Nasal Medical wins AIB Start-up Academy

A clever device used on cattle has been developed to treat human conditions

Martin O’Connell, co-founder of Nasal Medical: “We learned so much in the last eight weeks. It’s every entrepreneur’s dreams to win something like this”

Martin O’Connell, co-founder of Nasal Medical: “We learned so much in the last eight weeks. It’s every entrepreneur’s dreams to win something like this”

 

“I saw the name on the piece of paper and my first thought was the winner must be on the other side of that slip of paper. I just couldn’t believe it,” said Martin O’Connell, co-founder of Nasal Medical, after winning the AIB Start-Up Academy.

“I was just delighted to get down to the last 11. It’s life-changing. It’s really going to drive our company forward.”

When O’Connell followed the love of his life to New York where she wanted to pursue a career in music, little did he know that he would eventually return to Ireland to tackle the country’s nasal illnesses.

A graduate of CIT in electrical engineering and a keen musician, O’Connell followed both pursuits in the US. It was there he met his now business partner, Keith Yeager. Together they designed nasal devices that help with pollution, snoring, mild sleep apnoea, sports enhancement and allergies. They set up Nasal Medical at the end of 2014.

O’Connell’s product came from an idea he had when trying to prevent TB in cattle on his family’s farm in Kerry.

“Some of our cattle got TB, and I was trying to come up with some way of blocking the TB from getting in the noses of the cattle. We were going to put something on the nose rings of the bulls but when that fell through we moved on to humans. We knew there was a bigger market in China with the pollution and in the UAE where there are sand storms,” he says.

This then led on to a product that would be more useful in Ireland, a discreet device to insert into the nostrils. “Without the filter actually on the device, we knew there was another market for obstructive sleep apnoea and sport enhancement,” O’Connell says.

“We are focusing on the Irish market at the moment and we have a distributor who covers 1,800 pharmacies in Ireland. The products are already on their way over and will be on shelves very soon.”

Funding from Enterprise Ireland has been a huge help to get the company up and running, while getting into the AIB Start-Up Academy was a welcome opportunity.

“Getting into the AIB Start-up Academy is definitely a highlight. I did not think in any way, shape or form that we were going to win this prize,” O’Connell says.

“The competition was so strong. We’ve learned so much in the last eight weeks. It’s been brilliant. This is the icing on the cake. It’s every entrepreneur’s dreams to win something like this, I’m delighted.”

Supportive team

With the first of the manufacturing complete in Malaysia and his business partner currently in Singapore and soon moving back to New York, keeping on top of everything is something O’Connell finds time-consuming. However, he is fortunate to have a supportive team of advisers to help him.

“Our manufacturer SteriPack has been a huge help to us, and Gary Moore and Terry Sullivan have been an immense support to our company. IDEA helped with the branding, while Molecular Ireland’s Fionnuala Gibbons has given us loads of advice on the clinical research side of things. As we are a class 1 non-sterile device, it has been a long process before trading; it’s a different ball game altogether,” he says.

The €20,000 cash injection into the company will go towards paying off a large patent bill, and O’Connell also hopes to employ a secretary for the company.

“Because we are a medical device company, there are a lot of regulatory issues. There are a lot of cost implications as a result but it’s all worth it. This €20,000 is absolutely welcome.”

The cash injection is part of a prize package worth €250,000 that includes a substantial marketing and advertising spend.

“The opportunities of marketing and advertising with the different media platforms will bring vital awareness to our products. This is one of the reasons I entered the competition, as I feel that social media and marketing are my weakest point but I know it’s the backbone of any business,” he says.

The next step for Nasal Medical is to start trading in Ireland through the Cork distributor with products hitting pharmacies in the coming weeks. Orders can also be made on the company’s website. With distributors ready in China and the UAE and interest in Europe, O’Connell is keen to get his products on the shelf.

“We are talking to distributors in Germany, France and the UK, but we want to get the Irish market kicked off first. What better place to kick-start the business than in Ireland,” he says.

“I know that this company is going to be a success now; it’s just so much affirmation after receiving this award. We are just delighted.”