There are no limits to how Artificial Intelligence can have a positive impact on
the world, and the dental industry is about to learn that first-hand. The aptly
named Pearl, led by Ophir Tanz, Founder & CEO and Kyle Stanley, Chief Clinical
Officer, is changing the way that dentists diagnose and treat patients. Thanks
to Pearl, every dentist in the world will one day have AI technology
double-checking their work and making sure patients get the best care possible.
In this edition of the Silicon Valley Momentum Podcast, Roland Siebelink spoke
with Ophir and Kyle. They discuss Pearl’s lofty goals to forever change
dentistry for the better and the unique startup journey Ophir and Kyle have
taken with Pearl:
- How Pearl’s AI technology helps solve the problem of inconsistency in the dental profession.
- How they plan to seamlessly embed Pearl in the workflow of every dental practice.
- Why the time is right for Pearl to become a pioneer in an emerging market.
- Why Pearl has made its biggest investment in solving problems rather than making sales.
- Why a willingness to learn is essential for all entrepreneurs, especially first-time startup founders.
Roland Siebelink: Hello and welcome to the Silicon Valley Momentum Podcast.
My name is Roland Siebelink and I'm a scaleup ally for tech founders. So excited
today to have with me Ophir Tanz and Kyle Stanley, respectively, the CEO and CCO
of Pearl. Hello, guys. Thank you for joining the Silicon Valley Momentum
Ophir Tanz: Hey, great to be here. Thanks for having us.
Roland Siebelink: Absolutely. The people looking into the startups that we
invite for this podcast were so excited about having Pearl on the podcast. So
Ophir, can you explain just your elevator pitch, what does Pearl do and how are
you making a big difference in the world?
Ophir Tanz: Yeah, absolutely. So, we solve the problem of inconsistency in
both diagnosis and treatment in dentistry by leveraging artificial intelligence.
And specifically, we apply a form of artificial intelligence called “computer
vision,” which teaches computers to see in much the same way that humans do to
dental imagery to help ensure fast and accurate diagnoses. And ultimately, this
increases the standard of care across the board, particularly for patients,
which is our ultimate goal.
Roland Siebelink: Okay. But it sounds like your direct customers would be
dental practitioners, dentists, dental practices?
Ophir Tanz: Yeah. We really service every major constituent in the dental
category. So, if you go down the value chain, you have dental practices. And
also the, you know, hardware that they're using. So x-ray sensors that they're
using in their practices. But our services also exist for dental laboratories,
for insurance carriers, and really anybody who's operating within the space.
Roland Siebelink: Got it. Got it. So really envisioning the whole ecosystem.
I love it. And, Kyle, as a chief clinical officer, you must know everything
there is to know about dental practices and that whole ecosystem. Can you, for
the listeners who may not be that familiar with dental practices other than
fearing going there, can you explain a little bit? What are the typical problems
that dental practitioners run into? The painful problems that Pearl is trying to
Kyle Stanley: Yeah, that's a good question. And you kind of brought it up a
little bit, which is fear. I think one thing that Ophir already spoke to is the
inconsistency. So you may go to my practice and I may tell you, you have two
cavities. You may go to another practice and she may tell you, you have five
cavities. And you may go to another practice and they tell you have 10 cavities.
And all the dentists may think they're right.
And for a patient, that's very difficult to have that inconsistency.
Inconsistency in training, inconsistency diagnosis, treatment. So having
something that is consistent and creates a standard of care is great for the
From the dentist side, the business side, you can have data-driven decisions.
And that I think is something that my profession has never had. We've always
looked at things and said, "Okay, you know, what kind of marketing should we
do?" Well, how many patients do we have that have bone loss? You know, ask Sally
up front and see what she thinks. Now we can go through and really have numbers
on this, based on the radiographs and based on the imagery to allow dental
practitioners or we serve a constituent called DSOs, dental service
organizations, those are like big groups of dental offices. We can allow them to
make really important business decisions based on facts and not on gut feelings
Roland Siebelink: Okay. So it's part of the, you know, business
professionalization trend that we see in many professional services in similar
areas. That it's not just about being a good technician anymore, if you will, or
a good practitioner, but also that you become more of a professional business
person in your practice.
