Plethy co-founder Sundaram seeks company growth by helping patients

Ritu Jha-

Indian American Raja Sundaram, CEO and co-founder of Plethy wanted to solve big societal problem in a way that could benefit people globally, and so even though he had a degree in engineering he decided to venture into a healthcare industry.

And if you ask Sundaram what’s Plethy, he would say it’s a derivative, means plenty of health and well-being.

“It was the intent when I started in 2016,” said Sundaram, who received the first place at the first Startup Pitch competition hosted by American Tamil Entrepreneurs Association (ATEA) Silicon Valley chapter at its annual conference held in San Ramon, California.

Founded in 2016, Plethy is a digital health-solutions company based in Silicon Valley. and the small device used by patients is focused on delivering joint care at home.

Sundaram, 50, on choosing to work on joint pain, said “Joint pain is one of the biggest societal problems, and as we grow older the joints are the first things to start to disconnect, so we thought we pivot to found something foundational in healthcare which all of us is going to need a service.”

The causes of knee joint pain need to be addressed, and there aren’t enough doctors, enough surgeons and nurse and enough home healthcare, he said.

“I thought to myself: what part I can play. This is my cause, and if you believe in cause then let cause be the part of the journey, the end of the day you see fantastic solutions in the market focused on diabetes,” said Sundaram.

Indian-born Sundaram came to the US to do a master’s, and he also earned an MBA from  the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley. He worked in tech companies like Cisco System Inc., and then moved from engineering to sales where he learned and developed the idea of a product service with technology.

For Sundaram the idea did not come easily. He said Cisco is not into healthcare or medicine, and what he opted for is different. To make it a successful company, he brought together a team and people with backgrounds in medical devices, and practicing medical surgeons and nurses “because the combination of people from tech and people from medical devices and practicing surgeons gives us a good blend of what are the clinical products, what are ways to digitize it and fundamentally prepare patients for surgery for hip, knee replacement and then helps recover at home after surgery.

“The challenges, if you believe in the cause, it’s easier to recruit people, So, fundamentally, I started looking for a people who believed in the cause. We are all growing older and diving longer, and so knowing that the world is growing older and even surgeons see the same problem,” he said.

“So Plethy is software and hardware combined, and it’s monitored by doctors, “ said Sundaram, adding “Yes, it’s because we enable the doctor to deliver SaaS , and it’s AI based.”

Explaining how it works, Sundaram said the sensor the patients wear near the joint, hip  or shoulder, connects through an app with phone and takes the message and reminds patients what to do and when as well as help them to exercise and take medication on time.

“The best part is it’s monitoring your body and notifies you about time to exercise,” he said. “The device monitors and measures your movement of knee joints.,” said Sundaram.

However it’s not an over-the-counter device, but it’s sold only when doctors prescribe it.

At present the company has contracts with five medical clinics in the Bay Area, and the only place outside US is Apollo Hospital in India.

The device is manufactured in the US, and more than 50 patients are using it.

Also for the first time they are seeing the data and the product, and it looks different, said Sundaram.

Talking about the challenges, he said that primarily it’s R&D, and they are working on a joint-movement device, which sounds easy but is very difficult. The company’s software-development team is in India and the company has five people in the US.

The company has raised $2.9 million, said Sundaram. “We are looking to raise about $3 million.”

VC Panel at the ATEA SV Regional Conference. From L to R, Prakash Narayan, Gowri Shankar, Kumar Sripadam, M R Rangaswami, Karthee Madasamy, Deepak Jeevankumar and Lena Kannappan. Photo courtesy: indica News

Prakesh Narayan, ATEASV executive committee programs chair, spoke to indica about Plethy and startup Pitch saying, “It was highly successful, and we are planning to have pitch fest twice a year.”

He said that there were 12 to 15 applications at a pre-pitch event, and six of them were selected.

“The focus is to foster entrepreneurship and help people startups, and ATEA when people applied the pre pitch event one of the requirements was one co-founders should be of Tamil origin.”

When asked about the growing number of startups, Narayan said that ATEA has been recognized by government of Tamil Nadu and they are pushing the needle and money.

“Currently, $6 million is allocated [by Tamil Nadu government] as grants for startups,” said Narayan. “They want to give grants to startups, and the way it works is not invest in just paper ideas but they want to give money to people who have raised money and 10 percent of the amount raised is given by the government.”

The government wants to expand in Tamil Nadu and will provide the help needed.

It’s a very forward-thinking plan in terms of assisting startups, growing the startup ecosystem and at the same time creating jobs in Tamil Nadu, he said.

ATEA has set up two startup desk or office, one desk on the East Coast and other on the West Coast, established on Sept 4. “CM Tamil Nadu was in the Bay Area, and the MoU was signed between ATEA and Tamil Nadu, and we have established a digital accelerator. The idea of the digital accelerator is to identify startup and then curate these startups and facilitate digital corridor between the US and Tamil Nadu.”