Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can hurt your health, quality of life, as well as the lives of the people around you. While classical treatments are inconvenient and uncomfortable, there is a new company that is taking a modern approach to fighting off OSA. Metamason, the company that is utilizing 3-D printing to ergonomically fit sleep masks perfectly to your face, and in turn creating the most personalized respiratory devices yet. With an easy scan, fit and print process, sleep will be just around the corner right when you need it.
Today we sit down with founder and CEO Leslie Oliver Karpas to chat about about the inspiring motivation for the company, its latest round off funding, and the future of sleep.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise? We raised a Seed Round of $3M raised from 3P Equity Partners ($1.51M), Tsing Capital ($1M) and various angel investors ($490K). Our valuation is now up to $8M.
Tell us about your product or service.
Metamason is dedicated to improving healthcare through technological innovation. Leveraging the power of digital scanning, parametric design, and additive manufacturing techniques, we create customized, ergonomic medical products that are individually fit for every patient.
What inspired you to start the company?
The idea was originally hatched in the spring of 2011, while I was working as a roboticist and CNC machinist for Performance Structures, Inc., a precision steel fabrication firm in Oakland where we were building modern art installations for world-renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor. Creating these large-scale pieces involved the development of CNC robots customized for the topography of individual sculptures; many cycles of 3D-scanning, machining, rescanning and remachining were required to achieve the perfect mirror finishes characteristic of Anish’s work. This formative experience in which scanning, modeling and custom fabrication were integrated to create a unique product triggered a transformation in the way I thought about design.
Around that time, I was at a dinner with two close friends, an ENT specialist and an orthodontist. They were discussing a mutual problem: a mask they couldn’t get their patients to wear regularly, as treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). My ears perked up—my father had struggled with sleep apnea before his death, and I recalled his complaints about the discomfort and indignity of the ungainly and ill-fitting CPAP mask he has been prescribed. My friends explained that this sort of noncompliance is exceptionally common, and that it often has serious health consequences for patients. In fact, they said, CPAP compliance could potentially save tens of thousands of lives each year, and improve the lives of many thousands more who suffer the ill effects of OSA. Thinking about the process we were using for Anish’s work, as well as my own background in 3D printing, it occurred to me: CPAP noncompliance is a solvable problem. I told them I could make a better mask, and decided to do a little more research on CPAP therapy.
Shortly thereafter, I left my job for Art Center College of Design, to study at the best industrial design program in the country, GradID, with a specific mind towards creating a custom products company focused on CPAP. While at Art Center, I devised Investment Molding™, a technique for 3D printing biocompatible medical grade silicone. When I noticed how rapidly technology was evolving within the 3D printing and scanning space, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer to get Metamason off the ground. In late 2012, the company officially launched. Backed by the school, Metamason became the first startup funded by The Art Center / Caltech Design Accelerator in the spring of 2013. We began designing and prototyping Respere™, our signature line of custom, scan-to-print CPAP masks. I was able to convince one of my classmates, Ryan Oenning, another expert in 3D printing and smart geometry, to join Metamason as CDO, and recruited the indomitable Charles Bohlen to manage our clinical and regulatory efforts. In the summer of 2015, we recruited Clifford Sarkin, an attorney, dear friend and experienced entrepreneur once responsible for negotiating a startup called VideoSurf’s $80M exit to Microsoft, as Metamason’s CFO/COO.
Along the way, we’ve received tremendous support from the Singularity University community, and have just recently been officially incorporated into the SU Labs program. Additionally, we’d have never made it this far without the wisdom of our advisers, who comprise such notable leaders as Daniel Kraft, Chair of Medicine for SU; 3D-printed fashion designer Francis Bitonti; Andre Wegner, CEO of Authentise; and Kegan Schouwenburg, co-founder and CEO of SOLS.
How is it different?
The leading treatment for OSA is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), in which the patient wears a respiratory mask throughout the night. CPAP works by providing a constant gentle airflow, ensuring that the passage of air is never constricted, and is highly effective in alleviating OSA. Unfortunately, conventional CPAP masks are uncomfortable, unattractive and prone to leakage, resulting in a 50% quit rate after one year—the lowest compliance rate of any medical treatment.