Kyle Stanley: Yeah, exactly. So much in healthcare has gone to customer
service as well. And so this allows the practitioners or the business people
within those dental service organizations, or even universities, to make
decisions on buying, on hiring, on firing, on patient experience, to ultimately
have better care.
Roland Siebelink: That's awesome. What do we feel in terms of your
go-to-market? Is this a play where you're bringing in a new software for
something that people were doing only manually before? Or is it really about
replacing some of the systems that they've already invested in, in the past? How
do you see that?
Ophir Tanz: Yeah, it's a good question. So, our go-to-market strategy, you
know, varies per constituent. But generally, across the board, we ask ourselves
one question, which is: "How do we deploy this technology with the least amount
of friction," right? Dentists aren't technologists, and neither is typically
anybody else in the office. And the idea is they have an existing workflow.
They've invested heavily in that workflow. And we want to be able to embed
ourselves into that workflow so that when they go to work the next morning, sort
of everything looks the same and feels the same. But suddenly, it's enriched
with AI-driven detections and AI-driven insights. And that makes them more
effective, even more profitable, and sort of again, able to increase the
standard of care.
So it sort of varies, again, depending on, because we have this application sort
of exists across a variety of constituents. So whether you're talking about
carriers or individual practices, there's sort of a different approach. But
ultimately, the idea is to embed ourselves into the existing workflow as
natively and naturally as possible.
Roland Siebelink: Okay. And is the vision then to become like the backbone
of that whole ecosystem in a way for all dentistry?
Ophir Tanz: Effectively, we believe the technology that we're working on
will be in every dental office in the world in the relative near term. And also
be omnipresent throughout the entirety of the dental chain. So, our perspective
is that, you know, whether it's Pearl or not, it's only a matter of time until
that happens because the benefits that come from infusing this technology into a
workflow are so dramatic. And are so scalable that it would be crazy not to do
it. And that technology didn't exist really 10 years ago in the form in which it
And now it does exist. And we really think we've found that moment where, you
know, the market is really primed and ready and excited, and increasingly
educated about this capability. And the technology is really ready to deliver
the value that it needs to deliver in order to become part of the standard of
Roland Siebelink: Yeah. Awesome. And going back to Kyle, one thing I often
hear from founders is, you know, that they may feel quite ahead of their typical
customer in terms of seeing what's possible. The customer may sometimes come
across as a little bit conservative. You know, you have sometimes if you early
adopters and then others who might want to wait a little bit to adopt a new tool
technology. How does that play in the dental space in your experience?
Kyle Stanley: Yeah, that's an interesting question. With dentists, we are
creatures of habit. Like many people, you know, we don't like to change.
However, I think what's good about the business side of dentistry, and going
back to the DSOs and even the insurance carriers and also these large
laboratories that we work with.
Like Ophir said, it's not a mom and pop dentist, you know, him or her running a
business. You have private-equity backed. You have really professional business
people running these entities. And so they get it because they understand what's
possible with this. And then that ends up flowing down. And similar to what
Ophir said, if the larger corporations are making these decisions and then it
just shows up into the dentist workflow, it becomes much easier for them to
adopt it and see the value of it.
Roland Siebelink: How big is this business really, Ophir? I saw you guys
raised Series A last year, so VCs must be quite excited to be funding this,
Ophir Tanz: Yeah. So we actually spun out of a different company that I had
founded back in 2008 called GumGum. That company is also focused on the
application of computer vision, although outside of medicine and more for
marketing and sports analytics. And grew that company to, you know, several
hundred million dollars in revenue and hundreds of employees. Really, you know,
we're focused on the same fundamentally sort of core technology there as well.
And then last year, we made the decision to spin the entity out. I made the
decision to step down as CEO of GumGum and come along with Pearl because I was
so deeply excited about what I thought we'd be able to accomplish here. We
raised a Series A round of financing for $11 million from Craft Ventures. And
that was led by David Sacks, who obviously very well known in Silicon Valley.
