Mesh Medical Shapes: A Soft Landing Success Story

ATLANTA — When David Calle enrolled in the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Soft Landing program, it was with the intention of reaching a new customer base in the U.S. But he never expected that to happen quite so quickly.

a photo of a man standing in front of an interior wall
David Calle, founder of Mesh Medical Shapes, visits the Enterprise Innovation Institute offices in Atlanta.

Calle — a product engineer who founded the Medellín, Colombia, company Mesh Medical Shapes in 2018 — had been referred to the program by two different sources: the Medellín Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, which is a project of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, and Luis Restrepo, CEO of Crystal S.A.S and a member of the Advisory Board of the President of Georgia Tech. CES University in Medellín also partnered with Mesh to support Calle’s business goals. Calle decided to take the course himself in fall 2023.

Specifically designed to assist those who are interested in expanding a foreign business into the U.S., the Soft Landing program offers a strong foundation that includes hard research, guidance, and networking, conducted through virtual and in-person instruction modules. In addition to receiving guidance on best practices and navigating national regulations, participants also come away with a nuanced understanding of the American customer mindset.

Since its launch in 2018, Soft Landing has collaborated with 22 companies, and 15 of those have expanded into the U.S. The latest among them is Calle’s company, which designs and fabricates precision dental simulators for student practice. “We accomplished our first sale in the U.S.,” Calle said in April 2024. “We finished Soft Landing about six months ago, and we just closed the deal.”

Mesh’s first export from Colombia was to a university in Florida, which had initially approached the company year and a half prior. Progression started out slow, but after Calle completed Soft Landing, it sped up considerably. American clients in general, he said, “tend to try to buy from a U.S.-based company. It’s easier for them. So knowing that we were backed by the Soft Landing program gave this client the confidence to vote for us and say, ‘Ok, we’re gonna do business.’”

When Calle first began the process of expanding into the U.S. market, he — to put it plainly — didn’t know what he didn’t know. Mesh had already been conducting business in Peru and Colombia, among other countries, but Calle didn’t fully realize the importance of preparation when opening up a new market. Part of that preparation, he said, entailed revisiting the scope and quality of his product, not to mention customer presentation.

Soft Landing helped him determine the necessary steps to get him where he wanted to go. “A unique feature of this program is that it’s really tangible. We were ready to start our journey here in the States, and we didn’t have a clue how to approach clients or how to present our products,” said Calle. “Being part of this program gave us the structure we needed in facing our client for the first time. It helped us determine how we were going to deliver the product and how we can make sure the product fits customer expectations.”

Currently, Mesh’s U.S. market presence entails a handful of annual trips from Colombia to ensure that everything is going smoothly for the client. “That’s the first step,” Calle said. “Now that I’m approaching new customers, we’re looking to expand our business in terms of distribution. We are not planning in the short term to bring manufacturing here, but we plan to bring at least part of the team here in the medium term to expand the business.”

When Mesh does establish a physical presence in the U.S., Calle is confident that it will be in southern Georgia. “When you want to set up your business in the U.S, people will often point you toward Florida or Delaware, so you will pay less in taxes,” he said. “But I had a conversation with a CEO of a company who built her company here 20 years ago, and she told me, ‘David, if the first thing you’re thinking is about where are you going to pay less taxes, is that a smart decision? The first thing you’re going to need to do is to grow your business. Have you got any networking in the U.S.?’”

In fact, he did have a network — in Georgia and facilitated by the Soft Landing program. When the time comes to create a legal framework for his U.S. expansion, Calle said, “I’m going to contact one of the lawyers who presented at the program. Instead of looking online, I think it’s wise to go through the contacts already made for us.”

Fortunately for Calle and other Soft Landing graduates, the support offered by the program is ongoing. Said Soft Landing Program Director Alberto Ponce, “When past participants need more service providers, they can let us know, and we can open those doors. If you open offices here in Atlanta, or just come over for a visit, you can use the Georgia Tech resources for help with funding or hiring, for example. They have an open door with us and access to whatever we can do.”

For Calle, the investment in Soft Landing has been invaluable. “It has helped me understand how to prepare today in the right way, so I don’t lose opportunities in the future,” he said. “I would definitely encourage anybody who is thinking about establishing their business in the U.S. to be part of the program.”