There is a popular expression in the startup world that goes something like this: The best business ideas are born out of a need to “scratch your own itch.”
Founding a startup doesn’t always happen like this but in the case of Dr. Gregory Kolovich, it did.
Dr. Kolovich is a well-known, Savannah-based orthopedic hand and microsurgeon. He is also the founder of the world’s first handheld X-ray device, the Micro C, and the Chief Medical Officer for the product’s company OXOS Medical, Inc.
I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Kolovich to learn how he came up with the idea for the device and discovered that healthcare innovation is not easy. Due to extensive regulations and required clearances that come along with med tech development, it took 5 years of perseverance for the Micro C to reach commercialization.
Dr. Kolovich, who graduated from the Ohio State University School of Medicine and has a B.S. degree in electrical and electronics engineering from Georgia Tech, initially came up with the idea for the Micro C in 2015. While in the Harvard Hand/Upper Extremity Fellow program when he was reattaching a patient’s severed hand when he realized there had to be a more efficient way to achieve the real-time X-ray imaging he needed during the procedure. The bulky C-arm X-ray machine was time-consuming to operate and difficult to manipulate while working on the patient.
He believed the existing X-ray technology could be miniaturized. However, he needed a prototype to show investors and customers, so he sought guidance from the Georgia Tech Advanced Technology Development Center, where he learned about customer discovery. He surveyed members of the Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons to learn how to best meet their needs with a new X-ray device.
During his research, he found a benefit of a handheld X-ray machine could be limiting exposure to radiation for the providers, patients, and staff.
“[Surgeons] were appalled when I was telling them how much radiation they were getting. A year of ambient radiation for one spine X-ray. That’s crazy, right? We have already known the increased risk young orthopedic surgeons face against cancer, cataracts, etc., while a recent study has shown the dangerous risk female orthopedic surgeons face against breast cancer.” said Dr. Kolovich.
With the insights Dr. Kolovich collected during customer discovery, he was able to start building.
“I think a lot of ideas die on the vine when the founders try to do it all themselves, and I knew really early on what my talents were. I was really good at raising money, I was really good at pitching the idea, but I found many, many people who could do far better engineering and far more sophisticated day-to-day finance and personnel management,” he shared.
Dr. Kolovich credits Evan Ruff, who joined OXOS Medical as the CEO in 2016, with managing the day-to-day operations and financial needs of the business.
The two experienced an early win when they received seed funding in July 2016 to help prototype and market the device, but they still had plenty of hurdles to overcome.
“We spent 6 months of performing hardcore, benchwork engineering…there was a time when we ran into what we thought was an inevitable failure. We thought that we couldn’t out-engineer a problem,” he explained. “We ended up having calls with four different suppliers, engineers from Europe, and I actually went to Ireland to figure it out. Ultimately, we realized, ‘Okay, we’re going to get past that first engineering hurdle.”
Murem Sharpe, the Founding Chief Marketing Officer at OXOS Medical, joined us for the conversation. She recalled the moment she knew the Micro C was going to be a success.
“In February of 2017, we managed to exhibit at a booth of a new investor at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in San Diego. For me as a marketer, I was in heaven. Every single upper and lower extremities surgeon who came up to our booth said, ‘I want it. It’s exactly what I need,’ or ‘Oh, I had this idea five years ago, but I never did anything about it, and you did,’” Sharpe shared.
After generating numerous patents and achieving several grueling FDA 510k clearances, the Micro C entered the commercial market in 2021. Along the way, the OXOS Medical team developed the OXOS Platform, a cloud platform that stores radiographic images taken by the Micro C. The platform allows a board-certified radiologist to access the files and diagnose a patient from anywhere.
Here are a few more advantages of the device:
– Uses 80% less radiation than its larger competitors.
– Offers advanced imaging, improved accuracy, and clearer images
– Infinite degrees of freedom to move the device directly to the target anatomy
– Can provide both static and live imaging
– Drastically reduces the time of care with faster imaging
Today the Micro C is being used across the country, from Savannah to Hawaii in clinical offices and operating rooms, NFL and NCAA locker rooms, professional hockey and motocross, in ambulances and urgent cares, national hospital systems including the Veteran’s Affairs (VA) System.
Through over five years of development, OXOS Medical received multiple rounds of seed funding pushing the Micro C forward. This past March, the company announced that it had received $23 million in Series A funding from Parkway Venture Capital and Intel Capital, with over $50 million in total funding so far.
Dr. Kolovich says the “synergy” with Parkway and Intel is the perfect fit for a partnership with Micro C:
“Everybody knows who Intel is. They’re probably one of the most innovative companies of all time, if not, the most innovative company of all time. I’m very excited to work with them and their expertise and Parkway, with all they’re doing with their connections in nursing homes and healthcare and imaging. I really couldn’t be happier to have these partners.”
OXOS plans to use the funds to expand into existing and emerging markets. In an April 2023 press release from OXOS, Ruff shared, “We aim to put safe, powerful, and simple X-ray technology in the hands of urgent care centers, sports teams, home care, and international mission operations, where a real-time diagnosis is critical to saving human lives.”
Dr. Kolovich expanded on this:
“The most important part is we’re changing the way healthcare is delivered at the point of care by creating a doctor in a box. We realized we can make this affordable and accessible. Add the [OXOS] platform, and you’re one click away from a board-certified radiologist or orthopedic surgeon. I think it’s going to streamline healthcare and benefit all of mankind.”
To learn more about the Micro C and OXOS Medical, visit https://oxos.com/