What is your business, and what problem you are solving?
Boon's cloud-based platform provides immersive on-demand virtual reality (VR) training for medical procedures. With Boon's technology, doctors can put on a VR headset and watch a real-life surgery from a 360-degree perspective. Using Boon's VR capabilities, viewers can peek over the surgeon's shoulder, watch every incision and suture, note heart and respiratory activity on the monitors, and even look around to see how the operating room assisting staff members are interacting.
If the operating room is a living theater, then Boon VR puts the viewer on center stage. Boon makes remote training feel as close to physically being there, without having to travel! Boon closes the training gap so medical device companies can deploy products faster with our intelligent and interactive technology.
What inspired you to start your company?
Through Boon VR, doctors and nurses train immersively and interactively to reduce medical errors, increasing the adoption of new medical devices throughout the healthcare industry. But the decisions to a) focus on VR technology in the medical field and b) market to medical device companies were not always the most straightforward!
There was a ton of research and press on how VR could improve medical training, medical education, patient engagement, patient therapy etc. The more I read, the more I felt like this would be something impactful and real. There was a sense of urgency. I felt especially drawn to this use case of VR in healthcare but my intellectual mind wanted to test it out first.
I set the wheels in motion and got a C-section and an open-heart surgery filmed with a VR camera in India (easy access, given my family friends are surgeons!). Then I started demo-ing the prototype to several physicians and surgeons back in the US, such as other healthcare entrepreneurs and the senior leadership at University of Pennsylvania Medical School. I got promising reactions and consistent explanations from all of them (literally, 100% of them) about how this would greatly help physicians, fellows, nurses, residents, and medical students on rotation.
During that time, I also met with Dave Kuraguntla in San Francisco. He’s a brilliant healthcare entrepreneur who, by that point, had already sold a digital health company. He advised me to approach medical device companies. These companies act as the bedrock of the healthcare industry in terms of motivating the adoption of new technologies, spearheading early and fast sales. This was clearly the right market entry point! With Boon VR, medical device companies could deploy new products to the healthcare industry faster with our intelligent and interactive technology. Training for these products could now be faster and easier, leading fundamentally to overall safer medical procedures.
What is a childhood inspiration that helped get you to where you are today?
My inspiration is my mom, Divya Parvathaneni. She told me that when I was born and she saw me for the first time, she prayed to God that her daughter would grow to be an extraordinary leader and a force for good. And throughout my childhood, my mom made sure I had all the tools, both the smarts and the core values, I needed to fulfill that vision. From logic puzzles to stories of great moral leaders, I learned the value of sincerity, spirit, and creativity.
I remember one time when I had homework for drawing class, I drew a simple house with a stone pathway. Thinking I was done, I showed my picture to her. She said it looked great, but then asked why I hadn’t also drawn something more vibrant, like an ocean surrounded by mountains or birds flying over the rising sun. With my small house, I had chosen the easiest path to complete my homework. But my mom was always encouraging me to try something new, something I wasn’t necessarily good at (yet!). My mom always encouraged me to develop a higher sense of willpower - a drive to always better myself. And this trend continues today! Even now when I talk to my mom in the evenings about Boon VR, she encourages me to go one step further, not to stop simply because something is difficult. I admit, talking to her sometimes feels like going to bootcamp! Our talks are so uplifting though. After I talk to her, I always feel like a slightly different (and better!) person the next morning. My mom is tough, but I know I have her to thank for some of my best qualities and habits. Even today, she continues to be very particular, especially when it comes to kindness and selflessness. And I think that's such an important quality in an entrepreneur.
What’s your decision-making process?
One of our first big decisions as a company was what market to enter. We first had to make sure our technology solved a pressing problem in a specific market; for us, that was medical device companies. Then, we looked at the size of that opportunity in terms of the number of people who potentially benefit and do a cost/price analysis. Next, we got early adopters. These are people who had the DNA to adopt new technology quickly and thoroughly as part of their organizations. Even now, when we encounter these organizations, we always work to their vision first, incorporating as many of their current initiatives as possible. We also have to take into consideration any potential barriers to adopting a current initiative (in our case, a medical device), and how our solution solves any (and hopefully all!) of those specific barriers.
If your company was a car brand, what would it be? Why?
