Financial Post: The real reason social startups fail and how business schools are coming to the rescue

Published on Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Financial Post article on UBC Lean LaunchPad participant Arbutus Medical.

Michael Cancilla of Arbutus, a social venture that produces affordable medical equipment for third world countries. (Ben Nelms for National Post)

Mike Cancilla and his team of fellow biomedical engineers are on a global health mission — one that began when, as UBC grad students, they heard that surgeons in developing countries were using unsterilized hardware-store drills because they couldn’t afford costly orthopedic ones.

To offset the potential for harm, the engineers designed a medical-grade fabric cover to fit over the drills, and launched Arbutus Medical. The cover is being piloted in hospitals worldwide, including in Syria and the Philippines.

“Our mission is to get these covers to as many surgeons as possible around world,” Cancilla said.

However, entrepreneurship is hard enough when you bring business skills to the table; well-intentioned engineers with a great idea face additional obstacles. Cancilla’s story is similar to many social entrepreneurs whose passion is abundant but whose business savvy, network, strategic acumen — all vital to entrepreneurial success — is not so much.

“It is extremely difficult for startups in all sectors but when you try to achieve social and economic impact it is easy to lose focus,” said Allyson Hewitt, senior fellow in social innovation and long-time director of the social innovation program at Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District.

To read the Financial Post full article, click here.

Arbutus Medical participated in e@UBC’s Lean LaunchPad program in 2014 and continued on to the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub run by the Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing at Sauder School of Business.