Making lemonade – 110% for epileptics

INNOVATION – Giving it your all, and more. Katrina Wendel-Mitoraj knows more than most what it takes to launch a new product innovation. Still, she wouldn’t want to change a day of her experience as a startup entrepreneur. The founder and CEO of BrainCare puts 110% of herself on the line to improve quality of life for epileptics.

“I wanted to do something practical instead of focusing on theory,” says Wendel-Mitoraj, responding to the question of why a TUT research doctor focused on electrodes gave up an academic career to run a business.

The device patented by Wendel-Mitoraj measures and records data on the seizures of epilepsy patients. This enables doctors to gain more detailed information than before to support treatment plans. In addition to an implant sensor, the concept involves a smartphone application that transmits the data directly to the doctor safely and in real time.

“BrainCare, which was spun off from a TUT-run research project, utilizes the latest in electrode technology. The mobile app that supports the electrode is the first medically tested product of its kind in the world, which gives us the competitive advantage,” Wendel-Mitoraj explains.


Twists and turns and mountains of lemons

A single innovation is not enough for a breakthrough. The process has required submitting countless financing applications, tackling endless administrative obstacles, meeting strict regulatory requirements, and convincing a host of business angels. Wendel-Mitoraj likens the journey to turning a mountain of sour lemons into lemonade. Still, despite all the ups and downs of being startup entrepreneur, she has never seriously considered going back to her career as a researcher.

“The day-to-day of a startup entrepreneur is a full-on juggling act where you constantly take on different roles. You work on everything from administrative and financial matters to marketing and sales. Running a business is inspiring, challenging, and sometimes stressful, but the experience has definitely been positive overall.”

Wendel-Mitoraj and her team are currently hard at work to finish their final test results with Tampere University Hospital and other partners. The door leading to the actual market is closer than ever.

“The support and sparring provided by Y-kampus has been a major asset along the way. The Business Camp event, in particular, was a great help. It was a true crash course in entrepreneurship, which provided us with plenty of tools for the future. The next step is taking the device to the market, so we’ve already come up with plans C, D, and E alongside plans A and B, just in case something goes wrong.


Iterating to reach a goal

The lemonade recipe is finally getting to be just right. Wendel-Mitoraj recommends that anyone who is brave enough and has a potential customer base should get out their juicer and get to work.

“If you have an innovation, try to think if there is someone who would be ready to pay for it. If the answer is ‘yes’, and you have a strong desire to help the customer in question with your solution, put 110% on the line and get cracking. That said, if you’re missing either of these ingredients, you are unlikely to succeed. The journey is a process of constant iteration, but that is part of the fun.”