🏆 Being A Serial Entrepreneur
It is our great honor to be joined by Max Boysset in this podcast. Max is the CEO at SAV-IOL SA, a company that specializes in ophthalmological implants. He is also the inventor and founder of IcosaMed, a startup that focuses on breast cancer diagnostics. In addition, Max, an industrial pharmacist by training, serves on different boards and has had a long successful corporate career working in the Biotech, Medical Device, and Pharmaceutical industries.
🧠 Getting the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Max started working at big international companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Baxter, and Merck at the young age of 24. Though he always had the desire to start a company, being exposed to corporate structure and workings prepared him to start something on his own.
💡 Ideas or Solutions Rather Than Services
Most individuals with a technical background who work for big companies quit to be consultants, often providing services such as regulatory compliance. They offer services rather than products and ideas or solutions. Max however opted for the latter.
1️⃣ First Entrepreneurial Moment
Max was always fascinated by problems and finding solutions for the said problems. Working at big international companies equipped him with the knowledge to bring ideas to fruition, for instance securing patents and then starting a company focused exclusively on that particular issue.
🏙 Moving from Big International Companies To Small Start-Ups
Max simultaneously worked for big companies and created start-ups hence he was continuously moving from big to small and vice versa. These are different animals, each with its pros and cons. However, the primary premise is the same for both of them, coming up with a product addressing a particular issue or fixing it. In medical devices, it is all about the patient. Thereafter, make the product to the best of your abilities. The movement between the two also allowed the transfer of knowledge of things such as supply chain and financing.
“Failure is the biggest thing you encounter in this adventure (entrepreneurship).”
― Max Boysset
Everyone wants to have a successful start-up. However, it should not be the only criteria we use to measure our gains from the start-up.
“What is important, the end of the journey or the journey itself?” Max quips during the interview. The experience gained by rallying people around an idea is invaluable.
👔 Who Is an Entrepreneur?
If you have an idea that creates a product that people need, you are an entrepreneur. All products and gadgets need to make sense. Do people need it? First, identify something untapped or unaddressed today then come up with something that doesn’t exist to fill the gap.
💡 Exciting Ideas
IcosaMed, incorporated in 2019, is developing technology that aims to detect breast cancer using ultrasound and AI. Max has brought together an experienced board of directors and a team of scientists who are pushing the corporate side of the company. The primary motivation is the fact that this is the right technology and the right thing to do. Currently, they are in the process of raising capital. Though it is not easy, everyone is working hard and the whole organization is headed in the right direction.
The technology is not new, as it takes already existing ultrasound technology and miniaturizing it to fit into breast garments. The smart bra will have multiple micro-probes, about 200, and still, be light and sexy. The information gathered will be analyzed by AI which will reconstruct 3D images and then compare the same to previous data through a programmed statistical model. If something is looking like a growth, the wearer will be warned via a smartphone notification.
🎯 Target Population
During CES Las Vegas, IcosaMed presented the product and it got a lot of attention from women. The primary target population includes women with the genetic predisposition for breast cancer, breast disease survivors who have already undergone treatment or surgery, women with risk factors such as family history, and those with no risk factors but are keen on their health and wellbeing.
There is a general trend where people are shifting to preventative medicine and monitoring of one’s health. Individuals want more control over their health and wellbeing hence the popularity of health and fitness trackers.
The technology will provide a huge database for cancer research. It is more convenient than intermittent exams that involve going to the hospital or that may fail to detect minute changes. and eliminates the biases of questionnaires. Instead of depending on physical questionnaires and follow-up, practitioners will have access to a massive amount of reliable and structured data. Overall, there will be an improvement in knowledge and understanding of breast cancer and its evolution.
There are significant risks associated with data collection and individuals increasingly want more control over their data. IcosaMed will therefore have to emphasize confidentiality and privacy, and compliance with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).
📈 Growth Map and Plan
IcosaMed is currently in the capital-raising stage. They have put together a team of talented individuals. There is a very clear plan for the way forward for the company. Medical, scientific, and technical teams are all ready to go once the capital has been raised. An important aspect of the success of the company is communication. There is a need for a well-understood approach such as using influencers to push the product. Consumers need to understand what the product is and how they will benefit. There is also a need to remain close to medical doctors who are crucial to the success of the product. Buyers should be reminded that though the product is nice and useful, it is not a replacement of a physical exam by a qualified medical practitioner and it is primarily aimed at helping with monitoring in-between visits.
