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Kenya’s Micrive Infinite aiming to make prosthetics cheaper and locally available

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Micrive Infinite is a Nairobi based startup, that is spearheading the medical 3D printing technology sector in Kenya. The company works closely with surgeons, to provide 3D Printing services. They have a variety of products range from patient specific anatomically accurate models to surgical guides. The potential of their business lies in the general acceptance of 3D printing as an armamentum in treatment planning. This is because of reduction in the cost and risk of of the surgery while improving the results. CEO and founder of Micrive Infinite spoke with TechMoran about his company and some of their goals for the near future.

Briefly tell us about yourself, your educational background
My name is Chris Muraguri, the CEO and founder of Micrive Infinite. I graduated from the University of Nairobi with a degree in Pharmacy, I have a background in professional marketing and I’m currently studying human anatomy. I would describe myself as a hard working person and a risk taker. I enjoy pressure, and venturing into new exciting fields.

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How would you describe your company, tell us about your team
We are visionaries. The team comprises of three individuals, myself, a gentleman called Mwangi Mandela and a lady called Christine Njoroge. Mandela, is a 5th year medical student, currently our Chief of Business Development. Christine has a degree in B.Com, and has specialized in professional marketing, she is currently our Head of Marketing. Our vision is to integrate 3D printing into medicine. Our immediate goal is to incorporate 3D printing for head and neck surgeries by the end of the year.

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
I spotted a need and did a lot of RnD for this, to find out exactly how useful it could be if implemented. Once that was ascertained we then begun to do our work. We didn’t start the project with a particular target market, but rather out of interest, but eventually the niche revealed itself.

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How has uptake been like since you launched?
For any project that stems from academia, it usually takes quite a bit of time to catch on. This is because most scientific products are very much focused on the science aspect of it, without consideration of the market. As a result, for us, it was difficult, and it still is, but, the programs through which we have been enrolled in, through the incubation and now being accelerated has made it easier, as now we have structure, support and guidance to overcome some of the challenges that would have Otherwise have been momentous to face. This has made it relatively easy. Even the team is handling a product that is a first for them. There is no reference book for what we are doing. The guidance we have been receiving in design thinking, product market fit, and all the jargons that go with the early stages of a startup, all those have been very beneficial to the company.

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Who is your major competition? What do you do to distinguish yourself from them?
Yes there is competition. 3D printing, in as much as it is new here, it is not new everywhere. In countries like Austria, America and Europe, 3D printing has been used since 1984. But the hard work, where the real explosion happened in 2010, 2011, there are companies that are there, eg 3D Systems, that are the big boys in the industry. What sets us apart from them is geographical location. For a patient here to get their services they have to wait for at least a month. This is because of logistics due to importation of the products, clearance, and what have you. So it takes at least a month to get it. Cost: we are more affordable than them by 5 to 7 times

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
I would say money but that’s not even the biggest challenge. That would be the lack of a reference point. I am very adaptive, I can adapt and live lean, which is the principle by which I run the company. So even without the money, the motivation and the creativity has kept us going, but the fact that theres no reference point in Kenya for what we are doing that presents a challenge, because, if you are asked, how many products have come from academia and have become successful, you probably couldn’t even name 5. And thats the thing with us, we are trying to be the pioneers. And how are we doing so far, I would say we are doing well. The most important thing is you need a mentor.

What is your advice to aspiring African entrepreneurs?
You need to have a mentor.
All of a sudden you find someone young saying they are working hard towards becoming a mentor. No, no, no, it does not work like that. A mentor is someone who has seen it all, and would guide you to avoid making the mistakes that they made.
They will not only guide you in business, but they will also guide you in the values and qualities that are important; work ethic, integrity. If you see someone that embodies these values that is a mentor, and that is the kind of person you need to have on your side.

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