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Why NFX Invested in Theator: The Startup Using Network Effects to Improve Surgical Outcomes

Gigi Levy-Weiss · @gigilevy · Aug 2022

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When someone undergoes surgery, we always hope they’re getting operated on by best-in-class surgeons. 

While that’s hopefully always the case, we know from data that not all surgeries have the same outcomes, even if they’re deemed “successful” by the hospital. 

During the course of a 6-hour surgery, there are more than a thousand factors that could affect the outcome, both in the short and long term, but it’s hard to know what those factors are. 

And while surgeons will talk and share notes, there’s really no way of truly knowing what drives better health outcomes without crunching massive amounts of data. 

That’s what Theator is doing with their Surgical Intelligence Platform. By using AI and network effects to analyze thousands of hours of surgical videos, they’re helping drive better health outcomes and save lives. 

We’ve backed Theator from the very beginning, first investing in their Seed round and now doubling down on their $39.5M Series A along with Insight Partners, Blumberg Capital, Mayo Clinic, StageOne Ventures, and others. Here are the reasons why we invested.

1. Network Effects Driving Better Surgical Outcomes

The history of surgery is nearly as long as the history of humankind. Archeologists have found human skulls as old as 12,000 BC with drill holes thought to treat seizures and other brain trauma. Since then, there have been countless examples of early surgeries spanning from ancient Greece, the Aztecs, to Medieval Europe. 

What has allowed us to get to our current standard is continuously learning from our mistakes to drive better outcomes, much of which can only be done by conducting surgeries and analyzing the results.

With millions of surgeries taking place every day, many of which can last more than 6 hours each, there is a massive amount of data for us to analyze and learn from. However, we don’t have nearly enough trained personnel to watch, annotate, and compare all that video. That’s where Theator’s network effects-driven AI platform comes in. 

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Having analyzed already more than 30,000 hours of surgery video and more than 1 billion frames, the platform has created a unique bank of procedures which allows surgical teams to quickly find, watch, and learn from what makes procedures successful in the short and long term. But that’s the easy part. 

Theator is transforming the approach to surgical video. Within each procedure video, there are hundreds of key moments. Procedure steps, intraoperative events, key safety milestones and decisions.

Leveraging computer vision, Theator is analyzing these, in real time. By structuring the data, automatically, at scale, across hundreds of procedures, and connecting these elements with patient characteristics and outcomes – Theator is providing multiple stakeholders within the surgical ecosystem with an unprecedented understanding of the process; an understanding of “why” things happen to complement the “what”.  

And by continuously becoming better with each new video uploaded, the Platform will only become more valuable to surgical teams. 

2. It’s Personal for the Founder

We’re also strong believers in backing founders with a personal connection to the problem they’re solving.

This is exactly the case with Dr. Tamir Wolf, who saw both his wife and a friend have identical surgeries with vastly different outcomes.

While both were deemed “successful” by their hospitals, they were done in different ways and one had significant long-term health issues arise from the procedure.

Without a strong understanding of the differences in those surgeries, there’s really no way to know what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again.  

3. Expansion into Surgical Decision Support and Robotics

Theator’s Platform is already being used to train and inform some of the world’s leading surgical teams, but the company is just scratching the surface of what’s possible. 

Their massive library of data and deep understanding of what makes surgeries successful will eventually be able to provide real-time insights and recommendations during procedures. 

As the world of surgical robotics evolves, one of the hardest things will be to provide the cognitive backbone for decisions. Robots will likely be able to perform tasks, like pass a needle. But what happens when there’s bleeding? What decision should be taken? This is where the company’s AI could provide both situational awareness and decision-making support that today depends on surgeon capabilities. This is the ultimate vision behind Theator’s Surgical Intelligence.

Both of these could open up huge new opportunities for the company to expand its offerings and help save lives. 

For these and many other reasons, we’re confident in Theator’s ability to help surgeons and save lives. Learn more at https://theator.io/.


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