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What are the most crucial considerations when considering employment at a start-up/early-stage med. device company?
< 1 min reading time
As originally asked by Andrew Fung.
I’ve worked at a few large organizations, where the job package typically is rounded out with incentives, benefits, opportunity for internal promotions, etc. But if I’m considering employment at a med device start-up, should I have a different perspective?
Eric R. Larson
Most people want to talk about the potential rewards of a start-up company. They neglect to address the uncertainties involved, and how it may affect other aspects of their life. They also tend to forget that most start-up companies fail.
Choose wisely, grasshopper.
DR. MICHAEL WARD
I think working in a start-up is a very valuable experience. You need to choose wisely though. If the startup has no product(s) on the market but has a full slate of marketing and sales folks already before that first FDA approval, be cautious. People are a huge drain on limited cash and a start-up should only employ the type of expertise it needs at the moment….not in the future. The best start-up infrastructure I have seen was a small CV company in Minneapolis (CABG) – they had mainly R&D engineers to develop the product(s), QA, consultant RA person and consultant Clinical Research expert plus their leader. They worked ‘lean and mean’ and were very successful. It is difficult to vet when you are interviewing; however, if there is evidence of excess spending (such as lavish building, furniture, perks etc), run away as fast as you can. If the CEO is from another world that medicine or medical devices, also run quickly away…he will take the organization down faster than you can say, “Where’s the door!”
The medical devices industry attracts any Tom, Dick, or Mary who thinks he/she has the best invention since sliced bread and will not be convinced otherwise. It’s also a ‘get-rich-quick’ opportunity as the time from concept to market can be years faster than in other industries and the profits are large. So it attracts those looking for a quick kill and a lot of money. With those motivations, failure is almost certain. The leadership has to be experienced, intelligent, rational, and have a good scientific grounding. The company plan should be practical and prudent – not biting off more than it can chew. If the company is developing a product and wants a plethora of indications on the first pass, that’s not going to happen before the cash runs out.
The successful medical device start up not only manages money prudently but also keeps things simple….getting its foot in the door with that first indication…others can be sought at a later date once the sales begin to expand on the first application. The advantage noted above that things move very quickly in start-ups is valid to the degree that there are still some checks and balances to deter or negate bad ideas. I have personally seen 3 start ups fail – all with robust products but with individuals within the leadership who took the company on a diverging and expensive pathway (unnecessary one too) that ate up cash before initial success was achieved.
So, after all the warnings, would I recommend taking the plunge? Sure I would, as long as you collect all the useful advice you get here and try to apply it before singing the dotted line. If you switch over, you are in for an adventure, that’s for sure. Good luck!
Tamara R Pearlman, CPC
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