Beau Standish, the CEO of 7D Surgical, a company that develops image-guided surgical systems, recently joined us at MaRS Mornings to share his experience with entrepreneurship and commercializing medical technologies.

7D leverages innovative technology to advance the standard of care and improve the treatment options for surgical patients, while also increasing safety, efficiency and control for surgical staff. Its technology registers real-time 3D images of surfaces from computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

Before speaking about 7D and its accomplishments, Beau emphasized the often-overlooked fact that the entrepreneurial journey can be both long and tedious — especially in the cost-prohibitive and highly regulated medical device market. Getting from the early stage of identifying an opportunity to the point of being able to offer a commercially viable product is, in many ways, a Herculean task. In his talk, Beau shared the following four tips for success in this endeavour.

1. Build the right team

Assembling the right team is critical. Startups are known to attract — and require — employees who are both passionate and resilient. Further, teams must be agile. If you work at a startup, you need to wear many hats. Beau attributes much of 7D’s success to having a team that embodies these characteristics and possesses complementary skills.

“Teams are more than a group of employees,” he explained. “And it’s important to include strategic mentors, partners and support systems to provide knowledge and skills that are invaluable to a venture.”

2. Understand problems; identify gaps

Having a motivated group in place is only part of the puzzle. While 7D was always focused on developing medical devices, the team spent 18 months looking at potential opportunities before landing on the development of an image guidance product.

After considerable thought, review and assessment, the team realized that three industry trends all pointed toward an opportunity for innovation in this space:

  • significant numbers of unsuccessfully placed pedicle screws in spinal surgeries;
  • excessive exposure to X-rays with the current standard of care; and
  • increasingly favourable data behind image-guided surgery.

3. Develop solutions

According to Beau, 7D also benefits from having surgeons on its team who are deeply involved in product development. Seasoned entrepreneurs know that a significant number of startups fail to grow because of inadequate customer discovery, so having end-user involvement in product development is essential. In 7D’s case, solutions built by surgeons for surgeons continue to be its unique strength.

That being said, Beau stressed the importance of maximizing modern advancements. For 7D, this includes using machine vision, like that found in Tesla’s self-driving cars. On the surface, this technology may seem unrelated to an aspiring medical device company, but Beau asserted that entrepreneurs should seek to cast as wide a net as possible when looking for inspiration. This ensures that your company’s vision and value proposition will remain its North Star.

4. Embrace the path forward

Finally, Beau instructed attendees to embrace the experiential learning of the journey ahead. The 7D team continues to benefit from knowledge accumulated over time, he explained, which enables them to limit mistakes while also improving business decisions. Beau believes that profitability is reflected in far more than the bottom line. It also manifests itself in the physical, mental and emotional experiences of the team.

Throughout his talk, Beau’s various insights shared a common theme: communication and collaboration. At every step of 7D’s journey, it’s been important to have an open exchange of ideas to be able to learn from the past, focus on the present and plan for the future.

Interested in MaRS Mornings? Register for the next talk here.

Rene Azeez

Rene Azeez is the Sector Manager for Health Ventures at MaRS. He is an experienced healthcare-focused business professional and works with MaRS health entrepreneurs providing strategic direction and access resources and programming to assist with commercializing their technologies and growing their businesses. See more…