Leader In The Spotlight: Joao Pedro Ribeiro, CEO PeekMed


Liz Moyles

I caught up with Joao, just before an exceptionally long business trip to the USA away from his wife and family for 4 weeks. This, we all know is often the norm of being a CEO or being in the business of Medical Devices. The trip included some excellent meetings, conferences and presentations as well as going to the Company’s new USA Headquarters in Warsaw! I ’ve known and spoken to Joao for about 24 months, but I am absolutely amazed at the speed at which he and the team have moved particularly in the last 12 months. It’s simply phenomenal. If you have missed it, you can catch upon the highlights and more, here.  Thanks for your time, Joao! Really, really appreciate it. 


  • I love to ask this question,  what attracted you to the industry; how did you end up in MedTech – was it a childhood dream?  

    I’ve always been in wonder and awe of the medical field, but I knew I would never make a great doctor or surgeon. In fact, I would go so far as to say I would have been a terrible doctor. At the same time as having this wonder of the medical world, I was lucky enough even at the age of 6 or 7 to have a fascination for technology. This interest for both medicine and technology somehow “drove” me to combine my two passions initially through study and then through work. So, being the CEO at PeekMed  and working alongside my fellow founders  and this  amazing team, whilst having the privilege of being able to develop products that surgeons use, is an unbelievable dream. I feel blessed to be in a position where I can see and hear about how patients are benefiting from our solutions and how they are helping the medical world to achieve better outcomes. It is just an amazing feeling.


  • So, I happen to know that during your Masters, you set about using your skills to develop a technology aimed at preventing a series of kidnappings of children from hospital environments.   How did that happen and how did you the involved in “so you think you can pitch”? 

    Whilst I was doing my Masters (in 2010/2011), I was horrified to read in the press about a string of kidnappings from various hospital wards. Suddenly young babies and even newborns were being mysteriously abducted from hospital grounds. 

    I started thinking about how this could be happening and what could possibly be done to try and prevent this. I assembled a team at Minho University, where I was studying, with the aim of developing a solution. We worked on it for 6 months. It was fun and by the end, we actually had something, a product which actually would work. It was great to be using our skills and intellectual knowledge in a real-world application. In fact, it was on this project that I met Jaime, one of my co-founders! 

    Once we had the solution, I heard about a “contest” in Portugal, called “So you think you can pitch?”. It was like the singing contest “Idols” but instead you got to meet lots of strategics, large companies, investors and entrepreneurs. Funny thing though, and definitely not planned, I ended up being at the contest with Jaime, and Sara, my other co-founder and former Masters’ colleague!

    I can’t really believe what happened as a result of that great experience, I learned a lot, and met some wonderful people who would be instrumental in PeekMed.  Right after that event, I started to work in a local software development company, called Q-Better. It was a start-up developing digital signage and queue management systems. I was one of the first employees. Yet another coincidence, Sara joined Q-Better a couple months later! Within 12 months, I had helped create a startup, launched a product and started selling it. It was an amazing period. And of course, I suddenly thought I knew everything about how to start a business and thought I was ready. Ha , ha ………………….. I was so wrong!


  • Ok this sounds interesting. So, what led you to set up your own company – and what sort of company was it? 

    I always knew I wanted to have my own company, to develop and bring my own products to the market, so I guess that was the “easy part”. The initial concept, the idea for this company came from my Master Thesis theme, so the initial technology was there. But the main driver was verifying the need. I had a solution but was there an actual problem to answer? That was my question. I approached surgeons and engaged in discussion and realised, yes there really was a very real need. Time and again,  I heard surgeons’ comment that they knew there were better ways to prepare and plan optimally for surgery, so they knew where to go in, how, what tools to use -everything. When I shared my concept, the surgeons confirmed this would have an immediate impact on outcomes and therefore, patients’ lives. That was amazing – it was a lightbulb moment. This is what led, Sara, Jaime and I to create PeekMed

    Fast forward to today, and for me, for us at PeekMed to see in real life the impact this technology has had on surgeons, and the patients is just amazing. I love seeing a patient walk properly and without pain again, it’s so rewarding. 


  • I love the name PeekMed but where does that come from? 

    A company’s name is important, right? It is supposed to be simple, memorable, and easy to pronounce. When we started to think about a name we thought: Ok. It needs to be short, to have two equal letters together (since a lot of the big tech companies have it, e.g. Google, Facebook, Apple, etc), needs to have Medical or Medical technologies and, since we were providing a system to allow surgeons to have a “sneak peek” of the procedure, we came up with “PeekMed”. Only later, did we realise that PEEK is actually a polymer used in orthopedics!!


  • Ha ha . I love it and I really get it now you have shared it – s sneaky peek; absolutely – it encapsulates the concept perfectly. Ok, so here you were you’re your own company – you, Sara and Jaime. What did it feel like to make your first hires and to be the CEO? 

