This article was originally posted in German on Deutsche Startups on April 4, 2017.
Remaining flexible when pursuing initial ideas
In 2012, Synaptive Medical Inc.’s co-founders identified opportunities to both innovate and integrate the current standard of care for neurosurgical intervention. Initially, we focused on a single unmet clinical need in neurosurgery for better surgical planning tools. Deeper analysis quickly demonstrated that improving only one link of the surgical chain would provide limited value and benefits. Collaborating directly with physicians, Synaptive Medical identified multiple opportunities to improve on the current standard of care. Now we provide solutions and products along the whole surgical chain, from the preparational phase to post-surgical care. That’s also the first piece of advice I would like to give other start-up entrepreneurs: Don’t get hung up on an idea, but remain flexible, question the potential benefits of your product and, if necessary, adjust your idea.
A business model that changes the landscape
Within a relatively short period, Synaptive became attractive for investors and established a strategic partnership with General Atlantic, who also invested in Snapchat, Airbnb or Buzzfeed. For General Atlantic, Synaptive was their first investment in the realm of medical devices. General Atlantic has made a series of successful investments in high-growth companies that are changing their respective landscapes. In medical devices, we are one of the few in both the medical device and technology spaces fitting that profile.
Synaptive’s ambitious business model is based on developing fully integrated solutions, including software and hardware, to achieve improvements along all elements of the surgical process chain. That’s atypical for medical device startup companies and calls for rapid scaling, both in North American and internationally. As part of this strategy, we are establishing a presence in Germany to directly work with German surgeons and researchers under the leadership of Ole Stoklund, our vice-president, International. Besides that, we have known General Atlantic for several years and they understand our business model, which leverages both aspects, and the potential we offer for growth across traditional medical devices, medical imaging and technology. They also bring a powerful network of connections beyond financial resources and are actively using this network to facilitate our growth.
Choosing the right location: For us, that’s Ontario
We very consciously selected Ontario as our business location. Ontario is a great location for innovative medical device companies because it has a highly educated and skilled workforce with the ability to work hand-in- hand with our network of world-class academic hospitals. Synaptive has been successful at leveraging research being done in Ontario to address clinical needs identified by our partner institutions and physicians. Medical devices are increasingly turning to software to build their value story and Ontario’s rich computer sciences ecosystem is also a perfect resource to leverage for any innovative company.
Besides that, Synaptive greatly benefitted from government support programs and its time in the MaRS Discovery District’s incubator ecosystem. MaRS also occupies a unique place in Ontario’s innovation ecosystem. It houses a tightly concentrated nucleus of like-minded entrepreneurs seeking to bring innovation to the market. And MaRS’ network of advisors, programs, and resources provides a strong foundation for any entrepreneurial team starting a business.
Moreover, Ontario, combined with the Canada’s Federal Government, offers numerous support programs that Synaptive has leveraged, varying from direct support for innovative research, R&D tax credits, training grants and support for clinical trials. Through these programs, Synaptive has accomplished more key tasks faster than we would have on our own.
Understanding business-related location benefits
I can also recommend German founders to consider Ontario as a startup location, especially in health and life sciences. Partnering in advance with a local guide will help understand the potential benefits available in Ontario that are directly related to the specific realms of the business model and beyond. That is key to unlocking the maximum potential for any investment here.
And if you’re investing in Ontario, invest for the long term. Ontarians are passionate about progressing and building innovation, and this is especially true when its innovation that is going make a meaningful impact in people’s lives. By the way, our strategic partner and investor General Atlantic understands that Ontario is a strong home base from which we can grow Synaptive toward international success. It’s part of our shared vision for long-term success emphasizing long-term growth and value.