This story is part of the life sciences sector series.
To learn more about export opportunities for companies in this sector, please also read Exporting key to success for Canada’s life science’s sector.
Lawrence Buchan is the co-founder of Arbutus Medical – a Vancouver-based surgical equipment company.
What was your first export sale? How did that opportunity arise?
It was for drill covers for orthopedic surgery at Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda. It was originally through a research program that came through the partnership and collaboration with Mulago Hospital and orthopedic surgeons from UBC’s Uganda Sustainable Trauma Orthopedic Program.
When it comes to exports, what do you know now that you wish you knew then?
We’re still a startup and we’re still learning. Our business is always going to be about exports. I guess the biggest thing we’re learning so far is that we need strong local partners who can handle things like import, logistics, and distribution because, as a business selling physical products, we have to work in a lot of different geographies. Local businesses know the most about their individual regions.
How has the trading world changed since you started in business?
One way that our market has changed is that orthopedic surgical capacity is growing rapidly throughout the world and there’s a lot of progress in global health in general. So there are more surgeons and more hospitals being built all the time. It’s becoming a bigger and bigger market with more potential to positively impact the lives of patients and surgeons.
What is the #1 thing new SMEs need to know about export and trade?
Rely on people who are well connected to help set up local partnerships. On that note, groups like EDC and the Trade Commissioner Service and peer groups that have done it before have been fantastic. I would happily advertise for EDC or TCS.