    I was nervous. I wanted to find people with the same drive, the same mindset, the same goals. But at the same time, it was rewarding to see all of that coming in to play and the dynamics that were created.


  • What is it about Peek Med that gets you fired up? 

    Definitely the mission, to be able to help improve patient outcomes. We always imagine that our relatives could need our products when designing. We put the love and care into the whole process with the thought that we never know when our relatives may need our products, and we want to make sure we do our best not only for our relatives, but for other people’s relatives.


  • I am actually astounded by the extent of your achievements to date in such a short time, but please for the benefit of everyone reading this, what have you achieved as a team so far?

    We have created a product from the ground up, and we are, if not the first, definitely one of the first, Portuguese-based companies in the software for medicine field to get certified (first with the MDD now with MDR). We have 3 locations (Portugal, Germany and the US) and have customers all around the globe. We pioneered the technologies in use nowadays in the field, and we have a team of 50 super talented people and we have achieve all that without changing the small HQ from where we started.


  • Well, Joao, I would say that given that you thought you didn’t know what you were doing, you have done tremendously well. So, what are your next audacious goals? 

    We want to conclude the development of and commercialisation of some of the technology we are working on behind the scenes. That is one of our most urgent goals. Ultimately, we want to help ensure every surgery is prepared and pre-planned, so that the patient gets the best treatment possible.


  • That’s a goal and a value I know you all hold closely at PeekMed. Like a “guiding star”. Joao, what is the most constructive piece of feedback you have ever received from a KOL about Peek Med’s technology? 

    It was a brief piece of feedback where a surgeon suggested a minor tweak, which led to a solution which was transformed so much,  that as a result the impact of our products grew almost exponentially.


  • I like to ask this but I’m always a bit nervous too. What’s the quirkiest thing that has ever happened to you in work?

    For some time, very, very early on, we had a bug in the system. None of us could replicate it. It only happened sometimes on some computers, and completely randomly. It was really intriguing – so we set ourselves a quest to find this bug. We even named it “Tobias”. We’d say “who’s going to find Tobias. Is Tobias going to appear today? Where’s Tobias?”  We eventually found it and fixed it. But it was quite a quest!


  • Looking back on your career, is there anything you regret having done / not done, which could serve as a learning for others who are reading this?

    Actually no. Perhaps starting sooner, maybe to learn more and sooner. I guess I would say “Just go with it”, or as Nike says: “Just do it!


  • And has there ever been a point where you made a decision, maybe apparently minor or inconsequential which ultimately had a significant impact on your life?

    Probably selecting the speciality for my Masters was instrumental to my growth and the path after that.


  • Has anyone one played a particularly key role in your career?

    There have been several people throughout my career who have been significant and some crucial. I wouldn’t like to pick one, since there are several, in different moments, who played an important role, sometimes, even without knowing.


  • I often hear that the role of a CEO can at times be quite lonely. We all understand there are things you can share with the team and other things that are ‘CEO’ stuff. Who do you turn to, when you want to have a candid conversation – perhaps a mentor of someone who always seems to ‘just know what to say’? 

    My family is my pillar. They always have been, and it is them who I turn to when needed. But I’d say that, recently, aside from my family, Todd Davis, our Independent Board Member has been exceptional. He has a lot of experience in the field, so when I come across things for the first time, it’s great to speak to him and learn he has done it numerous times in the past!


  • Joao- I know you were not looking forward to being separated from your family for 4 weeks whilst you are here the US. This is one of the sacrifices I know you make as a family. That aside, what do your family think of you being in this space? 

    They are really supportive, since they know this is what I want to do, and it’s what I am good at. On top of that, they understand the importance of what we’re doing, so therefore, they are constantly there, being my pillar.


  • What, if anything frustrates you – or what opportunities do you think we are missing out on in Medical Devices / MedTech /Healthcare? 

    I believe, particularly in Europe, that we are blocking and killing innovation with bureaucracy and regulations. The worst thing is that this bureaucracy won’t make the patient better or safer, it’s just there, making things harder than they actually need to be.


  • I have heard that time and again, particularly about Europe. I know many companies and CEOs share your frustration. Joao, what advice would you give to someone who's looking to enter this space?

    Keep up with it. Resilience is definitely the most important characteristic an entrepreneur needs to have. It is a hard journey, with a lot of downs, but one needs to keep up, stay focused and on track, things will align in the end. Steve Jobs once said something that I totally agree with: “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards”. Somehow you need to find the strength and the drive to believe that everything will, eventually, go well.


  • That is so powerful- I hadn’t heard that. It’s worth hanging on to that. Finally, what song would get you on the dance floor or singing on karaoke?  

    Not dancing but singing. “Where the streets have no name”, by U2. The message behind it makes it my all-time favourite song.


Joao- reading what you and the team have achieved is simply amazing – well done and thank you for sharing the story of you and PeekMed. If anyone wants to learn more about the technology simply refer to the website or better still, contact Joao, Sara or Jaime!

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