In respiratory therapy, a good fit can be the difference between life and death—and every human face is different. That’s why we created Respere™: a fully customized 3D printed CPAP mask for patients with obstructive sleep apnea who no longer wish to suffer with a generically sized CPAP mask that fits roughly and performs poorly.
Respere™ is a light, subtle, and secure CPAP mask individually designed for every patient. Based on a virtual scan of the face and 3D printed in soft medical grade silicone using our exclusive Investment Molding™ technique, Respere™ offers comfort, flexibility and flawless fit.
People who suffer from OSA deserve a therapy that is comfortable, dignified and effective. With its elegant design and individualized fit, Respere™ transforms the CPAP experience. Metamason seeks to revolutionize CPAP use and compliance, promoting improved overall health, increased work productivity, weight loss, and a better quality of life.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
OSA affects 1 in 4 men and 1 in 9 women in the U.S., or about 60 million Americans and of the millions of Americans who suffer from sleep apnea, it is estimated that only 12% have tried CPAP. In addition to this, roughly 50% of patients prescribed CPAP therapy quit treatment within the first year and CPAP therapy has the highest noncompliance rate of any home use medical device.
To add to this all, OSA yields a mortality rate equivalent to smoking two packs a day and the global sleep apnea market is estimated at $4.0B, of which $1.6B comprises masks and accessories..
What’s your business model?
The global sleep apnea market is estimated at $4.0B, growing at a 17% CAGR to a $22B market by 2020, with 40% specifically comprising masks and accessories. With Respere™, Metamason is bringing the first-ever fully customized, 3D-printed mask to market. Revenue will initially be generated via mask sales through online distribution channels and sleep centers, as well as licensing of the technology to select durable medical equipment partners. Product awareness will be achieved through marketing to sleep centers, testimony from high-profile advocates, and collaboration with organized labor healthcare consulting firms.
To date, Metamason has submitted a 510(k) Q-Sub which is currently under review by the FDA. The Respere™ product is market-ready, pending completion of the regulatory process in early 2017. Metamason has filed four patents; one has already been granted by the US Patent Office, and three are pending. Design and fabrication processes have been finalized, and execution strategy is currently under development with our manufacturing partners.
Can you tell us a little about your product Respere?
Every human face is different. For CPAP therapy to be truly effective, your mask has to be as individual as you are.
Respere™ is a light, subtle, and secure CPAP mask individually designed just for you. Based on a virtual scan of your face and 3D printed in soft medical grade silicone, Respere™ offers comfort, flexibility and a flawless fit. Here’s how it works:
With your doctor’s assistance, take a digital scan of your face and upload it to the Metamason cloud.
Metamason’s platform automatically engineers a flawless fit by applying your unique data to our sleek, ergonomic mask design.
Using our innovative production process, we use 3D printers to create your Respere™ mask out of soft, biocompatible silicone and ship it straight to your door. It’s that simple.
There are a few key features:
- Nasal fittings ensure a leak-proof seal
- Mask conforms perfectly to the face for superior fit
- Made from soft medical grade silicone for comfort and safety
- Optimized strap position for hassle-free adjustment and wear
What was the funding process like?
It was a 3 year cake walk.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Early stage angel investors all want ‘the next big thing’, but don’t know how to recognize it; while they all complain about being shown too many ‘me too’ plays in their deal flow. Ironically, this is for the most part that’s all they invest in… With an exception for those who decided to invest with Metamason, of course.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
We are working in a giant market with huge growth rate with a massive unmet need; we are using cutting edge technology to significantly improve quality of life; we’ve created a strong team of exceptionally rare skill sets; and lastly, most of our investors have sleep apnea!
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
We would like to complete 510(k) Regulatory Testing as well as our 1st and initiate our 2nd Clinical Trials. Additionally we are planning to Launch an Indiegogo pre-sale campaign.
What advice can you offer companies in Los Angeles that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
Figure out how to hit your next press worthy development milestone while spending as little capital as possible; use a press release around the milestone to attempt to gin up new investors.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
Metamason is currently in the middle of a major hiring push for top tear developers in Machine Vision, Back End Architecture, Mobile Development, and UX.
Where is the best place in LA to watch the sunset?
Griffith Park Observatory