Take away all the barriers between the customer and your product | Ben Sainsbury, Marion Surgical
Adapt your solution (product) to the market (rent, buy, lease).
Hey! Hello, thank you for watching Business Spotlight Halton where we connect with successful business owners and entrepreneurs about their journey so far, their future aspirations and their challenges and how they overcame them.
So, today I’m here with Ben Sainsbury, the CEO of Marion Surgical and they have a location in Niagara Falls and their tagline is to do tomorrow's surgery today and building the surgical metaverse and it's all about surgical simulations so, really interested to have this conversation and learn about the innovation that they're spearheading.
So, Ben thank you so much for your time, i'm really looking forward to learning more about you and the company. So, let's start with that so, you tell us how do you start your business and how long ago was that?
Ben: - Yeah! So, i'm Ben Sainsbury, CEO of Marion Surgical. Started the business back in 2017. I was working on a PHD in virtual reality computer science, computer science with virtual reality as the sort of focus, built a car google cardboard simulator to do cardiac procedures, showed it to a surgeon Dr. Rajiv Singal was the chief surgeon at Michael Garron Hospital, he got excited about the using this to teach kidney stone removal which is something he does and so, we built this virtual reality surgical simulator with haptics; haptics meaning touch feel so, when you actually use the device it feels like you're pushing into real tissue so, we built the stimulator for kidney stone removal, had early adoption with medical device companies and then we've built other versions of the kidney stone simulator and right now, we want a 1 million dollar bid to build a simulator for a surgical robot, new surgical robot so, we're working on that.
And the idea is beyond simulation, it's basically measure twice, cut once, surgical rehearsal. We take CT scans or X-rays from the patient, turn them into models you can practice on and then, that's kind of where we're; we see the puck moving, that's where i talk about do tomorrow surgery today. Wouldn't you like if you're going to have surgery tomorrow to get a near perfect score from your surgeon to give you peace of mind before he operates on you? That's kind of the premise.
Hugo: -And tell me a little bit the target market is that generally teaching new surgeons? Or even senior surgeons would still use the simulation?
Ben: - Absolutely! So, the idea is that the simulator gets more powerful the more you own it because we're getting all these different weird and wonderful cases from surgeons that are sending us the CT scans of patients anonymized, of course so, ideally it's surgical simulation centers teaching hospitals but, serve our brand better so far has been medical device companies that actually do, they do teaching as well so, one of the features of our simulators that we can put tools, specific tools from a medical device company into the simulator and they get excited about that for advanced training for instance.
Hugo: - I know that innovation probably plays a big role in your company so, i wanted to ask like you know how do you handle innovation and what does innovation in your business mean to you?
Ben: - So, we're selling our solution as a platform, so it's not baked it's not like a mannequin, that's kind of baked. It's always updating and changing; we also part of our solution with the virtual reality is using a video game engine and we always implement all the latest and greatest from all the innovation happening in the video game space so, i would say you're buying a piece of technology that is upgrading all the time.
Hugo: - What's the response of your clients of this constant innovation and upgrading?
Ben: - It's great! I mean, there's always some new device, i just came back a couple days ago from the American Urology Conference down in it was in where was Louisiana and New Orleans, and they now have a new device which uses actually a game controller to access the kidney and remove the stone, so the whole and robotics everything is updating and changing so you got to be, you don't want to become obsolete.
Hugo: - So, talking about that and as things change i want to test like, what is your current focus? What are the big business goals that you're pursuing this year?
Ben: - So this year we're obviously trying to sell as many units as we can, so more strategic partnerships and sales, that's always the goal. But also, we're in a short timeline to build a minimum viable product for the surgical robot simulator so, that's kind of what our focus is on from now till august of next year. That's kind of where a lot of the r d is going and then like i said, we're also always focusing on selling our existing solution to more users.
Hugo: - Link to that, what do you see as a main or some of the biggest challenges that you have to get to those goals?
Ben: - Well, our solution is moderately priced, it's a challenge getting it booked and sold to simulation centers or hospitals that don't have large capital budget so, we have adapted our solution that it; you can rent it, you can buy it, you can lease it, just coming up with different ways of getting it in the door if somebody's interested.
Hugo: - So getting those first usage from potential users or buyers and then…
Ben: - Yeah! Trying to take away all the barriers of between the customer using it and budgets and all that.
