Can you introduce your start-up? What is it, and how did it come about?
Dognostica is a start-up company that can change the way cancer is diagnosed today and save thousands of lives. Dognostica will transform the detection of cancer by enabling early stage mass screening at an affordable price through remote breath samples by using the proven ability of dogs.
The fact that dogs can sniff and detect cancer tumours was already proven by trials and research done by universities throughout the world, with amazing accuracy, even at the early stages of the disease (you will find links for relevant papers on our website).
We designed a sophisticated system that can enhance, commercialize and regulate the proven ability of dogs to detect diseases in low cost, highly accurate and in a commercial way that can be used as a screening tool for the entire population. (the system can be used to diagnose other diseases as well such as Parkinson, celiac etc.)
Where are you in your startup journey?
During the last four years, we developed, improved and conducted hours of preliminary proof of concept experiments. Our two patents for the training method and for our system were granted in Europe. Right now, we are in the stage of raising funds to conduct a clinical trial to validate our accuracy level in terms of specificity and sensitivity.
To date, what has been the biggest triumph for your business?
Conduct the proof of concept and see that one dog can easily detect 100 samples in one hour.
As a co-founder, do you have any advice for partners working alongside each other on how to make that business relationship work?
I have two experienced partners who have more than 20 years of experience with working and training dogs to detect all kind of materials starting with explosives, search and rescue missions and counterfeit money. My advice is to think of your journey like a Ferris wheel at an amusement park. Sometimes you feel that you are at the bottom of the weel, with no view and you will think that there is no way to go up again and then as the days go by, you will start rising and see the horizon, but like in a wheel, you will be down again so remember that you should not give up because the view from the top is worth it
Also, remember that your partners are different from you, so there will be times when you will not see things in the same way. Try to listen and understand their point of view before you try the convince them with your idea. It’s like being in marriage; you need to invest a lot of time and energy to make it work.
How do you manage to balance growing a start-up with having a personal life?
It is really hard to be in a startup. There are times that you can’t take any salary, and there is some time that you will think you are the only one who believes in the project, but when you succeed it’s the best feeling in the world.
It is like being a wolf – a wolf can travel for a long time without any food and sometimes when he finally catches a prey he needs to share it with the rest of the group, but it is always better to be a wolf and not the sheep.
How do you cope with the pressures that come with building a business?
When the pressure gets too high, I usually breakdown all the thing that made me feel the pressure to small particles, and then I deal with each particle separately. And sometimes I just go for a 10K run; it usually helps me think better.
Did you pursue investment? If so what advice would you give on pitching? What was your secret weapon?
Keep it simple. Explain your idea in a clear voice that even a 5 years old will understand what you do. Explain the problem and why you bring the solution. Talk about your team and why they are the right team. Show the investor when and how he will get his investment back. Try to bring something unique, surprise or get their attention.
If you could name one thing that you wish you knew when you started, what would it be?
Don’t assume that you know what your customer wants. Go and ask them.
To date, what has been your most important lesson?
Find the right team/people. The right team for you should be the persons who complete the fields that you lack.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone thinking about starting up their own business, or who have just started their journey?
Don’t think you could do everything by yourself. Find the right team and advisors that will help you and will complete your abilities.
What has been the most challenging part of your start-up journey so far?
Developing the prototype of the system that will work with the dog on cancer detection.
What’s next for your business?
Raising the funds that we need to conduct the multinational clinical trials with sites at the Oxford University in the UK and two leading hospitals in Israel.