Table of contents
- Founder - Dr Kyle Turner
- Based in Melbourne
- Started in 2019
- 1 founder & 19 employees
Kyle, what's your backstory?
I started Pearlii in 2019. Growing up in the outback, moving around constantly in Aboriginal community housing, we didn’t have any real access to dental care.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that it sucks having bad teeth, especially as an image-conscious teenager.
It’s not just toothaches and surgeries, which are bloody painful. Having bad teeth just stops you from smiling. It impacts your confidence and self-esteem.
As an adult and an epidemiologist, however, I learned how easy it is to prevent oral diseases with regular brushing and flossing - very basic health education - so I knew that I had to do something to help fix this.
I don’t want any child growing up with bad teeth when it is so easily prevented.
Tell us what your company does?
Free dental check-ups using world-first AI and free oral health education. Our mission is to improve oral health around the globe.
How did you come up with the idea?
I’m an Epidemiologist by trade, having worked previously in childhood oral health research. I knew it was a major public health problem, with the dental industry heavily privatised and slow to innovate. I was actually in the bathroom brushing my teeth when the idea came to me.
How did you go about building and launching the business?
It was really hard in the beginning. I needed to find a dataset of dental images, which is tricky given privacy laws, and, basically, no one wants to give you photos of your teeth. I ended up paying people online for photos. I then needed to find (pay) a dentist to label all the photos, which was costly and time-consuming. Only then could we test the first machine learning algorithms. It took 12-18 months.
How have you grown the business?
Pearlii is going well nowadays. We have several B2C and B2B revenue streams, while we still donate 50% of profits to building Pearlii Dental Trucks that will provide free dental care to disadvantaged groups. We’ve recently launched our consumer brand for eco-friendly oral care products, which is tied back into the Pearlii App. We’ve also built some cool software for a few dental companies that we’re now looking to repackage and onsell.
What's your biggest selling product/service?
Free dental check-ups are still our main drawcard. For example, we’d organically acquired over 20,000 downloads before doing any paid advertising. We’re working hard to better integrate our oral care products to the Pearlii App via gamification (early days, but we’ll definitely get there).
What have been some of your biggest failures along the way?
Keeping the lights on during COVID-19 was the most challenging professional experience I’ve ever had. Very stressful. I’d do a few things differently if I had my time over, but I’m equally proud that we got through and where we’re at now.
What's next for you and your business?
My north star is to get oral health listed on the Medicare Benefits Scheme, which has never been done before. I want our tech subsidised via the MBS for non-dental practitioners, such as GPs and Nurses because dentists are too expensive and many critical areas (e.g. Aged Care) are being underserved or neglected entirely.
What digital tools do you use regularly?
Slack, Gmail, Google Analytics, Adobe, Figma, Google Docs, Calendly, Google Meet
What books have been a great inspiration to you as a founder?
Honestly, I don’t read books as much as I used to. Twitter, YouTube, etc., are so powerful if used properly. Let others digest and organise the information for you, giving you time for other activities.
What quotes do you live by?
"Remember when you wanted what you have now?"
What do you love and hate about being a founder?
It mostly loves these days. It was so hard in those early days. I really appreciate where things are now. I don’t hate any particular aspect.
What do you do to look after your mental health as a founder?
I’m pretty good at keeping on top of this now, having been at it for a number of years (and this is my second investor-backed startup), but the stress was unbelievable during the earlier times. It would have a negative impact on my mood, day-to-day management, and physical health. Speaking to mentors is always a good idea, helping to defuse the situation and break a problem down into smaller problems. Taking a break is helpful, but it isn’t always possible when it is your business. You just need to keep seeking feedback and have a strong desire to improve.
In a few words, sum up what it means to be the founder of a business.
A lot of responsibility, but it gives you a real sense of purpose.
What are the biggest pieces of advice you’d give to other founders?
Find good mentors. Seek feedback regularly. Stay curious.
Where can people find out more about your business?