The Founder on Founder Podcast series is a weekly podcast hosted by Olivier Raussin, Managing Partner at FEBE Ventures, an early stage Venture Capital fund supporting outstanding entrepreneurs in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. It features tech entrepreneurs with a focus on Southeast Asia’s innovation business and tech landscape.
Featured in this episode is Julian Artopé, founder of Zenyum, a Singaporean startup with the mission to make cosmetic dentistry more affordable.
Founded in 2018, the startup partners with hundreds of dentists to provide 3D-printed Invisible Braces across seven markets in Asia, produced under the highest quality standards.
Zenyum has recently raised a US$40 million Series B round from co-investors including L Catterton, a private equity firm focused on consumer brands.
Originally from Germany, Artopé has been working in startups all of his life and made it a mission to learn from great founders.
He has spent four years in the UK with a digital payment startup Skrill (Moneybookers), and another four years in Africa where he learned to love emerging markets. Then he did his MBA in Singapore with INSEAD which later led him to found Zenyum.
Artopé said: “We wanted to solve a very large problem. So we have a very large market and wanted to do a consumer business. So in a perfect world, have something where I have a product that I can ship to consumers. B2B SAAS just for me personally, emotionally is not fulfilling enough. We want to build something where we can own an entire category potentially, and build a category-defining company.”
“I had a very interesting dinner with a friend of mine who incidentally at that point, just finished his training and his education as an orthodontist. He was mentioning that he is a little bit upset because he just put 13 years of his education into a profession that more and more sees evolution from 3D printers.”
“So the skill set that he is learning is being more and more automated. I found that very fascinating because nowadays you don’t often find an industry that is being disrupted with that kind of speed that you see in orthodontics and where you have a product with invisible braces, which is Zenyum’s flagship product”.
Expanding across Southeast Asia
Orthodontics as a category is very established in markets like Europe and in the US but is still nascent in Southeast Asia. Thus, Zenyum seeks the opportunity to establish a synonym through working with hundreds of dentists across seven markets and distributing their products with the mission to spread smiles across Asia.
He said: “We knew from day one that we wanted to be an Asian company with a special focus on Southeast Asia. The reason we launched initially in Singapore is that regulation is actually the toughest but at the same time, speaking to regulators is very fast. So getting the initial product off the ground with the right level of quality went the quickest here in Singapore. Once we had the product-market fit here, that’s when we started our expansion across Southeast Asia.”
Today, Zenyum is operating in seven markets including Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, and Taiwan.
Building Zenyum’s company culture and recruitment process
Zenyum strives towards building a workplace where people want to enjoy coming to work every single day. Much of their values would include speed, grit, curiosity, candour, and lightheartedness.
With the COVID-19 pandemic where there were a lot of uncertainty and communication barriers, Zenyum decided to rather “dial-up” their culture to keep it more alive.
“So be very proud of the values that we have, be proud of the achievements that we have and make sure that for the people that are aligned with us, we are building the best possible place,” said Artopé.
Through their company culture, team mission and working environment, Zenyum is constantly attracting great talents and currently having more than 200 employees across all of its office locations.
When asked about the recruitment process and hiring decisions, Artopé shared:
“Change is dramatically based on the stage and size of the company you’re in. In the beginning, just be humble and happy for any talent that speaks with you. When the company grew and when we had our product-market fit and were able to attract more talent, we started hiring a lot for culture. As the company grows you can also hire for skill fit. The balance is important for skill and culture.”
On their latest fundraising milestone with L Catterton and other co-investors, Artopé said:
“The way we initially structured the company, we always try to think two or three rounds ahead in terms of the investors we want to get on board. We knew we needed to build the product-market fit to attract some of the tier one investors in the region and identify the ones we see as a big fit and whether we could imagine working together.”
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Image Credit: Zenyum
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