SouSmile, a Brazilian dental aligners startup, found its ideal partners to reach consumers in dentists. Launched in 2020 with a direct-to-consumer sales model, the startup saw sales made through healthcare professionals as a way out amid the isolation measures imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the channel accounts for half of the total sales. With BRL 15 million raised through Itaú BBA‘s venture debt fund, the company wants to make improvements on the factory floor while accelerating its B2B2C sales model by offering more treatment plans.
According to Andrea Nazaré, co-founder and head of operations at SouSmile, the partnership program started with ten professionals at the beginning of the pandemic. Today, it has 80 dentists spread across Brazil. Also according to her, there are more than 50,000 dental clinics in the country, with an average of 40% idleness. “In this format, we capture the client, carry out the evaluation online and forward it to the partner dentist. As a benefit, dentists get more movement in the clinic, filling the idle hours, in addition to the opportunity to win the client over for other treatments.”
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SouSmile aims to multiply the current number of registered dentists by five and reach the end of 2022 with 200 partners. In March of this year, the startup also took another promised step back in October last year, when it announced an $18 million Series B led by Kaszek: it launched an app that allows patients to view the treatment journey, with information such as the following phases and even the estimated final date of the treatment.
“In addition, the app allows you to schedule a new appointment and sends reminders to patients alerting you to the change of aligners and new appointments. The tool also allows you to include the appointments in a cell phone calendar, which the person may already use to book other appointments”, explains Andrea.
In April, SouSmile also started offering two new treatment plans (named Smart and Plus), which treat more severe cases of crowding and spacing and make corrections to the bite, such as crossbite, deep bite, and open bite. “The new treatment plans use the same technology as the simpler cases. However, they include accessories, such as elastic bands and buttons that are fixed to the teeth, allowing a more complex degree of movement. With this change, we can now serve 80% of people seeking orthodontic treatment. The only cases we cannot treat yet are bone loss, prognathism, or cases that require surgical intervention”, explains Andrea.
She explains that the simplest cases handled today by SouSmile, within the Light plan, take, on average, up to nine months to be resolved. For more complex issues, the new plans also mean that the startup‘s treatment time can now double to 18 months. “The new treatment plans require different digital planning, involve more consultations and more aligning plates. The value [of these two plans, a little higher] reflects this, but we remain focused on offering our customers the best value for money.”
The Light plan costs BRL 4,200 in cash, the Smart BRL 5,500 in cash, and the Plus BRL 7,500 in cash. All can be paid in up to 12 months. Less than six months since their launch, the new plans already account for 40% of SouSmile’s sales.
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Michael Ruah, the other co-founder and CEO of SouSmile, did not want to give absolute numbers but told LABS that the startup has been growing “three times” what it grew in 2021. “Growth brings us closer and closer to breakeven, achievable within our runway window, which would reduce our dependence on the capital market in the event of a prolonged recession,” he pointed out.
He also highlighted that the funds obtained through the venture debt operation with Itaú BBA will “diversify” the startup‘s balance sheet and “reduce the cost of capital” of the startup. “We have many projects, such as expanding our factory, that make more sense to be financed with debt than equity.” In February 2020, the company internalized all the research, development, and production of its aligners in a factory in São Paulo, with a robot that performs the 3D manipulation of the products.
The startup does not disclose the number of customers but has 15,000 reviews on its website. Currently, SouSmile is available in 65 locations across Brazil.