Archive for December, 2011

Robotics in MedTech

December 30, 2011

FountainBlue’s December 12 Life Science Entrepreneurs’ Forum, was our final life science forum and was on the topic of Robotics in MedTech. Below are notes from the conversation.
By definition, Robots are devices that automatically perform complicated, often repetitive, tasks or are a mechanism guided by automatic controls. These tasks are ones where human activities are augmented or replaced by automatic or semi-automatic devices. The robotics field can be broken down into areas of body interaction (which would include surgical robots, prosthetics, end-effect robots) Power Source (which includes luggable and fixed robots), Movement Detection (which includes programmed movement and myoelectric), as well as Patient Benefits (which includes vertical wheelchairs, stance control). See the attached chart on the medical robotics landscape, courtesy of Tibion.
Tibion offers a wearable robotic device for augmenting muscle and balance functions through sensors and software, and represented the movement detection category on our panel. Restoration Robotics, which is developing and commercializing a state-of-the-art image-guided system (ARTAS™ System) that enables follicular unit extraction and represents the body interaction space, Accel Biotech, which does product development for medical, diagnostic, biodefense and biotech products and represents products from the movement detection, patient benefits and body interaction space and ISS Robodoc, which allows operators to specify a task and the device performs all the actions necessary to complete the task such as drilling a cavity for an implant from CT data, and represents the body interaction space.
Our panelists spoke eloquently both about how they got into the business, for personal and professional reasons, what their companies are doing, as well as the obstacles and opportunities ahead. Below is a summary of advice and comments about the industry overall.
• With the advancement of technologies in software, hardware, mechanical engineering, databases/business intelligence, networks and integration of all, there are many more MedTech opportunities for successful businesses now than ever before.
• With that said, the aging and more affluent global population/potential customer base, and the demand for more versatile, customizable solutions will dramatically increase to serve an ever-growing global market where there are needs for robots to do everything from body interaction to power sourcing to movement detection to patient benefit.
• Entrepreneurs experienced in this area have withstood the financial/economic ebbs and flows of the valley, particularly over the past decade, and seen the rapid rise and fall of technologies-looking-for-a-market. They are best able to see what’s next, based on market needs and customer feedback/demands and are best positioned to leverage existing technologies to serve these needs, many times integrating proven technologies, or applying them in a new way for a new purpose or market.
• Focus more on incremental improvements on proven technologies, for that’s far easily to forecast and plan for than disruptive changes, and you’re far more likely to encounter disruptive changes if you focus on the incremental ones.
In fact, a disruptive change may involve using existing technology in a new way in a new industry rather than inviting a new technology and solution from scratch, which is much less tested, much harder to get adoption and approval and funding and customers.
• Always start with the market need and consider regulatory and reimbursement factors as well as social and cultural issues rather than focus on building the technology and waiting for the patients and doctors to come.
• Design solutions that make therapists more efficient, one that is easy to understand and adopt, one that makes it easier for them to run their clinic as a business.
• Focus on solutions which make sense, and bring patients to caregivers when the need is to specific, too mission-critical. For example, instead of doing remote surgery at a battle site, invest in quickly getting patients to care centers with far more people and resources for customized treatment.
Our panelists agreed that there are tremendous opportunities ahead in this space:
• Integrating software engineering, data analytics, medical device production and pharmaceutical research can help accelerate the development of custom treatments for specific patients and needs. Indeed, it can do much more than that!
• There are huge opportunities in applications of robotics in food production, research (to find a more versatile, nutritious corn for example), distribution, treatment, etc.
• Robotics could enable rapid, customized diagnostics, in the near term in the areas of staph infection,
• Industrial robots did not take off in the US, due more to market/people resistance than technology implementation hurdles. As such, widespread adoption industrial robotics solutions is more prevalent outside the US. If we can change the mindset of the users and adopters, we can welcome and adopt industrial robotics solutions, factory automation at a next level, and once again become more competitive in the manufacturing/operations space. If not, we can design further industrial robot automations for international customers and markets.
• Investigate the convergence of cameras (imaging), networks/mobile, data analytics, etc. as it applies to quickly diagnosing and treating patients in an efficient, customized way.
• Investigate how gaming, sensors and augmentation will intersect with robotics and the opportunities therein.
• See where materials science, medtech, data analytics, and robotics intersect and the implications on how we can better serve our patients.
• To find opportunities to apply robotics, look at what repetitive or dangerous tasks should be done efficiently and precisely and how it can be automated in an efficient (time and money) way to an audience (like patients and doctors) who may not embrace technology. It must be simple to understand and use.
• Each of the robotics categories from body interaction to Power Source to Movement Detection to Patient Benefits may all be applied to how robots can support an aging population to assist movement-impaired patients limited through age-related physical degeneration, diseases or congenital limitations:
o Surgical robots, prosthetics, end-effect robots
o Luggable and fixed robots
o Programmed movement and myoelectric
o vertical wheelchairs, stance control
In the end, complex automation is the key, leveraging technology (software, devices, databases, networks, etc), but it must be integrated into a simple, sustainable solution, easily managed, to serve complex problems for specific users/customers/needs.
Please join us in thanking our panelists for our final life science forum, on the topic of Robotics in MedTech:
Facilitator Jack Moorman, LeVaunt, LLC
Presenting Entrepreneur Robert Horst, Ph.D., Vice President of R&D & Cofounder, Tibion
Presenting Entrepreneur Mike Ouren, Clinical Development Manager, Restoration Robotics
Presenting Entrepreneur Bruce Richardson, CEO, Accel Biotech
Presenting Entrepreneur Dr. Ramesh C. Trivedi, President, Calbiomed International, Inc.

