WHO IS TOM WALKER?
“We want to get rich by saving the world.“
Tom Walker is the President and CEO of LionsGate Technologies, a company that designs and produces life-saving mobile medical technology.
Tom has over 25 years of global medical device industry leadership. He has held senior management positions with Physio-Control, Eli Lilly, Cardinal Health, and AGFA HealthCare. These positions focused on North American and international business and corporate development. He also has extensive early-stage venture experience: he has led start-up initiatives, consulted with numerous early-stage medical ventures, and participated in several successful exits. He has also led key technology transfer initiatives with the University of Waterloo, the BC Cancer Agency, and the University of British Columbia. Tom is on the Board of Directors of Race Rocks Management Inc. and Karos Health Inc.
You can connect with Tom here:
IN TOR 056 YOU’LL LEARN ABOUT:
- Tom’s involvement in social injustice.
- The real cost of ‘low-cost’, especially in the regulatory and clinical arena of medical devices, that some of the development sector has trouble understanding, and how Tom has managed to sail through while staying in startup size.
- The story of LionsGate Technologies, their devices and applications, and what it is like to advance cutting edge research within a social cause.
- Details about their technologies, their design and development processes, and the future of Tom at LionsGate Tech.
OUR CONVERSATION INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
- LionsGate Technologies (LGT)
- University of British Columbia
- Grand Challenges Canada
- Ban Ki Moon & the United Nations
- Medical devices and technologies
- Mobile sensors
- Low cost solutions
- Reverse innovation
- Venture capital
- Social venture funds
- Research and technology (R&D)
- Clinical trials
- Patient empowerment
- Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
EPISODE CRIB NOTES
Medical device industry guy.
CBC show with researchers talking about detecting preeclampsia and pneumonia, with are largely undiagnosed in the developing world. An award had allowed them to develop a mobile based solution.
The problem Tom saw was the difficulty to come up with a low cost solution. A second device would have to be independently operational in terms of power and connectivity, which adds up to cost. But why not think about a device that plugs to the phone via the audio port?
’11 starts work, prototypes. Partly bootstrapped, help from the University of British Columbia and Grand Challenges Canada. The device leverages battery and processing power for the phone.
On to the developing world
An initial device, Kenek Edge, intended for the developed market, sold in the U.S. for USD 39.95.
The device can be used by the user, it does not require professional supervision.
Impact work gives shape to the ROI. It felt mandatory to launch where it was needed the most.
Commercialization was the next barrier. Equity and institution financing joined along with Grant Challenges. Growth in social venture funds has been a helpful trend.
Series A for the socially driven
It is a balance. A mix of investors is best.
The story should highlight the enormous impact new (medical) technology can have.
It is not uncommon for VCs to think about needing a grant, even for a social startup.
Global access, innovation, wealth generation, they are all common denominators for regular and social entrepreneurship.
Advancing technology. Real work goes on and will keep going.
Getting into the market, showing value to the consumer and the industry. Competitiveness in relation to business leaders needs to remain a priority. It is the only way to ensure worldwide connectivity, availability of distribution channels.
Partnerships for scale, recognition for good partnerships.
Contract research agreement with U of BC. A full time CTO, a board.
The medical device sector is full of regulations, one would think it takes an army to sail through it. But LGT is not more than 20 people. “We’re still a startup, but we can achieve global reach.“
There are medical technology problems specific to Europe and the U.S. The developing world’s health problems are considered when they have the potential to affect the industrialized, as the Ebola epidemic reflects. “It is a social injustice.“
Our devices have changed to reflect the mission to solve problems in the developing world. It is also clear that solving health issues there is profitable.
Tom’s personal quests
Raising money with a social venture fund. More competitive than he thought, less amount of discretionary funds. Social solutions end up competing with one another and comparisons, telling which is better, are not an easy thing to make.
A for profit venture can be met with better support, but it’s some essential changes in the model are implied.
Tom has a team. He focuses on business development and world partnerships, and at least half his time in finding funding. The core of the R&D is done by the rest.
The technologies they develop are really important to Tom, he knows them deeply.
Pitch elevator is good to grasp attention, but for due diligence, interested partners need an hour.
Relations to the development sector
They partner with NGOs and submit grants where LGT provides the technology and development, and the partners deploy it on the field.
But LGT is seen as a for profit business, not as a research partner. Trying to explain their point has not been easy. Research is expensive.
Preeclampsia clinical trials went upwards of USD 26.5MM, all at LGT’s expense. “Funding does not go to costs of scaling up.“
Tom has had to speak to Ban Ki Moon an other world leaders.
Technology depends on the smartphone. It is seamless with Apple, “but Android is all over the map.” Android is the real player in the developing world.
But now they can work on multi-parameter devices. Price of Android tablets have dropped below some toys.
The digital space has challenges but on the whole has improved the work of medical device manufacturers and researchers.
The medical community in both worlds is reluctant to “give up their leverage” and let people diagnose themselves. “Doctors would like you to stop googling your symptoms because he wants to be the one who does it during your appointment with him.“
But the developing world could benefit from empowerment. It lowers healthcare costs significantly. Technology is ready to provide prompt and effective courses of action at a distance.
It is a long haul. “It is not easier, but way more rewarding.“
Be innovative, see development problems from a business lens.
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