As I walk into the Anatomy Next office I'm greeted by what must have been the “true startup scene” decades ago - no ping-pong tables, inspirational quotes and beer on tap - just a lot of talented young people crammed into a room at mismatched desks, churning out great work.
Anatomy Next was flung into the spotlight in January 2017 when they announced an investment of 500,000 EUR, which was merely weeks after having completed the Startup Wise Guys accelerator program in Riga. Their MO - making anatomy visually accessible using everything that modern-day technology has to offer. Right now they're on the cusp of developing their AR hololens application that literally looks like it's out of a Bond movie. After showing the application to the Head of the Anatomy department of the University of Southern California, the scientist declared it to be “The best he's seen on the market”.
Let's take a closer look to discover what makes this startup tic.
Their surprising start was in...art
As typical for startups - they began a few pivots ago. Their first product was creating anatomy books and courses for artists. In 2013 they launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for their first book - Anatomy for Sculptors earning over $22,000 funding (with a goal of $10,000). Interestingly, this book has been translated into Japanese and has become a bestseller among the Anime community. And in 2015 they launched their second successful Kickstarter campaign - Head and Neck Anatomy with 3D AR elements.
This foundation in art has lead to what is arguably one of the success factors of the current iteration of Anatomy Next - that it combines professionals from not only tech and and medicine, but artists as well.
The pivot that paved the way to massive demand
They were already bringing anatomy into the 3D field, and doing it well. As it turns out, they were just doing it for the wrong industry.
Throughout working on developing the books on anatomy, the team was in close co-operation with medical professionals to consult them on correct anatomy. It was brought to the team's attention that what they're doing would actually be very useful for medical students as well.
And so began the shift into creating augmented reality reference images.
They were quickly accepted into the Techstars-owned Startup Next UpGlobal pre-accelerator program in Seattle in the Spring 2015 batch. Afterwards they joined the Startup Wise Guys accelerator in Riga in 2016. Almost immediately after graduating the SWG program they secured half a million in investments. If anything, I'd say that's proof of a hot startup.
What Anatomy Next actually does
Anatomy Next visualizes anatomy, making it easier to see, understand, and learn. Currently their market-ready products include the head and neck, the skull and the cranial nerves. On the desktop app you can click through the different layers of the particular body part and view it either in a more basic version, or also choose the “expert” mode for more details. Each element is complete with a description.
They are currently working on the Skull application in VR - in the application you can view the skull in tact, blown up in pieces, select pieces and read about each one. This is the prototype that was shown to the professor at the University of Southern California that prompted his comment on it being the best in the market.
One of the reasons that Anatomy Next has become so relevant is because in this day and age, methods of learning new information are changing. When before students had no option but to rely on descriptive books, now, humans have come to expect learning to come in a more visual, interactive and engaging way. Studies have shown that engaging in the learning material helps remember it better, thereby improving and possibly accelerating the speed of learning anatomy.
Laying the footing for dominating the US market
CEO Sandis Kondrats spends the most of his time in the US-based office. There, Anatomy Next is part of the University of Washington incubator, which gives the team access to some of the best medical professors on the planet as well as a trusted brand to build their network through.
With medical B2B sales, they've experienced that the most effective form of sales is letting the professors and students try the application for themselves. When Kondrats presented Anatomy Next to a lecture hall of anatomy students, his presentation was met with ovations.
As American institutions of higher education closely resemble businesses (at least more so than European universities), the US universities are interested in providing the most interesting and effective program to their students. As a result, a visually engaging way to learn about anatomy fits the bill and generates demand, specifically in this market.
Besides universities, the team is also looking at other medical-related industries, such as dentistry, nursing and patient engagement. Being able to demonstrate complex anatomical notions to patients in a convenient and understandable way is a major selling point to enter the $13 billion US patient engagement industry.
What's next for Anatomy Next?
While many startups can go for years without monetizing their platform, Anatomy Next confirmed that they've successfully converted their first beta tester into a paying client. They're working on converting more testers into clients, and as they sell licences based on the amount of students using the platform, the contracts can reach six figures.
They're gearing up for a Seed fundraising round in the fall, and investors are already lining up to invest. However they'll be holding out for an investor that can offer them the best in terms of support, mentorship and network that's possible.