Singapore-headquartered aesthetics dental startup Zenyum, which has bagged in $40 million in Series B funding, will continue to expand its footprint across Asia as clear aligners continue to gain popularity regionally.

“By now we have a clear expansion blueprint that is working well and we will use the fresh injection of funds to expand our footprint further across Asia,” Zenyum Founder and Chief Executive Officer Julian Artopé told TechNode Global.

Founded in 2018, the Singaporean startup partners with hundreds of dentists to provide 3D-printed invisible braces. The company is currently in eight markets in Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Macau.

The dental startup has bagged a $40 million Series B round in May. This includes an investment of $25 million from the largest global consumer-focused private equity firm L Catterton. Existing Zenyum investors, including Sequoia Capital India, RTP Global, Partech, TNB Aura, Seeds Capital, and FEBE Ventures, also participated in the Series B round.

We are extremely excited to have raised $40 million from such reputable investors as L Catterton (sponsored by LVMH group) and Sequoia Capital. With this type of backing, we can now continue our expansion across Asia and into new Smile Cosmetic products and also make the experience for our customers easy and engaging,” Artopé added.

Besides clear aligners, Zenyum has also expanded into other dental products.

“We recently launched our newest product line: ZenyumFresh, a complete oral care pack featuring all-natural ingredients whitening toothpaste, mouthwash, and biodegradable floss picks. With this product, we hope to redefine people’s dental care routines, from a boring chore to an exciting ritual,” he said.

He said the firms’ flagship product, ZenyumSonic toothbrush, has also been consistently topping the charts as the most frequently bought toothbrush on marketplaces like Lazada and Shopee.

“We are overall in the business of ‘Smile Cosmetics’ and want to deliver products and experiences responsible for spreading smiles across Asia and will continuously launch new products in that category to keep our customers happy and smiling more,” he said.

Zenyum’s fundraising and expansion plans come as clear aligners are gaining popularity across Asia and Southeast Asia, trailing trends in the US and Europe. Since its founding in 2018, Zenyum said the company has grown exponentially, seeing a 4 times revenue increase in 2020 alone.

The global clear aligners market size was valued at $2.6 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.3 percent from 2021 to 2028, according to a market analysis report published by Grand View Research.

Supported by 3D digital scanning and 3D printing technology, clear aligners are a series of tight-fitting custom-made mouthpieces or orthodontic systems that are used to correct misaligned or crooked teeth. Clear aligners are virtually discreet and removable alternatives to traditional braces, providing more convenience and flexibility to patients.

The growing patient population suffering from malocclusions, rising technological advancements pertaining to dental treatment, and growing demand for customized clear aligners are among the factors driving the overall market growth, the report noted.

Unlike traditional metal braces, clear aligners are less noticeable and are easily removable, therefore gaining popularity especially among aesthetics-conscious youngsters in the region.

Invisalign is another US-clear aligner brand expanding in Asia and Southeast Asia. Its clear aligners are manufactured by US-based Align Technology, a multinational medical device company listed on Nasdaq. Other brands include Singapore-based Dr Clear Aligners, which is available in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand Australia, and NASDAQ-listed Smile Direct Club, which is available in Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, several countries in Europe and North America.

In Indonesia, the most populous country in Southeast Asia, local dental startups such as Alpha JWC Ventures-backed Rata and AC Ventures-backed KLAR, looking to tap into opportunities in the clear aligners market with more affordable options.

With more clean aligner brands and startups in the region, Zenyum said it strives to strike a balance between affordability and convenience but without sacrificing quality and safety.

“We minimize dentist visits, but we do not skip them, because the in-clinic session with the dentist will be to nail down the important nitty-gritty details (3D intraoral scan, full-mouth X-ray, etc.) to identify possible oral health issues that may not be visible beyond the naked eye, and our customers always go through an in-clinic fitting session with our dentists to learn how to wear and care for their aligners, instead of just receiving it at their doorstep,” Artopé explained.

After that fitting session, customers get to bring home all their aligner sets and the remaining of the treatment can be effectively monitored through its proprietary app.

“We also invest in the app to keep it free to use, and as a tool to also track treatment progress and a way to stay in touch with our customer service and dentists throughout the treatment,” he added.

Commenting on price competition, Artopé said, “For every product category, there are always discount brands that prioritize on price. There are providers that say that it is ok to skip X-rays for instance, but we think this is simply unethical. Straightening your teeth is still a medical procedure and without a doctor looking at you in person and going through the right procedures, you might risk infections or even losing your teeth.”

