May 2007, Volume 3, Issue 5
Published by AEGIS Communications
CEO and President
QUESTION NO. 1
Inside Dentistry (ID): What prompted Ultreo to enter the dental arena?
Jack Gallagher (JG): As the former president of Optiva (the developers of Sonicare®), I was looking for a for a new start-up venture when, by chance, I met with Pierre Mourad, a research associate professor in the University of Washington Department of Neurological Surgery. Pierre had been harboring a novel idea—what would happen if you applied ultrasound technology to a conventional sonic toothbrush? Would the combination result in a synergistic effect that couldn’t be achieved with ultrasound or sonic technology alone? I was intrigued by the idea so, with Pierre’s help, I assembled a team at the University of Washington to test the concept. The results of the early research were exciting. When ultrasound and sonic technology were combined with precisely tuned frequency levels, they showed greater removal of plaque bacteria than either technology produced in isolation.
QUESTION NO 2
ID: As a novel player in the dental and oral healthcare arena, what do you perceive as the most significant challenges in the field?
JG: The power toothbrush category is crowded with many competitive products, but there are just a couple of brands that occupy the lion’s share of both the professional and consumer channels. Dental professionals are bombarded with big-budget marketing tactics from these brands every day, so for a start-up company like Ultreo, with small budgets and zero brand awareness, it is a major challenge to break through the clutter and gain the attention of the dental professional. Dental professionals, as to be expected, are extremely selective about the products they choose to use personally and recommend to patients. So, once we get their attention, the next challenge is to succinctly communicate the difference of our technology and benefits in a way that motivates a dental professional to try Ultreo for themselves and then ultimately recommend it to their patients.
QUESTION NO 3
ID: What will your company do to help hurdle those challenges?
JG: In order to be successful in an established market that is already crowded with competitors, a start-up company like Ultreo needs to be nimble, flexible, and extremely creative. There is very little room for trial and error. It was therefore essential that the founders and many employees of the company had extensive prior experience in the power toothbrush category and relationships already established in the dental community. Without this, it would have been very hard to make connections with the thought leaders in the industry—a strategy we think is incredibly important to gaining widespread acceptance in this market. The other thing that is essential to success in this market is the strategic insight to maintain consistent and dedicated focus on the dental professional. Ultreo is a consumer product, but its ultimate success will always be dependent on its level of acceptance by dental professionals. Too many companies have made the mistake of bypassing the professional completely or only applying minimal effort to the relationship.
QUESTION NO 4
ID: What product categories do you feel are most in need of innovation based on what is currently available?
JG: The power toothbrush category was in desperate need of innovation. Before Ultreo, there was very little new technology. In fact, the last true innovation in this category was 15 years ago when Sonicare was introduced to the market as the first “sonic” toothbrush. Since then the category has seen many improvements in product ergonomics and features, but the core technologies have remained the same. Mourad realized the need for new innovation in this category and, given his expertise in ultrasound, was convinced that with calculated manipulation of ultrasound, power toothbrushing could indeed be advanced to a new level of effectiveness.
QUESTION NO 5
ID: What innovations is Ultreo bringing to the market in terms of products and/or research avenues?
JG: Ultreo is the first power toothbrush to combine groundbreaking ultrasound waveguide technology with precisely tuned sonic bristle action. The use of an ultrasound waveguide to transmit ultrasound energy from a transducer in a brush head efficiently into fluid in the mouth is truly a breakthrough. When ultrasound energy comes in contact with the bubbles found in the slurry stirred up by Ultreo’s sonic bristle action, the bubbles are activated and transform into pulsating bubbles that can remove plaque bacteria from hard-to-reach areas. The result is an incredibly gentle, yet thoroughly clean feeling that many of our customers report lasts longer than with other power toothbrushes they have used. Isolating and measuring the effect of ultrasound-activated bubbles upon the removal of plaque bacteria is challenging and has led to some innovative scientific methods of research.
QUESTION NO 6
ID: What is the distribution plan for Ultreo products and how has it been tailored to make the greatest impact for Ultreo in the market?
JG: Ultreo was first launched in February at the Chicago Midwinter Meeting and will continue to have a strong presence at all the major dental meetings in 2007. As mentioned earlier, the dental professional channel is our first priority for distribution. We are very passionate about the importance of the professional to our long-term success in the market. We understand that if we want to gain consumer acceptance, dental professionals must be given the first opportunity to evaluate the product and then determine if they feel it is worthy of recommendation to their patients. If dental professionals choose to recommend Ultreo to patients, they may do so by dispensing Ultreo directly from their practice or referring their patients to www.ultreo.com or 1-877-4-ULTREO for direct ordering. Ultreo will expand distribution into select retail locations later in the year.