The nimble CEO
With Novadaq’s stock dropping, Arun Menawat ’96 retooled his company’s imaging technology away from open-heart surgeries and toward less -invasive procedures
BY Bobby Caina Calvan | Photo by Jonathan Bielaski
Even on the bleakest days when the stock plunged below one dollar, Arun Menawat refused to give up on his medical technology startup, Novadaq.
What Novadaq had was groundbreaking technology that would allow surgeons to see blood flowing through arteries and veins, down to the tiniest capillaries. And after Menawat refocused the company to target less invasive surgeries, Novadaq bounced back.
Today, the company’s stock is valued at more than $13 a share. During the first quarter of this year, the company reported revenue of $7.3 million, a 53 percent increase from the same period last year. “The first four years were incredibly difficult,” says Menawat, the Ottawa company’s CEO. “But we all knew we had something.”
Born in India and raised in the Baltimore area, Menawat moved to Canada to become president of Toronto-based Cedara Software, a medical imaging software firm that he helped grow. In 2002, he began looking for new challenges, and that’s when the opportunity to work for Novadaq came along.
“I really felt that I had exhausted challenges in large companies,” Menawat says. “Money is very interesting and so on — but doing something that could be very challenging could be even more interesting. It was a risk, but I had a lot of personal confidence … and a real desire to do something really different.”
He found it in the company’s heralded medical imaging tool, which uses a fluorescence imaging agent and infrared light, as a potential lifesaver that could significantly reduce complications and improve the outcomes of surgeries.
When Novadaq first offered itself to Canadian investors in 2005, its stock was $9 a share. By 2009, the stock was plummeting. “We were just not getting any traction,” Menawat recalls.
But the company proved nimble. Menawat and his team looked deeper into the changes unfolding in the marketplace. The number of full-scale open-heart surgeries, for example, was declining as patients opted for less invasive procedures. “We listened to surgeons,” says Menawat.
What surgeons wanted was a way to track the flow of blood on the microscopic level. The agent, when seen through specialized video equipment, turns the body into a gigantic glow stick, allowing doctors to visualize in real time the movement of blood in vessels and tissue. The company began redeveloping its products for use in other cutting-edge surgical applications.
Menawat credits Kellogg with helping him develop the “soft skills” he used to build relationships with the surgeons who would help guide research and development at Novadaq.
“To succeed, you have to believe in yourself and your technology,” says Menawat. “But you also have to get critical feedback — and we did — so we could adjust our game plan until it worked.”