Jun 8, 2017
After graduating from university, Daisuke Haraguchi joined the Ministry of Defense, specializing in mechanical engineering (primarily aircraft maintenance). As part of the ministry’s training program, he studied at the Graduate School of Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he went on to a PhD program and joined Kawashima Lab., which focused on R&D of surgical robot systems. After completing the PhD program, he left the Ministry of Defense and assumed the position of senior managing director of RIVERFIED. He became CEO in April 2015.
R&D of surgical robotic system and other cutting-edge medical equipment
RIVERFIELD (hereafter, “the Company” or “we”) is a university-initiated venture developing medical equipment. It was established under the support of the MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) Program for Creating Start-ups from Advanced Research and Technology (START). The aim of the program is to commercialize high-potential technology seeds under a business promotor with commercialization expertise by developing business/ intellectual property (IP) strategies with an eye to target markets/ exits.
The Company’s predecessor had been focusing on the R&D of surgical robot system since 2003 under the support of the Center for Minimally Invasive Medical Research at Tokyo Medical and Dental University. The R&D is based on fluid measurement/ control technology, which has long been developed by the Kagawa- Kawashima-Tadano Group of the Precision and Intelligent Laboratory at Tokyo Institute of Technology. The R&D was selected as a START project in 2012 and the Company was incorporated under the support of JAFCO in 2014.
The Company is a university-initiated venture established to commercialize the R&D results. Our aim is to develop cutting-edge medical equipment using compressible fluid (pneumatic pressure) precision control technology for use in endoscope maneuvering systems and other next-generation surgical robotic systems. With regard to endoscope maneuvering systems, we have launched EMARO, which allows the operating surgeon to maneuver an endoscope intuitively through head movement. We are also developing a surgical robot system with a pneumatically-driven robot arm. Our robot calculates the force applied to forceps by measuring changes in air pressure through a sensor, and gives feedback to the operating surgeon. This pneumatic system is a result of our research and the superiority of our products.
At university, when our team was focusing on the research of a pneumatically-driven surgical robot system under Professor Kawashima, we received inquiries from various companies and institutions, and Professor Kawashima and his team’s intentions were to spread the use of the research results unfailingly. In 2012, the research was selected as a START project of a MEXT program, and with support of JAFCO, we began preparing for commercialization and product development. In 2014, the Company was incorporated. When I joined the research lab in 2010, no one imagined that our research would become a business. The START program was our big turning point, following which I left my former job and devoted in commercializing our research.
There were many issues to address during the two years prior to incorporation. In the process of commercializing the product, there was a slight gap between our R&D technology and actual demand in clinical practice. We struggled to extract true demand from various opinions of surgeons, practitioners, etc. and how to incorporate the needs into our product. Through trial and error, we addressed each issue one by one under the support of various people, including JAFCO. We would not have succeeded without their support.
First, we will prove that pneumatic mechanism can be applied, surprisingly, to the field of surgical robot system that requires a high level of precision. Further, we will accelerate product development and sales to acquire the top share in the domestic market by 2019. In four years’ time, when technology will have advanced enough to make robot assisted surgery commonplace, the scope of insurance coverage is expected to change and the structure of the medical industry will be largely different compared to today. For that near future, we aim to outpace our competitors by a wide margin. I, as CEO of the Company, will also devote myself to the Company’s further growth.
We first met JAFCO’s staff in charge of our Company at an event to match on-campus R&D projects with entrepreneurs/ investors, and was suggested that we apply for the START program. We met various organizations, but JAFCO was the only company that we talked based on the premise that we commercialize the research by ourselves. We applied for the program based on a scheme that JAFCO would provide not only financial support but also full support as a commercialization promotor. We were selected as a result.
Before incorporating the Company, JAFCO gave thorough presentations to our team members based on the founder’s intentions, while planning business/ capital strategies and preparing all required documents containing detailed information. Also using its network, JAFCO introduced us to people who are well versed in the medical equipment industry and companies with which technological/ commercial synergy can be expected while promoting our business.
Among these companies, there are several with which we have been doing business as partners. As for business operations, JAFCO’s support goes beyond that of an investor, including fund management and personnel recruitment.
We work out a business strategy with JAFCO, so we always consult them on major issues, including business alliances with other companies and problems that we face in growing the Company. JAFCO’s staff is always empathetic, gives us helpful advice and shows us a direction.
JAFCO and the Company have built a very special relationship that goes beyond that of a venture capital firm and its portfolio company. Since being selected as a START project, we spent three years of thorough preparation prior to incorporating the Company. JAFCO’s determination in accomplishing a shared goal is reflected in its unexpected, sizable investment in the Company at the most risky stage. JAFCO’s position as the lead investor is unshakable, and we will work together to lead the market for surgical robot system and make an impact on the society.(Translation of Japanese original posted on October 2, 2015)