For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for building high-tech imaging products. This passion has been the driving force of my professional life, and while I’ve managed to parlay it into a long, varied and rewarding career, it hasn’t always been easy. My successes have been hard-fought—as they should be. It takes time, experience and a whole lot of creative thinking to build new products and take them to market. But it also takes grit. Whenever I feel daunted or discouraged by a challenge ahead, I remember my high school’s motto: luctor et emergo, or “struggle and emerge.” When it comes to innovation, struggle is part of the journey. Embrace it. And along the way, here are some other key things to remember:

It’s always difficult to tread a new path when you’re building a product— after all, you don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why it’s crucial to talk to others, to find people who have been down a similar road and who can provide you with a blueprint for navigating a way forward. One thing that I’ve learned time and again in my 30-plus years of building high-tech products is that there are always people out there who are willing to show you, and to help you—especially here in Calgary, where we’ve developed a culture of sharing our learnings and applauding our mutual successes.

Often, businesses that are developing something new go to market too fast. They sell a product that’s not quite ready, which inevitably leads to a customer who isn’t happy. For many start-ups, this rush stems from a pressure to drive revenue, usually from a board of directors that isn’t experienced in the process of bringing new technology to the market.

In my experience, that’s a huge mistake. The first metric you want is happy customers. If you ask a customer to pay too early, they tend to pull away. You have to get them all the way hooked—to listen to their feedback and let them help you create that minimal viable product. You can’t put a price on a happy early adopter who is willing to act as a champion for you in the market. In the early days, those champions are so much more valuable than the few hundred or few thousand dollars you might be able to get them to pay for your product.

While revenue shouldn’t be a primary driver in those early days of product development, investment should absolutely be top of mind. When you’re a startup, you need to be thinking constantly about how you’re going to get that next investment, because that’s what’s going to fuel your business. And while you’re looking for that investment, be very careful not to overspend. You may think you need a development team of 20 people, but you might only be able to afford a team of two. And if that’s what it’s going to take for you to get across the line until you can create enough value in the business to get a bigger investment, so be it.

As CEO of Kent Imaging, I am working with my team, and my peers, to heighten Calgary’s profile as a place where healthcare innovation can thrive. Historically, this city has not been known as a medical tech hub. But things are changing. Just 15 years ago, there was one small health tech company in Calgary. Now there are over 150, including Kent, that are really starting to make a name for themselves. I see us all as pioneers in this space. Many of us have come together to recognize and create an environment in Alberta where we can foster innovation, and more importantly, foster access to capital that’s critical for innovation. Building a supportive community within your industry is key to creating an ecosystem where innovation can flourish.

Pierre Lemire is CEO of Kent Imaging. A technology commercialization expert with over 30 years of experience in the high-tech world of imaging, his past roles as a CTO at Autodesk Inc, and co-founder of Calgary Scientific provide key experiences that he uses to guide Kent Imaging’s corporate strategy and vision.


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