The only constant in life is change. And nowhere is that more true than in your first year as a start-up.
As many of you know, MDisrupt was founded a year ago because we believed the healthtech world was lacking “medical diligence”. We believed this was the missing link in the market and the reason why so many healthtech startups were stumbling on the path to successfully commercializing their health products.
We originally created MDisrupt to identify healthtech companies who were at risk of becoming the next Theranos, or uBiome. Our hypothesis was that if investors undertook more rigorous medical diligence, they would be able to more easily identify and evade potential investments in companies that were not clinically or commercially viable, or who were not taking the appropriate regulatory path.
Like any start-up in its first year, we had ups and downs, learned a ton and we soon identified our true direction – to play an even more constructive role in the healthcare / healthtech industry than we had originally planned. Luckily we were small and nimble enough to be able to react quickly to the market dynamics and, while some of the changes were tough, they forced MDisrupt into a stronger, better place. I want to share with you the ways we have changed and the lessons we learned along the way.
Changing Focus – Healthtech Investors Were Not The Primary Customers For Medical Diligence
It turned out that healthtech investors were not our primary customers. There is not really a ‘budget’ for medical diligence in an investment transaction. Tech funds source health subject matter experts from within their network to conduct diligence, whereas, bio and life sciences investors already have health domain expertise on staff.
We soon found that it was the bigger and more established health companies that had utility for our medical diligence services to provide an objective external third party view and address their needs in a range of fundamental areas such as:
- “How do our clinical standards as a laboratory compare to other clinical labs?”
- Mergers and Acquisitions:
- “We are considering an acquisition and want to understand the new market of the company we are acquiring.”
- Market Sizing:
- “We are launching a new product in a new market and want an objective view of the market size and opportunity.”
Our True Market: Healthtech Truth Seekers Wanting Much More Than Medical Diligence Services
While we had limited traction with investors, one of the most inspiring parts of the last 12 months was meeting the healthtech founders who were determined to build their companies responsibly and cared deeply about building impactful, scalable and data-driven health products. But they did not just want our medical diligence assessments, they wanted access to us and other health industry experts to help them build their health products well in the first place. They were aware of how other healthtech companies had stumbled in their early days and did not want to make the same mistakes.
These companies wanted our help to solve problems such as:
- Should my test be an LDT or an IVD? Is it a health or wellness product?
- What is the appropriate regulatory path I should take in the US?
- How do I find a part-time Chief Medical Officer?
- How do I access the self-insured employer channel?
- What is the right strategy for engaging healthcare providers and payors?
- Help me define a marketing strategy for reaching medical audiences.
Even the investors we engaged with in our early days, started to connect us to healthtech companies in their portfolios. Very soon we were overwhelmed with these types of requests and had to start tapping into our network of colleagues to help us on these projects. We quickly realized that our real market was helping the healthtech founding teams themselves.
Uncovering The Unmet Need: “The Gig Economy For Health Industry Experts”
As we began to reach out to our networks for help on these projects, and with all the press coverage we received when we launched, we were inundated with support from experienced health industry professionals and colleagues. The same key themes emerged:
- It is about time someone helped improve standards of health products.
- How can I help and get involved?
- Can I work for MDisrupt?
- I want to work with healthtech companies and help them get to market quickly and safely.
- How can I find the healthtech companies who could use my skills and expertise?
We heard from our client healthtech companies that they were struggling to access the experts they needed and here we were with hundreds of emails from passionate, experienced experts ready and willing to help. That was the moment we realized that the real problem we needed to solve was how we could provide easy access to experienced, vetted health industry experts. We knew then what we needed to build into the MDisrupt platform – a health expert two-sided marketplace.
And so we did. To date we have 58 consultant subject matter experts spanning the healthcare continuum, averaging 10 years’ experience in their discipline. Our expert consultants include:
- Market Access Experts
- Regulatory Experts
- Commercial and Channel Strategists
- Lab Test Designers
- Clinical Trial Designers
- Health Economists
Many of these industry experts are still practicing and so are able to provide the most current perspective within their disciplines. They are able to assist healthtech companies in a variety of capacities including:
- Part-Time Chief Medical or Chief Scientific Officer
- Medical or Scientific Advisory Boards
- Consulting Projects
- Expert Opinions
Engaging these health industry experts as consultants has enabled us to solidify our mission of helping to bring the most impactful health products to market faster and more responsibly by uniting the healthtech and healthcare industries – benefiting from the best of both worlds.
