When Carlo Perez founded Toronto-based Swift Medical in 2015, he knew the company was destined for global success. His product was exceptional: an AI-powered smartphone software that could assess chronic wounds faster and more accurately than any human. And more remarkable still was the potential market size — over six million patients in the United States alone, representing roughly three per cent of total healthcare expenditure. Carlo had a game-changer literally in the palm of his hand — he just needed to find investors who could see the value in his vision.
“Swift operates at the rare intersection of AI, healthcare and SaaS,” Carlo says. “In our early days, very few VCs were backing companies like us.
MaRS helped Swift pitch its story to progressive investors when it mattered most.
Before Carlo launched his technology, most healthcare providers were measuring and tracking chronic wounds (holes in the skin that can persist for years) manually with, yes, paper rulers and probes, a process that was not only painful for patients but had a 40 per cent error rate. Swift’s tech — Carlo likens it to a tricorder from Star Trek — eradicates this problem: simply install the software on a smartphone, then hover the phone’s camera over a wound. The software generates a 3D model that provides detailed measurements of the lesion’s size and depth. The platform also streamlines clinical and administrative work, improving patients’ lives while saving healthcare systems time and money.
And money (specifically, capital) is what every fledgling startup needs. In 2015, with investment on the mind and a tricorder in hand, Carlo visited the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF) looking for advice. The team, in turn, found a great partner. “Carlo is a great strategist,” says Craig Leonard, investment director at MaRS IAF. “I could see the footholds he was making — via electronic health record integrations and data ownership — into markets with multiple healthcare areas.”
Along with investing its own money in Swift, the MaRS IAF’s sector-specific expertise and vast networks were ideal for helping Carlo attract capital. Well-versed in AI, healthcare and SaaS companies, Craig and his team knew that Swift’s product would be attractive to savvy investors from these disparate yet connected sectors. First, they equipped Carlo with the necessary tools — data, pitch decks, messaging and more. Then came the curated introductions to top-notch VCs. Most importantly, the MaRS IAF challenged Carlo to chase long-term growth; to strive for a unicorn startup. Says Carlo of the coaching: “Craig and his team put wind in our sails. They could see Swift’s potential beyond what the investment community could see — beyond even what we could see.”
That foresight paid off. In March of 2018, Swift closed a $11.6 funding round led by Data Collective of the Bay Area and MaRS tenant Real Ventures, among several notable investors. It was the first time Carlo had engaged with American-based VCs that didn’t pressure him to move his company to the States, something he never intends to do. “There’s a groundswell of investment coming from south of the border,” Carlo says. “A key tenet of our global growth is to bring more wealth to Ontario and Canada at large.”
And Swift is doing just that. Today, the startup employs 80 people (a 110 per cent increase over last year), and its platform performs over 250,000 wound assessments every month in over 2,000 facilities around the world. Still, Carlo has no time to celebrate, instead focusing his attention on the next round of funding. With help from the MaRS IAF, he wants to meet more potential customers and investors, as well as healthcare systems and insurance providers. Critically, Carlo and his team want to forecast where the health sector is going, particularly as it relates to AI, machine learning and machine vision.
“I believe Swift is a billion-dollar opportunity and massive legacy company in the making,” Carlo says.
So does MaRS.