“Every corner of every street in Taipei, you could probably see a 7-11 convenience store. But as a matter of fact, there are more dental clinics than 7-11 convenience stores in Taiwan,” said Ivan Tsou, the founder of Formosation Oral Tech.
Ivan Tsou, the Founder of Formosation Oral Tech
Tsou, developed a passion for dental knowledge when he was a sales representative in a dental equipment supply company. His original background is in business management. “When dentists communicate with each other, they use terminologies such as prophylaxis, prosthesis, interproximal and you will think to yourself, “what?”, said Tsou. So, that was the impetus: giving him a thirst for learning, including equipment, practices, terminologies, and processes; and gaining a deep understanding of it -all in less than a month. As well as traveling back and forth either from Taipei to Xizi or Taipei to Taitung to demonstrate and sell dental equipment to potential customers. Here, Tsou reminds us of Satya Nedella’s quote, “Be passionate and bold. Always keep learning. You stop doing useful things if you do not learn”. Tsou is not merely learning Taiwan’s dental ecosystem, but also seizing the opportunity for reinvention. It was not as much a decision to become an entrepreneur as it was merely a realization that is what Tsou was meant to do.
Tsou and Ho: The Peanut Butter and Jelly
It all started with two words- holy moly, enough to break the ice with his co-founder, Frederick Ho. The boys met through their military service in Taiwan. Tsou completed his primary education in Auckland, New Zealand, and followed grandma back to Taipei, Taiwan. On the other hand, Ho obtained his degree in Industrial Designing from the University of South Australia. Tsou spoke about why he and Ho complement each other so well: “It’s kind of the task-oriented versus people-oriented personality spectrum. I am a people-oriented person, he is strongly task-oriented. I place more importance on the feelings and happiness of people. He makes sure we all are productive and efficient.” Applying Chef Justin Warner’s “the law of peanut butter and jelly”. The author thinks that Ho is the peanut butter and Tsou is the jelly. Ho gives the sandwich a smooth creamy texture with a touch of sweetness from Tsou. All these gloriousness are held together by the team. The combination is basic yet delicious and content.
Which came first: the customer segmentation or the value proposition?
Formosation Oral Tech is in the process of discovering and fine-tuning its business model. The process involves frequent contact with their mentors: STARTBOARD, LINE product manager, INTEL outlook customer manager, to name a few. And also, learning through pitching competitions. Since almost everything is built from scratch, the process of fine-tuning can apply to all facets of the startup. Personally, Tsou sheds light on these facets: customer segmentation, value proposition, and channel. He asked, “the egg and the chicken, which came first? Or which is more important?” He further explained, “you have to define the value proposition of your products, then you will know who your target audience is or vice versa- you identify your target customer, then tailor your product accordingly. So, both are crucial.” The target audience of Formosation Oral Tech is the dental clinic dentist. According to the research Cheng et al. (2020) had done, the northern region of Taiwan and Taipei City had 52.81% (7829/14,825) and 22.29% (3304/14,825) of the total number of dentists in 2019, respectively. To sum up this section: Chosen correctly, that one thing will set off a domino effect that leads you to success.
AntiQ = Floss + App
He continued, “dentists will clean patients’ teeth and check for cavities and gum disease during a dental exam. After the exam, they will discuss patients’ oral health conditions and suggest some preventive practices patients can take to protect their oral health. However, dentists rarely prescribe drugs to their patients. This clearly shows that like other areas of the body, our mouth teems with bacteria, mostly harmless. In other words, good oral health care such as daily brushing and flossing will keep bacteria from turning virulent.” Research indicated that 95% of Taiwanese brush daily. However, less than 30% of Taiwanese floss regularly, and a whopping 70% or more do not floss at all. This raises the question of “why are people against flossing?” There are three main reasons: (1) “traditional dental floss user-unfriendly”, 70%; (2) “gap between teeth getting bigger” or “bleeding gums”, 60%; and (3) “do I need to floss my teeth?”, 50%.
Meet the team : Federick, Jacob and Ivan (from left to right)
Formosation Oral Tech came out with a new product called AntiQ which has the ability to tackle the above-mentioned problems. This product combines user-friendly smart floss holder, refillable dental floss and a mobile application. This innovative application fosters flossing habits, monitors user’s oral health and provides oral health education, taking oral health to an entirely new level. In conclusion, dental hygiene, while easy to overlook, is intimately connected to our general health and immunity. This is why it is crucial to keep our teeth squeaky clean. Floss or loss, you choose!
STARTBOARD Founder / CEO Uniform Zhi-Fu Lin