FIRSTEP is a boutique innovation firm focused on health. We work with the innovation and venture teams in leading health organizations, and our job is to help them go beyond simply tracking what startups are doing, to develop a genuine understanding of why they are doing it. In the process, they  connect them with genuinely unique insights from some of the most promising startups and edge-innovators in health.

Successful innovation requires unique insights into the speed and trajectory of disruptive forces, but hiring the ‘typical experts’ won’t get you there. The reason is simple…most disruptive innovation in health is coming from the startups on the edges, not from the experts at the core. This is particularly challenging for leading health organizations because the shear amount of 'noise' from pundits and 'experts' can cause internal perspectives to get out of sync with edge-innovators.

Our unique process and exclusive events provide innovation leaders with a remarkably effective way to gain deep exposure to ‘edge thinking’.  FIRSTEP offers a fast, lightweight, and remarkably effective approach to breaking down legacy bias, injecting fresh thinking and building alignment into where to place winning bets (and why). 

Interested in finding out how FIRSTEP can help your organization reduce the risk of disruption and spark new opportunities for growth? LETS TALK


1. DeepDives
We work with leading health organizations to identify specific areas of innovation that have the potential to profoundly disrupt their business in the next 3 to 5 years, and together we do a DeepDive to gain a genuine understanding of how startups and edge-innovators working in that area see the forces of disruption unfolding.


2. How it Works
In each DeepDive, we host a series of immersive experiences between enterprise leaders and some of the most promising innovators and entrepreneurs focused specifically on those strategic topics. The startups come in one at a time, and both sides actively participate, as these individual innovators work through the process of crystallizing their foundational thinking around the speed and trajectory of the most disruptive forces in the space (in their view). 

Entrepreneurs benefit from honing their foundational thinking, building alignment on their leadership team and gaining exposure to an enterprise perspective.  The enterprise benefits from deep immersion into the foundational thinking of a targeted group of disruptive thinkers.

We then work with the senior team to build alignment around their foundational thinking on how the forces that matter most are most likely to unfold. With that ‘thesis’ in hand, we help the team identify any new ‘Big Ideas’, and stress-test the existing strategy and execution plans to identify opportunities for course-correction. 

It’s common for many fresh insights to emerge from the process, and while some are held close to the chest for strategic reasons, our clients have a window of exclusivity for including new insights in their thought leadership communications.

Our job is not to create strategy, but to create the conditions for deep exposure into a fresh perspective. We aim to help our clients adjust their foundational thinking to include key learnings from edge-innovators, and build alignment in the organization so that these fresh insights are acted on to reduce risk and drive innovation and growth.

Interested in finding out how FIRSTEP can help your organization reduce the risk of disruption and spark new opportunities for growth? LETS TALK



Brendan Byrne, MD,

Chief Innovation Officer, TELUS HEALTH & Co-Founder of FIRSTEP

A physician by vocation an entrepreneur by profession, and an innovator at heart. Brendan has spent over 25 years at the intersection of digital and health, and has a deep passion for innovating in health, wellness and personalized medicine. 


John McDonald


An entrepreneur and strategist, John has long been involved in the innovation process.  He first created the FORCECASTING process to help disruptive entrepreneurs reduce market and technology risk in hyper-change markets, and has been refining the process for over a decade, so adopting the process to help bridge the thinking gap between enterprise and the edge feels like a natural evolution.


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We offer several ways to help health organizations tap into edge-thinking, from an annual membership through full immersion into our DeepDive's. REACH OUT to learn more and in the meantime why not SUBSCRIBE to receive regular EDGE-INSIGHTS from our most recent book on Foundational Thinking in Digital Health.


FREE EDGE-INSIGHTS Not quite ready for full immersion into edge-thinking in health?  Check out our free opportunities to tap into a wealth of EDGE-INSIGHTS that'll push your thinking on the forces of disruption shaping health innovation.



If your innovative new offering is a fit for one of our current DeepDive's, you may qualify to participate at no charge. LEARN MORE



FIRSTEP is located in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
if you'd like more information:

email – john@firstep.ca
phone - +1.604.721.3441
snail mail – suite 200 – 375 Water St., Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6B 5C6




FIRSTEP is compatible with traditional approaches, like incubators and accelerators, but is far more effective at bringing fresh thinking and insights into the organization. The reason is simple... instead of obsessing over 'what' the start-up is doing, we drill into 'why' they are doing it.  The difference is profound, because , in our experience, edge-innovators have unique insights into specific emerging forces, and its those EDGE-INSIGHTS that power so much disruptive innovation. Edge-thinking is rarely visible to enterprise leaders through incubator and venture activates, because the venture process focuses on evaluating the product idea rather than tapping into the foundational thinking that sparked the innovation in the first place. Focussing on the 'what' makes it easy to quickly filter through a lot of companies (because you'll disagree with most of them), but is not effective for helping business unit leaders tap into fresh insights from edge-innovators. FIRSTEP is focused on bridging the thinking gap between enterprise and the edge, exposing both entrepreneurs and enterprise to the fresh thinking that sparks new opportunities for innovation and grwoth.  


FIRSTEP is based on a simple insight… before anyone has an 'aha' moment, they first observe the 'forces' around them, and develop a personal ‘thesis’ on how those 'forces' are most likely to unfold(consciously or unconsciously).  It’s the ‘thesis’ that sparks insight & inspires vision. Get it right and you unlock massive value. Get it wrong, and the entire effort is at risk, because inventing the perfect solution for a future that doesn’t exist, is a sure path to disaster. Tapping into EDGE-INSIGHTS helps enterprise leaders avoid that fate by stress-testing their foundational thinking about the speed and trajectory of emerging forces, building internal alignment around how key forces are most likely to unfold, and acting as a mechanism to course-correct the organization’s thinking fast. FIRSTEP helps with all three of these priorities.


The FIRSTEP process comes before traditional innovation and strategy processes… we focus on the foundational thinking that lies below the big idea. Our process is uniquely designed to help bridge the gap between how edge innovators and enterprise leaders see the forces of disruption (as it relates to the cohort theme). For the immersive sessions, we use a proven process called FORCECASTINGTM, which was developed specifically for helping disruptive entrepreneurs crystallize their thinking about the speed and trajectory of the forces most likely to impact their success. The magic lies in our unique ability to create immersive experiences where both sides suspend bias long enough to share foundational thinking. This fosters a deep level of mutual understanding, which in turn helps enterprise leaders develop a genuine understanding of the forces of disruption as seen through the lens of innovators on the edge. It’s that fresh perspective that sparks new insights and surfaces opportunities that would otherwise be missed.