It’s encouraging enough that more women are entering STEM fields worldwide, but it’s doubly so to find a majority-female company thriving in that space. More than half the staff at Invivo Communications are women, including developers, 3-D animators and gamers. “They feel very comfortable in this environment, which is something that is not typically true of this industry,” says CEO Andrea Bielecki.
Then again, it sounds hard not to be comfortable at Invivo’s Toronto headquarters. Its 90 staffers, up from 70 in 2017, work in an office featuring lounges, ping pong rooms and dog-friendly spaces.
Changes during 2018 included doubling the size of its medical content team and growing capabilities around scientific platform development and learning services. Notable among the new hires is VP of business development Nicky Saldanha, who arrives from hearing aid maker Phonak. The staff growth was fueled by a 50% increase in revenue to $15 million, up from $10 million in 2017.
Invivo has taken full advantage of the industry’s continued digitization. “Statistics say immersive media such as AR/VR really improves retention and recall,” Bielecki says. “Considering we educate doctors and healthcare professionals on complex science, it’s exciting for us to have that scientific validation.”
Clients now arrive ready to learn how the technology Invivo provides can make a difference, even if they’ve never tried it before. “There’s an appetite for that risk,” Bielecki continues. “That’s much different from two years ago, when it was really more of a shiny object. They didn’t understand how it could be integrated to engage and educate their clients.”
Sixty percent of Invivo’s growth in 2018 came from existing clients such as Eli Lilly, Novartis and Amgen, while the agency added assignments from Pfizer, Sanofi Genzyme and Takeda. Bielecki points to new work from Sunovion — Invivo was tapped to create immersive booth experiences for the company’s respiratory franchise — as an important addition.
Along those lines, mixed-reality projects have been an area of particular focus. “It’s been a fun year of new technology and looking at different innovative ways to bring science to life,” Bielecki notes.
In 2017, Invivo became the only company of its kind to be fast-tracked for Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Partner Program using HoloLens, a designation it leveraged throughout 2018. Bielecki looks forward to the impending release of the HoloLens 2, which features a more comfortable headset and a larger field of view.
Invivo has also continued to develop its e-learning services, leveraging gamification and digitizing a full range of learning modalities. This occurred largely through the integration of Spongelab Interactive, a STEM e-learning community with more than 50,000 active monthly users.
In the months ahead, Bielecki faces the challenge of scaling Invivo’s workforce and processes to meet the demands of clients. “It’s been a big growth year so far,” she says. “So adding 20 people has certainly driven the need to improve efficiency processes and onboarding of new employees.”