There are almost 186,000 dental companies in the US, and at any given time they replenish stocks. The process of doing this has traditionally been fragmented, with offices relying on an average of three to seven suppliers.
This means someone sitting at the computer with tabs open to supplier websites, going back and forth between them, comparing prices and finding the best deal. Compounding the problem in recent years has been the global pandemic that has put pressure on the supply chain and made it harder to find everyday items such as gloves and masks.
Caen Contee, founder of global micromobility start-up Lime, told TechCrunch that this is an avoidable problem. He teamed up with software engineer Ivan Bertona to develop Welplaatsan automated platform for purchasing products from multiple suppliers for dental offices.
“Think of the technology as an extraction layer on top of procurement for dental offices,” Bertona said in an interview. “In terms of optimization, we can also learn about customer habits and what products they might want to replace with equivalent but cheaper alternatives, rather than what products they wouldn’t look at.”
Here’s how it works: Wellplaece’s patented technology processes a customer’s order data, taking into account specific needs, and then enables the customer to execute that specific purchase behavior through a large network of suppliers through a single shopping cart.
Billing occurs after orders have been successfully processed, placed and confirmed to have been delivered. Meanwhile, Wellplaece manages the order and logistics, as well as returns and chargebacks if necessary. The platform is free for practices to use and Wellplaece takes a portion of sales back to the supplier.
Wellplaece is one of the other startups, like bttn, helping medical professionals get the supplies they need. However, it would have been difficult to build something like this three years ago if it weren’t for a few factors, including the e-commerce push that resulted from the pandemic, Contee said.
Distributors tried to sell directly online with an account and with a customer portal. This led to online catalogs from which data could be retrieved.
“All those things created this perfect storm for me,” Contee said.
Meanwhile, the company began taking orders from a small group of practices in November 2022 and began accepting more practices in a private beta this month. This first cohort of dental offices has already seen 20% to 40% savings per order, Contee said.
In addition, the marketplace has already accumulated more than 700,000 products across its network of distributors and manufacturers and is poised to onboard more than 100 new locations by the end of this year.
The launch of Wellplaece is supported by a recently closed $3.5 million seed round co-led by Eniac Ventures and Bee Partners, with participation from Erik Anderson, WestRiver Group co-founder and CEO; Haroon Mokhtarzada, co-founder and CEO of TrueBill and RocketMoney; Andy Oreffice, former CCO of Affordable Healthcare; and entrepreneur Francis Hellyer.
In total, the company has raised $5.5 million that will be used to scale up so it can house thousands of practices waiting to use the platform over the next few years.
“A typical practice with two dentists will spend anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000 monthly on supplies, and the least efficient may spend up to 10% of their total budget on supplies,” Contee said. “The most efficient practices can reduce it to about 4%. We want to immediately help practices get closer to that more competitive best-in-class range for what they should be spending on their total cost.”