Founder Spotlight: Idicula Mathew
Recently, Hera Health Solutions CEO and Co-Founder Idicula Mathew was featured as part of Start Co's Founder Spotlight Series.
By Jonah Baer
“Medical treatment has made astonishing advances over the years. But the packaging and delivery of that treatment are often inefficient, ineffective, and consumer unfriendly.”-Regina E. Hertzlinger, Harvard Business Review
Idicula Mathew has a bold vision. As the CEO and co-founder of Hera Health Solutions, he wants to revolutionize the way the healthcare industry handles drug delivery. They are developing a biodegradable alternative to the existing contraceptive devices implanted in the arm. Unfortunately, once the lifespan of the existing implant is up and the drug has been completely consumed, the implant must be removed via a potentially painful and expensive removal procedure. Hera Health Solutions (HHS) and their patent pending technology will eliminate this risky and costly process by introducing a biodegradable material that absorbs into the body as the drug or hormone of choice is absorbed completely.
HHS is currently participating in the ZeroTo510 program, the medical device accelerator that has been ranked by Seed Accelerator Rankings three years in a row for being one of the top accelerator programs in the country. Idicula, along with his two employees from Georgia Tech, have been grinding all summer long to set a pathway to FDA clearance and develop their business. I had a chance to sit down with Idicula and hear his thoughts on his medical device company and being in Memphis this summer.
Q: How did you first get interested in the medical device field?
Idicula: My background is in biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech. Growing up, I’ve always been interested in the healthcare/medical space. The aspect of bringing innovation to market has always been interesting to me, but I certainly had no idea that anything like this was possible. Everything changed when I got to Georgia Tech because there was a very prevalent entrepreneurial mindset there. A lot of my colleagues were pursuing these awesome entrepreneurial ideas and I fell in love with going that route. I had zero experience in the startup industry. Being immersed in such a great startup environment at Georgia Tech is what got me so passionate about starting my own venture. My family’s background is also very relevant when it comes to my entrepreneurial mindset because both my parents are small business owners. At a young age, I would spend a lot of my weekends helping out my family with their business. You could say it was in my DNA.
Q: What inspired you to start HHS?
Idicula: Going back to my roots in Kerala, India, quality healthcare has never been as easily accessible, so that is what first inspired me to go after this idea. HHS was started out of a simple student-led senior design project where it was me and a couple other friends who were trying to solve a simple engineering problem, which was how can we safely remove implants that are being lost in people’s bodies.The real question was always why is this technology not being fixed and what we can do to fix it? From an engineering background, we were able to successfully develop a novel solution of a biodegradable implant. It started as simple as you can imagine: a school class project. That was the inception of HHS. We were able to get a lot of traction in the medical device space. First, our technology won a competition in the Atlanta area called “Round One” and then won the title of “Emerging Medical Device” at a medical device conference.
Q: Why Memphis?
Idicula: I saw a colleague take his company through ZeroTo510 about 4 or 5 years ago. They’ve been cleared by FDA, so even though their product is very different from ours, it’s a huge motivating factor for us to see people my age move forward with medical device companies. ZeroTo510 has also been synonymous with being a successful medical device accelerator. I’ve been plugged into this space in recent years so I had definitely known what ZeroTo510 was beforehand. It had always been a huge goal of HHS to get into this program. It just so happened that we were at the right stage this summer and we were accepted. The connections we’ve made this summer have been great. We have learned about strategies. Talking to other founders and the cohesive environment is what has led us to accelerate so much this summer and we’re only one month through.
Q: Where do you see HHS 5 years down the road?
Idicula: The biggest aspect that I love about our company is the humanitarian aspect. This is a device that can really help and touch people internationally in developing nations. That is one of the things that keeps me going at the end of the day. Five years from now we hope to be in the hands of customers domestically and internationally. We see ourselves having potential partnerships with non-governmental organizations and others that are distributing this implant to those in need. Only 60% of girls complete primary school in Migori County, Kenya, and the leading cause of dropout is unplanned pregnancy. There’s a need for our solution, not just in the United States but worldwide.
Q: What have been your biggest challenges you’ve faced with starting your company?
Idicula: Before Start Co., I talked to so many clinicians that said I was too young and that there’s no way I could do something like this. At the beginning, that was a huge setback. But I believe in positivity. For every person that says something negative to you, there are two more people that say you can do this. You create your own luck. Don’t be shut down when you hear something like that. You have to use it as a motivating factor. The biggest things I’ve learned along the way is to not get discouraged from people telling you that you can’t do something. It means you’re doing something right.
Q: How has ZeroTo510 helped you with your business?
Idicula: The mentorship, ecosystem, and alumni of ZeroTo510 have been a huge factor in the growth of HHS. We would not have any of the contacts that we have now in the industry if it wasn’t for this collaborative environment. It’s really exciting for me to see.
Q: How has having a team of two students from Georgia Tech joining HHS helped you in Memphis this summer?
Idicula: My co-founder and I hired them just before the accelerator because of our workload. They’ve been phenomenal in terms of helping me get work accomplished in Memphis. They had a great learning curve in terms of understanding our business. Each one of us is unique. How we all work together cohesively is really great. It’s interesting for me personally, I’m fresh out of college and having the whole process of turning around and hiring right out of Georgia Tech was a completely unique experience. Soon after I graduated I was already looking through a lot of resumes to hire for my company; whereas, most people out of college are the people getting hired.
Q: If you could give advice to someone who has a medical device idea, what advice would you give them?
Idicula: First and foremost, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. You need to be open. Be coachable. Throw it out there so you can get feedback. A lot of the world’s greatest ideas started out as some of the dumbest ideas. I’ve always been the guy who’s talking about that next big idea, and there’s a big misconception out there that if I tell you my idea, you’re going to go and steal it away — which is absolutely ridiculous. That’s not the way the world works. If you have an idea that’s a big idea and it’s sellable, you’re going to have to tell 1000 people and shove it down their throats for them to buy it. That’s how all revolutionary ideas work. What if the founder AirBNB thought, I’m not going to tell anybody about this. The reason AirBNB became AirBNB is because he literally heard thousands of people say no and then converted them into realizing that his idea might work. That is how it is for every business, especially medical devices.
Q: What are hobbies outside of your business?
Idicula: All throughout college I was known as a gym rat. I enjoy writing these ambitious, intense workout plans for myself. I would have friends that asked me what I did to work out, and I would write them these plans. I really enjoy writing my own workout plans beforehand and that way I’m not thinking about what I need to do when I’m at the gym. I also get really great ideas when I’m working out. It’s not uncommon for me to come running back from the gym really late at night and tell my team that we need to have a meeting. Some of those ideas have been some of the major pivots that we’ve taken along the way for HHS. Working out is a sort of release for me that I can take a break from working. I also love food, trying new restaurants, and cooking.
Idicula Mathew is the co-founder & CEO of HHS, a medical device startup developing an innovative long-acting drug delivery technology. Idicula is a biomedical engineer from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He helped develop the technology behind HHS during his time as an undergraduate student. After graduation, Idicula began prototyping, testing, and raising money to start HHS. Idicula is currently participating in the nationally ranked Zeroto510 Medical Device Accelerator program to commercialize HHS’s technology. Reach out to Idicula through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.