Alumnus story: reflectUS

Date
reflectUS

>>venture>> catapulted us into another league (Sergio Sanabria)

reflectUS has developed a technology to diagnose early-stage breast cancer without irradiation. Taking part in >>venture>> helped turn an idea into a company with major potential. Three of the protagonists tell their story:

Sergio Sanabria
The 33-year-old is the CEO of reflectUS. He also works as a senior assistant and postdoctoral researcher at the ETH Zurich. He holds a PhD in Telecommunications from the ETH. Before going into medicine, he tested ultrasound equipment at Empa, investigating non-destructive ways of assessing wooden composites.   

“>>venture>> catapulted us into another league. Winning first prize in the business idea category brought us a huge amount of attention. For a long time we’d been looking to work with a Japanese ultrasound manufacturer who was doing R & D in Switzerland. But until now it felt like we were banging our heads against a brick wall. When the director heard about our success at >>venture>>, things suddenly started moving—he supplied us with a hardware platform. And when the company moved out of Switzerland recently, we were able to take over part of their team. >>venture>> also helped us to find two cofounders, including Marcos.

Let me say this first off: I coached reflectUS and after the >>venture>> competition I decided to cofound the company. As a coach at >>venture>>, I’ve been supporting start-ups in leveraging their business ideas for almost ten years. I’ve generally had ten or so teams in every >>venture>> cohort. The goal here is to help young entrepreneurs develop a business plan that will be convincing for both investors and the jury. There are always some very interesting teams and business ideas, and this time round reflectUS really grabbed me. I’m fascinated by this kind of technology and products like this that have a major medical effect and impact the healthcare sector in a cost-effective way; I call this “hacking healthcare costs.” Together with Prof. Orcun Goksel at the ETH, Sergio invented a technology that fits this bill, and he wowed me with the reflectUS spirit. Furthermore Sergio has the gift - which I think every young entrepreneur should have - of being able to accept advice and triangulate it. This is key to success as an entrepreneur.

I can identify the potential in a business plan very quickly. Or I know right away that it won’t come to anything. I’m actually a medic originally and have invested a good deal in the healthcare sector via the Venture Incubator Fund—with reflectUS I immediately knew that this idea had potential. The technology is excellent and the potential market significant. When taking part in >>venture>>, they had already been able to produce a preliminary validation of their method in a practical setting—it wasn’t just an idea dreamed up at a desk. Of course, I also had questions such as: Where do they want to apply their innovation in the medical process, in hospitals or among gynecologists? Mammography is the gold standard for breast cancer diagnosis. How does reflectUS position itself here? Of course there remain still a lot of other open questions, but that’s perfectly normal at the beginning. reflectUS will find answers. My prognosis is very positive: a company valuation above a hundred million is totally possible.”