Startup Team: Optina Diagnostic

Kristin Karaoglu · February 15, 2019 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/4d3e

We have a good understanding of everyone's strengths and weakness

If you read through our popular Meet the VC series, which profiles hundreds of VCs, you’ll see that an overwhelming majority say the founder and his or her founding team are the biggest factors they consider when investing in a company.

Many want to find that soft skill that’s often not reflected in a resume. For instance, VCs always look for founders who are “resilient” “intuitive” and “courageous.”  At the same time, they want to find teams that work well together and complement one another. Team dynamics can make or break a company.

In this new series, we’re profiling startup founding teams. We want to know why they chose to work together and why they work so well together. 

Our fourth company is Optina Diagnostic. Optina Diagnostic technology enables a simple eye-scan to detect key biomarkers of cognitive diseases, using specialized hardware and proprietary A.I. software, focusing first on Alzheimer’s disease. Optina’s eye scanning technology will slash pharma trial recruitment costs, improve patient diagnostics and management of cognitively-impaired aging populations, eventually available to screen anyone over 60 to help prevent cognitive diseases.

Optina Diagnostic is one of the companies that took stage at our September 2018 event, SplashX Invent Health: Precision Health. Watch their pitch here: Video: Optina Diagnostics, Biomarker Labs, Remedy Health Startups in the area of precision health

David Lapointe is the president and CEO of Optina Diagnostics. Prior to finding his startup, David held the position of General manager at GE Healthcare were he managed the global operation for Molecular Imaging and Research. During his tenure at GE Healthcare, David increased distribution by adding new global markets.

David founded Advanced Molecular Imaging (AMI) in Sherbrooke, Canada to bring molecular imaging technologies to the global pharma and research market. AMI developed the world’s first fully digital PET imaging system. In addition to successfully securing all funding for AMI, David completed a successful sale of AMI Mr. Lapointe’s early career included sales and marketing positions in the pharma industry.

David went to Universite de Sherbook in Quebec, and received an MS in Biotechnology and Medical Imaging. Read more about David here: Today's Entrepreneur: David Lapointe
Jean-Philippe Sylvestre is the CTO of Optina Diagnostic. Jean-Philippe has more than 11 years experience in research, 8 years of which were in biomedical/pharmaceutical sciences. He has expertised in development of biomedical devices, drug delivery and fabrication and physico-chemical characterization of (nano)materials. He worked as a R&D project management of a medical imaging device, optimization of drug formulations for transdermal and oral delivery, in vivo proof-of-concept studies in small laboratory animals and human,  research experience abroad.  

Jean-Philippe co-authored of over 10 research articles published in internationally renowned journal and several presentations (oral or poster) in major national or international conferences. Jean-Philippe holds a PhD from The University of Bath in Pharmaceutical Sciences, M.Sc and B.Ing in in Engineering Physics from Polytechnique Montreal
 
Claudia Chevrefils stands as CIO of Optina Diagnostic. Claudia is an experienced biomedical engineer with in depth knowledge in artificial intelligence, design of validation protocol, proof of concept, generation of relevant and comprehensive engineering report. Through more than a decade she was involved in many projects from different biomedical fields such as orthopedics, medical imaging, dentistry, and oncology. 
Before Optina Diagnostic, she was an imaging specialist at Polymer Robotics and Biomedical Engineering Consultant at Zimmer Biomet. 
Claudia holds PhD and M.ScA.in Génie Biomédical from École Polytechnique de Montréal.
Vatornews: How did your team come together?

David: Initially Jean Daniel Arb, our ophthalmologist, was approached by Sebastien Blais Ouellette, founder of Photon, to see how the technology he had developed at Caltech was applied to various applications such as waste management, astronomy, cell biology and how it could be adapted to image the retina. Jean Daniel funded the first prototype that was developed by Photon ETC. I, after completing a three years mandate at GE Healthcare, post acquisition of it’s company in PET imaging, was looking for ways to identify asymptomatic Alzheimer's at early stage patients. I was frustrated by the low access and high cost of PET imaging and was looking for a technology that will enable the identification of asymptomatic Alzheimer's patients at a low cost. Optina was funded with David Lapointe as CEO and Jean Daniel and Sebastien as board members. The founding team includes the engineers that developed the prototype, Jean-Philippe Sylvestre, PhD and AI imaging expert Claudia Chevrefils, PhD.

