During the fellowship year, all Biodesign Innovation Fellows spend approximately one month exploring a new segment of the health tech industry. The externship is a unique opportunity to broaden perspectives and develop new experiences. Ayo and Racquel teamed up to find an externship due to their shared passion for developing international experience and understanding the healthcare system in emerging markets. The following Q&A provides an outline of their international externship experience.
This year’s Biodesign Alumni Annual Event featured a panel discussion with the iRhythm team. The San Francisco-based company has changed the way cardiac arrhythmias are diagnosed through their cloud connected wearable biosensing technology. Panel members from iRhythm included Founder and former CMO Uday Kumar, Derrick Sung (Executive VP, Strategy & Corporate Development), Mark Day (Executive VP of R&D), and iRhythm’s CEO Kevin King, who brought the company public.
Those of us who went through the Biodesign fellowship in recent years have heard many times how ridiculous it is to start a medical device company out of the program in the current environment. When my teammate, Shreya Mehta, and I told people that we were planning to do just that with an implantable device that was going to require clinical trials, a non-trivial FDA process, and third-party reimbursement, people looked at us like we were certifiably insane. So when we first went out looking for funding for Zenflow in late 2014, we knew we were going to have to bring our A-game and cast a broad net. Having witnessed a mass exodus of investors from early-stage medtech to the seemingly greener pastures of Healthcare IT and Consumer Software, we began compiling a long list of non-traditional investors, accelerators, and grant opportunities. As I had spent some time in the software world beforehand, I was familiar with Y Combinator (YC), the accelerator that started accelerators, and the place where startup unicorns – or even decacorns like Dropbox – were supposedly born. But why would this shrine to hackers that fully embraces Marc Andreesen’s “Software is eating the world” philosophy want anything to do with a company that has a purely mechanical product and comes from an industry that is not eating the world, but rather being eaten by it? Our hopes were not high to say the least. But sure enough, right there on YC’s Requests For Startups page was a beacon of hope: “Medical devices also seem like fertile ground for startups.” So you’re telling me there’s a chance!
On October 28, 2015, a gathering of the Stanford Biodesign Alumni association, the current Biodesign fellows, and Women in Medtech members, was treated to a delightful fireside chat on the Neuromodulation frontier. The panelists shared a wide array of perspectives first-hand: from entrepreneurs building exciting neurostimulation products, to leaders of publicly traded companies marketing neuromodulation devices and even included the venture capital perspective on the future of this promising field of bioelectronic medicines. Hosted graciously at the T3 Advisors’ office in Palo Alto, this event was a treat for the audience who were entirely engaged in a lively discussion over cocktails.
As Biodesign alumni are well aware, the fellowship year is over in a blink of an eye. As the fellows ventured out for their externships and had a moment to reflect on the year to date, the SBAA asked six fellows:
If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to yourself right before the fellowship started, what would it be?
The responses showed a diversity of backgrounds and personalities, although a common theme does shine through – go out of your comfort zone and take full advantage of the experience. The fellowship provides plenty of opportunities to learn a new process, discover new ways to work, and create enduring relationships with incredible people.
The 2014-15 fellowship has passed the halfway mark and the three fellowship teams are deep into concept refinement and testing. This year’s cohort comprises six physicians and six engineers with a mix of clinical, business, and research backgrounds. Each of the twelve fellows arrived at Biodesign with some prior work in medical devices and each carried certain expectations about the process. In this post, six fellows discuss their prior expectations, the surprises they encountered, and how their expectations have shifted during the year.
SBAA asked these six fellows to answer the following question:
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the medtech innovation process since you started the fellowship?
Their responses are below.
The Innovations in Cardiovascular Interventions (ICI) Meeting, held in Israel every year, is an internationally renowned conference bringing together clinicians, researchers, and industry to provide a wide perspective on new technologies in the field of cardiology and cardiovascular surgery. Led by Prof. Chaim Lotan and Prof. Rafael Beyar, It is regularly attended by over 700 attendees from more than 40 countries. The next meeting will be held in Tel-Aviv at the David Intercontinental Hotel from Dec. 14-16.