Q: What is RTsafe?
RTsafe is revolutionizing Quality Assurance in Radiation Oncology with patented products that provide more accurate equipment calibration by the use of 3D printed simulation skulls. This leads to safer and more effective treatment of brain cancer and other brain-related neurological medical conditions. Its customers and end-users include: Philips, Brainlab, UCLA, Mayo clinic, University of Texas, Thomas Jefferson University, University of Freiburg, Assuta Medical Center, and The Royal Marsden.
Q: What has happened since winning the 2015 MITEF Startup Competition?
RTsafe has doubled its employees and tripled its customers. Revenues in 2016 are projected to be 6x that of 2015. RTsafe won the Greek Exports Award 2015 in the category,“Top Newly Established Company“. A full 98% of revenues are exports. We successfully raised a seed round in May 2016 at a pre-money evaluation of about €7M. Our next funding round is planned for the coming months. As a result of my trip to Boston for the MIT Bootcamp, and the connections I made there, we closed a deal with Lahey Clinic in Boston.
Q: Where did the idea for this business come from?
Working as a radiation oncology clinical medical physicist, I realized from first-hand experience a problem, which was potential inaccuracies in radiation therapy. I did extensive research through which a solution to this problem was discovered. In the beginning it was just an idea. Motivated by a personal experience, I patented the idea and tried to find ways to transform this idea into a product and a sustainable business to help millions of brain cancer patients globally. The economic crisis in Greece, which put me out of my financial comfort zone, also provided motivation.
Q: What have been your Biggest Hurdles?
The biggest hurdle was the team’s lack of know-how in business when we started. In addition, this was a high-risk move with lots of uncertainty. We had to first prove our technology to the scientific community and then move on to real business. The challenge was high! Now, two years later, we offer globally-recognized solutions to customers around the world, and started to have revenues more than a year earlier than in our original business plan. Greek bureaucracy has been a challenge as well, as has the uncertainty of the Greek environment for new investors.
Q: Why did you decide to incorporate in Ireland and set up a Greek subsidiary?
Unfortunately, Greece’s legal framework makes it less than ideal for investors, so we decided to create the holding company outside Greece, but still in Europe in order to take advantage of the financial tools of the European Investment Bank and Horizon 2020. We explored UK, Netherlands, Luxemburg and Ireland. As winner of the MITEF Greece Startup Competition, we received 30 hours of consultation from Ernst & Young, and learned that Ireland is a very convenient country for US citizens to invest in, so we decided to go for Ireland. Over the next 5 years, we plan to set up operations in Greece, USA, Singapore and Japan. The big new ideas to come will be developed in Greece and will be transformed into products globally through our network of companies.
Q: When did you start RTsafe?
RTsafe was founded in July 2014. The first 10 months were dedicated in R&D, scientific publications and presentations at congresses, and then we found offices and labs in Athens in May 2015, as well as a lab in EPFL Lausanne Switzerland and University of Texas, San Antonio, Texas. We currently employ 12 people and have 4 scientific partners and commissioned agents.
Q: When will you be expanding overseas, and where?
We will incorporate in Delaware in 2017, and set up offices and production labs in San Antonio, Texas. RTsafe has already established a scientific lab within the University of Texas in San Antonio. Texas is among the top places globally to have a radiotherapy business. After that, we plan to set up sales, marketing and R&D management offices in Boston.
Q: Are there any contacts that the US Diaspora Group might be able to help you with?
Yes! We are eager to network in the cancer and neurosurgery sector. Also we appreciate any media sector contacts so that every brain cancer patient is informed about the use of an individualized product that could enhance the safety and effectiveness of treatment. We could also use contacts in the investment community and banking sector.
Q: Is there anything else you could use from the Greek Diaspora Group?
RTsafe is really privileged to experience the support of the Greek diaspora. Having won the MITEF Greece Startup Competition and the Hellenic Entrepneurship Award (LIBRA group – The Hellenic Initiative), we experience the support and inspiration from Greek diaspora. Networking and referencing is one VERY significant part of the support. The MOST important support for us, is the true belief in our vision from so many important people from the Greek diaspora.
Q: What else can you tell us about your journey or about MITEF Greece?
Ideas without Means, Resources and Inspiration forever remain simply ideas. The implementation of RTsafe’s idea is feasible because we found the necessary ingredients. MITEF Greece provided to us all of these. It is still providing us the most important one: Inspiration. I’ve been invited to speak and attend MITEF Greece events since completion of the program. RTsafe during the first 2 years from its creation, did the most important step from ‘ZERO to ONE’ with very limited resources ~ (€250K) but with a lot of inspiration and really hard work. It seems that right now is starting the journey from ‘ONE to the SKY’.
Dr. Evangelos Pappas studied Physics in the University of Athens, Greece (BSc) and Medical Physics and BioMedical Engineering (MSc) at the University of Aberdeen, UK. He got his PhD from University of Athens, Medical School. During his PhD he presented the first alternative 3D polymer gel MRI dosimeter and its introduction in radiotherapy. Dr. Pappas served as a clinical radiotherapy medical physicist for more than 12 years. During the last 4 years he is an Assistant Professor of radiotherapy Medical Physics at the Technological Educational Institute of Athens, Greece.