Tesla is today’s “It Car” – the cool, sexy, electric performance vehicle of choice. Who wouldn’t want to take a Model S for a spin? While there is a lot to admire about Tesla’s vehicles, Tesla Motors has also been masterfully executing its business strategy. For those paying attention, Tesla’s business activities can teach important lessons about bringing innovative products to market. Medical device companies could learn a thing or two. Today I’d like to talk about segmentation strategy and building a brand.
Alongside the well-known “Move fast and break things” sign at Facebook was another sign: “Done is better than perfect.” The fact that this phrase needed posting is a reminder of the ubiquity of most engineers’ tendency towards perfectionism over timelines.
I tend towards perfectionism myself, but I recognize that perfectionism can work against me and my team. People across my company, and outside my company, depend on me to hit my commitment dates. Trade show dates don’t move, so presentations and product introductions need to be ready. Clinical trial sites make a huge effort to arrange trial dates – coordinating a variety of hospital staff, and postponing normal activities – so clinical product needs to be ready on time. You get the picture.
So, what can you do about it?
Startups are where innovation really happens. It takes the dedicated focus of a startup to drive real change to our healthcare system. A first venture funding is a validation of technology, market and business model. A key metric of the health of our local medical device innovation economy is the rate of new startup funding.
I also track startups because I want to provide a list of funded startups to the local community – job seekers, venture investors, and service providers. Startups have a hard time finding the right connections in the community, and vice versa. Maybe I can make it a little easier.
I’ve counted nine venture-funded medtech startups in 2015, of which one is a restart, one has no medical device products (but may), and one is a Ukrainian company with a Boston-area office. Given the venture funding environment, 2015 was a respectable, thought not stellar, year for venture funded medical device startups in New England.
Read on to access the list.
No question – 2015 was a really busy year for me. So, it’s been more than 12 months since I updated my list of healthcare venture firms that have raised new funds. I finally found some time this weekend.
I had coffee with a former colleague last week, and he told me something surprising he learned about himself. His new company has bench desking, and everyone’s space is a little less than three feet wide. At his previous company, he had a large desk with a sweet window view. He told me that “If someone had tried to get me to give up my old desk I would have put up a big fight, but at my new company, it’s not an issue. The space works. When we hire a new person, everyone squeezes together to make room.”
He learned something about himself.
Managing concept phase projects is challenging with any project management tool or technique, because you start with almost no certainty about the tasks that will be needed. We can surely imagine some work on concept brainstorming, preliminary requirements definitions, market research, component ordering, prototyping, concept testing, and report writing. But it’s really hard to be much more granular than that, when we haven’t even defined requirements or brainstormed concepts yet.
What’s a Critical Action project manager to do?
Greater task granularity takes a little more work, but it’s worth it.
Vendors have lead times. New custom components can have really long lead times. Long lead components are the most incompressible of project tasks, so you need to manage them closely.
I’ve seen all the screw-ups: parts and orders misplaced, fires at vendor plants, incoming inspection backlogs, you name it. As a project manager, it’s your job to prevent these errors and keep the trains running on time.
Your project is capacity limited, but without a Critical Action Plan, you don’t know how limited. You may think you need another engineer or technician, but a Critical Action Plan can really help you define and justify hiring needs.
Scopes change. It’s practically a law of physics. Even if the overall project goals don’t really change, we often find that the project is harder to accomplish than we originally thought. During the project we often discover a need for new features, or our regulatory strategy changes.
Critical Action Planning makes it easy to incorporate and quantify scope changes. In fact, simple quantification of scope and progress is one of the key benefits of the Critical Action Planning approach. It’s a by-product of the technique, that requires virtually no extra work.