figured it all out, improvements can still be made.

Sprint 5 – Customer Engagement

At this point in time – month 6 altogether – our market validation was already finishing. We sent out CryoHolders to laboratories all across the world, in order to get feedback on how it helped their workflow. The whole testing process gave us a lot of insight into how the CryoHolder behaves on the market. We tested the tool in about 50 different labs (some of them being SOLVO Biotechnology, Biobank Graz and Natural History Museum in London) And this information was absolutely essential for developing the tool further! Without it, we couldn’t have progressed and would’ve been stuck in the first phases of development.

This sprint was timed perfectly in order to give us a recap and last mentorings on what we have been doing for the past 6 months.

Sprint 6 – DemoDay

The DemoDay – what we were working towards the whole Reactor 2019 accelerator. The first day was meant as the last prep before the pitching sessions, which were the main activities on days 2 and 3.

Thanks to the programme we were part of for the past 7 months, we were able to deliver a great pitch (compared to where we started), good enough to get us in the finals on day 3.

Day 3 (the actual DemoDay) gave us the chance to present the CryoHolder at the expo at the Budapest Music Centre, where the pitching finals were held as well. We met people from different industries, made new connections and were able to pitch as one of the 8 finalists. The event helped us to get exposure for the CryoHolder while keeping the whole thing fun.

Pharsol presenting the CryoHolder at the GE Healthcare powered acceleratar Investor Pitch.
The final pitch is where you get to present your idea. Our CEO Miha got the opportunity to show how the CryoHolder can benefit labs around the world.

Pitching

The whole experience of the Health Venture Lab Reactor 2019 was intertwined with pitching training sessions by David Trayford. Even though we didn’t always have the time to attend these sessions, we did our best to get all the information we needed in order to deliver the best pitch possible on the DemoDay. David really tried hard to give us all the necessary knowledge and thanks to him, we got into the finals and now we can use the skills we have learned in our future endeavours. For expert insight and help with your pitching, you should definitely check him out!

In conclusion

The way the sprints were structured made the learning and teaching part of the Health Venture Lab Reactor 2019 nicely combined with the doing-the-work part. Everything we have learned we implemented and reported on in the next sprint. All-in-all it was a great experience.

We also got to meet different people from all over Europe and made connections for life. A huge thank you to Janos Vecsenyi, Istvan Molnar and Viki Pavlič for being excellent mentors, and the rest of the Health Venture Lab team for organizing the whole programme. The Health Venture Lab Reactor is an absolute must for every startup in the healthcare industry and we highly advise you to be a part of it in 2020!

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