Venture building: identify the opportunities in a crisis
How our start-up LEAD Horizon provided an answer to the Corona crisis, thereby kick-starting a successful business model.
LEAD Horizon, Start-up for PCR self-tests
"Alles gurgelt!" is the success story of the city of Vienna in the fight against the coronavirus. The success story began with a start-up of our own, Lead Innovation. Our venture building provided the impetus for a globally unique PCR testing program that was able to detect chains of infection early and prevent deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the first lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic, it was predictable that this virus would be with us for a good while. From a business and personal perspective, it quickly became clear to everyone on the team that any further lockdown would have economic and psychosocial consequences for all of us. We therefore wanted to take action ourselves and looked for an answer to the coronavirus crisis in an internal innovation project.
At that time, the way PCR tests were performed was an obvious pain point. In test lines or at pharmacies, a throat or nasal swab could be used to perform a COVID test. Not always pleasant and also inconvenient.
So we wanted to offer a low-threshold solution: A PCR test kit that is commercially available and can be performed at home.
The path and the objective
The goal was set, and just as we do for our customers in innovation projects, we did the same for this venture building.
A short while later, we founded the start-up LEAD Horizon. Within 3 months, our team went from idea to approved medical product, including Web app. The business model of LEAD Horizon was that customers would buy the PCR test, perform it, then return the sample and later receive the analysis via a Web app.
Although nobody could foresee it at the time, our solution provided the impetus for the successful Viennese PCR test program "Alles gurgelt". The City of Vienna wanted to expand its testing strategy to include this solution.
In a public tender, the City of Vienna was looking for suitable partners, including LEAD Horizon. In addition, it needed a laboratory with the necessary capacities, logistics and distribution partners, manufacturers, and much more. After all, the ultimate goal was to offer more than 1.8 million Viennese a complete range of tests.
With "Alles gurgelt!", a unique testing service was created; as Tanja Eschberger-Friedl recollects: "The fact that the City of Vienna picked up our solution created synergies and opportunities for further development of the product and business model that we had hoped for at the beginning of our venture building. In keeping with the spirit of open innovation, it was the collaboration of all the organizations involved that enabled the success."
In order to perform PCR tests economically on a large scale, companies from different sectors were needed:
- As a general contractor, the Lifebrain laboratory contributed the analytical know-how for a PCR gargle test.
- LEAD Horizon produced the test kits and handled the data processing to the end customer via the Web app.
- The appropriate infrastructure was provided by the drugstore retailer BIPA, whose dense network of branches enabled collections and returns.
- The Österreichische Post took care of the logistics.
- Veloce arranged for the delivery of the PCR test kits to Viennese schools.
- Vienna Communications was responsible for customer and service communication.
- Lead Innovation ensured smooth project management, controlling, and reporting.
At peak times, the Viennese testing strategy analyzed up to 800,000 PCR tests per day. The project will end on 06/30/2023. It was to be hoped from the outset that the PCR test business would have an end date.
Testing during the pandemic provided an economic benefit by preventing unnecessary sick leave (30% of those infected were able to take time off early). The Viennese healthcare system also benefited from fewer infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities.
25,106,735 samples evaluated from 1/25/2021 to 01/31/2022.
16.48 hours from sample collection to results.
14,000 square meters of state-of-the-art laboratory space created
In economic terms, the newly built Lifebrain logistics and laboratory center in Vienna had strengthened the company's location and created hundreds of jobs. A positive effect in a tough labor market situation which shows the potential of new business models in times of crisis.