Leadership in a Time of Accelerated Change

December 12, 2011

FountainBlue’s December 9 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series was on the topic of Leadership in a Time of Accelerated Change. Below are notes from the conversation.
Whether our panelists represented a household-name tech company or an emerging start-up, were part of an executive team or the CEO, they had many traits in common:
• They consistently and consciously embraced change, and are often times the instigators for change.
• The change they advocated was always in a forward direction, for themselves, for their teams, for their organizations, for their industry.
• If change did not happen in a productive way, they found a way around, through, across and over the obstacles.
• They made a business case for each change, and worked with all the stakeholders so that they can embrace that change.
• They are authentic and human. It’s not that they never had self-limiting beliefs, but they focused on pushing past that; it’s not that they’ve always succeeded, it’s that they keep growing and learning from every experience.
• They each knew their ‘walking points’, junctures in their lives and careers where they made a conscious choice in a new direction for a strategic reason.
With all that said, leading change is never easy, particularly at a time when standing still and being complacent, something that previously worked for some, can be a death sentence now. Below is advice our panelists shared about how to embrace change:
• Accept change as a way of life, the real constant, and learn from every change.
• Lead change in a direction which makes sense strategically for yourself, your team, your organization, your industry.
• Leverage your strengths and relationships to make changes stick, to show the results of change, to continue to drive change and build engagement around it.
• Embrace change especially when it’s uncomfortable. There may be many more advancement opportunities during a down-turn or a downsizing than during a time of rapid growth for the company or in the economy overall.
• See the opportunity in every change, and the changes with each opportunity.
• Change is a given, but misery is optional, so it’s how you look at change and manage it.
• The constants of love, relationship, intimacy, community, the need for money will always be there, even if the tools, the environment and methodologies may change rapidly.
• As change accelerates, focus on the view from the customer and provide products and services which serve their current and anticipated needs.
• Lean forward toward your passion.
• Drive efficient, measurable results and convince others it’s in their best interest to do so.
• Find the sweet spot where innovation, business and technology intersect, and develop practical and sustainable ways to deliver quality products and services to your customers.
• Be strategic about what you do for whom (your prioritized customer base), and get feedback on your plan from trusted, knowledgeable others.
• Embrace and learn from failures for success is the enemy of change.
• It is far easier to embrace change that you create, than change imposed on you by others, but it may be better for all to do the latter.
• Listen to your customers about any changes they may request with your products or services and take the time to understand why they have these specific requests or needs.
Our panelists had the following predictions about technology trends, and invite us to think about the implications of these trends on ourselves and our organizations.
• There will be many more touch screens used in so many different ways, and cursors and keyboards may be less prominent.
• There will be ever-increasing demands for immediate response to customized needs, leveraging software and devices.
• Users will be more demanding, and those who consider what the user experiences and how to best serve the user’s comfort, interests and needs will best succeed.
• Users can more quickly engage with trusted communities in targeted ways.
• Entertainment will meet mobile will meet social media in many ways.
Recommended Reading:
• Play to Your Strengths: Stacking the Deck to Achieve Spectacular Results for Yourself and Others by Andrea Sigetich and Carol Leavitt
• The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen
• The Innovator’s Dilemma: Meeting the Challenge of Disruptive Change by Clayton Christensen and Deaver Brown
• The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
• First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
• Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts and to eBay for hosting us.
Facilitator Amy Gonzales, Director, Women Unlimited
Panelist Erna Arnesen, Head of Global Services Channels and Alliances, Cisco
Panelist Deepika Bajaj, Marketing Director, Fierce Wombat Games, Inc.,
Panelist Elisa Jagerson, Founder and CEO, Speck Design
Panelist Leila Pourhashemi, Director, Technical Services, PayPal, an eBay company

