Whether it’s a new medical app, diagnostic or wearable, the first step in setting up a medical company is having a great idea. But that’s only one element that will lead to business success. In this interview, Jens Fuerbeth, Head of the Commercial SME Division and member of the Board of Directors of Volksbank Mittelhessen, explains what makes good financial advice for healthcare start-ups and how Volksbank’s team of experts helps entrepreneurs get started.
What role does the healthcare sector play for Volksbank Mittelhessen, and for the region itself?
Jens Fuerbeth: We receive about 250 inquiries per year, which result in about 130 grants. More than a quarter of these inquiries come from the healthcare industry. The health care system is, therefore, an essential pillar and a decisive element for us and for the region. In addition, the industry in Middle Hessen is very prosperous thanks to many partners, Middle Hessen initiatives and the organizations for healthcare and start-up support. We see enormous potential for the entire sector and are thus continuing to expand our capacities: In the future, we will increase our healthcare financial team by 50 percent – almost ten employees.
We receive a total of about 250 inquiries per year, which result in about 130 grants. More than a quarter of these come from the healthcare industry.
What makes the start-up support for healthcare companies at Volksbank unique?
Jens Fuerbeth: Our trademark is the personal approach. We want to get to know both people and their ideas. So in our first consultation, we are not just concerned with the concept but also with questions such as who is behind the idea? What were their goals? We want to know whether a similar idea already exists or whether the customer wants to build something completely new. We want to be a contact at eye level – personally and professionally.
Our customers appreciate the fact that, as consultants, we bring medical know-how and industry knowledge to the table. We see ourselves as a partner who can assess the needs and challenges in the healthcare sector.
For a long time our offer was unique in the region. These many years of experience is now paying off, because our head start in supporting healthcare start-ups is what sets us apart from other banks. The extremely positive customer feedback we’ve received confirms our value and consulting competence.
What expertise do you offer healthcare start-ups?
Jens Fuerbeth: The promotion of the bank’s existence is naturally part of the core business of a medium-sized bank. However, we go one step further: Our department, medService, is specially tailored to the needs of the healthcare industry and advises doctors, pharmacists, hospital managers as well as new companies and their founders – and we’ve been doing so for 13 years. Our experience and strong networking with regional partners who offer additional support or special expertise is also very helpful for healthcare start-ups.
What special challenges do healthcare startups have to face?
Jens Fuerbeth: Medical products are rightly subject to strict requirements and guidelines. Obtaining the corresponding regulatory approvals usually takes a lot of time. Many founders underestimate these long-term costs that come with the process. It often takes years before your product overcomes the regulatory hurdles, reaches market maturity and generates sales. Thus, the right type of financing is just as important as finding and applying for the right subsidies. Without experience, this process can be very confusing and complicated; we felt the same at the beginning of our efforts. Now we can pass on this knowledge in an optimal way.
What is it about consulting that is particularly compelling for you?
Jens Fuerbeth: It’s great to see how an idea is turned into a finished, marketable product that helps countless people and thus provides a benefit for the general public, such as a medical test being used in the healthcare system. Due to banking secrecy, we are unfortunately not allowed to give concrete examples. What I can say is that, again and again, I am thrilled by the diligence, know-how and stamina with which the young entrepreneurs approach their goals. My greatest motivation is to support these projects.
Volksbank Mittelhessen considers itself a competent and reliable partner in the region. The promotion of its more than 200,000 members has been its most important mission for more than 160 years. At its 80 locations, 1,300 employees maintain direct contact with the people of Central Hessen. In accordance with its cooperative values, the bank advises its more than 340,000 customers in a spirit of solidarity, partnership and personal service. Through numerous projects and activities, Volksbank Mittelhessen and its members generate positive results that have an impact on the entire region.