True Angle's pivot to clinician market paid off, says CEO

· The Pulse

After changing its business model, product, and customer base, True Angle is now in a better place to grow and expand, says the Edmonton health-tech company's CEO.

Instead of selling directly to patients with swallowing disorders, the company now sells to clinicians. That switch in 2022 from a direct-to-consumer model to a business-to-business one earned True Angle the "Pivot of the Year" award at the third annual YEG Startup Community Awards.

"It was really rewarding for us to get recognition for the effort that the whole team put in," co-founder and CEO Jana Rieger told Taproot.

The company's main product is the Mobili-T device and app. It helps people with dysphagia, which is the medical term for swallowing difficulties. The biofeedback device attaches to a patient's chin, allowing a clinician to monitor a patient's swallowing exercises remotely instead of needing them to go to a clinic in person.

"We knew that there were really millions of people in North America who had this problem," Rieger said. "We knew that people have been prescribed these exercises and that they needed something to be able to keep them on track and let them know how they were doing."

When the device first went to market in 2020, the idea was to sell directly to patients with dysphagia, Rieger said. But she noticed that of the inquiries they were getting, about 30% were from patients while 70% were from clinicians. In the summer of 2022, the company decided to pivot, implementing the new business model within six months.

"If we're looking at a hospital system that has, let's just say, 200 hospitals within that one system, selling into that system would allow us to scale so much more quickly than the D2C model, which tended to be a one-off model," she said. "It really came down to economics (for) why we wanted to pivot."

Two women wearing lanyards stand beside True Angle's booth at a trade show, displaying the Mobili-T device

True Angle attended the annual conference of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in New Orleans in November 2022, after deciding to sell its Mobili-T device to clinicians rather than patients. [True Angle/LinkedIn]

While the basics of the Mobili-T device and app stayed the same, nearly everything else changed, Rieger said. One of the biggest changes was revamping the product's clinician portal, which wasn't fully developed when it initially went to market. But when the company pivoted last year, having a way to manage patients was something hospital customers wanted.

"So everything after that basic interface of the app changed," she said. "Our (customer relationship management system) changed. The way that we received commerce changed…. It was a big change for us."

Rieger said she feels confident about the pivot, adding that the company saw revenues grow 500% in the first quarter after implementing the change.

While there will be a few product iterations in the future, Rieger said there won't be any more drastic changes like the one the company just went through.

"We're in a place now where we have a repeatable sales model. And so now it's scaling that — that's what's going to be really important for us. And as we do that, I'm certain we'll learn more about what kind of product iterations we'll need to make."

True Angle raised $1.64 million in investment in 2021 in a round led by Accelerate Fund III, with participation from Startup TNT, Thin Air Labs, and The51, among others. It also raised $1 million from angel investment at the pre-seed stage.

Correction: This file has been updated to more accurately reflect the nature of the investment in True Angle at the pre-seed stage.