Do Young Medtech Entrepreneurs Have It Easy?

Jamie Hartford 1

August 11, 2016

6 Min Read
Do Young Medtech Entrepreneurs Have It Easy?

Is it easier for young people to have an impact on medical technology today than it was back in the day? Many of the industry's rising stars say yes.

Jamie Hartford

Kids these days, they have it so easy, right? Except, perhaps, when it comes to creating innovative medical technologies. Many in the industry bemoan the passing of the "good old days," when funding for medtech ventures was easier to come by, regulations weren't so stringent, and the bar for innovation wasn't quite so high.

But while some industry veterans may believe it's harder than ever to develop an innovative medical device, the next generation of medical device entrepreneurs seems to be much more optimistic.

Qmed sister site MD+DI asked some of the brightest young minds in medtech whether they think it's easier or harder for young people to have an impact in medical technology today, and most agreed that they have it pretty good:

Demetri Monovoukas, 23, student in Johns Hopkins Biodesign Program

"It's becoming increasingly easier for young people to have an impact in medical technology, and that is a beautiful thing. Opportunities like the CBID (Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design) master's program at Johns Hopkins expose young innovators to the medical device industry earlier in their careers and help lower the barriers to make an impact. We currently find ourselves in an era where technology is not only advancing at an inspiring rate, but it's also becoming more accessible to the masses. To think that a teenager with an Internet connection and a considerable amount of drive can develop a smartphone application that can affect the lives of millions is truly remarkable . . ."

Adam Bender, 25, mechanical engineer at Accuro Technologies 

". . . The internet has opened the floodgates of knowledge and sharing. The medical field is moving towards a much more connected state with the rise of the Internet of Things. Sensors and data [are] becoming much more important to monitor patients and improve care. This is a skill that young people grasp quickly, and [they] can use to their advantage to have a positive impact on the medical field."

Jessica Traver, 25, CEO of IntuiTap Medical

"Fortunately, I think it is becoming easier for young people to have an impact in medical technology. More and more universities are implementing design thinking principles into their curriculum and starting programs that focus on entrepreneurship, which are instrumental in preparing students to be successful medtech entrepreneurs . . . Healthcare Accelerators and programs like Biodesign are becoming more and more popular, and we are seeing major medtech players, like J&J for example, funding and supporting innovation initiatives, which is playing a huge roll in allowing young entrepreneurs to make a large impact in medical technology. Without this kind of support and training, it would be so much more of a challenge to get an idea off the ground and commercialize it in such a complex industry . . ."

Kenneth Shinozuka, 17, CEO of SensaRx 

"I think it's becoming easier for young people to have an impact in medical technology. Computer science courses are becoming increasingly popular in both universities and high schools across the nation, and the Internet has made it much easier to learn how to code. Almost all of the largest healthcare challenges in the world--curing diseases, preventing illnesses, etc.--require novel technological approaches, so there's certainly a demand for fresh and original ideas in the health tech space."  

Jocelyn Brown, 28, product manager of medical devices at 3rd Stone Design

"I think it's becoming easier, at least in the area I work in, global health technologies. There's a growing awareness of the need for low-cost, robust medical devices in developing countries, which many undergraduate students and early-career engineers can become involved in." 

Sivakumar Palaniswamy, 26, cofounder and CTO at NeoLight LLC 

"I personally think it is becoming easier for young people to have an impact in the field of medical technology. The ability to freely access information all around the world and network with leaders in medical technology provides a basis upon which young people can think of and build new solutions that never existed before. Medical technology is an ever-growing field- not only are there many new areas to explore, but there are also gaps in the dissemination and accessibility of existing technology. Today, millennials have more tools at their disposal than ever before to address these challenges."

Still, a couple said young medtech innovators these days have a tough row to hoe:

Derek Mathers, 24, director of R&D at Worrell, adjunct professor of 3-D printing at the University of Minnesota

"I believe it is becoming more difficult for young people to have an impact on medtech, because there is a growing façade that there is a high barrier to entry (PHD, MD, MS even) to design, test, and introduce new therapy solutions and products. The answer is that anyone can become a medtech innovator if they are willing to go above-and-beyond to learn, devise solutions with a hands-on approach, can work with others effectively, and strive to get the best results possible. Look at Earl Bakken--an undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering and built one of the largest medtech companies in the market today."

Samantha Huynh, 27--PhD Student in Biomedical Engineering, University of Southern California

". . . It's harder for young people to make an impact in medical technology because we lack the clout and experience to be taken seriously. Take away that conceit, approach the problem statement with an open mind, and you will have an army of adaptive and fiercely intelligent individuals working against problems that have existed for as long as we've been alive. We offer new perspectives and since many of the variables that are inherent to these [medical] problems have already been identified, we can focus our efforts into solving for them."

What do you think? Is it easier for young people to have an impact in medtech today than it was in the past?

Jamie Hartford is director of medical content for UBM's Advanced Manufacturing Group. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @MedTechJamie

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