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You Can’t Be Too Picky

A Slice on Casey Grage, Founder and CEO of Hubly Surgical

Did you know brain surgery procedures used in 2021 were developed in 1980? This should shock you. What’s even more shocking is that the procedure has relied on a hand crank drill since the 1400s. This procedure is used all over the world and is currently the only option for emergency use. Casey Grage is dedicating her career to innovating this outdated method. Enter, Hubly Surgical. Hubly Surgical is targeting neurosurgeons to modernize intracranial access through accuracy, safety and integration. 

Grage’s background comes from neuroscience and bioengineering. While going to school to receive her Bachelor’s, Grage took a course in medical devices and entrepreneurship. She set out to learn more about the patient outcomes associated with them. During this time, she met Dr. Amit Ayer, who would later become Director at Hubly Surgical. They bonded over a shared interest in neurology, and Dr. Ayer was the one to notice the safety issues associated with drilling holes into peoples’ heads with a hand-cranked drill. Grage then started observing and interviewing various surgeons about the outdated procedure. Grage and Dr. Ayer both decided there had to be a better, safer way of conducting this surgery. 

Grage and Ayer set out to create a product with complete safety features to replace this dangerous handheld drill… so, Hubly Surgical was born. In 2019, Grage decided to devote all her time to this new business, but some problems rose to the surface. “Throughout 2020, we had been developing our drill and had it near finalized. The way we were building and designing it, the numbers were not making any sense. We were getting advice from hospital administrators that our price point was too high and advice from investors that our gross margin was too low. We had to make a really tough decision to go back to the drawing board.” 

Although pivots are not uncommon for startups, it still wasn’t easy. They made the tough decision to go back to square one to evaluate and figure out how to cut costs. “We had to decide if we were going to set ourselves back and get rid of all of the work we just did. We decided to start over with the core technology of the drill and created an electrical sensor that makes the power automatically shut off.” Luckily for Grage, this three-month reevaluation period proved to be beneficial because it led them on the right path, and Hubly Surgical has been “full force” ever since. 

Following the success of the pivot, Grage learned a few valuable learnings along the way.

“You can’t be too picky about who you hire.”

“I waited so long to hire a technical co-founder, which was really tough because we didn’t move quickly on product development for a while. I ended up contracting a design engineering firm who made a ton of progress but were really expensive.” Although being patient came with tradeoffs, Grage’s decision to be picky paid off. Tyler Panain joined the Hubly Surgical team in March 2020 as Grage’s technical co-founder, and she has since grown the team with individuals who all go above and beyond.

While looking ahead to the future, Grage hopes Hubly Surgical will replace the bedside skull puncture procedure. “We want to be the standard of care for bedside ventriculostomy… The goal is that Hubly Drills will be well saturated in the market because we have safety features which drills right now don’t.” Grage’s ultimate goal is to reduce the complication rate of these procedures and save lives while doing so. “I either talk to patients directly or their loved ones, and they say, ‘What you’re doing is really meaningful and I really want to see this.’ That is my favorite thing to hear.”

Founder Bio

Casey Grage received her Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University in Neuroscience and Medical Humanities. In 2017, Grage was awarded the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute Undergrad Research Grant at Northwestern University. Prior to founding Hubly Surgical, Grage devoted her time to NASA, George Mason University and JP Morgan Chase & Co. Connect with Grage on LinkedIn.

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