New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman famously declared that “the world is flat” at the dawn of the 21st century, citing the ability of high-speed internet and other telecommunications advances to bring companies, customers and colleagues around the world together with a few clicks or touch on a screen.
In 2014, Indianapolis health industry veteran Guy Mascaro and his partners – including Mark Gamache, a tech guru with more than two decades of experience developing interactive solutions, and Dan Murnane, a 30 year veteran of Eli Lilly and Company – saw a unique opportunity to “flatten” healthcare. Their prescription? Applying technology to allow medical teams to virtually collaborate across vast distances in real time.
“’Telemedicine’ isn’t a new concept,” noted Mascaro, who serves as Hodei’s President and CEO. “But there was no hands-free, ‘point-of-view’ platform that let healthcare providers observe, learn from or guide another physician as if you’re seeing through their eyes.”
The ability to share medical education and expertise seamlessly, from remote rural communities to the largest urban areas, is an idea with global reach. But while Mascaro and the Hodei team aspired to connect health professionals across borders, they faced the business challenge of reaching international customers to turn this potential into profit.
Growing a Global Indy
Hodei Technology is among thousands of mid-market, Indy-based companies with a realistic path towards a global presence – but many are either fledging exporters with significant untapped upside, or haven’t yet made the leap into appealing to the 90% of the world’s customers and financial capital that now reside outside the U.S.
Indianapolis routinely ranks among the top metro regions in exports. While Indy’s solid global position owes a lot to a handful of multi-national heavyweights (Eli Lilly, Rolls-Royce, Dow, Allison Transmission and others), more than 1,500 local businesses are exporters. With the help of the Brookings Institution, the Indy Chamber identified a similar number of smaller firms that could be selling abroad, but aren’t.
In 2013, Indianapolis was chosen to participate as one of 28 U.S. metro areas in the Global Cities Initiative (GCI) Exchange, a joint project of JPMorgan Chase and the Brookings Institution. Led regionally by the Chamber, the GCI process led Indy’s business and civic leaders through the development of plans to increase exports, attract foreign investment and bolster the region’s global competitiveness.
In 2016, the Indy Chamber released the resulting trade and investment strategy – aligned with its Accelerate Indy economic development plan – that made increasing mid-market business exports a top priority.
One program in pursuit of this goal is the Indy Chamber’s ‘GoGlobal’ Export Acceleration Grants. Supported by JPMorgan Chase, GoGlobal grants target mid-market companies with matching funds up to $5,000 to support export growth activities.
“Indianapolis is one of the top 25 major metros in both exports and foreign investment, but our mid-sized companies have so much untapped export potential,” said Maureen Krauss, the Indy Chamber’s Chief Economic Development Officer. “GoGlobal grants are a way to reduce barriers to the global market, and create success stories to encourage more firms to look abroad for business growth.”
Through two years and multiple rounds of GoGlobal grants, some awardees have sought start-up and technical assistance to make their very first foray beyond the United States, while others are already active exporters with plans to reach the next level. Hodei Technology fits into the latter category, and was notified of its successful GoGlobal application in June.
Hodei goes global: NAFTA neighbors and beyond
Hodei’s hands-free telemedicine tools already appeal to foreign markets like Canada, where government-run health systems have traditionally spent tens of millions of dollars transporting patients across rural provinces to access the care they need.
“With technology like ours, they can potentially reduce that (transport) cost by 70%,” explained Mascaro. “Right now, the value of our systems adds up quickly in a single-payer system where it can be deployed widely, especially across a large rural population – that makes Canada an ideal market for us.”
Hodei has seen from 25%-50% of its annual revenues already come from exports, dominated by Canada. The company’s Gemini system, which offers first-person, real-time connectivity, already sells well in Canada: Using Google Glass technology, Gemini allows a physician in Toronto to examine a patient, observe a surgery or consult with a colleague a thousand miles away in Manitoba, for example.
Hodei’s other primary product, Ikasi, is primarily used for training and educational purposes, and is carving out a market primarily in U.S. surgical centers.
“We see much greater sales opportunities for Gemini across Canada, with Australia a very appealing new market and solid leads in Japan and South America we need to explore,” Mascaro noted. “We see further-reaching opportunities for Ikasi as well. We heard about the GoGlobal grant program and seized on the chance to lower our financial burden and plug into the community of other local firms looking to grow internationally.”
A not-so-uncommon success story
Hodei will use its GoGlobal grant to continue and expand its promising forays into Canada with its secure, remote communications solutions for the medical market, while investigating the potential of Australia as a longer-term opportunity.
According to Mascaro, the firm will build capacity for more aggressive outreach and marketing efforts to public health agencies and providers, as well as refining a distribution strategy
“We are truly appreciative of the Chamber and Department of Commerce’s support and assistance in helping us in our efforts to open up the Canadian marketplace to our products and services,” he finished. “Their involvement has enabled us to move further, faster, and we look forward to building our Canadian market share and looking across the world for partners who want to deliver real improvements in patient care through virtual telepresence technology. And as Hodei expands, we bring capital back to Indianapolis to invest in our people, facilities and new innovations.”
The GoGlobal grant will specifically support export counseling and technical assistance programs through the U.S. Department of Commerce, specialized market research and marketing costs (i.e. translating promotional materials and possible tradeshow participation), and cash flow planning. The company plans to have deployed more than 5,000 units across Canada and Australia over the next two-and-a-half years.
Helping Hodei Technology gear up for growth, Indy Chamber officials sees exports and international investment as essential ingredients to the continued growth of the Indianapolis regional economy.
“For thousands of homegrown employers, success means venturing beyond Central Indiana and beyond the U.S. for new business opportunities – their global growth means local economic impact,” Krauss said. “Hodei Technology is a cutting-edge company whose systems can save money and lives around the world – and at the same time, serve as a success story that other Indy innovators can emulate as they explore export markets.”
To learn more or to apply for the GoGlobal Grant, please visit indychamber.com/goglobalgrant.