Investor in, you know, Facebook and Uber, SpaceX and AirBNB, and one of the
founders of PayPal and CEO of Zenefits. And I've known her for a long time. I'm
a huge fan of him and his firm. And, officially again, spun out in April of
Roland Siebelink: So can we talk a little bit about your go-to-market? You
mentioned the technology was kind of ready when you launched. And then, you
know, many founders will say, "Okay, I know my target group." But somehow, it's
not that obvious. Like, how should I reach them? How should I go to actually
convincing people, making them aware of my products? What have been your
learnings in that space to the degree that you can share, of course.
Ophir Tanz: Yeah. It's been really interesting. It's actually largely gone
according to plan. So, fundamentally to release the patient-facing capability
that we call second opinion, that requires FDA approval, right? And that is a
lengthy and very involved process. So we're in the very final stages of
receiving our FDA approval. At which point, we're able to launch Second Opinion
and distribute it across the existing infrastructure stack. And we already have
the vast majority of those deals in place with the large OEMs and manufacturers
to do that distribution.
But ahead of that, there are a variety of applications that don't require that
level of regulatory approval. Three in particular. One is in the laboratory
space for helping automate prostitutes for dental laboratories. The other is
what we call “practice intelligence,” which provides sort of deep business
analytics and insights to DSOs and also individual offices. And the third is a
variety of insurance-carrier oriented services, where you're able to deploy this
technology to identify fraud, waste, and abuse, and also to help automate the
claims review processes. So we're really engaged with all of those different use
cases and seeing meaningful traction across all three.
Roland Siebelink: That's awesome. What many founders ask me is, you know,
should I go broad and try to attack multiple parts of my ecosystem? Or should I
really perfect this one approach for one part of the ecosystem first before I
branch out? So, obviously, you've taken a slightly broader approach here. Can
you lead us through your thinking on this? Why was this a good approach and how
big is the team that needs to support all of that in parallel?
Ophir Tanz: It's a great question. And also, I would say a fair criticism.
I'm a fundamental believer in focus and focus being critical. In our case, we
have a market where you have a fundamental capability, which is second opinion
capability. And different forms of that capability, or in other words, different
software built on top of that capability, enables you to service a variety of
different constituents in market. So you really have this one really hard
technology that you invested heavily in building, and you're able to express
that value of that technology with sort of software layers on top of it.
And that's one reason why I think this is kind of unique. It's because that hard
technology is the same across the board for the most part. And then you're kind
of building software on top of it. And the other thing is, you know, it's our
perspective that the adoption here is going to happen quickly and we want to own
Roland Siebelink: What does that result in then in terms of your team? Are
you set up to serve each of these use cases separately? Or is it more of a
matter of putting people from project to project? What does it look like in
Ophir Tanz: I would say that Pearl is very unique relative to GumGum. For
example, where we came from because at GumGum, we were a very sales-oriented
company. We had offices in 21 countries and hundreds of sellers that were sort
of selling the offerings in market. And those were the dynamics of that market
and how you needed to operate in order to be successful and scale.
And I would say that Pearl is very different in that we're not focused on going
after sort of lots of customers in market. We're much more focused on signing
very large deals with very large publishers and achieving distribution that way.
So because of that dynamic, we actually don't need to have a very large team.
And definitely not a very large sales effort because we're able to capture so
much of the market with a relatively small sort of business development team
that is highly skilled.
And I think that dynamic really makes it so that we're able to sort of have the
strategy that we have in place because there's not a lot of this sort of, you
know, fluff around the effort that is required to make it go. You're able to
sort of sign for deals and capture an entire market category. I sort of refer to
it as whale hunting. And that's what this is. That's this business. The dynamics
here. And I think that they're very favorable. We want to invest heavily in
attracting the best scientists in the world to continue to solve really hard
imaging problems. That's the core of what we do. And I think that we're able to
do that at Pearl because we don't need to invest as heavily in some massive
worldwide sales effort.
