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Why Networking Is Crucial for Medical Device Startups

FastWave Medical’s co-founder and CEO, Scott Nelson shows us why the most important ingredient in having a successful startup revolves around networking.

Scott Nelson

January 16, 2024

5 Min Read
Dimitri Otis via Getty Images

For anyone who’s spent time in the world of medtech, it's easy to get carried away by the allure of innovation and groundbreaking solutions. But the key to enduring success isn’t just based on a good idea and an executable plan.

Perhaps the most important ingredient is your connections to the right people — from advisors and mentors to team members, investors, and cross-functional consultants. As Roger Waters famously put it: “Together we stand, divided we fall.” Sounds cliche, but it’s entirely true.

As co-founder and CEO of FastWave Medical and founder of Medsider, I've been fortunate to connect with some of the most renowned individuals in the medical device industry, and they all underline the same point: the networks you build will carry you forward.

Throughout the rest of this article, I’ll highlight medtech innovators who have shared their insights on the keys to building and leveraging strategic networks to push boundaries and move the needle forward.

Secure capital that aligns with your vision.

Mara McFadden, CEO of Endolumik, couples her engineering background with refined business acumen honed at companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Philips Healthcare. Her current venture, Endolumik, is pioneering an innovative esophagogastric calibration system.

When it comes to early-stage capital, you might think, “The more, the merrier”. However, Mara has learned the hard way that fundraising isn’t just about securing funding — it’s about securing the right funding. Her advice? Understand the financial side of the business, avoid overcapitalization, and know the value proposition for future stakeholders.

She recommends targeting pitches to investors with a proven interest and expertise in your field rather than throwing punches in the dark.

Shift your perspective on regulatory bodies.

Dr. Brett Wingeier is a force to be reckoned within neuromodulation. His work at NeuroPace and Halo Neuroscience, as well as his role as co-founder and CTO of Magnus Medical, skillfully blends medicine, biology, and engineering.

We all know that cooperation with regulatory parties is an essential part of the medtech industry, but Brett advises viewing regulatory entities as allies rather than adversaries. It’s crucial to establish meaningful connections with these stakeholders to ensure they understand your mission and can effectively support your efforts.

Look beyond the initial capital.

With his rich history in guiding medtech and biotech companies, Lloyd Diamond, CEO of Pixium Vision, brings a unique entrepreneurial perspective. Pixium is developing a revolutionary retinal implant system that brings hope to patients with advanced macular degeneration.

His advice is to be fastidious with potential investors. It’s important to seek those who align with your company vision and can offer ongoing support in addition to funding. This means focusing on building relationships with investors who bring more than just money to the table. There will be many cases where wisdom pays better than venture capital alone.

Cut through the noise for focused success.

Rob Ball, CEO of Shoulder Innovations, and a seasoned medical device expert, is a living example of the power of strategic focus. With over 30 issued or pending patents and a professional life dedicated to medtech, his contribution to companies like Tornier, where he grew revenue from tens of millions to hundreds of millions, cannot be overstated.

In Rob's view, tuning out the noise is an essential part of strategic networking. When designing a clinical study, for example, he warns against having too many voices at the table. Instead, he encourages cultivating a focus on key questions that truly matter.

By coalescing a narrow network of individuals who can help answer those vital questions, you’ll boost efficiency and accelerate your eventual success.

Build a powerful & dedicated team.

Joe Rafferty, CEO of Vesteck, brings with him a wealth of experience designing, building, and commercializing medical devices. He recognizes the challenges and opportunities in the field and uses these insights to lead Vesteck, a company at the forefront of developing solutions for aortic aneurysms.

Joe credits much of his success to the guidance of his mentors, highlighting the importance of having a reliable network and being open to learning from others. His strategy in the medtech business is based on building a powerful team and keeping them focused full-time on the task at hand.

By recruiting the right people and keeping them in-house, you can quickly address any challenges along the way at full capacity with greater control.

Critical lessons from medtech leaders on building strategic networks.

Here are my key takeaways from these inspiring thought leaders in the medtech space:

  • Get friendly with FDA: Gaining regulatory approval is challenging, but those challenges are there for your product to reach its full potential. Building a positive and proactive relationship with the necessary parties can offer you vital learnings early on.

  • Choose the right capital: Securing capital is not just about the funds but also about finding investors who are genuinely interested in your work. Be intentional about building enduring relationships with capital allocators who can offer wisdom, experience, and ongoing support.

  • Focus on relevant voices: Streamline the input involved in your decision-making processes. By focusing on the core questions that matter most to your business, you can reduce noise and accelerate the impact of your initiatives.

  • Nurture and retain teams: Invest in the right people and keep them in-house if you can. Success in medtech often requires full-time dedication and uninterrupted attention. Building a robust and dedicated team enables you to iterate quickly and respond swiftly in the face of changing tides.

Scott Nelson is the co-founder and CEO of FastWave Medical, a medtech 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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