Guest Column | October 13, 2021

Medical Device Commercialization: Traits For You To Be Successful, Part 2

By Thomas Hickey, Excelerant Consulting

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In my last article, I shared wisdom gleaned from a pair of Med Tech Gurus podcasts (Episode # 85 and Episode #93) with guests Chris Garabedian, CEO of Xontogeny and a portfolio manager at PBX Fund, and Kevin Buckley and Neil Thompson of Torrey Pines Law Group, which focuses almost exclusively on protecting intellectual property (IP).

We highlighted the first five of nine ways to “BE” as you move your medtech innovation further along the path to commercialization, growth, and profitability. Specifically, we said to:

  • BE Humble and Vulnerable – You don’t have to go it alone and not everything needs to be perfect before consulting with others. Be open to support and guidance.
  • BE Courageous – Don’t cloister your idea for fear others will pirate your IP. People cannot help you advance your innovation unless you lay all your cards on the table in front of trusted, ethical experts.
  • BE Prepared for Success – Adopt a mindset of success. Intend to succeed and succeed big!
  • BE Willing to Reach Out Early and Often – Get others involved, including the FDA, during the product development process. You can save precious time, energy, resources, and effort by seeking expert guidance each step of the way.
  • BE Open to Guidance – A whopping 90% of great ideas and medtech innovations will not be approved by the FDA. And for those that do gain approval, 80% will receive a less-than-desirable profile, limiting product success and profitability. It pays to listen, listen, listen to wisdom and advice.

So, let’s turn our attention to the remaining four ways to “BE.”

Be Team-Oriented

I know, it sounds a tad trite and hackneyed, but this is a timeless truth, like it or not. Adopt an attitude of: I just want to see my innovation succeed so let’s work together and make it happen! Investors love that type of approach because it sends strong signals that there’s opportunity for true partnership.

Further, create enough open-minded “space” for varying areas of expertise to come together and meld into a single team. Not too long ago, I had a client with a diagnostic that was an image-based detection system. Cameras had rapidly evolved to a point that smartphone imagery was outperforming proprietary photo technology. Costs were coming down, too. It became apparent, our technology would soon be surpassed if we didn’t make adjustments and keep pace with imaging improvements. We brought in experts, course-corrected, and continued our journey down the path to commercialization and success. In my mind, true success is bringing the right team together, with each member contributing their own expertise, and aligning it for optimum performance.

Together, identify ways to leverage emerging digital technologies (i.e., artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum computing and blockchain, etc.) and apply them. Also, take advantage of contemporary tech tools like algorithms and focused databases. This is where traditional medtech and new-world medtech unite. And it’s exciting. New and better technology is coming at us rapidly, but always remember traditional medtech pros have the knowledge and experience necessary to know how to navigate the FDA and other groups.

Be Aware Of (& Communicate) Your Strengths & Weaknesses

Focus on what you’re truly expert in and be open to the advice and guidance of others who know more about a specific area than you do. It’s important to know what you don’t know. Be a student and learn from others. Don’t be afraid to face the tough questions. Embracing honest, constructive feedback enables you to adapt and pivot when and where necessary.

Investors also appreciate an attitude of: “Look, I know how to develop this technology and I know who the technical experts are that I can lean on for advice during product development. Where I have a gap is understanding how to commercialize this – identifying key targets, the right steps to market, pricing strategy, etc.”

When someone shares what they know and what they don’t know, investors see this as the type of person they can truly partner with. They trust that you’re going to reach out when necessary and say, “No, I’ve got this” when you’re working in your wheelhouse.

Be Aware Of The Competitive Landscape

Don’t work in the proverbial silo, with blinders on, sequestered, out of touch, or as a recluse. Have I made my point? You cannot whistle past the graveyard as if there are no threats to your success. You must be open to assessing the competitive landscape and take note of what others are doing related to your space. Acknowledge true threats and clearly identify what your innovation’s unique proposition is.

We often see situations where an entrepreneur is so locked into their idea of doing things “this way” or “my way” that they won’t listen to others or budge on their presumed path to success. In essence, they’re a bit delusional.

And by the way, they usually fail. And they fail for two reasons:

  • Not understanding how market dynamics are changing regarding competition
  • Being unwilling or slow to adapt and realize a pivot is needed to stay on track

A willingness to shift course multiple times during development – and even final stages of the process -- is often serendipitous (“occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way,” according to the good Mr. Webster) because it opens you up to other opportunities you might not otherwise have noticed.

The market always marches forward. It’s up to you to keep pace with it, if not get out ahead of it. This takes continual monitoring of market conditions and maintaining “situational awareness.”

Be Agile

Early-stage companies, startups, and those driven by entrepreneurial types seem to have an advantage over larger, established companies when it comes to agility. They’re quicker to change when the market landscape changes. This has been accelerated by COVID as companies deploy healthcare tools remotely and are able to do remote-based capture of data and information. Often, the larger companies try to be progressive, but they stay rooted in the old ways of doing things. Or they’re simply so large, with so many burdensome processes and procedures, that the window of opportunity closes before necessary adjustments are made.

For example: Microsoft was late to the dance on the emergence of the internet. They expected and wrongfully assumed people would continue to trudge down to the local Best Buy and buy a little box containing a disc of software and hook it all up to their computer to go online. But what they didn’t acknowledge or understand was the growing trend toward simpler ways to access the internet. It cost them a fortune in lost revenue. The “why” behind this example would be a lengthy chapter in a Harvard law textbook.

Larger companies too often resist change until they confirm a trend is real and meaningful … but, by then, they’re already behind other companies who were more aware and more willing to be agile and evolve.

We live in a unique time – pandemic aside, there’s good stuff happening out there in healthcare -- with advancements like telemedicine and telehealth. More progressive companies need to seize this opportunity and identify ways to be market-disruptive, stand out from competition, and be a leader.

Remember, it’s anyone’s game in a rapidly changing environment. Why not make it yours?

About The Author:

Thomas Hickey is a senior consultant at Excelerant Consulting as well as host of Med Tech Gurus, a podcast focused on medical entrepreneurship and marketing (available on Apple Podcasts and other platforms). He develops innovative strategies and tactics and possesses a deep understanding of sales strategy and sales channels. With more than 35 years’ experience in the medical device industry and executive-level experience with manufacturers and group purchasing organizations, Hickey is skilled at assessing launches, start-ups, international distribution, technology, and market feasibility. He has successfully launched several products and hired, coached, and trained hundreds of independent and distributor sales team members. He can be reached at info@excelerantconsulting.com.