GAINING GROUND

Costa Rica 2019 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

Establishment Lab's success is the result of its determination to improve safety and aesthetic outcomes in breast surgery and create new technologies to address challenges.

Juan José Chacón-Quirós
BIOGRAPHY
Juan José Chacón-Quirós founded Establishment Labs in 2004. He has been involved in several sectors of the aesthetics industry and has co-authored more than 45 patents that helped advance the technology in areas like implants and surfaces, RFID and biosensors, 3D technology, and surgical instruments development. Chacón-Quirós received his undergraduate degree from the Academie de Poitiers (economics) and attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He holds the MIT Sloan Advanced Certificate for Executives (ACE) in management, innovation, and technology.

What does the country need to do to incentivize companies to establish their manufacturing, R&D, distribution centers, and commercialization here?

Establishment Labs is proof that companies can do all these here. Perhaps the aim for the short term is not for companies to establish headquarters here but to start doing more R&D and shared services here. If they could use Costa Rica as their distribution center as well, it would be extremely positive. The cluster is already working on an initiative that includes R&D projects, and those are going well. There are several success stories from the cluster, and those are positive for everyone seeking to establish themselves in Costa Rica. However, we still need to do more, because at the end of the day it is a business question. Costa Rica has proven it can do the technology part, and it is now about proving it can do R&D.

What lessons did Establishment Labs learn from its IPO launch, and what does it mean to be an ambassador of Costa Rica at Wall Street?

There were many lessons, though in terms of business, we were successful in going to NASDAQ because we are in fact solving a problem for women worldwide. That is perhaps the single-most important thing. People clearly understood our contribution to this industry and how over the last few years we have been gaining ground as a company, and can continue to do so, with the funds they have given us. This is the first time a medical device company from Latin America has listed on NASDAQ, especially in a sector as competitive as prosthetics. The fact that we are successful speaks to the clarity of our message.

As a public company, what is Establishment Labs doing to increase value for its shareholders?

We are committed to our business model. We are clear in our purpose to improve safety and aesthetic outcomes in breast surgery. We continue to create new technologies to address those challenges, and as a result our company continues to grow. Although we have to report every quarter, we have a clear view of our path for the coming years. Part of the proceeds of the IPO go to our US clinical trial for Motiva implants. The other part is to continue growing the business. We announced in November 2018 that we will launch direct sales in the UK. We will continue with that strategy of having a closer relationship with our customers. Given those two factors, we will be able to prove that the company can scale up in a healthy fashion so our business model can continue to grow.

What is the process for choosing a country to expand into, and what new markets does Establishment Labs want to enter in the coming years?

We are currently selling direct in Brazil, which is the number-two market worldwide, and that has been a phenomenal success story for Establishment Labs. That speaks of our ability to work in an extremely large market and still do well. We also sell direct in France, showing we can gain market share in a complicated country. We do the same in Scandinavia and now the UK. We will continue to explore new possibilities in Europe and beyond with a data-driven approach on breast surgery statistics to define key markets.

What is the outlook for Establishment Labs growing its market share in the US?

We are going through the FDA clinical process and will continue to do so. We plan to complete the enrolment of our clinical trial in early 2019. When we look at our market share numbers in places like Scandinavia, Japan, Austria, and Brazil and compare them to the US, we believe we can reach the same market share.