Hugo: - Is there a relation in terms of the business goals that you have with your own personal goals like any way in which they match? They link? What's the relationship for you in terms of what the business achieves and your own personal goals?
Ben: - I don't know i mean, it's by kind of being the CEO of the company, you're kind of wearing all hats including taking out the garbage so, i would say that i'm too kind of in the weeds to figure out how this aligns with the personal goal, i mean, the personal goal is to have it become a success and maybe get bought out, i guess, it would be a goal, a business goal so, obviously making a profit and selling for the most amount possible.
Hugo: - I think with many business owners that i have conversations increasing that value is definitely a top priority. Regarding your journey as an entrepreneur i wanted to learn from what are mistakes that you've made along the way and how can other entrepreneurs learn from your experience?
Ben: - I've probably made all the mistakes as most people do. I find that, i don't know, i've had some luck and there's been covid, i saw that was on your questions, covid was a bit of a challenge because all the essential surgeries went kind off, or all the surge kidney stone surgery certainly was put on hold, and then nobody was doing simulation and the residents couldn't get in and get hands-on training, so that was a real kind of a slow period and that was a challenge and it was a challenge to keep the team motivated when things were just pretty slow and nobody knew what the future was going to hold, so that was a challenge.
In terms of mistakes, i've met good people, i've met not so great people and it's always a learning lesson to figure it out, i mean, i guess the best thing to do is to pull the shoot early when things when you get your spidey senses tell you you're not in the right situation so, i'd say some, one way to mitigate damage or mitigate i guess financial issues that can come up as to if things aren't working and you don't see a solution then pull the shoot.
Hugo: - I love the spidey sense not just as a comic book fan but i i've gone through situations where it's like something doesn't feel right.
Ben: - Yeah! It's always like then later you're thinking oh! Why didn't i trust my gut feeling at the time?
Hugo: - Absolutely! Before we started recording you mentioned that at some point you were working at Mars and i know that a big part of what you've done is being part of larger communities of entrepreneurs and technology.
What's been the benefit of being part of communities and getting those interactions for you?
Ben: - We were in the Autodesk innovation space in Mars and that was really great! It's a draw for employees because it's a cool place to work and it's got all the sort of things that you can't afford as a very small business, like you go to i've been out to google a few times and they have gourmet lunches, etcetera. But Mars kind of had a community where there was yoga and this and that so, just by osmosis we were a cool company because we had those. The proximity to the cool factor was there which is harder with now we have people working from home; it's harder to get that sort of community feeling. We try it with slack and with discord and now i've kind of put in the budget a employee satisfaction budget i guess to kind of do group zoom lunches, gourmet lunches and whatever you can to keep that sort of synergy and that keep people motivated and feeling like they're part of something.
Hugo: - And to wrap things up i wanted to ask like what inspires you the most today?
Ben: - What inspires me the most? I guess it's great being in the innovation space and i love being loud, we're now partnered with unreal game engine and they've got some really cool things that they're doing; so part of the fun is to look at YouTube and see what new stuff they're rolling out for free that we just add to our simulator, so it's cool to be part of that community and that's the whole metaverse they're doubling down on the metaverse so, i don't know it's just neat to be in the middle of all that stuff, i guess and that inspires me because you could see some fluid simulation that's new and cool and it could be inspiring just because you're like wow! okay, now this is faster, better, cooler, better graphics, all that kind of stuff.
Hugo: -Thanks for sharing that, it does sound really exciting. So again, thank you so much for your time and sharing your experience as we build more content and share it with the business community those golden nuggets of experience and learning and in your case, being in the innovation space and making a difference is really, really valuable.
When we share this, we're going to share this with your contact, your website, anything else you would like our audience to know about you or your business before we wrap up?
Ben: - Always looking for great employees that are sort of in the gaming space that want to move and work on something that potentially could help move medical health for the future, use your gaming experience and your game developing experience to make a difference. So, i know Sheridan's in your community and we use a lot of Sheridan grads and we always have co-ops from Sheridan so, any Sheridan student that wants to do something different than go work for Ubisoft give us a call.
Hugo: - Thank you so much again Ben, and thanks again for being here and sharing your wisdom.
Ben: - All right, thanks for having us, bye.
You can learn more about Marion Surgical at marionsurgical.com