This is why Zenyum is so set on working with dentists across all its markets and protecting customers with tight follow-ups in person and via its app, he explained.

Shift in mindset on dentistry provides opportunities

The shift in mindset for the young millennials in Asia about dental treatment has brought opportunities for aesthetics dental startup like Zenyum, according to Artopé.

“Two generations ago, dental treatment was only sought after if you had acute pain. This [mindset] has then shifted to a sense of preserving one’s teeth into high age, and nowadays, dental treatments also include cosmetic procedures like straightening or whitening of teeth,” he said.

“In a competitive environment, a nice smile is one of the most important parts of someone’s personal brand,” he added

Commenting on whether clear aligners would replace traditional braces, Artopé said there will always be room for traditional braces for specific cases.

“But I do indeed believe that in five years from now the overwhelming majority of malocclusion cases will be treated with clear aligners like ZenyumClear,” he said, adding that he sees a clear preference for Zenyum, comparing advantages of clear aligners versus traditional braces.

Investor L Catterton: Asian dental cosmetic market is growing rapidly

In a separate interview, Head of Growth Investments for L Catterton Asia Anjana Sasidharan, said the dental cosmetics market in Asia is growing rapidly, led by the competitively-priced, high-efficacy product segment.

“There is a sizeable addressable market of 18- to 35-year-old consumers with malocclusions who are increasingly preferring clear aligners to traditional metal braces due to aesthetic reasons,” she said.

“Driven by growing patient demand for clear aligners, dentists are also increasingly offering such products. Businesses that are able to meet this demand by effectively leveraging technology to deliver better outcomes and enhance customer experiences have a competitive advantage. This is especially pronounced in key cities in markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan,” she added.

As this trend is expected to persist amid the rising middle-class population and urbanization in such markets, there is significant room for strong players to grow through deeper market penetration, broader product offerings, and wider geographic expansion, she said, explaining the opportunities L Catterton sees in the aesthetics dental market in Asia.

Commenting on Zenyum’s potential, Anjana said Zenyum is one of Asia’s fastest-growing direct-to-consumer dental product brands and is poised to become the regional champion in the affordable dental cosmetics category.

“Having developed a proprietary technology stack and seamlessly integrated its dental partner network into its workflow, Zenyum receives best-in-class customer satisfaction scores. It has a strong and proven management team, and L Catterton is excited to partner the team to realize their growth ambitions,” she said.

With significant experience investing globally in the dental and consumer health space, she said L Catterton has deep brand-building and functional expertise which Zenyum can leverage to enhance emotional connectivity with consumers and drive earnings growth.

With over $30 billion of equity capital across its fund strategies and 17 offices around the world, L Catterton is the largest global consumer-focused private equity firm. Since 1989, the firm has made over 250 investments in leading consumer brands.

Bullish on Asia

L Catterton noted that the Asia consumer market growth story remains fully intact, even in the face and expected aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the world’s largest consumer-focused global private equity firm with unmatched breadth, reach, and capabilities, L Catterton is well-positioned to participate in this growth story, partnering companies to build enduring, iconic brands and businesses,” Anjana said.

Trends such as increasing spending power, growing preferences for premium offerings, and the expanding middle class in certain markets underpin the firm’s geographic focus in Asia, with China, Japan, as well as India being its primary markets and Southeast Asia, South Korea, as well as Australia being its secondary markets.

Its current and past investments in dental and consumer health space include Ideal Image, ClearChoice, dentalcorp, OdontoCompany, Espaçolaser, and 98point6.

In January of 2016, Catterton, a consumer-focused private equity firm, LVMH, a luxury goods company, and Groupe Arnault, the family holding company of Bernard Arnault, partnered to create L Catterton. The partnership combined Catterton’s existing North American and Latin American private equity operations with LVMH and Groupe Arnault’s existing European and Asian private equity and real estate operations, resulting in the largest, diversified consumer-dedicated private equity firm in the world.

A world leader in luxury, LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton possesses a portfolio of over 60 brands. As part of the ongoing partnership, L Catterton said enjoys a special relationship with LVMH and its family of brands, with both organizations actively collaborating in areas such as consumer insights, brand strategies, retail expansion, and economies of scale across the collective portfolio, according to its website.

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