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In Pictures: Hip-surgery startup faces a new hurdle

CEO is asked to move to the U.S. to be closer to angel investors

It took less than a year for Armen Bakirtzian and his team at Intellijoint Surgical Inc. to take a first-of-its-kind medical technology and put it in the hands of doctors in about 10 hospitals in the United States. During this time, the Waterloo, Ont., company has grown to employ about 30 people. It recently released a second-generation version of its tool, which improves the accuracy of implant selection and positioning during hip replacement surgery.

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When Intellijoint received FDA clearance for its second-generation device in September, 2015, it went from zero to 10 hospitals in the U.S. in just a few months, Mr. Bakirtzian says.

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Since its launch six years ago, Intellijoint has raised money mostly from provincial and federal government programs, as well as Canadian angel investors and venture capital firms. But securing funding has become more difficult as the company advances to the next stage of growth, says Mr. Bakirtzian. “We’ve been chasing capital in Canada, but I’ve found the angels and venture-capital gap widening as we’ve shifted to the right of the commercialization spectrum,” he says. “It’s a significant challenge because we need capital to continue to develop and commercialize our product.”

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Mr. Bakirtzian and his team are looking at funding sources beyond the country’s borders. There are a lot of U.S. and international investors interested in Intellijoint, he says, but they’re all pushing for the company to move to where the money is. “They request that the business assets be in their home country and that we hire in their home country,” says Mr. Bakirtzian. “But we want to keep our operations in Canada.

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“We’re a Canadian company, our families are in Canada, and there’s a lot of engineering talent where we are in Waterloo. We’ve lived and breathed this question for the last two years,” he says. “We want to be in Canada, but should we move to the U.S. or another country to get the capital we need?”

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