Starfish Medical solving the right problems for customers

Starfish Medical is Canada’s leading medical device development services company, and it’s right here in Victoria. Their mission is to improve health care by enabling and supporting entrepreneurial medical device companies to be successful. At their core, they’re about solving the right problems for their customers.

On a tour of their medical device facility recently, Starfish President, Scott Phillips showed off some medical devices in various stages of completion – a blood platelet analyzer, brain biofeedback device, skin cancer analyzer, heart valve tester, a device that measures implanted lenses, and a chiropractic device. The latter involved the technical experts at Starfish to re-envision the device by carefully thinking through how the chiropractor and the patient interacted with it. “It’s humbling as an engineer,” Phillips said “to work hard at getting the technology right, and then find you haven’t solved the right problem. Our engineers work closely with our industrial designers on the human interface, which is critical to making the device work properly.”

Philips is understandably proud of Starfish Medical’s evolution to a $7 – $8 million company after 13 years. “We hire smart people and have our act together as far as metrics and management systems which are the essence of being a successful company.” Along with that, Starfish has broadened and systematized its approach to solving problems and now helps other companies ask deeper questions so they too can be successful.

An ISO13485 registered company, Starfish Medical employs about 50 people, more than half of whom are engineers. Others are technical and industrial designers, and those who work in manufacturing, quality compliance and regulatory systems, marketing, business development and administration. Regardless of their function, Phillips makes sure everyone fits with the company’s culture that is guided by five principles:

  • Dig deeper to solve the right problem
  • Cut to the chase
  • Respect people and trust their intentions
  • Learn and systematize
  • Be open and welcome accountability

What do employees say is the best thing about working at Starfish Medical? “They like the culture, they like their peers and they like doing interesting work. Those are consistently the top three in our surveys,” said Phillips. He has his sights set on growing the company and says there will be opportunities across the board within the expertise they currently have.

As chair of the VIATeC board and a participant on roundtables, Phillips sees huge value in being part of Victoria’s hi tech community. Employees connect to other experts in their field, they participate on roundtables, and attend social mixers. “I’m a big believer in building community.”

What do you think will encourage VIATeC’s growth in the future?

He points to two recent innovations that will help. Accelerate Tectoria that guides and supports local start-ups and Experience Tectoria that brings together top notch education, networking and music. “Connecting entrepreneurs to each other, and to grassroots initiatives like these is just a taste of what’s to come,” he said. “It would be wonderful to see our collective $2B in Victoria tech industry revenues grow to $5B.”

MaryLou Wakefield

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