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A vision of innovation from VisualSonics' Stuart Foster

May 1, 2012

He’s an academic who overcame his fear of doing something different because he knew he could solve problems that he had encountered in his research.

In 1999, Dr. Stuart Foster thus incorporated VisualSonics as a company that develops preclinical imaging equipment using micro-ultrasound technology. Foster, the founder and CSO of VisualSonics, joined E101 last Wednesday to share his story of taking “the long way” to build a successful company.

VisualSonics exemplifies the journey of a Toronto-based technology startup, taking expertise gained from decades in the field and rolling it up into a business that raised over $15 million before being bought by SonoSite.

The bulk of Foster’s sage advice related to raising capital:

  • Know-how and technical expertise will give you the edge.
  • People are the most important asset a company has (advice quite in synch with that heard from other entrepreneurs this year).
  • Do not give away all your equity (or even a significant portion) to VCs or institutions – how else will you attract key talent to come work for you?
  • Finding an appropriate CEO is tricky, but your investors could help you recruit the right players when the time is right. It’s worth hunting properly and patiently to find the person that will get the job done.
  • Encourage confidence in your investors by keeping transparent – no lies, no egos, and no missing key milestones.
  • The company is not a democracy. Sometimes decisions have to be made that do not get the buy-in of the entire team.
  • Keep the commercial and the academic teams separate.
  • You may not need a lot of IP, but IP is a “security blanket” for investors, very important for valuation… and essential for safe-guarding your know-how to fend off competition.

Take his advice: he’s lived it. With a good idea, the passion to implement it and evidence that it works… get going, get incorporated and get started up!

Check out the ‘Quick Hits’ video below or click here for the full lecture.

Next lecture: The Pitch

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Caitlin McCabe @ MaRS

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Caitlin helps make sure our clients in the life sciences and health care industry have a great experience with our life sciences practice at MaRS.

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