Sunnybrook Next Generation’s Hawk’s Nest is back for the third annual pitch competition and fundraiser, where four of the most promising local medtech startups will compete for a chance to win up to $50,000 in non-dilutive financing.

It starts with dozens of startups. Pitch applications from the most promising emerging medtech companies are screened and interviewed. Four medtech startups are selected and invited to pitch live to an expert panel of “Hawks.” At the end of the night, the winner is selected by an audience vote to receive 50% of the net proceeds from the event in non-dilutive funding, up to a maximum of $50,000. The remainder of the proceeds raised from the event are donated to the Sunnybrook Medventions Program. Taking the lead in addressing the domestic skills gap between discovery and commercialization of medical devices, the Medventions program nurtures local medtech expertise through streamlined entrepreneurial training to bring innovations from bench to bedside.

The success of Hawk’s Nest over the past two years has helped to accelerate the growth of SNG and generated publicity for Sunnybrook and all the finalists, including Tréxō Robotics, Retispec, Acorn Biolabs, VivaVax, Steadiwear, KA Imaging, MIMOSA Diagnostics, and Cyclica.

Hawk’s Nest has raised more than $200,000 with a total of over $60,000 awarded to winning companies, including 2017 winner, Tréxō Robotics, and 2018 winner, MIMOSA Diagnostics.

Left to right: SNG Hawk’s Nest Co-Chairs Jesse Buckstein & David Tile; 2018 Winner, MIMOSA Diagnostics CEO, Dr. Karen Cross; Event MC and BetaKit Editor-in-Chief Douglas Soltys; The “Hawks” – Jacki Jenuth (Partner at Lumira Capital), Armen Bakirtzian (Co-Founder & CEO at Intellijoint Surgical Inc.), Andrea Matheson (Founder and CEO at M5.0 Inc.), Andrew Duckman (Managing Director at Bloom Burton & Co.)

MIMOSA is a leading mobile health innovator that is building the next generation of AI driven and cloud based patient monitoring and assessment tools. Developed by Dr. Karen Cross, a surgeon-scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, and Dr. General Leung, a magnetic resonance physicist, MIMOSA’s state of the art platform uses non-invasive multi-spectral mobile tissue analysis to assess and measure the physiology of tissue health and viability. By photographing the skin with near-infrared light, the device detects poor blood circulation in the feet, which can lead to foot ulcers in 15%-25% of individuals with diabetes.

For medtech startups such as MIMOSA, the impact of winning the Hawk’s Nest pitch competition extends far beyond the financial support. While the funding can help to pay employees or finance current projects, “It’s the connections with the people that you make that has a bigger impact,” Dr. Cross explained, “because that is going to lead you to the next round of funding, maybe a piece of business advice, or the next connection. The more people you can meet in the startup space, the more value you can add to your company long term.”

Dr. Cross delivered a powerful pitch at the 2018 Hawk’s Nest competition that was grounded in the personal story of MIMOSA. In a follow up interview, Dr. Cross noted, “The company was born because of a personal story, and telling that story is critical because it shows the passion behind what we are doing but also why we are doing it. The motivation is different for why we want to be successful as a company.”

Acknowledging the challenges of starting a company and bringing a medical device to the market, Dr. Cross emphasised personal motivation as a critical element of their success. “You have to be prepared that along the way there are going to be hurdles, there are going to be obstacles,” she said, “but I know with my passion and expertise that I can overcome those hurdles because it is worth it, as I am personally affected.”

Between herself and her co-founder, they have dedicated almost 15 years to the science behind this device, so it’s not only a personal story but it’s also their lives. From sacrificing hours in the lab and sleeping on the hospital floor to collect data from patients, to missing birthdays and Christmases. “I think that’s the piece that most people don’t realize when you get up to pitch something in the medical field,” Dr. Cross said. “They don’t see the inflatable mattress in the office that I was sleeping on for weeks just to make this thing work. You have to have that passion and also have shown previously that you are willing to do almost anything to work out the obstacles you might have, even before you start the company.”

Dr. Cross insists that in order to maintain a balance your work has to be your vocation, but outside of work you have to make your life “a quality life.” She also feels that the individuals they hired are really passionate about the company’s vision. Her main advice for startups is, “hire the right people and don’t be afraid to let people go. Surround yourself by good people, smarter people than you, and if it’s not working then you have to find someone else.”

While citing limited funding and long hospital procurement cycles as the two biggest obstacles facing medtech startups in Canada, Dr. Cross attributed access to talent, manufacturing facilities, and government incentives as the main reasons for growing MIMOSA in Canada.

MIMOSA recently achieved a major milestone in receiving FDA clearance and is currently working on its vision of reaching remote rural regions where individuals lack access to care.

The 2019 Hawk’s Nest will host pitch finalists Vena Medical, Epineuron Technologies, COSM Medical and NERv Technology Inc.

Based out of Waterloo, ON, Vena medical is providing physicians with the world’s smallest camera capable of going inside veins and arteries making interventional procedures faster, easier and safer. Headquartered in Bolton, ON, Epineuron is building the world’s first electroceutical device engineered to boosts the nerve’s natural biochemical process to accelerate regeneration following peripheral nerve injuries. COSM is a Toronto, ON, based startup developing custom gynecological prosthetics (gynothodics) to treat pelvic floor disorders using new ultrasound technology to model and 3D print individualized gynothodics. Kitchener-based NERv is developing an implantable biochip platform to detect post-operative complications. Their diagnostic smart catheter system is embedded with micro-sensors to significantly reduce the detection time for leakage related post-surgical complications.

Hawk’s Nest 2019 will be held on November 21st from 6-10pm EST at Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District and will be proceeded by an open bar reception.

CLICK HERE to get your ticket and join a high profile panel of “Hawks” and large audience of professionals in selecting which of these promising companies will take home the winning prize.