Vatornews: What are the complementary skills you each bring to the table?  

David: I bring vision and passion to the team. I have 20 years of experience in medical devices, fundraising, business model, management and successful exits. I have strong knowledge in startups, sales, marketing and medical devices. 

Jean-Phippe, with his hardware development skills and knowledge in R&D and patents brings rigor and scientific thinking to the team. He is detail oriented and highly engaged. 

Claudia's 15 years of experience in the field and knowledge in image analysis, machine learning, AI, product development, organized, action driven, hands on character carried the team to an upper level. 

Vatornews: What are the characteristics / qualities you look for in a founding partner? 

David: I like to work with engaged, talented, open and honest teammates. Beside the qualifications of the job, our team fills each others gaps. 

Claudia: We are looking for someone that definitively has a taste for adventure and passion! Someone that has good capacity to adapt, creative in their problem solving approach and good team player!

Jean-Phippe: A dose of experience in entrepreneurship in the team is helpful to lead the way. In our case David had previous experience starting a company from scratch until it was acquired by a major player, GE. Resilience is important as it can be a bumpy road.

Vatornews: How do you make sure you don’t get on each other’s nerves?

David: Through times of disagreement we have found common ground. Disagreements are what make us move forward, make decisions. We focus on the company vision and each has their own account abilities and responsibilities. We have a good understanding of everyone's strengths and weakness. I am okay with my weaknesses and we help each other during hard times. 

Claudia: Nothing to add, it is exactly what we are doing!

Jean-Phippe: I would add that everyone acts professionally and respects the other members of the team.

Vatornews: What are some lessons learned about working together?

David: We learned to be resilient! There are never too many follow ups. Until someone says 'no,' the door is always open whether it is for a grand, financing or from customers. We keep learning every day. 

Claudia: For sure we realized that we all are resilient! I would also add the fact that we realize that we are complimentary in our technical expertise and mainly in our personality. This allows the team to go forward in any circumstance because there is always at least one team member who can face a specific challenge and bring energy to accomplish what needs to be done.

Vatornews: What’s your advice about teams and founding partners to entrepreneurs looking to start a company?

David: It is a very long, stressful and fun adventure. Make sure you do it with similar minded people but with different skills.

Claudia: Make sure all the team is ready to jump in the adventure… because starting a company is an adventure, from my point of view! Be passionate in what you are doing and have fun in your day to day activities!

Jean-Phippe: Complementary skill sets. If you don’t have an experienced entrepreneur, seek advice.
 
If you are interested in being included in Startup Teams series, join Vator and email your interest to kristin@vator.tv. If you'd like to be included in our Today's Entrepreneur column, please send me your Vator profile.
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Kristin Karaoglu

Woman of many skills: Database System Engineer; SplashX event producer; Author of Startup Teams

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Optina Diagnostic

Startup/Business

Joined Vator on

Optina’s Retinal Deep Phenotyping platform addresses the major challenges
faced by the healthcare system related to an aging population.
 
Recently, Optina was granted breakthrough device designation by the FDA for our first indication in Alzheimer’s Disease detection which enables a dramatic improvement in the diagnostic accuracy of dementia.
 
Our ecosystem comprised of a proprietary platform and a network of eye clinics creates a new and efficient means for simple patient stratification. The ecosystem allows for the collection of data rich retinal images with 30X more information than current retinal imaging platforms.
 
Algorithm development utilizes a ground truth that is based on specifically characterized patients from leading institutions around the world.
 
With our developing product pipeline, Optina continues to bring clarity and accessibility to early-stage diagnosis, improving the life of millions.

177876

Claudia Chevrefils

Joined Vator on

CIO - Vice-présidente système d'information
174952

David Lapointe

Joined Vator on

President and CEO, Optina An entrepreneur by nature with a keen eye for identifying opportunities. Results-oriented with a mission to benefit the advancement of the healthcare industry with a ROI for stakeholders.