A breakout panel at recent Wilson Sonsini Medical Device Conference, with Scott Murano from Wilson Sonsini, Fred Toney from Lean Launchpad, Kevin Wasserstein from Neurotechnology Innovations Translator, and Ryan McGuinness from Triple Ring Tech, discussed new emerging models of innovation for medical technologies. The panelists shared the methods they use to identify important new innovations, and how they assist in rapidly building product prototypes and help complete first-in-man cases in a cost effective manner.
Toney, at Lean Launchpad (that was started by Steve Blank), said they cast a wide net and take several contenders through a stringent vetting process and make a final selection to invest in 6-10 companies, with fundable milestones, and clear clinical evidence. These companies are fostered from early stage and provided guidance, teaching, and tools to understand customers in a deep way.
At Triple Ring, the driver is to create opportunities for serendipitous events and help create a robust ecosystem and build upon the opportunities that come through the network, said McGuinness. This model thrives best in Silicon Valley, with an existing thriving ecosystem, though they are trying to export the model to other parts of the country. The companies are vetted through the expertise of Triple Ring staff in their specific domains. Triple Ring invests in a small subset of companies that are incubated there but it is not a requirement of participating in the incubator. More importantly, TRT supports interesting projects or companies with its world class R&D capability. The focus at TRT is to move quickly to add value and reach the inflection points/ funding milestones. When data indicates non viability of the idea, “we move quickly and kill easily and cheaply, adding value to the fail fast side of the coin”, said McGuinness.
Neurotechnology Innovations Translator, that has come out of Ohio State, is not a VC firm but assists medtech companies by providing comprehensive clinic development resources, management and leadership expertise and helping raise investment capital. In vetting process, Wasserstein said they look for the size of the clinical need the technology seeks to address and the market opportunity it represents. Starting with some objective criteria, they overlay that with how the company can truly make an impact and how well it would thrive with the ecosystem they can provide, said Wasserstein. The Translator has access to excellent advisors, animal lab and engineers on bench for rapid testing, and onsite rapid prototyping facility to move projects forward quickly.
The panel agreed that medtech investing is not dead but companies need to stay focused on solving a problem and have the tenacity, persistence and creativity and look for out of the box resources to help them move forward.
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