SHS Gesellschaft für Beteiligungsmanagement mbH
8. December 2022 - Newsletter, Portfolio News

Series: SHS portfolio companies introduce themselves: TRI Dental Implants Int. AG

In our series “SHS portfolio companies”, today we talk to Tobias Richter, founder and CEO of the Swiss TRI Dental Implants Int. AG, in which SHS has held a stake since 2014.

In 2011, Tobias Richter founded the company TRI Dental Implants in Switzerland. The graduate economist comes from a family of doctors in East Westphalia and has been working successfully in the dental industry for more than 20 years.

Richter and his colleagues laid the foundation for the company in 2011 with the TRI Performance Concept, a bone-level implant system. With the groundbreaking matrix® implant system, which TRI presented for the first time at IDS 2019, it is now possible to insert dental implants without an intermediate part (abutment) between the implant and the crown. A revolutionary advance for patients and practitioners.

Mr Richter, how did your company come to be founded, and what do you think accounts for its many years of success?

Tobias Richter: I had already successfully built up another implant company in Europe before TRI, which was then sold with the American parent company to the Danaher Group. I then felt that the previous digital technologies in dentistry did not adequately support the workflows. Our vision when we founded TRI was, on the one hand, to map the optimal digitalisation in dental implant technology from A to Z in a consistent manner. And on the other hand, we wanted to offer maximum simplicity for the dentist.

“Think Digital” and “Simplicity” are, along with “Performance” and “Swissness”, the core values at TRI. We want to optimise the digital workflow in order to make the dentist’s work as simple, safe and efficient as possible. With our implant system matrix®, which does not require an abutment, we have successfully taken this to the extreme. This is unique worldwide, because until now this abutment always had to be inserted between the implant and the crown. For us, by the way, digitalisation encompasses the entire workflow in the dental practice: X-ray imaging Cone Beam CT (CBCT), digital impression taking using an oral scanner, digitally planned surgery, CAD-CAM design, 3D printing in the practice, to name just the essentials.

Of course, this presupposes very advanced digitalisation in dental practices, doesn’t it?

Absolutely right. That’s why TRI is working with the innovators and early adopters at the moment, because we meet a high affinity for digitalisation there. These are dentists who are at the forefront of technology. In the long term, however, all practices will be equipped in this way, there is no way around it. TRI then has the advantage that we have set the trend and occupied the market from the beginning. We have done the technological groundwork over the last ten years and are now in a strong position.

Where do you see TRI’s core competence, what makes your company stand out from the competition?

One of our core competencies is that we have focused on the optimal digital workflow in the dental implant field from the very beginning. We are the challenger that is disruptively shaking up the market. TRI offers dentists digital processes that are faster, where costs are lower and, importantly, where clinical outcomes are better. We are increasing dental precision at all stages of the process with our technology. We have revolutionised implant dentistry by making the intermediate part obsolete. In concrete terms, this means fewer parts, better results and all embedded in an efficient digital workflow. This technology is protected by eight different registered patents.

What goals do you see for TRI in the next three to five years?

In terms of sales strategy, we want to establish TRI in the four central markets for dental implants: USA, Germany, Italy and Japan. We are already active in around 50 markets worldwide, but we are focusing on the target regions mentioned because we see that digitalisation in the dental sector is most advanced there: for example, there are many intraoral scanners and CBCT devices. And these basic technologies promote the use of TRI technology.

On the technical side, we are working on further developing the full integration of TRI technology into the networked digital workflow. For example, we want to offer fully digitally guided surgical planning with a surgical kit. We are working on a number of innovation projects to optimise the 360-degree workflow. In addition to the introduction of matrix®, the aim is to offer customers even more additional services in the marginal areas of the matrix® system in the form of design and software solutions, for example, to make it even easier to design individual prosthetics on the matrix® implants. The dentist can transfer the data from the oral scan directly into the CAD-CAM system, which leads to even more precise implant solutions for the dental indication. Ideally, the dentist can then use the 3D printer in the practice to print out a perfect crown to be placed on the matrix® implant. We just did a case presentation in Boston where the dentist placed the TRI implant and then on top of it the new crown that he had previously made in the 3D printer. After a good 60 minutes, the patient was done with the treatment and thrilled. This is really progressive, but this is exactly the kind of instant restoration that will be the future, and TRI has the technology to do it.

In your opinion, what are currently the biggest challenges for a medium-sized medtech company like TRI? Funding? MDR?

With regard to subsidies, I have a market economy view. It’s good that there are subsidies, but you shouldn’t develop any expectations. In my experience, you can get the necessary capital with an innovative idea and a good technological concept. After all, that’s what companies like SHS are for.

As far as the MDR challenge is concerned: this is an innovation-inhibiting aberration that the EU is pursuing. No question, safety is important! But for TRI, the MDR leads us to seek approval for new products in the USA first, because we get them there faster than in Europe. The EU delays innovations in Europe, which of course also deprives patients of them. However, we have the issue of approval under control and rely on our strong team.

A big challenge for small and medium-sized medtech companies is the competition with established suppliers, especially when they want to enter new markets. The challenger has to find new distribution channels, because a small or medium-sized medtech company cannot afford armies of sales people like the big players.

You have been working with SHS since mid-2014. What distinguishes SHS as a medtech investor and what do you appreciate about the collaboration?

In my opinion, the specialisation and positioning of SHS in the medtech sector has been outstandingly successful. From the very beginning, I have perceived SHS not only as an investor, but always as a strategic partner that brings expertise and a strong network. What else I appreciate about SHS is its entrepreneurial thinking, in contrast to the classic private equity thinking of others. At SHS, I like the entrepreneurial discussion with our contacts; for example, when unforeseen challenges arise, such as Corona. We are going down a successful path together with SHS.

What drives you personally?

When you see how happy a patient is who previously wore dentures and now has beautiful fixed teeth, it is both confirmation and motivation. There are people who start crying when they see their new fixed teeth in the mirror for the first time. We change people’s lives with every implant and bring a smile back into their lives.

Mr Richter, thank you very much for the interview.