Nir Katchinskiy, Co-Founder and CEO of PulseMedica

How do you make the shift from deep tech research to commercializing a medical device? Finding the right team and partners, and focusing on the next milestone.

We asked Nir about his journey in bringing a medical device to market, how to secure critical finance partners amid a difficult investment market and the future of eye disease.

Arden Tse

Investment Manager,
Accelerate Fund

How did your journey in business begin? How did you move from a researcher to an entrepreneur?

Nir Katchinskiy

Co-Founder and CEO of PulseMedica

I did my PhD and postdoc at the University of Alberta, but I was always motivated to start my own company. With some of the work I’ve done in my research, I saw an opportunity to bring deep tech to Alberta and create an opportunity to hire very qualified individuals from the U of A, the University of Calgary, and other places here in Alberta.

As a new entrepreneur, I was always aware that I didn’t know how to start and run a business from day one. My approach was to surround myself with others who have done it before and ask for help to try and reduce the number of mistakes that I’m making, knowing I won’t avoid making mistakes entirely.

Through different mentorship organizations like Creative Destructive Lab and other opportunities, I’ve been able to surround myself with mentors, advisors, a board of directors and an official advisory board to go through that journey and support the process. Finding the right co-founder was also a really important piece. Through CDL, I met Eric Martin, my co-founder and COO, who did his MBA at the U of A.

Arden Tse

Describe your journey in bringing a medical device to market. What have been the toughest moments?

Nir Katchinskiy

I’ll preface that the journey is long and still ongoing! I’m learning the difference between a proof of concept to having a product in the market is huge, one cannot fathom how big of a difference this is. 

Having a proof of concept in the lab shows you can do something under ideal conditions. It’s not enough to say I’ve tested it in the lab. In reality, even if it works for one human, it does not mean that it works for all humans. With PulseMedica, we’re dealing with eyes, which vary by person. From an engineering perspective, making sure that both our hardware and software components work for everybody is a massive leap. It takes years. And you need to validate and test it to make sure it’s safe and effective and go through the entire regulatory process. 

One of our other biggest challenges, especially in the past year, is managing growth. We doubled our team size and have a really talented, great group of individuals. But how do you ensure everyone is on the same page, knows what to do, what the priorities are, and how to work with each other? We continue to work on this to ensure we’re continuously making progress, rather than slowing down.

Arden Tse

What about the biggest breakthroughs?

Nir Katchinskiy

There are a few things. In terms of measurable success, we have deployed one of our systems for a clinical study which has just started recently. That was a big success for us in the past year. 

Another piece is we’re starting to attract global talent to build the right team for commercialization. One of the things I personally love seeing is the team succeeding and working together to solve a problem in the lab. For example, during integration time, seeing 10 people from different teams working so well together to get the system ready for shipment within the deadline is impressive. With the right people, we know we can set ourselves towards success and move through FDA approval.

Arden Tse

PulseMedica has just raised $12 million CAD as part of your pre-Series A financing round. Tell us about your recent fundraise. How did you approach attracting and choosing financial partners?

Nir Katchinskiy

I treat it differently depending on the company phase. But building relationships is key at any stage.

In the early days, we put ourselves out there in the right programs to get the right exposure to potential investors. We created a network of individuals who could become our investors or at least make the right introductions. We did this through programs like CDL and we met many of our initial investors and had an opportunity to work closely with them for six to nine months and get to know each other.

We also went and started talking to the market. We needed to understand whether or not what we were building was on the right path. And in the end, that led to an investment from a multinational strategic company.

For a life science company, it’s all about showing the right data at the right time. Right now, because we’re not producing revenue just yet, we need to show proof of concept and the belief that if we have a certain amount of money, we can hit the next milestones. And as we hit milestones, that helps us get the right data and we become more and more investable. Already we’ve built relationships and trust with next stage potential investors. We stay in touch, and look forward to saying “now we have the right data, let’s raise the next round.”

