Caption (from left to right): José Díaz, CEO of Adventia Pharma, Andrés Cabello, financial and technological development director; Fernando Valverde, marketing director, and Alfonso Almeida, manager.
José Díaz (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1969) is founder and CEO of Adventia Pharma, a Canarian company that has revolutionized clinical nutrition. In nine years, it has managed to reach ten million euros in turnover, although it ensures that the main objective is to continue improving the lives of patients.
What was the goal of Adventia Pharma at the beginning?
Research and create own clinical nutrition products. We think that in a year we could have something, but the truth is that it took us two and a half or three years to have the first industrializable formulations.
What does Adventia Pharma sell?
Our core business is clinical nutrition, we sell enteral nutrition formulations.
Where is the key to beating the competition and placing yourself in the market?
Upon arrival we found a very static market.
Companies that were already located sold their own formulas, very similar to each other. They told us that everything was invented and there was little room for innovation. We detected that as an opportunity, it allowed us to break into an innovative company, not only creating a formulation, but trying to identify and solve problems.
A system to provide enteral nutrition that involved the creation of medical devices and a digital platform to share experiences, diagnoses and useful information of all kinds. We approached the market from all points of view to change the concept, we did not want to be a company that had the only idea of selling.
How many partners were there at the time of the founding of this company?
Three. We had the disadvantage of being absolute ignorant of clinical nutrition. Hence the boldness of trying to do new things to compete with large multinationals.
Where they came from?
Of the construction.
Is Adventia Pharma the daughter of the crisis?
Effectively. We were practically 40 years old and the crisis devastated everything. Suddenly the credit is over, some of the largest companies in the country fell and we were forced to reinvent ourselves, to find new ways.
What factors had weight when choosing that new path?
Above all, the activity will take place in a more delocalized market. In construction, we moved in the Archipelago without having the opportunity to take a leap, so we wanted to create a company capable of generating products with repercussions outside the Canary Islands.
That is easily understood in theory, but how does that idea of traveling from construction to here arise?
I went to the banks and they told me clearly that for construction, no matter how good the project was, everything was vetoed from the plant. We had people around, as medical visitors, through which we realized that in the pharmaceutical sector it was not that they gave you great financing but the banks were willing to listen to you. Then we detected that clinical nutrition was the field in which we could create our own products, because it was impossible to do it with medicines without great support; which now we can address shortly. It was a gateway where we only depended on our ability. Some banks were interested in the idea. It is a sector that cannot be affected so drastically by crises.
Where is Adventia Pharma present today?
So far we distribute in the national market, we have taken a step towards Portugal and we are also introducing ourselves in Mexico and Panama, in the latter case through distributors. Our products have to pass, logically, very strong sanitary filters. It can take you two years to enter. More and more companies from all over the world are interested in distributing the products.
Are they considered pure research, development and innovation?
It is our hallmark. Larger companies should not investigate as we do. When they have a need, they can hire the person who provides the solution. In order to conquer a niche market, we had to do different things.
Is it possible then research and development here?
All the creative part of the company is addressed in the Canary Islands. To create and innovate you just have to waste time thinking, and that can be done perfectly here. Silicon Valley is a good example. What they do there is to sell it to everyone and that is what we do. When we present any of our products to doctors, they often ask us how it has not occurred to anyone before. Of course, we waste a lot of time analyzing the problems and giving them a solution. Sometimes having a lot of money is your own enemy. If you grow, the numbers come out, the market works and you have a profitable business model, you are not interested in changing it. And won't the time come when that same thing happens to you too? It is that what catches our attention is to detect problems and provide solutions. We have been brave, because starting to develop a medical device, for example, is not easy. It is true that everything costs money and you need to hire professionals and engineers to develop your idea, so you have to incorporate that equipment until the project becomes a reality. It is a great satisfaction to see those ideas work.
What ideas did they have at the beginning?
We were looking for small innovations that might not seem important, but that had a direct impact. Upon reaching the market, a patient had to consume three or four boxes of between 24 and 36 containers for months. Five or six times a day was the same taste. As simple as introducing three flavors and preventing the treatment from being torture. We get it and get ahead of the legislation; We managed to change a royal decree that we did not know and apparently prevented that. Then we turn to the aromas, which allow to regulate the intensity, which avoids the metallic taste of cancer patients. And from there, to personalized nutrition, which allows the doctor to adapt the treatment and the patient to interact with the taste.
Do they run out of talent?
We try to make a great team where everyone is happy. Everyone participates and feels protagonists of the project, so we get them to stay despite receiving offers. For checkbook we cannot compete with the big multinationals, but we have other values.
And attract talent?
Well, there have been those who have left some multinational to come to work with us.