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BIG5D Podcast Ep. 45: "The Massive Healthcare Burden" with Mia Health Technologies Co-Founder Zane Stenning

BIG5D Podcast Ep. 45: "The Massive Healthcare Burden" with Mia Health Technologies Co-Founder Zane Stenning

"Building in the healthcare space is a very complex endeavor"

This episode of the Big5D Podcast is presented by Realm Digital

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Welcome to Episode 45 of the BIG5D Podcast. In this episode, we interview another compelling young South African startup founder. Medical doctor and health-tech entrepreneur Zane Stenning is the co-founder of Mia Health Technologies, a health-tech startup seeking to improve healthcare in Africa by providing access to dental care via mobile clinics.

Mia’s core solution is manufacturing clear aligners using 3D printing. Zane believes this is perhaps the only cost-effective way to solve the continent’s massive malocclusion (skewed teeth) problem. And this isn’t just about improving smiles. Dental issues are closely correlated to a range of broader health concerns from heart disease to diabetes.

Building a health tech has enormous potential for impact. It is also incredibly complex, as Zane explains here.

The company has also built an app to help dentists operate their clinics more effectively. Mia also helps dentists access affordable financing to get clinics off the ground. Zane jokes on the podcast that Mia seems like it is “three startups in one.”

Zane was a guest on a panel on the “fourth industrial revolution” hosted by Savant Venture Fund (a Mia investor) at the recent BigFive Summit in Cape Town. The common thread to 4IR is connected technology. Zane says this is a critical element to achieving his company’s mission.

“It's fundamental to almost every element of this business,” Zane explains in the episode. “Whether you're looking to optimize patient outcomes, whether you're looking to catch disease early, or whether you're looking just to improve communication with your patients.”

Zane also believes strongly that “artificial intelligence is going to revolutionize the healthcare industry.”

He explains further in this clip.

Interview Excerpts

The following are edited excerpts from our interview with Mia Health Technologies Co-founder Zane Stenning.

You started early as an entrepreneur. Tell us about your first company.

My first business at around the age of 16, was the import-exports of bicycle parts. I remember growing up not having a lot of cash, but always wanting the latest stuff. And then locally, there was a such high margins on it. So I just started selling it to friends, family, etc.

So Mia started as a way to scale clear aligners to solve Africa’s malocclusion (skewed teeth) problem. How did you arrive at 3D printing as the solution?

Align Technology is the company that owns Invisalign. When we came across it, we said, this is an incredible product, how has it not penetrated our market? It was for multiple reasons, including a weaker currency, requiring multiple middlemen to get it, and so on. All of it just pushed the price through the roof. When I looked into what it would take for us to manufacture this, we concluded that a 3D printer setup was what we needed.

Can additive manufacturing solve a massive healthcare burden on our continent?

For those of you who don't know, Africa has the highest rates of malocclusion, which has skew teeth in the world at a whopping 89%. And people with poor oral health tend to have a 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease and metabolic diseases.

Why the mobile clinics?

Distribution was one of the hardest things we ran into in our previous businesses. So it was something I was ready and waiting to try and solve. But we had bootstrapped all of this, so we didn't have massive capital to spend on marketing, marketing teams, and so on. So we needed to keep distribution in-house at the beginning, just to do our product development and all this sort of stuff. So we said if we can't do fixed practices everywhere, let's go mobile. In other words let's do an orthodontic clinic that can go to schools, or wherever it needs to go, and treat all these patients and run our aligners through this clinic.

You launched an app to stitch all of this together, talk about that.

We started having to patch together lots of different software just to run one business. And then eventually we just said, This is crazy. We just need to build our own thing, even if it's just to scale our own business, let alone sell it to other dentists or dental groups. So that's when we started putting together our app and now it's a specialized ERP for the dental industry.

The BIG5D Podcast features in-depth conversations with the leaders who are building, investing in, or taking to market the digital products and services designed to make micro, small, and medium-sized businesses more successful in Africa and the Middle East.

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The Africa SMME Tech Report
The BIG5D Podcast
In-depth conversations with the innovators and entrepreneurs building the tech ecosystems for small and local businesses in Africa & The Middle East.