Join us this week at Entrepreneurship 101 as Lance Laking, Investment Director, MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund, moderates a panel of entrepreneurs discussing how to turn ideas into successful products by following the “V-model” of concept development. The panel will also look at how to differentiate the many steps of product development.
Last Wednesday, as part of Entrepreneurship 101, MaRS hosted a panel with three healthcare entrepreneurs. The panelists shared some painful lessons they learned on the way to success as well as some key pieces of advice for those trying to innovate in the health system. The panel was moderated by MaRS’ new Managing Director of Health Venture Services, Dianne Carmichael. Here are some highlights of what these entrepreneurs had to say.
Sarah Sharpe, co-founder of QoC Health, pointed out that the health system is notorious for being stuck in persistent pilot mode: “It’s easy to get a hospital to agree to test a solution on 30 patients using grant money, but its harder to tap into operational funding.” Sarah’s advice? Ask exactly what the customer needs to know in order to make a longer-term commitment. That could be anything from a peer-reviewed paper to a large randomized clinical trial.
Sarah also mentioned that QoC Health’s strength is its ability to co-design and customize solutions with both patients and providers in the same room. There have been times when the solution that the company thinks of winds up not being what the customer chooses. But in the end, if it’s what the customer uses, then that is the most important thing when you’re trying to reduce a patient’s stay and improve their quality of health.
Jeff Kent of Highland Therapeutics stressed that entrepreneurs need to build the right team and network around them. Jeff is a lawyer by training and had no experience in pharmaceuticals before joining Highland. The company relies on its advisory board and key opinion leaders to help fill in the knowledge gaps and add to the company’s creditability. For Jeff, having a support network to bounce ideas off of, whether that’s a spouse or a group of fellow entrepreneurs, is essential.
Another key insight from Jeff is that “doctors do not want to talk about problems that they can’t solve.” This is the reason why Highland has done extensive market research. Highland discovered that there was a major problem with many extended-release drugs for treating ADHD. As Jeff explained, “40% of the parents we talked to wake up their children early in the morning to give them their medications and hope that they will fall back asleep.” This discovery has become a key selling point for Highland’s DELEXIS platform.
Serial entrepreneur Paul Weber of Perimeter Medical believes entrepreneurs need to maintain focus and cannot be afraid of making decisions on incomplete information. “I’d rather make 10 decisions and get six right and pivot on the others, than make only two decisions and not move forward.”
During the Q&A portion of the evening, Paul encouraged entrepreneurs to not be afraid of entering developing markets as long as they are addressing a problem that needs to be solved. Paul pointed out that there are many investors specifically interested in these markets—for example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, and a few government organizations that offer subsidies. The panel agreed that as long as the entrepreneur knows the market and properly strategizes, they should absolutely go for it!
Missed the lecture? In the videos below, you can hear what our panelists had to say.
And search “Entrepreneurship 101” on iTunes U.