By Thomas Hickey, Excelerant Consulting
Any experienced sailor knows you cannot safely leave port without an intended destination and a carefully charted course to get there. Even then, there are no absolute, 100% certainties and the wise mariner is constantly on watch for shifting currents, seas, weather, ship traffic, and myriad other details that can send you off course and far from your destination.
Said another way, we can’t direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails. If you don’t understand and embrace this reality, feel free to join me in a rousing chorus of “Iceberg, dead ahead!”
Promising, yet-to-commercialized medical technology is no different. You need to be armed with data, prepared for any possibilities, and chart a realistic course for success. And it all starts with identifying a market (or markets) with an unmet need.
In two recent MedTech Gurus podcasts, Episode # 59 Peter Van Haur, Episode # 53 Ryan Kelly, Ph.D., one with Peter Van Haur, CEO of VitalConnect, a maker of VitalPatch, which remotely monitors for cardiac arrhythmia and measures key vital signs while patients recover at home, and the other with Ryan Kelly, who heads up the Innovation Lab at Innovation Institute in Newport Beach, CA, we discussed the ins and outs of the commercialization process. Basically, how to get from “here” to “there” successfully.
Both gentlemen agree, when the time comes to pitch your promising new medtech product or service, investors want to see two things before they will loosen purse strings:
- A large and expanding market opportunity, and
- An unmet need within that market that your product or service clearly fills.
Further, those with the deep pockets will want you to convincingly articulate the value proposition, or reimbursement, how you intend to present to clinicians, why it will facilitate (not hamper) clinical workflow, and how patients will ultimately benefit from it. This takes time, effort, and resources because gathering data isn’t fast, easy, or cheap.
Herein lies the quandary: Investors want to see quantifiable proof that what you’re peddling is viable and proven, but in the early stages of commercialization, financial resources are typically limited. As such, you may need to embark on a no-charge (or low-cost) pilot program until you’ve gathered enough data to support your investment pitch. But there’s good news within the challenging news. In many situations, if you can successfully present the unmet market need and lay out the promise of market adoption, investors might hear just enough to say, “OK, I’m in” and provide funding to move you further along the pathway to success.
As time goes on and you keep your investment partners updated on progress that aligns with the promise of success, additional funding is likely forthcoming.
How To Make Your Pitch
Begin by clearly defining the problem or unmet need (the opportunity) that exists within a specific market or markets. Resist the urge to leapfrog into solutioning before laying out the landscape and creating a context for investors.
Explain the needs of not only end users but everyone else who will be involved with the product or service along the way. This includes all stakeholders, not just the obvious ones like clinicians and patients. There are also payors, supply chain and procurement, administration, and finance. Your potential investors will want to be fully aware of each party’s “pain points” before hearing about your medtech solution.
To best present your case, be sure you have a strong design partner when developing your prototype, a robust network of professionals who can provide candid feedback from a variety of perspectives, and a dedicated cross-functional team that can wear one hat today and a different one tomorrow.
Lay out your case for how your medtech product or service will make everyone’s life easier, more efficient, or both. In many cases, investors are also clinicians, and they may be a tremendous resource to you during development and refinement stages and later in the pre-adoption phase when other stakeholders are involved.
Always remember, there can be significant challenges to success if your product or service in any way slows or makes the workflow more difficult. Present your technology as a healthcare enabler versus a healthcare driver.
Also, you must resist falling so in love with your new, promising medtech product or service that you fail to establish that all-important context. Inventors are often clinicians and engineers who understand the clinical perspective but not necessarily the needs and expectations of others. Putting the rigor in on the front end will help your technology pitch make more sense and be more appealing, especially if it comes with a premium.
Timing Can Be Everything
In one instance involving a respiratory project, a closed-circuit ventilation system was developed that allowed clinicians to do procedures without actually opening the circuit and potentially exposing themselves (and/or the patients) to viral or bacterial threats. In ordinary times, this may not have seemed like that big of a deal but in the midst of a pandemic, that sort of technology was a blessing and a godsend.
Finally, during the developmental process, bright minds may discover product extensions and/or additional opportunities in other market verticals. That’s all well and good, but don’t spread yourself, your resources, and your focus too thin or you’ll find yourself dead in the water. If other viable opportunities exist with this technology, you can always come back to them after you’ve established a foothold with investors and, ultimately, in the marketplace.
Walk before you run. And run before you leap.
About The Author:
Thomas Hickey is a senior consultant at Excelerant Consulting as well as host of Med Tech Gurus, a podcast focused on medical entrepreneurship and marketing (available on Apple Podcasts and other platforms). He develops innovative strategies and tactics and possesses a deep understanding of sales strategy and sales channels. With more than 35 years’ experience in the medical device industry and executive-level experience with manufacturers and group purchasing organizations, Hickey is skilled at assessing launches, start-ups, international distribution, technology, and market feasibility. He has successfully launched several products and hired, coached, and trained hundreds of independent and distributor sales team members. He can be reached at email@example.com.