Roland Siebelink: That's awesome. So, looking forward a little bit, you've
already said this is a product that definitely is in kind of land-grab mode,
trying to occupy the markets in different parts of the ecosystem. And it is a
big market, especially if we look at it globally. So other than the FDA approval
that you're waiting for, what are some key milestones that you're looking to
achieve in the next year or so, Ophir? And is there something that any of our
listeners could help with or it could contribute to?
Ophir Tanz: Yeah. Great question. So, look again, our goal is to deploy this
technology in every dental office in the world. We think that is a lofty goal,
but it's also a very achievable one. And one that will improve lives. So, we're
really focused, again, across all the constituents through the work and with
second opinion on just deployments and partnerships.
So there's a ton of that going on. There's also, still relatively early days, so
we're getting a lot of feedback on tweaks and modifications. But we are, you
know, a revenue generating entity in market that is at the very early stages, I
would say, of scaling this whole thing out across the board. I would say that
there probably aren't ways in which the general listener could be that helpful.
Just because what we do is very specialized B2B and sort of
I will also mention, though, that we recently led the launch of an initiative
called the Dental AI council. Find it at dentalaicouncil.org. And the idea there
is an independent sort of entity focused on education and research. And the
leadership of that group is many of the biggest thinkers and sort of thought
leaders in the dental category across all the major constituents. Over the
coming months and years, we're going to be putting out lots of, I think, leading
research as it relates to this question of consistency, efficacy of AI, and
efficacy, with AI being applied to a variety of different use cases.
So there's a huge amount of ground to cover there. Also, lots of interviews and
sort of editorials and tons of content that's going to be coming out of there.
So if folks are interested in that, I would encourage them to sign up to the
Roland Siebelink: Okay. And other than that, it sounds like we all, as
patients, need to start asking our dentists what AI solutions they're using to
evaluate the quality of our dental work, right?
Ophir Tanz: Yes, definitely. Right.
Roland Siebelink: That's amazing. Okay. So, we already mentioned you raised
a great Series A last year. Is that a path you are looking to stay on to raise
more and more venture rounds? The typical series B C D progression? Or is it
something where at some point in time you just want to be profitable and stand
on your own feet, so to speak?
Ophir Tanz: Yeah. I never want to raise more money. It's never my goal. We
actually grew GumGum to over a hundred million in revenue off of about $11
million as well. So, we have a track record there with that specific amount of
money. So, I would love for this to be our last round of funding, obviously. I
always feel that way. But I do believe that's it's possible here. With enough
growth, that might be the case.
But ultimately, you know, we are a venture backed entity. We have lofty goals.
We want to see this technology distributed everywhere. And if more money from,
you know, venture capitalists is the way to achieve that goal, then that's what
Roland Siebelink: Okay, awesome. And, you know, since we have many founders
listening to this show as well that are, you know, maybe earlier in their stage
and certainly haven't got the benefit of a nice experience such as GumGum yet,
what would be some points of advice, Ophir, that you would share with founders
earlier in their startup journey? The key points for them to focus on to be
Ophir Tanz: Yeah, I mean, there's obviously a lot that comes to mind. One
thing I would say is to really commit yourself to being a learner. So, I haven't
had many traditional jobs in my life. But I've started many companies. Every
company I've started, I basically know nothing about that world or that industry
by definition. So, you know, previously I had to learn a lot about, you know,
how does marketing and sports analytics and the online sort of marketing
Obviously, at Pearl it's about medicine and dentistry and pathologies and a
whole new world there. But I think that's the situation that a lot of
entrepreneurs find themselves in because we have ideas that we want to apply to
categories that we don't necessarily have deep knowledge in. But I think if you
apply yourself; everyone at Pearl now is able to read radiographs, I would say,
with significant proficiency. And we've all, you know, at least the folks on the
team that are not clinicians the way that Kyle is, have really learned about the
dynamics of the industry and the dynamics of dentistry in a way that makes us
very functional and very capable team as it relates to applying this technology
in a very native way.
So, if you're not a learner, then you can't do it. So not only for me, but also
for the people I hire, I want to make sure that they're folks that are curious
and could learn quickly. And also, take, you know, a lot of complicated sort of
concepts and tasks and really internalize them.
