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LEHI — California-based medical tech company Byte, which recently expanded its Lehi office, was acquired this week by dental equipment supplier Dentsply Sirona in an all-cash $1.04 billion deal — something Byte CEO Neeraj Gunsagar said will bring more jobs to Utah.
Byte is a dental health company founded in 2017 that fits customers for teeth-straightening aligners and provides a treatment plan to solve minor dental imperfections, all done remotely.
At the start of 2020, Gunsagar estimated its Lehi office employed about 10 people — a number that's since grown to nearly 200 and which he says will likely continue to rise as the company looks to hire from Utah's talent pool in the wake of the acquisition.
Last year, a study from the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Institute reported the state's tech industry was the second-fastest growing in the nation, employing about one in seven Utahns with their wages accounting for one-fifth of worker earnings in the state.
Gunsager is excited to be a part of that growth.
"We wanted to expand and build our operations out in Utah — it's a great center for the concepts around customer experience and customer service," he said. "Utah became a natural hub to expand."
While the novel coronavirus has taken a toll on the state's economy, the tech industry's adaptability to the pandemic's social-distancing and remote working needs has resulted in rapid growth for several tech companies, including some in Utah. Privately-owned fintech company Divvy, which is based in Draper, just achieved unicorn status after being valued at $1.6 billion.
"Utah's tech sector has been a big part of a long sustained expansion in our state. We've now had this recession but, interestingly, the tech fields have done quite well, largely because they can work remotely," explained economist and director of the institute Natalie Gochnour.
As a result, most of the disruptions caused by COVID-19 have had less of an impact on the tech industry, she noted.
"Utah's tech sector remains strong and will be a big part of our economic future," she said.
Like other tech companies, Byte's business model — one that already emphasized telehealth with a focus on at-home care — has benefited greatly during the pandemic.
With some dental offices closed, consumers looked for alternatives for their oral health leading to huge growth for Byte in 2020 with more than $100 million in sales. Since it's founding about three years ago, the company has worked on more than 75,000 cases, according to Gunsagar.
Gunsagar said the circumstances have simply sped-up success the company was already expecting to see over the next three to four years.
Traditional orthodontics can cost thousands of dollars whereas some patients might only need a small fix to their shifted teeth — that's the market Byte is targeting by offering a cheaper option for minor teeth straightening issues at a quarter of the cost, according to Gunsagar. Like pioneer clear aligner company Invisalign, Byte offers a discreet method to straighten teeth. However, Byte operates 100% remotely and without the in-person appointments Invisalign requires.
One key difference between the two is Invisalign's ability to solve someone's more extensive teeth issues; the company markets itself as an alternative to braces, whereas Byte's aligners are designed to treat only minor, mainly cosmetic dental issues.
For example, many adults experience tooth movement after falling out of the habit of wearing a retainer following orthodontic treatment as a child and Byte can help fix that, Gunsagar explained.
After ordering an impression kit online and sending it back in, customers receive a full digital impression of their mouth and are referred to further treatment. Those with mild to moderate cases receive aligners and their care is overseen by a licensed dentist or orthodontist, all from home. More severe cases are referred to a dentist or orthodontist.
For Gunsagar, it's about fixing smiles and restoring confidence.
"You see people sometimes with crooked teeth and you don't realize, but a lot of people make natural judgments of those," he said. "It is about bringing that confidence back to everybody; I mean everybody should have access to this type of experience."