I believe everyone deserves access to eSight’s technology, whether through their workplace or through their insurer. Many of our users gain no benefit from traditional glasses, which are covered by insurance companies. Sight should not be available to the privileged few. Our focus will put a strong emphasis on expanding insurance coverage for eSight. We are currently working with corporations to help them understand that devices like eSight reduce the number of assistive technologies needed and provide a portable option for working from home.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Vaters.
Robert Vaters is an accomplished leader in the healthcare space with over 30 years of experience, the last 18 of which were within the Medical Device sector. With years of both CFO and CEO experience, he has built and expanded global companies, private and public through leading capital raising, strategy and expansion. Before joining eSight in early 2020, Vaters was a partner at Newport LLC, a strategic advisory firm with a focus on the healthcare sector, in addition to serving as CEO of Orthofix International, a public medical device company in Dallas, and president of a public biotech company in New York City.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have been in the healthcare space for over 30 years, the last 18 of which were within the Medical Device sector. I have had a chance to build and expand global companies, both private and public. I have been fortunate in being able to raise capital and to be able to execute on strategies to deploy that capital. I have been both a CFO and CEO of publicly traded companies and was a finalist for Dallas Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. I really got my start in the healthcare space as CFO of Inamed, which was successfully sold to Allergan in 2006 for 3.2 billion dollars. I continue to serve on company boards, while focusing my efforts on leading eSight to help millions of low vision individuals around the world. The common theme in all my moves was that I joined companies that were at a strategic inflection point, and I got to be the leader of the group pivot.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
There are 285 million people living with low vision and legal blindness globally, according to the World Health Organization. Right now, when someone experiences sight loss, there are not many options for them. There are some surgeries, but typically, doctors will tell them they need to learn to live with sight loss.
When eSight first came out, there weren’t high-tech products available at the time. eSight was revolutionary in creating a medical device that enables people to see as much as 20/20 vision. Since then, our technology has enabled people to see new possibilities whether it’s return to work, see the board from the back of the room, commute to work, cook, or do laundry, for example.
We just released our next-generation product, eSight 4, based on extensive research and years of user feedback. This device leapfrogs other technologies in the space by combining our clinically validated vision-enhancing principles with new mobile apps. Most importantly, eSight is designed to maintain 100% mobility by incorporating the users’ natural peripheral vision through our patented bioptic tilt feature.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started at eSight, we had a meeting with provincial ministers in a government building in Toronto. I left my coat in a secure conference room. When I went back to get it, I was locked in and I needed to get armed OPP officers to get me out. That was a “Welcome to Canada” moment.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
One of my mentors when I was a CFO of Xpedite was Roy Anderson. No matter the topic, he was the smartest guy in the room. He was the Matt Damon character in “Good Will Hunting” kind of smart, no matter what the topic. His mind was so logical. He was also fiercely loyal, and he loved protecting the little guy. He was one of the most empathetic men I have known. I have taken this experience everywhere I have gone. It serves as a simple reminder that while Roy was smart, it was his logical approach to each and every situation that made him stand out. It helps me to not overcomplicate the decisions that need to be made.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
“Disruption” is one of the hottest buzzwords of the last decade. It can be positive, negative or both. Positive disruption involves a benefit for the greater good. Negative disruption means the downfall of an industry. Many of the biggest disruptors have been both positive and negative. Take Amazon, for example. Jeff Bezos changed the world by allowing people to order books, and then, nearly every item possible, from their computer straight to their door. That increased the accessibility of consumer goods and helped e-commerce companies flourish. Ridesharing services are another example of a disruption that can be interpreted both positively and negatively. While Uber changed the game for people who need a ride and want to know the cost in advance, it has also been the downfall of many taxi companies, unable to compete with lower rates.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
I would probably choose three from the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden:
- Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
- Make each day your masterpiece
- Whatever you do in life surround yourself with smart people who will argue with you
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
The starting point has to include answering the question: “What problem does my company solve?” Identifying the right markets and demographics for your product or service is crucial to engage the target audience. Relationship building is one of the top ways to generate leads. At eSight, many of our users have been with us since the earliest generation devices. At eSight, customer service is paramount. Trust has to be earned and regular communication is a must. While developing a sales strategy is critical, you must be willing to shift. We’ve learned that since COVID-19 changed the world in a short period of time. One area that we’re focusing on lately is the medical community. There are low vision clinicians who may see more than 100 patients a week. We’ve focused for a long time on the end-user, but now we’re shifting to try to reach those clinicians and ensure they’re aware of our solution and knowledgeable enough to recommend it.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
I believe everyone deserves access to eSight’s technology, whether through their workplace or through their insurer. Many of our users gain no benefit from traditional glasses, which are covered by insurance companies. Sight should not be available to the privileged few. Our focus will put a strong emphasis on expanding insurance coverage for eSight. We are currently working with corporations to help them understand that devices like eSight reduce the number of assistive technologies needed and provide a portable option for working from home. As more companies strive toward inclusion, it’s critical to make technology choices that are both cost-effective and accommodating for the user.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
Steve Jobs’ Stanford University commencement speech “How to Live Before You Die” has been most impactful for me.
Listen to it and see if you agree. It explains how dropping in instead of dropping out of a liberal arts education, and how getting fired from Apple, changed his life.
Another comeback story that inspires me is how Jamie Dimon was fired from Citibank and then came back to lead JP Morgan. He helped lead the U.S. banking system through the financial crisis.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It may not be my fault but now it’s my problem.” — John Woodens. Many of his quotes resonate with me. When it comes to turnarounds, it’s about taking charge, no matter how you got into the situation.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement of eSight. Period.
How can our readers follow you online?
My LinkedIn is best.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!