Dentem: “Great Things Are Never Done Alone.”

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Alen Saqe, founder of the Albanian startup Dentem spoke to us about changing the way people behave, opportunities for startups and what's more important than numbers in terms of success.

The Albanian entrepreneurship ecosystem is very young and can go as far back as 4 years. When Dentem first came out last year we all thought it was just another Albanian startup but at the end, they grabbed their opportunities and went forward. Yes, Dentem went to ABC Accelerator and also has international markets, which makes this startup team the most successful Albanian one in terms of international markets. A good reason to find out, what’s their site of the story.

Describe Dentem in 50 or less words.

Dentem is uniting dentists and patients by bringing them closer together – pushing dentistry in the global age.

Why did you decide to pursue your own dreams rather than someone else’s?

It is not about my dreams or the other’s dreams. Since the early beginnings of my career I have helped others build products or services in the IT industry. It all started from the close connection I always had with technology. At one point I realized that we had the potential to build a product or a service that would overcome the limitation that the usual client and their vision had; it was something with a wider scope than just a product. Therefore I went on to pursue a dream that would not only be my dream but also the dream of all those involved. Because achieving great things is never done alone.

In 7 years from now: How did your startup change the world?

I envision Dentem connecting all the patients and brigning them closer together with their doctors and at the same time make themselves more aware of their dental health. Leveling some of the price differences some markets have and overall increasing the quality of service in the industry. Dentem will provide dental healthcare for the underprivileged as we cannot address poverty.

What are the best incentives and the worst problems your vision has regarding to your country?​

The best incentive is that there is a lot of unrealized talent hidden well in the future generation. I see a lot of positive energy that is flourishing as the days are passing and it is ever growing. Then there are some fiscal advantages as well.

But everything good has some bad things following them. In our case the use tech adoption rate is not the best, considering not a lot of people buy things online. And other pitfalls are the not so good; name our country that thinks about itself as being a third world country – that scares off some investors and is a bad issue for all the new startuppers here. Even though I believe that we will be able to break through this issues in a not so distant future.

In what ways do you measure your success and how do you make sure you don’t lose track?

Well there are a lot of indicators for success the most widely used in startups are the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Like the number of clients, the number of downloads and so on and so forth. But we measure the success not only by what we are used to but more importantly is the spread in the region and later on throughout Europe and maybe even the world. But numbers are not everything because I believe that the biggest impact is created by changing the way people behave. Behavioral changes are the biggest changes and the biggest achievement a startup can reach.

Describe your typical working day from coming to the office to leaving it.

Well there is not typical day at the stage that we are in. There are a lot of meetings, a lot of sprints and a lot of unpredicted outcomes. Events here and there, some partnerships that are being settled. So routine is far from the agenda. But even when I leave the office I always have my laptop and smartphone with me. When I have an idea or figure out how to fix a bug I just do it in the middle of the night before sleeping or even early in the morning. So at the early stage things have to be done almost 24/7.

Already pivoted? Did customers use the Dentem like you imagined it in the beginning?

We have not pivoted yet as most of the customers are using the platform as we initially imaged but we may pivot in the future, who knows.

Bootstrapped or financed: What fuels your startup now and what will in the future?

We were bootstrapping from the beginning so we keep the costs low while evaluating and testing our MVP and hypothesis. However right now we are in the growth stage so we are raising a seed round to push the growth and keep innovating and spreading.

With ferocious competition and a booming trend to build new companies: How do you make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle?

Well, the healthcare industry is a little uncharted territory because of the legal issues. Even though standing out is easier in this industry, standing out is never easy. So we try to make as much noise as we can, we do this mostly via all the modern ways and even some traditional methods.

What do you look for in team members?

The first thing I look for in a team member is their personality. I try to team up with people with a strong sense of themselves and their beliefs. Honesty is a again a strong characteristic but it is never seen right from the beginning. Then moving on in the list is the passion to develop themselves and the passion to create something outstanding. Put shortly the ability to dream big and materialize.

Why would a talent join your team?

A talent would join our team because there is a lot of space to develop themselves and there are a lot of innovations to come that we have laid some plans for. So at first it would be a personal challenge for everyone and there is room to grow not only professionally but even career wise. Because we are a growing team the sooner people join us the better it is as we go by a saying “First come, first served”.

What was your most memorable moment so far?

There have been a lot of memorable moments so far. Conferences, pitches and partnerships settled. I would say that one of the best moments standing out at this stage is Demo Day at ABC Accelerator which was a very exiting one and there was a lot of hard work put into it, not only by me but from every team member to make the best out of it.

What advice would you give fellow founders for their startup?

Dream big, start small. There are a lot of pitfalls for startups as not every one will become a unicorn so I recommend people to try as hard as they can. Validate their hypothesis and push forward. Never stay alone. Team up with the best people and look for investors that can help you through the journey not only with their cash.



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Photo Credit: Sinisa Kanizaj