Arden Tse

Accelerate Fund is a proud backer of PulseMedica, can you share what made us a fit? What’s been valuable to you in working with us?

Nir Katchinskiy

In the early days, we met a few times with the Accelerate Fund team for introductions to the right granting organizations and individuals in Alberta, and other potential investors as well. That early experience was an important piece for us – showed Accelerate Fund could support follow-on investment, allowing us to de-risk.

Another significant aspect was the due diligence process. You may get potential investors stringing you along having to ask thousands of questions. With the Accelerate Fund team, it was a great process and pretty straightforward. We got the right feedback to know it was interesting to them and that really helped.

The quality of the investment memo the team put together has also been serving us ever since. It is extremely well done, allowing any investor to dig deep into the company through that one memo. We still use it in our data room to share with potential investors.

Melania was also a great help in improving our ESG understanding and outlook. Some of the efforts we’ve taken include reducing the carbon footprint in our supply chain and overall energy consumption. And we’re prioritizing areas like ethical leadership and open communication including an annual all-hands retreat to focus on team building. Currently, 47% of our team is from underrepresented groups and we are continuing to increase this percentage. As we continue to move forward, we will identify more significant areas to improve our ESG strategy.

Arden Tse

You’ve built impressive medical and business advisory boards, with top-tier global talent. How did you do that and how important was it to look outside of Alberta or even Canada for help in the growth of your company?

Nir Katchinskiy

I can’t stress enough to entrepreneurs the importance of having a real board of directors, not just the founders. Having experienced individuals who know how to run companies, set metrics, hold you accountable, and make you think and present is extremely valuable.

Let me give you one example. When you have an initial term sheet presented to you and there’s a lot of money on the line, you get excited: ‘tell me where to sign’. But our board’s initial response was no, we’re not signing this, which came to me as a surprise. But I learned how important it is to pay attention to certain details and stand firm on our terms to avoid putting the company at risk.

One of the things that we did initially on how to structure our board was to use a skills matrix. We thought about what kind of skills we wanted and to make sure that the skills would complement each other.

As we’re a medical device company, we wanted experience in manufacturing and designing medical devices. So we brought on Mr. Lahav Gil, who built the second-largest engineering and manufacturing firm in Canada for medical devices. We also needed help with fundraising. Dr. Ray Muzyka has a ton of experience in that space, it turns out he is a fantastic negotiator.

We also wanted someone well-recognized in the ophthalmology space and we got connected with Mr. James V. Mazzo who used to be the CEO of Abbott Medical Optics. We also wanted someone who is a lawyer with experience in the medical device world, so we brought Mr. Bruce Jenett, who used to be the corporate lawyer of a company called Opti-Medica.

Many of our board members and advisors came through a mutual connection. It’s important to be respectful in all of your relationships because you just never know where it could lead.

Arden Tse

Many of us have had laser eye surgery for vision correction or cataract surgery, we see eye care as pretty advanced perhaps. What does the future look like for eye disease treatment? How does PulseMedica fit into that vision and what’s next?

Nir Katchinskiy

Bringing a laser accurately past the lens into the posterior chamber of the eye is extremely difficult and no one has solved it yet.

Eye diseases like macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and eye floaters – these conditions impact hundreds of millions worldwide. The standard of care today is either no treatment because there are no tools to treat it, or if there are treatments they are quite invasive, like surgery or injections.

PulseMedica has the ability to offer a non-invasive, image-guided laser treatment to treat these conditions safely and effectively, reducing the burden of care, or offering treatment where none exists today. Every doctor and optometrist we talk to has patients who complain daily about floaters but have nothing to offer them. We aim to be the first company to offer a tool for diagnostics and non-invasive treatment that is safe and effective. I believe PulseMedica will be a game-changer in the ophthalmology space.

 

PulseMedica logo

Patented ophthalmic laser system diagnoses and treats eye diseases.

LOCATION

Edmonton AB

MILESTONES

Founded in 2020 
Funded by AF 2023

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