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Start-up develops eye-catching software to help doctors diagnose lung disease

20:15 25/05/2020
Serbian Marko Topalovic is co-founder and CEO of medical device provider ArtiQ

ArtiQ is a spin-off of the University of Leuven, founded in 2019. Using AI-based medical software, ArtiQ helps doctors better interpret pulmonary function tests, reduces the administrative burden and can potentially speed up diagnosis of lung conditions. It started during my PhD at KU Leuven, when we were developing ways to detect respiratory diseases and their phenotypes.

At one point, we realised that technology had advanced significantly and that we should bring it to clinical practice. As scientists, it is unbelievably exciting when your research reaches the real-life environment. Validating it further, we shared the excitement with clinicians and concluded that this technology brings value, and it should be available for every pulmonologist in the world.

I did explore the possibility of starting the business in another country, but Belgium, and in my case Leuven, already has a strong ecosystem with healthcare companies, which is very beneficial both as a start-up and in future scale-up. My vision is to create an international company, with operations worldwide. I feel very comfortable with the way we set up the business in Belgium, because of the availability of highly skilled employees, knowledgeable mentors and venture capital.

Starting a business is not easy. My business plan, like many others’, counted on burning a significant amount of cash before becoming profitable. We started with a government subsidy and small amounts invested by the founding team. The tipping point came recently when we received €1 million investment from private funds.

Besides full-time employees, we have multiple experienced parttime advisors. Depending on the challenges we meet along the way, we temporarily hire external consultants. Our products are meant for international use, so the team behind it should be international and diverse as well. As we are a small team, we prefer to work from an open office space in Leuven. This allows us to communicate with other companies who are facing similar challenges. In the short term, the plan is to move to our own space, in line with our organic growth.

For anyone setting up a business, I’d say: 1. Keep trusting yourself and don’t be afraid of the challenges that lie ahead. 2. Share ideas and business plans with as many people as possible. 3. Keep learning daily – if we want to move our businesses forward, we need to learn constantly how to be better and how to do things in the best way. There are a lot of good and kind people who want to help. I was lucky to meet many helpful people, and I hope this is a default experience that every starter in Belgium will have.

This article first appeared in ING Expat Time

Written by ING Expat Time