By Andrew Seale
For Cameron Piron, the sign of a mature and healthy ecosystem is second-time and third-time entrepreneurs being comfortable and confident enough to build scale-up businesses in that ecosystem. And he should know, because the co-founder and president of neurosurgical-focused company is one of them.
“You're seeing that at many levels with many different companies,” he says. “There’s a critical mass of us that are now working together and getting our voices heard and solving both business (and) technical challenges.”
And they’re doing so in a completely transformed environment from the Toronto that Piron, an engineer with a masters in biomedical physics, launched and grew his previous startup, Sentinelle Medical before selling off to Hologic in 2010.
“When we started Sentinelle it was almost a dirty word thinking about doing a medical startup and now I think it’s a focus and strength of the environment in the city of Toronto,” he says. “It’s fundamentally different and allowing us to be much more aggressive in our approach because it’s really a foundation we can build off.”
Piron and his co-founders came up with the idea for his second startup Synaptive Medical, while watching several surgeries and noticing an opportunity to bring better visual integration and imaging to neurosurgery.
Over the past five years the company has grown to more than 350 employees and boosted its offerings to a suite of eight products, most of which are under the BrightMatter moniker. Piron compares it to a GPS system where surgeons can plan out their path for the surgery then execute, following the visualization in real-time using robotics.
“We have over 30 sites out there all around the world,” he says. “We've been bringing the individual products to market and now we’re very focused on integrating these into a single system to find their efficiencies and opportunities to deliver better medical care.”
As a serial entrepreneur, Piron says seeing his peers stick around and funnel capital back into the ecosystem is a positive thing but it extends beyond just investment.
“The commitment we need to make is to think back about how we can smooth out the bumps for new startup companies,” he says. “More startups out there in the ecosystem mixed with scale companies and larger OEMs (original equipment manufactures) and large multinationals, that's a healthy ecosystem.”
Scale-up up companies – that post-startup existence – is the new horizon, something Toronto will need to be active in fostering in the same way it’s supported these early stage companies.
“We're starting to form things like Canadian Council of Innovators, to be able to get our voice heard at the federal and provincial level… to really bring up what we feel is impacting our ability to scale up more rapidly,” he says. “(It’s about) making sure there’s a broad set of companies having their voice heard.”