UCL startup Playbrush acquired by global oral hygiene company Sunstar
21 September 2021
Playbrush aims to reach more markets and consumers with its innovative range of smart toothbrushes, apps and games, following its acquisition by Sunstar.
Sunstar is one of the leading oral-care companies in the world with more than 4000 employees and an annual turnover of around $1.3 billion (£940 million).
Playbrush has been a trailblazer in digital oral hygiene since it was founded in 2015. It’s sold over 300,000 units in 25 countries, raised millions in investment and won multiple industry awards.
Sunstar, which is headquartered in Switzerland, has now acquired a majority stake in Playbrush.
Paul Varga, CEO of Playbrush and UCL alumnus, comments: “We’re excited to be joining forces with Sunstar and are looking forward to this new chapter in the company’s evolution. The partnership with Sunstar complements our business and values, with a shared understanding of the need and opportunity for greater digitalisation in the oral care market.”
Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) said: “I wish to congratulate both Playbrush and Sunstar on this exciting acquisition. It’s the ultimate validation of a startup’s technology and business model when it attracts the attention of such an experienced multinational company. It’s also testament to the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem at UCL, which is having a tangible impact on society and the economy.”
An idea forged at UCL
In 2014, Paul won a UCL Bright Ideas Award (now the ‘Build your own business 3: Launch your business') run by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. He subsequently established Playbrush with co-founders Tolulope ‘Tolu’ Ogunsina and Matthäus Ittner.
Paul and Tolu both completed an MSc in Technology Entrepreneurship at UCL.
Playbrush was initially run from BaseKX, UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship hub, run by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. From there they created a prototype, testing it with hundreds of children.
From startup to scale up
Playbrush now has a successful line of smart toothbrushes products, apps and games, aimed at children and adults. It’s sold over 300,000 units in 25 countries.
For children this includes a ‘Smart Sonic’ electric toothbrush and ‘Smart’ attachment for manual toothbrushes. Both connect to a host of different games on a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. For example, children can save the tooth fairy, fly aircraft or win dance battles. An algorithm measures each toothbrushing session, ensuring teeth are cleaned thoroughly for the right amount of time. The app provides real-time feedback with statistics and a reward system to give children extra motivation.
The company also recently launched its first smart toothbrush for adults, Smart One X. It links to a dedicated app giving a 3D simulation of your set of teeth, providing real-time feedback while you interactively brush surface by surface.
A common focus on innovation
As well as being a world leading oral-care company, Sunstar has a strong focus on research, developing technical abilities in biotechnology, nanotechnology, polymer chemistry and other cutting-edge areas.
Playbrush meanwhile has been a pioneer in the digital and data side of dental care. The company maintains links with the UCL Eastman Dental Institute, a world-leading academic centre for postgraduate dentistry and translational research.
This similar focus on innovation is partly what made Sunstar and Playbrush a good fit for each other, according to Tolu (CTO and co-founder at Playbrush). He comments:
“Sunstar also have a very strong relationship with industry professionals, including dentists and hygienists, and we think we can really leverage that. Also, they’re truly global, with a large presence in Asia, whereas we are mostly European, so they can help us scale.”
Find out more about:
- Entrepreneurship support for UCL students and recent graduates
- UCL MSc Technology Entrepreneurship
Photo © Playbrush