Start-up Skills in Medical Technology: What Are the Keys to Enterprise Success?

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Frank Becking of Panthera MedTech Provides Tips for Medical Technology Entrepreneurs

Frank Becking

A team with complementary skills will have the best likelihood of success, but the quality that is needed above all and across the whole team is flexibility.

Which is more critical to the success of a technology start-up: technological smarts or business acumen? Or is it vision, or passion, or leadership, or revenue generation, or fund-raising ability? There have been enough successes – and failures – to support any argument. Frank Becking, co-founder of Panthera Medtech, has many years of experience with medical technology start-ups and knows that it takes a team with broad and diverse skills to develop the right product, bring it to market successfully and/or support a successful company acquisition.

“A team with complementary skills will have the best likelihood of success,” Becking says, “but the quality that is needed above all and across the whole team is flexibility. Panthera Medtech focuses on developing new companies for acquisition in the medical technology space, an industry that is in tremendous flux. That presents many opportunities for innovation and also many challenges. The team must be able to learn, adapt and change direction when things change or when things go wrong – and things will always change and sometimes go wrong.”

Tips for Making a Successful Medical Technology Start-up
Becking's experience has yielded a great deal of insight into the making of a successful medical technology start-up. Following are Becking’s five key tips for a successful medical technology start-up:

  • Get input from Your Market. The potential value of a new product or service idea is directly proportional to the size of the problem it solves or the unmet market need it fulfills. “In medical technology, that means getting input from clinicians early in the process. Patents and clever engineering will not produce a successful product if it doesn't make life easier for practitioners or produce better outcomes for their patients.”
  • Prioritize IP Analysis. Make intellectual property (IP) development an early priority. Mis-managing early IP analysis and development is one of the most damaging mistakes a start-up can make. “Irrespective of expense, working with the right IP professional can ensure that you protect your rights and avoid potential 3rd party patent infringement before investing too much in R&D going down the wrong path.”
  • Lead with Integrity and Passion. Entrepreneurial leadership is still key to success. No matter how talented and functionally diverse the team members, they must be led by someone with passion, vision, and personal commitment. “Especially in a startup environment, the CEO sets the tone. It is his or her personal qualities that will unleash the energy of the entire enterprise and drive it to excel. Or mire the team in a dynamic caught-up in the CEO’s personal foibles. A healthy dose of professionalism is key in leading an effective, dynamic team without untoward drama.”
  • Success Counts. Recruit people who have hands-on experience and a record of accomplishment in your industry. “There's no substitute for a deep understanding of how your potential customers function and the network of contacts a veteran brings to the table. This kind of understanding is what ‘winners’ in their field have to offer. Shy away from candidates that look experienced by virtue of multiple starts, but who offer little relevant experience because they have few or no finishes.”
  • Hire Doers. Be wary of big titles in assembling a team. Hiring from the pool of past Vice presidents and C-level executives may provide a list of impressive names, but many of these people are no longer accustomed to getting into the trenches and learning the details that must be appreciated for good early-stage decision making. “A start-up needs doers with current skills who will get their hands dirty in the lab, more than it needs overseers. As your enterprise grows, there will be a time to bring on the heavyweights.”

Becking makes one final point: “Having a team with complementary skills and the mental flexibility to turn on a dime when necessary is your best bet when hard times hit. But the team also has to gel. And that comes down to a shared attitude about what they want to achieve, what their personal values are and, most important, how they define success for the enterprise together.”

Frank Becking, co-founder, IP counsel and chief technology officer of Panthera MedTech, is an active engineer and registered patent attorney with more than twenty years of related experience and a track record of success in med-device development and patent design-around work. He also has extensive experience in IP diligence, patent litigation, licensing and other contract negotiation.

Panthera MedTech is a partnership that focuses on founding new companies in the areas of mobile health, medical devices, biotechnology and health information technologies.

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