Since the product is targeted at women, IcosaMed is very keen on having the project spearheaded and led by women.
📍 Trending Topics Within This Space
There is a lot of new and exciting medical technology being released every year. Max is especially impressed by a project he has been involved in, which provides new technology for sterilization of medical equipment in hospitals. The technology is easy to use, affordable and doesn’t need water which is scarce in most places on the planet. There is a tragic situation in India and Pakistan where you find most hospitals use poor sterilization methods that need water. The technology is primarily a container in which oxygen is converted to ozone which then sterilizes everything in the container at the time. The company doing this is a Swiss Company, SteriLux. They are currently in the sales process and they are already getting revenue out of the product. Other sectors such as veterinary medicine can also utilize the equipment.
➡️ Next Idea
The next great ideas are built around using existing technology in new ways. For instance, the sterilization containers by SteriLux use UV light to convert oxygen to ozone. Magnetic fields are an area that seems yet to be fully utilized in medical technology. Going forward, there is a need to understand diseases fully. A good example is tumor cells, multiple factors contribute to their development but we are yet to quite understand the transformation process. Traditional medicine such as Chinese medicine also offers another unexplored frontier. Studying and understanding the approaches utilized, and then improving them may prove to be the next breakthrough in medicine.
🦠 Impact of the Pandemic
Each industry and business were affected uniquely. The healthcare industry was not affected as much. Though it experienced a dip in March and April like all other industries, it bounced back earlier and by December 2020 there was a semblance of normalcy.
The thing that stood out was the social media exposition. The existence of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms exemplified the seriousness of the pandemic and also spread misinformation hence increasing the impact of the pandemic. If the pandemic happened in the 1980s the impact would be lesser. Social media allowed many people to talk about the pandemic without knowledge yet they were heard and influenced others. The miscommunications lead to a lot of confusion, especially at the beginning. Vaccine misinformation from non-experts is now hindering recovery.
The misinformation and too much talk made us lose focus on what needs to be done and the best behaviors to adapt.
The existing technology did help us react fast and have a positive outcome. However, the existing technology would still be better utilized to avoid out-of-control outbreaks in India and Brazil.
The wider implications of COVID on businesses and employees revolve around a shift in approach to work. Due to a year of working from home, a switch is expected towards remote working. Despite adapting to and enjoying working from home a significant number of employees still want to go back to work for the in-person interaction and exchange of ideas. There is a personal connection that is missing in the Zoom interactions. Doing things on a table collectively and interacting is something many workers miss.
The recommended way forward is a blended approach. You can’t go back to exactly what you had. Merge both working from home and the previous operation. Though working from home offers flexibility especially for parents it also limits separation of home and office life, something many people are keen on. A company insisting on going back to how things were risks losing employees. For manufacturing companies like IcosaMed, employees have to go back physically to work. Though the company already had a remote working operation, the pandemic pushed them to expand and utilize it more.
The coffee machine is a significant intersection point in the office. Unlike the one at home that is used only by you, the one at the office brings people together and allows interaction, the creation of strong relationships, and the conception of great ideas. Stronger working relationships and teams are built in-person than over Zoom.
Max, from a young age, is a big Formula 1 fan. Driver Ayrton Senna fascinated and inspired him. His approach and firm belief in having principles and doing everything you need to without compromise to be first is inspiring. Reading different books has also helped him get different ideas that make him better at his job and a better human being. French philosopher Michel Serres is another source of inspiration
“What is the good of thinking, if we have no idea how to live?”
― Michel Serres, The Five Senses: A Philosophy of Mingled Bodies
Michel had a simplified view of a complex world. He saw a forest as a representation of where we came from and where we are going back to, nature. We, therefore, need to go back to nature to help us understand who we are.
Max goes mountain biking in the forest as it helps him connect with nature and develop a simple perception of life. The forest is just nature, nothing artificial. Humans are creating artificial things and trying to handle and manage them all the time. Compared to a hundred years ago, one wonders if people are happier then or now – we can’t be sure.
“We are adding more and more complexity to this world. Is it good or bad?”
Max is now 50 years old and he has come to realize humility is key. The most important thing to him is that if he can contribute to the development of a smart brassiere that allows early detection of breast cancer, then he has done his part. Nobody demands that everybody contributes. You can’t go about your life saying you want to leave a big legacy like a big building. Be humble and provide something that has not been set yet but will help people. Max has done just that.