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Cheryl Boyd
Less than 1 minute Minutes

Alumni Success Story: Bambi Medical

Bambi Medical has received a lot of attention over the last seven years and it’s not hard to see why. After all, the company strives to help the smallest members of our society: premature babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units, or NICUs.

If you aren’t familiar with their product, it’s a straightforward concept. The team developed a skin-friendly, wireless monitoring system for the vital signs of preemies called the Bambi Belt.

Say goodbye to adhesive electrodes that open up the skin of premature babies when removed. Say goodbye to limited physical interaction with the parents. Say goodbye to this pain and stress and limited touch – all of which harm the babies’ development. Bambi’s innovative solution solves all of this.

Over the years, the team has found fierce supporters of their product. Parents love it. Neonatologists support it. Hospitals want it. Nurses are pushing for it. But the regulatory approval effort for this medical device dragged on and on for years.

Finally, in October 2023, the company received its CE mark for Bambi Belt and celebrated it with an invitation-only event in January, a celebration the company thought would happen way back in 2018. As he addressed the crowd, Fabio Bambang Oetomo smiled and said, “We almost made it.” Bambang Oetomo, co-founder and CEO of Bambi Medical, thanked those in attendance, which included administrators and NICU doctors and nurses from the Maxima Medical Center Veldhoven, a clinical partner that performed clinical studies with the Bambi Belt.

“We got it only five years later. But the good thing is, everyone in this room contributed to this milestone.”

During the celebration, he recognized in particular Bert-Jan Woertman and thanked him for introducing Bambi to HighTechXL officials. “We won the golden ticket to start with HighTechXL,” said Fabio.

From the earliest days at HighTechXL, the Bambi Medical team did everything in their power to move the process forward. They submitted a high-quality product that is much improved since the earlier prototype.

And finally … approval. In an earlier interview, Fabio noted hospitals were “trying to pull the product out of our hands,” but he couldn’t let them use it until all regulatory hurdles were cleared.

Now with regulatory approval, the product soon will be released in the Netherlands, starting with Maxima Medical Center Veldhoven and Amsterdam University Medical Center. After a successful launch in the Netherlands, the team has hospitals lined up in Sweden and Germany, planning a strategic and systematic product rollout before scaling. That said, the company has been in talks for some time with strategic partners who will now distribute Bambi’s products over different geographic locales.

“When I started seven years ago, I was certain that I would bring the Bambi Belt to the entire world by myself – first in Europe, then the U.S. and the rest of the world. But I think we can go much faster with a strategic partner,” says Fabio.

Just like this change in strategy, a lot changed when the company went through the HighTechXL program.

“When I think back to our time in HighTechXL, it really helped us to focus, to prioritize and to prove the right things. It pushed us to do a lot of validation,” Fabio said. “The program helped us  share our story and get exposure from news outlets. The people aspect of HighTechXL helped us connect to people that helped us and expanded our network.”

Since completing the program, Bambi Medical has gone through its share of pivots. In addition to making the product patient-monitor agnostic, they had to think quickly when their first design failed some critical tests. The printed electronics could not withstand high voltages, but this didn’t deter the team. They shifted to a more robust design made with medical-grade silicone.

“It was a huge pivot. We went from a belt made with printed electronics that would only last for three days to a more robust belt that lasts for ten days,” explains Fabio. “It comes at a higher cost but given the health economics and the fact that we save nurses’ time, we still see a huge market.”

After HighTechXL, the company went on to raise more than 12 million euros, but you won’t see any big company announcements about its funding. They took a different route than most startups and raised this money without any venture capital involvement. Instead, Bambi raised it all from family offices, high net-worth individuals, friends and family and a few grants.

The team knows its ambitions well, so you won’t see the company diverting from its primary market of NICUs in the future. It will just expand its offering and continue to provide better care for preemies. The current Bambi Belt captures heart and respiratory activity of small babies, but in future releases, more sensors will be added to further cut back on the number of adhesive sensors needed.

The team also sees a lot of possibilities beyond the actual physical product. The vital signs data is collected with the company’s system and, in analyzing and using this data, it could be used to predict the development of a premature baby and plan the best treatment.

At some point, you could also see the Bambi Belt used for babies just released from the NICU. This would bridge the release and allow hospitals to track the progress of preemies at home during this critical period.

Fabio talked about the obvious question of expansion to the U.S. market and said that it is not a question of “if” but “when.”

“Once we start putting systems in the field in Europe, we will take steps to get into the U.S. market. We see the potential there. The U.S. market is huge. We’ve been to conferences there and everyone there loves the Bambi Belt. Nurses see how it helped them and doctors see a new way of measuring respiration. It’s just a matter of time.”

If you spend any time with Fabio, you’ll get a “sure and steady” feeling. Perhaps it comes from his conservative background as an actuary who joined forces with his father, a neonatologist who invented the product. But with his leadership, the team has made the Bambi Belt a reality.

The company’s product and strategy have come a long way since it participated in the HighTechXL program. With all the pivots and the regulatory delays, Fabio will be the first to say, “We really had to take a different path to reach our goal.” However, the company’s mission to help premature babies has not wavered and it hopes that one day, the Bambi Belt will be the global standard of care for all preemies.