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Breakthroughs in Medtech: 5 Leaders Share Their Secrets to Innovation

Experts reveal what it takes to make it in the medtech industry.

Scott Nelson

November 17, 2023

3 Min Read
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Image Credit: cagkansayin via iStock/Getty Images

The allure of achieving a technological breakthrough is a driving force for many of us in the medtech space. The seemingly endless possibilities of applying innovation to real patient needs draw many entrepreneurs to this field — and keep us going when things get tough.

As co-founder and CEO of FastWave Medical and founder of Medsider, I’ve had the chance to talk to some of the industry’s cutting-edge leaders about what it really takes to develop a novel, groundbreaking product.

Keep reading to uncover insights from some of the brightest entrepreneurs in our space. From how to best understand user needs to leveraging incubators, these experts reveal what it takes to make it in medtech.

Understand your users and aim for simplicity

Doug Evans, President and CEO of Lungpacer, brings a personal touch to his mission of developing revolutionary technology. Lungpacer is working on a singular therapeutic solution to preserve the strength of the diaphragm muscle for critically ill patients on mechanical ventilation. This was inspired by Evans’ son’s struggles with traditional respiratory equipment.

Evans urges entrepreneurs to view their products first through the eyes of the patient, and then through the eyes of the clinician; with the end goal of keeping devices very simple to use.

Leverage an incubator or accelerator

Dan Rose, is the CEO of French-based medtech company LimFlow (recently acquired by Inari Medical), which is transforming the peripheral vascular space by providing a much-needed solution for end-stage critical limb-threatening ischemia (CLTI) patients by restoring blood flow to the ischemic foot via deep vein arterialization.

In 2011, the LimFlow team successfully collaborated with the medtech incubator MD Start to create a prototype and successfully raise capital. Rose emphasizes the significant benefits of partnering with a credible medtech incubator, citing their extensive expertise.

Balance venture and strategic capital

With President and CEO Mike Kujak at the helm, Francis Medical is developing novel thermal treatment technologies for cancers across the body. Francis Medical’s mission grew out of founder and CTO Michael Hoey’s experience of watching his father battle prostate cancer.

Kujak’s advice? Find the right balance between venture and strategic capital as they both provide value and resources for key company functions, yet come with different agendas and requirements.

Prioritize substance over sales

John Murphy, CEO and co-founder of Virtual Incision, has a diverse background in life sciences, aerospace, private equity, and venture capital that he invests into his company’s mission to develop the miniaturized in vivo robotic assistant (MIRA).

Murphy recommends that fellow entrepreneurs put substance before sales. Especially in the early stages of development, it’s often best to focus on creating a robust product; and the marketing can follow.

Build a community through authentic connections

Since founding Blackrock Neurotech in 2008, Marcus Gehrhardt has been on a mission to help people suffering from neurological disorders. Their brain-computer interface (BCI) system is a breakthrough medical device that uses brain implants to enable immobile patients to control electronic devices, wheelchairs, and even prosthetics without an intermediary device.

Gerhardt’s advice is to foster a sense of community and build authentic connections with researchers in your space. He believes these connections have significantly contributed to Blackrock’s ability to become a major player in the industry.

Key lessons from breakthrough medical technology leaders

In the realm of medical devices, the pursuit of innovation is driven by a passion to transform lives. Here are a few more nuggets of wisdom for any entrepreneur aiming to shape the future of medtech for the better.

Lean into passion projects: Innovative ideas often sprout from personal experiences. Identifying a pressing need, or a patient subset with poor outcomes and limited treatment alternatives, means you’re likely on the right track.

Collaborate with regulatory bodies: Work with, not against regulatory bodies, such as FDA.  Their goal is to increase access to safe and effective products that improve lives, much like the medtech community.

Assemble the right team: Groundbreaking innovation requires effective teamwork. Realize you don’t need to know everything and surround yourself with employees and consultants who are experts in their respective areas.

Scott Nelson is the co-founder and CEO of FastWave Medical, a medical device start-up developing intravascular lithotripsy systems. He’s also the founder of Medsider, where he interviews CEOs of promising, early-stage medical device and health technology companies.

About the Author(s)

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson is the co-founder and CEO of FastWave Medical, a medical device startup developing intravascular lithotripsy systems for cardiovascular disease. He’s also the Founder of Medsider, where he interviews founders and CEOs of promising, early-stage medical device and health technology companies. Scott has over 15 years of medtech and healthtech experience and is also a co-founder of Crossfire Medical and Managing Director of Big Sky Biomedical.

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