Trying out with the Game Changer Catapult
Finally, I pinned my hopes on an application to the Game Changer Catapult. I knew the Game Changer Catapult would be a good approach because it builds the business from scratch.
For the three months from starting the project, I faced the problem of team building. I needed people with skills other than engineering and development. With the help of the Game Changer Catapult, I was able to find experts in market research, marketing, and design inside the company. Otsuki handled the market research and marketing, Matsunaga was in charge of design. The speed of the project picked up pace once they were part of it.
The product was honed and refined through the opinions of people from the completely different fields of engineering, planning, and design.
Groping toward building a business model
The first step in building our business model was to clarify target users. We started by holding a series of interviews with users in the USA on Skype to identify the people who would need this product, i.e. our target market. We looked at user behavior and where or how people want to buy products. We found that people preferred to buy a product like this from a dentist, so we decided to sell via dentists in the USA.
But we needed acceptance from members of the dentistry industry in the USA in order to do that. We repeatedly talked with dentists and people involved with dentistry in the USA and Japan via Skype and hammered out the product features, method of use, price, and business model.
Surveys in the USA (exhibited in New York, survey on teeth)
We further refined our ideas through the many interviews, but we still needed to go to the USA and make sure it would be accepted there. So we exhibited the concept at a dental show in the USA to see the candid reactions of people involved with dentistry there.
Sixty thousand people involved with dentistry from all around the world attended the Greater New York Dental Meeting 2017, the biggest dental show in the USA. Appearing here before appearing at the SXSW is in itself exceptional, but we decided to go straight to where the professionals were, half-anxious and half-excited.
At the dental show, we checked for the acceptance from dentists, sales agents, and other whitening experts. Our booth was visited by many VIPs of the sort it's rare to meet, including executives from major US dental distributors, directors of the American Dental Association, and people who brought whitening to Japan. They loved the Sylphid! We heard so many positive comments: "We definitely want to be involved in this," "We'd like to pilot-test it on patients," and "We'll invest 60 million if you give exclusive rights." Now that we have improved the product still more based on the feedback we got there, our next step is the SXSW. We want to fully understand how users feel about the product to speed up our moves toward commercialization.
At the Greater New York Dental Meeting 2017
The team's future aspirations
Currently, we're looking at opening up our business in the USA, but we are also looking beyond that.
First, we want to expand outside the USA. There are a large number of potential users interested in whitening their teeth in the countries of Europe and Asia where this practice is yet to become mainstream. If we can make this idea work, I believe we can make whitening a more familiar part of life and greatly change the world of oral care. This idea goes beyond just changing the color of people's teeth but helping to actually change the lives of our users.
Another point we're looking at is expanding the technology beyond teeth whitening. Currently, we're working on the product for use in whitening, but we're also looking at applications for fighting gum disease and maintaining oral hygiene. The hydroxyl radicals generated by Sylphid that are the active ingredient are also highly likely to be beneficial for bacteria. We'd like to supply it as a product for bedridden people or other people unable to brush their own teeth to help them even in a little way to make their mouths feel more comfortable.