We caught up with Peter Mountney, CEO of Odin Vision and an alum of our P4 Precision Medicine Accelerator. A pioneer of cloud-connected endoscopy, Odin Vision recently announced that they would be acquired by Olympus, a world-leading manufacturer of endoscopy products. In light of this successful exit, we wanted to ask Peter how he became interested in entrepreneurship and what tips he wants to share for other startups looking to be acquired.
Capital Enterprise: Let’s start by talking about your professional background and how you came to join Odin Vision as CEO.
Peter Mountney: I completed my undergraduate and master’s degree in computer science with a specific focus on computer vision. After graduating, I joined a graduate management programme at an online retailer where I spent two years rotating through marketing, business development, IT and operations roles. I returned to academia and completed my PhD and doctoral work at Imperial College London working on machine learning systems for processing laparoscopic and endoscopic images. I wanted to begin translating technology into clinical applications, so I went on to work for Siemens Healthcare. I stayed there for about a decade, involved in pioneering multiple health applications for Artificial Intelligence and quantum computing, particularly in the image processing space, leading multiple AI projects in laparoscopic surgery, ultrasound, CT/MRI scanning as well as interventional cardiology imaging. I was appointed as a Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence at UCL and joined Odin as it span out of UCL.
CE: Right, so you joined Odin as it was starting the spinout process. Where did Odin come from and what did it set out to achieve?
PM: Improving the detection of the early signs of cancer (polyps) during endoscopic procedures has been a long standing problem in the clinical community. Professor Danial Stoyanov has been pioneering computer vision to improve endoscopy procedures for the past two decades. In 2017, Patrick Brandao, a PhD student in Professor Stoyanov’s WEISS centre started making breakthroughs in the use of deep learning and polyp detection and went on to win multiple awards for his work. Professor Laurence Lovat, a consultant gastroenterologist at UCLH, identified the potential for clinical and patient impact of the technology and how this could be realised by translating the technology into clinical products. I joined Odin as the technology was spun out of UCL and Odin was founded. My vision was to bring AI technology to improve the early detection of cancer to patients and clinicians via the cloud in a highly scalable way. This would put the Odin 10 years ahead of its competition and disrupt a traditional medtech sector trying to bring software to the market as though it was hardware.
CE: You’ve just announced that Odin will be acquired by Olympus for up to £66 million. What was it like to be acquired?
PM: For a start-up like ours to be acquired within three years, in a highly competitive environment, is a huge accomplishment. It is a validation of the vision and technology that has been created. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication the Odin team has put in to get to where we are today. We aligned with Olympus on our shared mission and now with their support, we can get our technology out to as many people as possible, leading to improved patient outcomes and saved lives.
CE: Odin is also an alum of our P4 Precision Medicine Accelerator. What was that experience like and how did it benefit the company?
PM: P4 has kept Odin Vision very well connected from the very beginning. They helped us raise grant funding to get us off the ground with pioneering our research and translating it into product. P4 also provided coaching and resources for Odin staff, who have benefited massively from this. We would like to say a huge thank you to the entire team at the P4 Precision Medicine Accelerator for your ongoing support throughout.
CE: What advice would you give researchers/ academics looking to spin out?
PM: Firstly, I would say build a strong network. Developing relationships with mentors, advisors, and other entrepreneurs in your industry. They can offer valuable advice, connections, and support throughout the startup journey. Secondly, understand how your technology impacts patients’ lives. You can do this by getting involved in Patient and Public Involvement (PPI). This can be valuable to you and your team to get feedback from the people you are hoping to make a difference to. Finally, many people in academia try to spin companies out in their spare time. It takes a team of people dedicated to the mission to make this work. Getting a great team together is critical.
CE: Finally, what advice would you give a company looking to be acquired?
PM: It’s important to know who your potential acquirers are, how acquisitive they are, the types/stage and size of deals they do. Start to build relationships with these people early, we were talking to corporates within the first few months. These relationships take time to build and often evolve through collaborations/partnerships before turning into acquisitions. A year in the life of a startup is a long time but it is nothing for a corporation. Be mindful of timelines and always keep your independence.
Due diligence processes can be lengthy and detailed. Make sure you’ve got good records/ways of tracking and providing information is crucial. You need a good team of professional services people and advisors around you to help manage the process.
Thanks to Peter for taking time to chat with us. If you’d like to get more interviews with startup CEOs in your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.