Materials Innovation in Clean Tech

December 7, 2011

FountainBlue’s December 5 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Materials Innovations in Clean Tech. Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists spoke passionately about the opportunities for materials innovation, and how it can change clean energy offerings that are both practical and affordable for customers like utilities, corporations, manufacturers and homeowners.
Below are some thoughts on the opportunities ahead for materials innovation in clean tech:
• Develop materials and solutions which would help manage the peaks and valleys brought by renewable energy getting into the grid. This will become increasingly important.
• In the same token, develop materials innovations which fit within existing infrastructure and even make the infrastructure more flexible, more scalable.
• Consider automating basic, needed services which use fewer resources, like anything from window-cleaning to car and battery maintenance.
• Use plentiful, inexpensive, proven materials and scale manufacturing and development using these materials.
• Consider developing solutions which are closer to the ‘load’, where the customer demand is greatest. This may mean many micro- solutions for energy management.
• Adapt current materials which make products smaller, lighter, and more durable under extreme conditions, and its applications in the clean energy space.
Below is advice from our experienced panelists:
• Our panelists cautioned entrepreneurs about investing *too* much time and money into the development of a novel, groundbreaking material, and suggested instead to look at proven materials and adapting them to new purposes, to new markets, using new geometries, new manufacturing processes, new composites/combinations, etc. Not only would doing so decrease the likelihood of creating a product or service more quickly for a proven market and paying customer, but it would also be easier to seek funding and partnerships.
• Develop processes and solutions which would make production of your materials cost-effectively, so that you reach grid parity and customers would get the ROI.
• Make it easy for customers to select your solution, changing from their current option. People want to be earth-friendly, but the financial commitment up-front and the technical/hassle-factor is a hurdle to adopting ‘cleaner’ options.
• Leverage partnerships with academics, entrepreneurs, corporates, etc and collaborate to develop new solutions, distribute them to new markets and channels, etc
• Know your area of specialty and work with others to create win-win partnerships for everything from development to manufacturing to distribution and funding.
• Know your market and sell to your market. Prioritize which markets you will sell to when and know why.
• Provide offerings which could withstand extreme conditions – weather, heat, chemicals, etc. and also last for long periods of time, like a decade or two.
• Follow basic business principles: have a great idea and prove it through measurable outcomes based on aggressive milestones and timelines.
• Consider aerospace and military applications for your materials innovation.
• Collaborate to influence policy to be more friendly to innovations in this space.
• Have your finger on market pulse and focus on the needs and feedback of your customers.

In the end, entrepreneurs who will succeed in this space will focus more on incremental innovations than on creating/identifying a game-changing new material, more about business models than on ‘rocket science’, more about producing real value to paying customers and scaling to meet the current and anticipated needs of a global marketplace.

We would like to thank our speakers for FountainBlue’s December 5 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Materials Innovations in Clean Tech:
Facilitator Jill Weir, Product Manager, TE Connectivity
Panelist Scott Elrod, Vice President, Director of Hardware Systems Laboratory, PARC
Panelist Alissa Peterson, Director, Product Marketing and Business Development, Primus Power
Presenting Entrepreneur Phillip Roberts, CEO and Founder, Ionex Energy Storage Systems Inc.
Please join us also in thanking our hosts at PARC.