We would definitely be a Bugatti! Boon VR is one of the few companies taking on the monumental responsibility of commercializing a new computing platform. We are transforming the healthcare industry from a two-dimensional field to an immersive and interactive way of working in 360 degrees. It's not easy and it takes time, but the company has the potential to be a rare and transformative phenomenon, one the world doesn’t get to see too often (like a Bugatti!).
If you could invite anyone out for a coffee chat, who would it be? And why?
I would love to have coffee with Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi and one of the greatest saints the world has ever seen! I would like to ask him what more I can do to make the world a better place (and, hopefully, make him smile!)
What three skills do you believe make a good leader?
Courage, Faith, and Selflessness.
What is your favorite book? Why?
Autobiography of a Yogi. It answered some of my biggest questions on why the world exists and what our purpose is. In its chapters, I got to know details about some of the world’s greatest saints and scientists who displayed superhuman courage, clarity of thinking, and the ability to have a free, positive mind at all times. The book showed me that everyone has the capacity to be their highest selves just by having the right thoughts.
Who is in your core team? How did your team come together?
- Pieter Van Iperen, our CTO
- Gan Dunnington, our Chief Medical Advisor
- Phillip Pellerin, Sales Advisor
- Vasant Kumar, Technology Advisor
- Rajani Ramanathan, Strategic Advisor
A few years ago, the Society of Physician entrepreneurs invited me to talk about Boon VR to their audience in San Mateo and Phil Van Iperen was in the audience. He sent me a LinkedIn message the next day. In his message, he told me he couldn't agree more with what Boon was trying to solve and that he wanted to join our team. He had been in the healthcare industry for more than 25 years and had seen the ill effects that stemmed from a lack of training.
Then, I presented at a pitch competition organized by Dea Wilson of Lifograph in San Jose where Vasant Kumar happened to be the judge and he selected me as one of three winners! While Vasant was speaking, he came across as having exceptional clarity of thought. As he spoke, I absolutely agreed with his narrative on the qualities an entrepreneur has to have in order to succeed. And, of course, that he's an engineering veteran and has built several large, top-notch development teams in large software infrastructure was what compelled me to write to him on LinkedIn and ask for a meeting.
Rajani Ramanathan, Vasant’s wife, happened to be the former COO in the tech and products division of Salesforce. She had been one of the earliest employees at Salesforce and has seen entire life cycles of enterprise cloud software. This was so important to Boon VR, as our platform with VR is similar but so much more complex! Both Rajani and Vasant came to our office and I was highly impressed by their wealth of knowledge and experience. Thankfully, Boon’s mission to prevent common medical errors faced by everyday people caught their attention.
I got introduced to Pieter Van Iperen by the founder of 10X when I told him I was looking for a VR and LMS expert.
I met Gan Dunnington through Dr. Adam Tibble of Sutter Health, an anesthesiologist and a friend of my cousin, Lata Madipati, who is also an anesthesiologist at Kaiser Permanente.
Why Republic? Why equity crowdfunding?
The public consumes new technology. The public embraces it. The public doesn't get into analysis paralysis. And that's why the public should also be able to fund products that transform industries and their own lives. For example, a man who may be a real estate agent by day can also improve global healthcare outcomes, directly, with his investment in Boon VR. To me, that is powerful.
Republic has been, hands down, phenomenal in their onboarding of new offerings. Max lives on Slack, answering all our questions in under five minutes. The marketing team of Szandra and Austin are bubbling with new ideas to grow awareness about the offering. The design team gives great feedback on the messaging and content; they also have such solid contacts for graphic designers and videographers. Chuck is great with strategic thinking and investor group connections. And I met Ken, Republic’s founder, in Chicago. He is a man on a mission to transform startup fundraising forever. More power to Republic and title III public offerings! And thanks Barack Obama for signing the bipartisan act and for saying "For the first time, ordinary Americans will be able to go online and invest in entrepreneurs that they believe in."
A drive to always better
I believe that the use of VR has great potential in the training of physicians and OR staff and that the Boon VR approach will be both cost-effective and will substantially reduce OR errors.
I believe in the power of VR in the medical training space. There is going to be a huge shift in how training is done for medical professionals in the next decade.
I invested because I understand the value in training in simulation before getting to a live situation. If pilots, the army, and astronauts use simulations, then why not medical professionals?