Anaïs Barut is CEO and Co-Founder of DAMAE Medical. In 2015, MIT Technology Review listed her one of the ten best French innovators under 35.
BACKGROUNDFounded in 2014, DAMAE Medical offers a medical imaging device capable of examining biological tissues in depth, at a cellular level, through simple contact with the surface of the skin. This innovative optical technology allows dermatologists to diagnose skin cancer in a more precise, efficient and rapid way without the need of invasive tissue sampling. Before, dermatologists were required to conduct biopsies, which more than fifty percent of the time were deemed useless and left unnecessary scars. Thanks to DAMAE Medical, diagnoses can be much faster, reducing waiting times for those who may need lifesaving cancer treatment. As a practical innovation that responds to a genuine need, interest in the company has skyrocketed. After winning the prestigious EDF Pulse prize in 2015 and along with it increased visibility and funding, DAMAE Medical is a rising star of the budding French tech scene. In April 2017, the company raised €2 million in funding to finance the development and launch of its flagship device, OCTAV®, scheduled for market release in mid-2018.
What led you to become an entrepreneur?Anaïs Barut: I was always equally curious about science and business. After high school, I studied at the engineering school of Institut d’Optique, where I focused on entrepreneurial innovation. Like most entrepreneurs, I failed at my first few business projects but persevered and kept learning. It was through this process that I learned that being an entrepreneur is a fully-fledged career path in its own right. While at Institut d’Optique, I joined up with David Siret, another entrepreneur who shared my vision and appetite for adventure. Together we identified a optical researcher, Pr. Arnaud Dubois, who had patented groundbreaking optical technology but hadn’t yet industrialised it. The three of us then combined our skills in medical research, industrial development and business acumen to form DAMAE Medical in 2014. My role was to conceive the idea, create the business model and handle the commercial activities, including the financing necessary to create the first prototypes. I then continued on with the HEC Paris Grande Ecole Program and the MBA Major in Entrepreneurship to gain the skills needed to build our business.
Why did you choose HEC? How have your studies prepared you?AB: The HEC MBA in Entrepreneurship represents a unique opportunity in terms of providing a solid base of core management skills needed to launch a startup. For me, one of the biggest strengths of the program is its “learning by doing” approach whereby students are encouraged to experiment within teams around real projects. This environment helped me overcome any fear around making mistakes, and provided me a practical foundation for my future success.
What is one key lesson you learned at HEC?AB: One of the main features of the MBA in Entrepreneurship is the fast-paced rhythm… we were constantly challenged to go the extra mile. This helped me learn to make decisions quickly based on my understanding of the situation at the time as well as my intuition. I’ve learned it’s better to make a poor decision quickly than none at all. This philosphy of “agile thinking” still guides me in my role as CEO.
What is your contact with HEC alumni today?AB: I still stay in touch with former classmates, professors, as well as the larger HEC alumni body. The HEC Entrepreneurial Alumni Group in particular provides fantastic access to a growing community of fellow entrepreneurs who are willing to share their life experience and business advice.
“Always challenge your new ideas by sharing them with as many people as you can.”
What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?AB: I have two words of advice. The first is don’t create your business alone; surround yourself with talented people who have different expertises than your own. My second piece of advice would be to always challenge your new ideas by sharing them with as many people as you can. Even if there is a risk you could give away your secrets, it happens far less than you think, and it it’s only through sharing and getting feedback that your business can grow!
- 2-3 million skin cancer diagnoses each year around the world
- 1 in 3 cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer
- 50% of skin biopsies are deemed useless and leave unnecessary scars
- 1 out of 3 melanomas are missed at initial diagnosis
- 3 million euros in financing raised in three years (2014-2017)