The Silicon Review
"ClaroNav(Toronto, Canada) develops, manufactures and markets surgical navigation and motion tracking products"
ClaroNav was founded in 2001 as Claron Technology Inc. by Claudio Gatti and Doron Dekel (hence the name), both having a long and rich experience in developing sophisticated medical 3D visualization software and surgical navigation systems for neuro and spine applications. Unlike most high-tech medical device start-ups that seek VC or angel funding, the founders bootstrapped the company using its own profits. ClaroNav is fully owned by its founders and employees.
The company appeared 4 times on the list of Canada’s 500 fastest growing companies. Two years ago, it sold most of its assets to a large multinational. With only 10 employees left, it then started growing rapidly again, doubling its annual revenues each year, an exponential growth trend it expects to continue in the next few years.
What is your core technology? How is it applied in your products?
We map virtual to reality for surgeons. Using data collected by scanners, such as CT or surface shape scanners, we build a digital model of the patient’s anatomy, i.e., we create a “virtual patient”. The virtual patient is used by the surgeon to plan their surgery. During the operation, we track the motion of both the patient and the surgical tools and map the virtual patient and plan to the real patient. As a tool is being moved, by the surgeon or a surgical robot, we compute and present the deviation between the planned and the actual position of the tool, allowing either the surgeon or the robot to make the needed corrections to follow their plan accurately.
Our three main products are Navident, which guides dental implant surgery; NaviENT, which guides sinus and skull-base surgery; and Micron Tracker, a family of optical motion trackers being used in our own products, which we sell B2B to other surgical navigation and medical robotics companies and researchers.
Why was the company set up? How did you select the vertical and decide to be a part of the global platform?
Claudio and I founded the company following our successful collaboration in rapidly developing a 3D free-hand ultrasound system. We initially provided contract image processing software development services to medical device companies. A portion of the profit was set aside to prototype product ideas and explore them. Some ideas matured into revenue-producing products, while most were abandoned. Over the years, the company succeeded in bootstrapping itself to rapid growth in medical imaging technology without raising outside money.
Tell us about your first product that was launched? How successful was your first project roll on?
Our first product, introduced in 2003, was Micron Tracker, an innovative sub-millimeter motion tracking camera which uses pattern recognition and stereoscopic vision to detect and track its targets. While it provided significant advantages over competitive offerings, it missed the opportunity window for supplying large medical OEMs and remained a second in the market. However, we continued to evolve the product and, in the last few years, medical robotics companies have discovered its benefits and incorporated it into their designs, so Micron Tracker sales are now rapidly increasing.
If you have to list five factors that have been/are the biggest asset to your organization, what would they be and why?
- People in all parts of the organization have deep expertise, exceptional abilities and a strong drive to contribute
- A “just do it”, task-oriented, open culture where people get a lot of autonomy and trust, information is shared widely and management overhead, including meetings, is kept to the absolute minimum. This results in a highly efficient “lean” organization
- Management focus on giving customers what they want
- Keeping designs as simple and elegant as possible, enabling their reuse over many products and over long periods, thus further improving efficiency
- Ambition and drive at the executive level
What is your company’s mission and how is it translated into daily practice?
Our mission is simply defined as: Do Good; Have Fun; Make Money. This is practically translated thus:
- Make a clear positive difference in the lives of clinicians and their patients
- Provide desirable jobs to employees
- Treat suppliers and contractors fairly and respectfully
- Provide employees with worthy and exciting challenges to pursue in collaboration with colleagues they respect
- Maintain an open, honest, light-hearted and positive work environment
- Maximize the control employees have on their work life
- Pay employees, contractors and suppliers well and on time
- Share corporate ownership with employees fairly (all employees own shares!)
- Aim for a lucrative corporate ownership sale at an opportune time
How do you and your company contribute to global technology and society at large?
First and foremost, our surgical navigation technology is guiding surgeons to do a better job for their patients with small cuts that heal quickly and with minimal pain. Secondly, we provide surgeons with a less stressful and more rewarding work environment. Thirdly, we provide satisfying and lucrative jobs to employees. Finally, we generate financial rewards to everyone who is involved with the company, employees, suppliers, customers and shareholders.
Doron: pioneering engineer and entrepreneur
Doron Dekel, Co-founder and CEO: is a computer engineer and executive with a long track record of successfully leading the development of many pioneering medical visualization and surgical navigation products. Amongst them the first real-time medical 3-D visualization system; the first commercial surgical navigation system; the first visible light motion tracking system; software for automatic detection of colon polyps in CT; and the currently leading dental surgery navigation system.
“Our vision is simple: Do Good; Have Fun; Make Money.”