A former Apple product manager and Medtronic sales rep has launched his own company, Murj Inc., to liberate clinicians from paper processes and inefficient device management tools using digital health technology.
Todd Butka's resume has two key details that set him apart from other medtech entrepreneurs: his experience as a product development manager for Apple, and his experience as a sales representative for the largest pure-play medical device company in the world, Medtronic.
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Now, Butka is taking what he learned from both of his earlier career paths and applying it to a new digital health company he founded in late 2014.
Butka told Qmed that his experience at Apple left a lasting impression of the thought and detail that goes into product design, and how that can influence behavior. Then, at Medtronic, he got to work with life-saving, implantable devices, and see first-hand how those technologies impact patients. But he also recognized some unmet needs in the field.
"I was left managing some of these devices, and the tools to acquire information, and document information, and reflect back on information was inadequate," Butka said. "They were inefficient, and costly for the care providers to manage these patients. So, as great as the technology is that's implanted, the technology to manage the information coming out of the devices hadn't really evolved at the pace that the devices had."
And that's how he ended up the founder and CEO of Murj Inc., a Santa Cruz, CA-based digital health startup that is trying to help clinicians streamline care for patients with implantable cardiac devices. The company's product of the same name, Murj, is a cloud-based, HIPAA-compliant application accessed through a secure web browser. The solution is designed to consolidate data from all implantable cardiac device types and manufacturers into an elegant, robust platform intended to deliver rapid clinical care, and deep patient insight.
"It just started to resonate more, and more, that there is a better way, a thoughtful way, and an effective way, to do this," Butka said. "So that's why I started Murj."
The company has already earned support in the venture capital community, which is not an easy feat for medtech startups. Murj has raised more than $4.5 million in financing, which includes an earlier seed round, and a more recent series A financing. True Ventures led the most recent round, and was joined by Social Capital, as well as the company's seed investors.
But it wasn't easy setting out on his own.
"Raising the money was something I had never done before. I was a career corporate guy, I've worked for the largest of the best really, Medtronic and Apple," Butka said. "Just jumping off this big ship where I knew I had a great career was a big hurdle in and of itself, but finding great venture groups that, A, understood the technology and the problem, and B, believed that a guy like me can work with each of these large manufacturers like a Boston Scientific, and a Medtronic, that was a pretty big hurdle to really prove out that we can accomplish something with these big companies."
What sold True Ventures, Social Capital, and other investors on the potential of Murj, Butka said, is the fact that he is not trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of how physicians get paid. "I'm not creating a technology where I have to lobby Medicare for reimbursement, the reimbursement will follow the [implantable] devices," he said. "The fact that there was an established reimbursement model let down the guards for many venture groups."
Butka also said the investors seemed to appreciate the value of his previous medical device sales experience. "I didn't realize, in the startup world, the value of my sales experience. They appreciated that more than I did," he said. "We are hyper-focused on who our customer is, we understand our market."
Jon Callaghan, co-founder of True Ventures, said Murj fits his firm's profile perfectly by showing dedication to having a broad, long-term impact on the market. "As implantable and wearable cardiac devices proliferate, the need for advanced tools to manage the data flowing from these devices is paramount," he said.
The company will continue to evolve its product, Butka said, and can push out updates as frequently as necessary. The company has piloted the solution at five sites, and is now ready to emerge from stealth mode and focus on sales and marketing.
"This is a great industry with amazing, life-saving technologies, and I just hope that we can complement the industry well, and continue to make it evolve into a stronger industry," Butka said.
Amanda Pedersen is Qmed's news editor. Contact her at [email protected].