Marc Lamarre wants to change the way dentists attend to their patients.
© Mark Holleron
(left to right) Muran Yang, Victor Varona, Spenser Williams and Miguel Planas are part of the team at Cumulus Dental, a local startup that makes 3D dental charting software.
Following his 2008 retirement from a 28-year career in dentistry, Mr. Lamarre found himself thinking about a new project: obtaining an executive MBA from the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management as a springboard to starting his own business.
He wanted to solve a problem that had bothered him for many years in his own dental practice: the inefficient use of paper charts containing patients’ dental records.
Those paper charts, still in use in most dentists’ offices today, can too easily be lost or even destroyed, Mr. Lamarre says. Filing eats away hours of the day, and because the charts need to be kept for a minimum of seven years, they take up lots of space.
“I hated paper charts,” he recalls. “We were often losing them or misfiling them. You could spend hours looking for one chart. But if it’s all electronic, you have no excuse but to find the chart fast, effectively and with more accurate records – the whole thing.”
Cumulus Dental, co-founded in 2013 by Mr. Lamarre along with Victor Varona and Paul Bisson, looks to bring digital charting to the more than 190,000 businesses in the North American dental industry, a steadily growing market worth about$14 billion in Canada and$119 billion in the United States, according to IBISWorld.
The subscription-based software offers a 3D dental charting system that’s voice-activated and fully interactive, providing greater detail in visualized displays of a patient’s teeth and eliminating the need for a second operator to dictate or transcribe.
“I had to look at my own career as a dentist and ask what would make me adopt new technology,” Mr. Lamarre says. “Does it save time? Will it generate more revenue? And the third, the most important one, are there better patient outcomes?”
The company says its software will allow dentists and hygienists to perform an examination in less than a third of the time of a conventional exam. More efficiency means more appointments and that means more revenue, says Mr. Lamarre.
As for better patient outcomes, Cumulus has also been developing a digital periodontal probe that the company claims will be the only device to measure the pocket depths of gingival tissues and the temperature within them, an early indicator of inflammation that can be caused by gum disease and other systemic diseases. That’s due to be launched in 2017 and will only be compatible with the company’s 3D charting system.
In the digital age, why exactly are dentists still using paper charts?
“It’s because (making) the current digital charts are actually slower than doing it on paper,” says Mr. Lamarre. “With our system, I’ll just go, ‘Tooth 1, 5, MOD amalgam,’ and boom, that’s it, done. It’s registered, it’s in the tooth, it’s in 3D, so we’re really increasing that speed.”
Cumulus’s go-to-market strategy includes promotion at dental conventions, advertising in dental publications and “introducing the software to every dental and hygiene school in North America for free,” so that new professionals will demand the product when they enter the workforce, he says.
The company has gained preliminary funding from public sources such as the Ontario Centres of Excellence, the National Research Council of Canada and BioTalent Canada, along with several dentists who have privately invested.
Cumulus plans to launch its software-as-a-service product after the second quarter of 2016 and will soon seek an investment of $1.1 million, along with another $1.9 million in the second half of the year to finance its development, based on a pre-money valuation of $4 million.
The company projects between $600,000 and $700,000 in revenues for the final two quarters of 2016, based on an anticipated end-of-Q2 launch. Once that ramps up and Cumulus adds its hardware product to the mix, Mr. Lamarre expects 2017 revenues to be in the millions.
“Dentistry’s a very lucrative market,” he says. “Down the road, if we get to 10 per cent of the market share between our software and our probes, we could be looking at $80 million in revenues very easily, if not higher … I let people know that we’re the next billion-dollar company out of Ottawa.”