The other thing I would say, which I just see a lack of, you know, doing a fair
amount of advising and just being involved in the ecosystem, is that you can
have very big lofty goals that are very ambitious, and that's great. But you
still need to make very practical decisions every single day. And you need to be
honest about where you are and what you are and what is going to enable you to
live to fight another day to achieve those ambitious goals.
So I think practicality and honesty just with yourself as a founder is very
important. It drives me kind of crazy when I see founders drinking their own
Kool-Aid. It just feels like they have the wrong idea. They're totally
unconvincable, right? They just believe that they are right or not willing to
listen to any other perspectives. And then you see them fail. I've seen this
many, many times. And it's unfortunate. And I don't know how to get somebody out
of that mode exactly. Other than to plead with them to just be open-minded.
Roland Siebelink: It's that rare combination of both being able to have the
Kool-Aid to pitch your startup in an efficient way, but also, you know, mix some
truth serum through it every now and then, right?
Ophir Tanz: I've always been very focused on the money that we have in the
bank, understanding that that is a lifeline to be able to sort of identify
product-market fit and live to fight another day. And some magical fairy isn't
going to fly in the 11th hour and put more money in your bank account. You're
either going to be in a place where you've earned the opportunity to raise more.
Or you're generating enough revenue to continue to operate and grow. So I think
that being heavily cognizant of your financial status, that in every moment and
your runway and leaving yourself plenty of room to re-capitalize if you need to
is also very important.
Roland Siebelink: Founders, be down to earth enough to keep your eyes on the
bank accounts and on the real results achieved. And, Kyle, as the kind of
clinician in the room, which I kind of translate as the expert co-founder, many
people find themselves in that position, right? Whether they're coming from a
software engineering background or a dentistry background or of whatever other
expertise may be the case.
That's not always an easy role, right? What would you say are some of your
learnings and some advice you might apply to other people in that same role that
you have, like the expert co-founder?
Kyle Stanley: Well, I've definitely learned a lot from Ophir and his, you
know, vast experience. I, of course, have experience in the clinical side, which
like he said, I've trained him on. He has experience on the founder side and the
business side that every day I'm learning from him.
But I think the biggest thing is to be able to adapt. You know, with traditional
dental business, you kind of do the same thing every day, right?
Intra-operatively, when you're working on a patient, dentists are very good at,
"Oh, something broke. Now I need to make a new decision. Now I need to change."
So I think inherently I had that ability to think on my feet. But a startup is
that every day. Today, we're doing this and tomorrow we're not doing that. Now
we're doing something else. Or, you know, we have a new opportunity that we need
to go for and we need to put the other one on the back burner for a week or two
or a month. So being able to adapt, I think is one of the biggest things that
I've learned through Pearl that I would give as let's say the expert founder.
Roland Siebelink: Expert founder advice. That's awesome. Thank you so much.
So, if people want to learn more about Pearl, where should they go and what
should they download?
Ophir Tanz: Yeah, so they should go to hellopearl.com. That's our URL. We're
also on all of the relevant social media platforms. You can also find us on
LinkedIn. I mentioned the dental AI council, if you're interested in just more
general sort of activity and research in the category, we'd invite you to go
There is nothing to download from the website. If you are interested in working
with the company, you could shoot us a note and we'd be happy to chat about it.
Roland Siebelink: Okay. And I'm personally looking forward to the viral
YouTube videos with all of the horrible mouths around the world.
I'm just kidding here. But, of course, it might make it a little bit consumery.
So thank you so much, Ophir Tanz, CEO, and Kyle Stanley, let me get that right.
Kyle Stanley, chief clinical officer of Pearl. Thank you so much for joining
this podcast. I had a lot of fun and I'm definitely gonna ask my dentist about
the AI solutions that he'll be employing on my mouth next time I go there.
Kyle Stanley: Thanks, Roland.
Ophir Tanz: Thank you, Roland. Appreciate it.
Roland Siebelink: Thank you.
Roland Siebelink talks all things tech startup and bring you interviews with tech cofounders
across the world.