Mobisante Sees Early Demand for Ultrasound on a Smartphone, Before It’s Really Ready to Roll

The folks at Redmond, WA-based Mobisante have what entrepreneurs sometimes call a “high-class problem.” The startup is getting more attention for its ultrasound-on-a-smartphone product than it really wants in its infancy.

Mobisante, a startup founded in 2007, started turning heads back in February, after Xconomy reported that it was the first company to win FDA clearance to sell a diagnostic ultrasound tool on smartphone hardware. The vision was to put the power of ultrasound—with its ability to look inside the body at damaged internal organs or developing fetuses—on a machine that costs as little as $7,500. That’s exciting to people in developing countries, and budget-strapped clinics in the U.S., who can’t afford the ultrasound machines on the market today that typically run between $20,000 to $100,000 and up.

Suddenly, ER doctors who have limited access to ultrasound got buzzing. The company caught the attention of Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and the folks at MobiHealthNews, who wrote stories in the past few weeks about the promise of the technology, and its commercial rollout.

The excitement about the device was encouraging, says co-founder and CEO Sailesh Chutani, but he doesn’t want people to get carried away. His company has four employees, and a network of consultants. It took months longer than expected to get manufacturing protocols set up to FDA standards, so that the devices could be properly tracked in case of a future product recall. Mobisante hasn’t built up inventory of its product yet, and hasn’t started actively marketing, and yet it is sitting on a list of 300 sales leads from potential customers. Eight months after FDA clearance, it has gotten to the point where it can take advance payment from customers, and deliver a device in three weeks, Chutani says.

Just last week, it reached a milestone. It got paid for its first commercial device, from a customer in the Philippines.

Sailesh Chutani

“We didn’t want to make a fuss about the product, we want to have a ‘soft’ launch,” Chutani says. “Our goal has been to sell limited numbers to our clinical partners. Somehow the news got viral.”

Before Mobisante can seriously start converting more customer leads into sales orders, and orders into deliveries, it has a lot of work to do. It is talking to a couple of VCs about raising some more money, striking some important clinical partnerships, and working behind the scenes to hit its stride in manufacturing. And, importantly, it has some key clinical trial work still to do.

Excited as some of the initial customers are, Mobisante has gotten feedback from customers over the past several months about a new iteration that could be even more interesting. The company is working on a tablet-based ultrasound system that it says some customers will prefer over the original smartphone product.

There are a few reasons why customers might prefer a tablet. The original MobiUS that’s now FDA-approved runs on a Toshiba TG01 smartphone handset, which has a Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system. That’s an old version of the software, but Mobisante had to go with it. That’s because … Next Page »

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