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David Graves, chairman and CEO of Imris (Thomas Fricke/Thomas Fricke Photography)
David Graves, chairman and CEO of Imris (Thomas Fricke/Thomas Fricke Photography)

Report on Small Business Magazine

High-tech Imris banks on the future Add to ...

David Graves heard about a cool new invention at the National Research Council’s Institute for Biodiagnostics back in 2005. The technology was designed to help surgeons get up-to-the-minute images of a patient’s brain during a neurological procedure, using a high-field MRI scanner in the operating room. Graves liked the idea so much, he decided to buy the patent, and Imris was born.

Today, the Winnipeg-based company—started with about $10 million of Graves’s own money—is actively marketing two other products, for cardiovascular and neurovascular procedures. Graves doesn’t like to waste time when it comes to getting new developments to market, and so Imris is also plugging away at two potential new products. One is for radiation therapy; the other is a surgical robot, currently in clinical trials, that can perform operations while a surgeon guides it from a control room.


Employees: 160 Year founded: 2005 Home base: Winnipeg 2010 revenue: $72 million The number of patents issued or pending: 37 The amount a hospital pays for a system and its installation: $4-$12 million Number of systems Imris had sold worldwide by end of 2010: 45


Imris did an initial public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2007, raising roughly $40 million. It followed that up with a listing on Nasdaq last year, raising another $50 million. Its sales force, which is looking to sell the products to hospitals, is organized around three key geographical markets: North America, Europe and the Middle East, and China.

Graves is no stranger to young companies. Having previously founded Broadband Networks Inc., a wireless telecommunications systems developer, and having also served as the CEO of venture capital firm Centara Corp., Graves has the benefit of experience to guide him.

Lessons Learned

  1. Assemble a team of skilled professionals. “I think it’s extremely important that our company is not managed only by the engineers that started it,” says Graves.
  2. Gain credibility by launching a product that’s a raging success right away, but don’t take too long. “Markets don’t wait for you. If you take your time, you’ll be the last guy to show up. Go quickly and spare no expense in making it right.”
  3. Don’t just build a better mousetrap. “Don’t rely on innovation. You have to identify a market where you have some open space.”
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