SoClean intensifies global expansion

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

PETERBOROUGH, N.H. – Expanding internationally can be trickier than U.S. companies think, so SoClean last week named Egbert van Acht, the former CEO of the Personal Health business at Philips, where he was responsible for $7 billion in sales worldwide, as its global business growth advisor.

Here’s what van Acht had to say from Amsterdam about the importance of hygiene in health care and growing SoClean’s presence overseas.

HME News: What intrigued you about SoClean?

Egbert van Acht: I'm a mission driven and purpose driven kind of guy, and it’s a technology that improves the lives of individuals (who suffer from sleep apnea). I want to help make that mission and purpose come to life. Based on my experience at Respironics—I was also in charge of that business out of Pittsburgh for a while—I learned that users are concerned about their health and hygiene, and traditional cleaning with soap and water is not what SoClean offers. What SoClean offers is a clear differentiator.

HME: What can SoClean—and the whole HME industry, really— learn from your experiences in the broader personal health market?

van Acht: The end user has expectations or problems that need to be solved, whether it’s brushing their teeth or taking care of their skin, or (treating) their sleep apnea. My focus is on the end user, and I like to help build a value proposition based on consumer insights. Whoever is in the chain, including HME stakeholders—we’re all working to increase the satisfaction of the end user. There are actually a lot of parallels here to the oral care market.

HME: How so?

van Acht: The majority of customers globally, 90%, are still using a manual toothbrush. Manual vs. electric toothbrushing is similar to traditional vs. SoClean cleaning. (The latter) are more modern and they’re proven technologies.

HME: How do you hope to help SoClean crack more of the international market?

van Acht: Driving up awareness and diagnosing of sleep apnea is the No. 1 priority.

HME: It seems like there is less awareness of sleep apnea and therapy overseas.

van Acht: That is 100% right. Awareness is significantly lower than in the U.S., so there’s a big opportunity to drive that. There are a lot of efforts around that and a lot more (players) are entering the market (with alternatives), but CPAP is still the proven method (for treating sleep apnea) and so there’s a role for SoClean to play there to improve awareness.

HME: Are there intricacies of international business that you hope to help SoClean address?

van Acht: Many American companies make the mistake of believing all of the European Union can be treated the same way. But the channels for going to market are vastly different between the U.K., Germany, France. You need a country specific plan.

HME: SoClean first announced plans to expand internationally last year. Where does the company stand right now?

van Acht: We currently have stores and outlets in key markets in the EU. You have to build distribution first; that’s a big step forward. We’re tip-toeing into Italy and Spain, and now we’re looking at Japan and Australia. There’s a real clear ambition and we’re getting good traction.