AirPhysio shows how Australian medtech can expand globally ultra-fast. In the space of just one year, AirPhysio has begun selling to 50 new countries.
Today, the company earns 80–90% of its income overseas. And Austrade advisers have helped AirPhysio at every step in its expansion in a critical market: the Middle East.
‘Austrade and Investment NSW have helped us enter 18 new markets, including the whole of the Americas and India – and countries across the Gulf region,’ says Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive Officer, AirPhysio. ‘It’s been totally amazing.’
AirPhysio was co-founded by entrepreneur O’Brien in Tweed Heads, New South Wales in 2015.
The company’s physiotherapy device looks like an inhaler. It requires people to exert positive airway pressure as they exhale. By helping people exercise their lungs, it aids recovery from a spectrum of lung-related conditions. It also improves cardio-vascular fitness for athletes.
With a great device, AirPhysio wants to expand fast.
In January 2022, AirPhysio attended the Arab Health trade exhibition in Dubai. Austrade advisers provided day-to-day assistance during the show alongside Investment NSW. Investment NSW delivers the TradeStart export-assistance program for small and medium-sized exporters.
‘Advisers in Dubai helped us find 75 leads in 25 countries during the expo,’ says O’Brien. ‘They pursued contacts and found potential partners who were genuinely interested in our business. Also, trade advisers secured invitations to multiple networking events in Dubai.’
Advisers from Austrade and Investment NSW helped AirPhysio with two key wins. First, they arranged an introduction to ADNOC. This is one of the principal fuel and convenience retailers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and an ideal retail outlet for AirPhysio.
Second, trade advisors helped to set up a clinical trial with the University of Sharjah, which is also in UAE.
‘Austrade and Investment NSW were tireless in their efforts, and they helped overcome multiple roadblocks,’ says O’Brien. ‘Now we have signed up multiple distributors across the Middle East. This is due to the tireless work and assistance of Austrade and Investment NSW.’
O’Brien says Austrade and Investment NSW have specific skills that benefit small, ambitious exporters in overseas markets.
‘First, Austrade maintains strong relationships with distributors, healthcare professionals and government agencies overseas,’ he says. ‘This means they engage with distributors that are a good cultural fit with your organisation.
‘Second, our overseas trade officials stay on top of regulatory changes. This is important because they can affect the timing of product deliveries.’
O’Brien says that dealing with experienced trade officials had a direct impact on prospects.
‘We’ve gained authentic, meaningful relationships that help push our business forward,’ he says. ‘We’ve enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with Austrade and appreciate the insights and their readiness to assist.’
AirPhysio is now growing fast. The company sells its respiratory devices in more than 100 countries. Staff numbers have increased from 5 to 135 in just one year.
In 2021, AirPhysio won the Regional Exporter of the Year at Austrade’s annual Export Awards.
‘Because of the work of Austrade, Investment NSW and DFAT [Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade], we have been invited to attend round tables on free trade agreements in the Middle East and panels at the Dubai World Expo.
‘We are now considered a leader in our field, and we have been invited to make comments on medical compliance changes in India.’