Angela Robert laughs as she tells me she always said she’d never start a business. She laughs again as she says she also told herself she’d never build a business in the medical industry.
"Never, never, never. But I’ve done both," she continues, smiling. "So what’s the next never? I don’t know yet."
Robert is CEO of Conquer Mobile, which set up shop in Surrey this year in the recently opened Health Tech Innovation Hub, located in the epicentre of the city’s Innovation Boulevard.
The company is behind the app PeriopSim, a simulation-learning tool for training surgical staff. Using surgical video with voice prompts, the app guide learners through procedures, step by step, all while timing and scoring them. For students and veterans alike, the idea is to increase efficiency and accuracy in the operating room.
Then there’s the company’s virtual simulation technology, which uses a Playstation Move controller to allow users to virtually practice surgeries.
The company has also developed 3D-scanning technology, which can be used from an iPad, for scanning injuries or limbs for prosthetics. Basically, in a giant rubix cube, the app fills in the holes and creates a "3D selfie" of whatever is within its borders.
"We really want to work with companies to push the boundaries of virtual reality and simulation," explains Robert. "And we’re always pushing the boundaries in terms of technology."
Standing in her boardroom, she tells me the story of her business.
In typical entrepreneurial fashion, she takes the interview as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: Walk me through the history of the company, all the while taking notes on white boards to use for an onboarding video for new staff.
The story began in 2008, when Robert jumped into the world of app development after leaving a job at Electronic Arts, aka EA Games. There, she built simulations for soccer, skateboarding, hockey and driving.
Asked why she made the leap into app development out on her own, she said she was excited about the possibilities.
Instead of envisioning sheep as she laid her head to her pillow at the end of a day, she found herself dreaming up new apps.
"It was blowing my mind," she said.
In 2010, Robert officially joined forces with her now business partner Aaron Hilton, who had his own company at the time.
Early on, their focus early on was on enterprise mobile apps. Clients included Vancouver School Board and 1-800-GOT-JUNK.
Eventually, the two decided to take the business in a different direction and found their niche in medical technology.
The two have created a force to be reckoned with. They created 14 apps in 2014, have grown to 15 employees and have travelled across the world to share their work.
Robert went on a trade mission to Israel in 2013 with then mayor Dianne Watts, Innovation Boulevard cofounder Ryan D’Arcy and others, where she met with Dr. Amitai Ziv, founder of Israel Center for Medical Simulation.
"He looked at our app (PeriopSim) and he validated it," said Robert. "We knew we were on the right path."
And for two years in a row, she’s gone to a conference catered to operating room nurses where more than 500 nurses tested the app. The feedback was amazing, she said.
The technology has also been taken to the Canadian Neurosurgery Rookie Camp, an intensive two-day course for beginner neurosurgery residents, and the company plans to return again this July.
With no plans to slow down, Robert said she’s glad to be situated in Surrey, in the heart of the health tech precinct that’s been established.
"I think it’s the energy," she said of her desire to be part of the new health tech hub. "We find such huge value being with like companies. When you’re a startup company, you’ve got so much to learn and you have very little resources."
Conquer landed in Surrey in February and officially moved into the hub when it opened in early April. There, the business shares office space with others in the health tech field, including Philips, Back in Motion and Target Tape, but also with Kwantlen Polytechnic and Simon Fraser universities.
"Being in proximity of people really helps get things done quicker."
And she couldn’t get much closer.
Surrey Memorial is just across 96th Avenue. In fact, she can see the hospital from her second-floor window.
"We need clinicians to validate our product and they’re right next door."
For more information, visit Conquermobile.com.