Jennifer Fried is an accidental entrepreneur. After three years at Bain Consulting and some time in venture capital, she thought her next step would be becoming an investor in health care startups. Instead she’s the CEO of her own med-tech startup.
Her company, ExplORer Surgical, has created a software program that guides the activities of everybody in the operating room during a surgical procedure. The idea behind the application wasn’t hers, but she’s the business brain that’s arranging the financing and bringing it to market. “The operating room is the epicenter of the hospital. It is the major revenue center and major cost center,” she says in her cubbyhole of an office buried inside a medical scrubs factory in a River North loft building.
There is plenty of new technology coming along for the preoperative period, and good data collection software for postoperative, but very little to track what happens in the OR during a procedure, Fried says.
ExplORer Surgical’s app gives each member of the surgical team his or her own tablet with a customized playbook that tells everybody what to do next. The electronic pages advance in tandem on every device as the procedure moves forward. The app also tells the OR prep team exactly what instruments and tools the surgeon prefers, in what quantities and in what order they’ll be used, cutting down on waste and resterilizations.
The idea came from Dr. Alexander Langerman, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Vanderbilt University who until recently ran a research lab in OR efficiency at the University of Chicago. “I found there was a universal challenge of coordinating services of a surgical team,” he says, having to do with “the variability of how surgeons performed procedures and the variability of the team.”
Five years after receiving an undergraduate degree in economics from Northwestern University in 2010, Fried, now 28, earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where she concentrated on finance and entrepreneurship and health care.
In 2015 Fried, Langerman and fellow MBA student Dr. Marko Rojnica came in second at the Booth New Venture Challenge, yielding $50,000 in capital. They also won a grant of $225,000 from the National Science Foundation and then got $50,000 from Pritzker Group Venture Capital. That bought them a year of product development time. On top of that, Fried has raised $1 million from 19 investors, including a number of small venture-capital funds and her former professors at Booth. The software is up and running at five hospitals.
“I have never seen any other software similar to this,” says Trissa Babrowski, assistant professor of vascular surgery at the University of Chicago Hospital. Anne Sissel, head of Baxter Ventures, a division of Baxter International, says ExplORer Surgical has identified “a true clinical and market need with the potential to be a platform technology for the OR.” Explorer Crains Its Brain Surgery