“After bankruptcy, we were even more convinced that it would work”



Image: Caterna

The Berlin startup Caterna is an online vision therapy to treat the eye disorder amblyopia. In mid-2012, it had to file a petition for the institution of insolvency proceedings.

However, the company could raise a six-digit investment from Berlin-based eHealth VC Peppermint – for the same product.

Let’s see what went wrong in the beginning:

“Our clients were convinced by the product, but the company didn’t make enough profit,” co-founder and CEO Nicolaus Widera says. Marketing and sales in particular needed a lot financial resources and did not perform as hoped, he adds.

High-Tech Gründerfonds invested in Caterna, which was developed by the Technical University of Dresden for 4 – 12 year old children who suffer from amblyopia, an eye disorder  that leads to severe visual impairment of the affected eye.

In the program, children have a patch on the “better” eye and play developed computer games that trains the brain and teach the eye to see. Doctors and patients approved the concept in July 2012 when Caterna had to stop operating. “After bankruptcy, we were even more convinced that it would work,” Widera explains. “Because we knew how the model wouldn’t work.”

In January 2013, the company come back with a new concept. “We took learnings from the first time and changed the entire business model,” says Widera who founded the company with six further co-founders.

During the first try, Caterna was given to doctors in exchange for a licence fee. The doctors could hand out the program to their patients with the first four weeks being free of charge. In the end, the program worked so well that most of the time patients did not need to purchase with the fee, Widera explains.

This has changed: From now on patients can purchase a three-month licence. “It’s very important that the patients don’t stop after four weeks, but keep using the program to insure long term successes,” Widera adds. He explains that 150,000 children could be treated each year in Germany alone with 20,000 more coming every year.


On April 1st, Caterna started to cooperate with the German health insurance company Barmer that now offers prescriptions to the programs for their clients.

Since December 2013, Caterna is also available for iOS and Android devices and is therefore the first app in Europe that is offered as a prescription.

“More insurance companies have reached out to us asking to offer our program as well,” Widera adds.

The new funding will be used to expand to other European Countries and Canada.

The article was originally published on Gründerszene and is translated by Felicitas Hackmann.