Sarastro – The Mouse who Roared

The Challenge

Sarastro, a pioneer in the confocal microscopy and 3D reconstruction, had been successful in Europe and tried to enter the US market through a well-known East Coast microscope dealer. The fit was not productive: the dealership was focused on their local territory rather than the national scope required for this product's success and they couldn’t support the highly sophisticated technology. The result: No visibility… and they sold only 1/2 of a system in 18 months.
(Image: Inner ear of the mustache bat, 3D reconstruction from 32 sections, 10 micron spacing. Image collected by Bill Miller)

The Solution

The parent company, Sarastro/Sweden, decided to open an official US office, hiring T/MIP’s President, Ms. Foster as Technical Marketing Manager to partner with past Zeiss colleague, Bill Miller, the new VP of Sales. Both knew the market and both were master microscopists, but together with just two developers here in the US, the comprised a very tiny force. Foster and Miller launched a highly integrated sales and marketing program, building a commission-only rep network and providing them with strong technical support. Operating on a shoe-string, they resorted to small, strategically placed ads coupled with an extensive direct mail (these were pre-email days), editorial, and tradeshow campaign and a no-cost, commission-only distribution channel.


  • Within 6 months of the new launch, the success of the tiny US force had strongly influenced Sarastro's global reputation.  Frost & Sullivan ranked Sarastro as a "strong second in an aggressive, international field of 5" (The competitors:  Industry giants like Bio-Rad, Leica, and Zeiss).
  • $250K sold in Y1
  • $2M sold in Y2
  • Projected $3M - $5M in Y3
  • Pure biological emphasis was shifted to expand the technology to include more industrial and materials science applications where buying cycles were simpler and shorter
  • Materials and strategies from the newly energized US sales & marketing efforts also fed into the European marketing efforts

At the beginning of Y3 the company was acquired for the second time in two years. The new owners had an in-house sales team, but miscalculated their experience and their reach. Also, although their marketing group was experienced in other analytical technologies, they had no experience in microscopy.  They disbanded the entire Sarastro US sales and marketing team. The result: an unsuccessful corporate transition that caused the product to abruptly disappear from the buyers' radar screens within less than three months. The new owners struggled back to $2M in Y5, then lost the market entirely.

Visit the US Business & Sales Organization page in our Portfolio to see examples of the work we did for Sarastro.

Navigate the Microscopy Market