The Covid-19 Pandemic: An Unexpected Driver In Uniting The Healthcare And Healthtech Worlds
As we entered 2020 the onset of the coronavirus outbreak changed the world for us all. Never has healthcare, healthtech and science been more in the spotlight than over the past 6 months. Very soon we started to see healthtech companies make significant shifts in their business models to help address the global pandemic. Some examples of these include:
- Lab testing companies that wanted to shift into developing Covid-19 Testing
- Telemedicine companies that had to scale significantly
- Instrument companies that had developed products for adjacent industries wanting to move quickly into clinical lab testing
- Behavioral apps who pivoted to address mindfulness and stress-management issues arising from lifestyle shifts due to prolonged shelter in place mandates
- Regulatory and clinical activities for “Back to Work” scenarios – how employers, colleges and schools can bring people back safely
Once again, we have been inundated with requests for health industry experts to help healthtech companies make these pivots and transitions. Increasingly, healthtech companies are seeing the value of having scientific and medical experts as core parts of their teams to help them navigate the new opportunities that the pandemic has brought to the industry.
As Start-Ups Evolve, So Do Their Teams
Earlier in my career, while working for a start-up, a wise CEO told me that the people that found a company are not always the same people that grow the company, or scale it or take it public. Teams evolve and different people and skills are needed for different stages of progression.
MDisrupt was founded by myself and my close friend and colleague Jill Hagenkord, who I nicknamed the “Godmother of Precision Medicine”. We founded MDisrupt with the mission of helping bring the most impactful health products to market faster and more responsibly by uniting the healthtech and healthcare worlds. Today is the one-year anniversary of MDisrupt and, while that mission has not changed, it is bittersweet for me to announce Jill’s departure from MDisrupt. Jill was offered an incredible opportunity that she could not refuse and she is off to pursue her next amazing adventure. I don’t want to steal her thunder by announcing where she is going until she does, so stay tuned for her announcement. I am so incredibly grateful for the blood, sweat and tears Jill poured into MDisrupt working alongside me over the past year and how she helped turn a glimmer of an idea into a business that can truly make an impact for so many companies. Myself, and the MDisrupt community she helped to build, thank her for her dedication, passion and brilliance and we will be cheering her on as she embarks on her next journey.
We have also been lucky enough over the past few months to add some new and incredibly talented people to our team:
Ragan Hart, MS, PhD – Director of Operations and Business Development
Ragan is an applied health economist, who evaluates clinical genomics and digital health technologies. Learn more about Ragan Hart
Dr Pamela Mehta – VP of Medical Affairs
Dr. Pamela Mehta is a board certified, practicing orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Resilience Orthopedics. Read more about Dr Mehta
Please join me in welcoming them to the MDisrupt Community!
A New Year, A New Look
As a health product marketer by blood, I believe it is important that a brand is not only representative of your company’s personality but also a critical communication vehicle for your target audiences. We serve both health innovators and our health industry experts equally. Our goal has been to create a brand that resonates with both sectors, keeping the modern feel that the healthtech industry is accustomed to, but enriching this with content written by our experts to address the real issues entrepreneurs may face as they take on the challenges of responsibly building scalable health products.
We also wanted to make it easier to showcase some of our experts’ skills and create simpler ways for health companies to find them. So we gave ourselves a rebrand – take a look at our new website, we welcome your feedback. I want to thank Paul Bohanna, our creative and technical director who has worked tirelessly over the past few months to reimagine our brand and build our website.
A Company Is Only As Good As Its Network of Supporters – Thank You
As with any start-up, the first year is a year of learning, pivoting and identifying new opportunities. But one thing has been clear – we have been blessed with incredible support: from the clients that believed in us and trusted us to work closely with them on their projects, to the network of health industry experts that joined our platform and have been passionate about not only helping the healthtech companies but also helping us directly, advising us, writing amazing blogs for our website and evangelizing our message.
Finally, I want to acknowledge a few partners who have supported us and provided wisdom and guidance from our very first day.
- Deepa Rich and Sam Zucker Goodwin Partners
- Kerry Sinclair and Jim Wetmore Weber Shandwick
- Greg Yap Menlo Ventures
One year on, I am humbled and grateful for all the support and from the bottom of my heart I thank you all.