Mentoring Lean healthcare startups @ UCSF. Fascinating.

I am a mentor at present in Steve Blanks course at UCSF on lean startup methodology for healthcare startups. It’s fascinating to see the methodology being deployed simultaneously across a whole cohort of startups.

The main takeaway is just how rapidly the “get out of the building” approach leads to important insights by the entrepreneur. The second takeaway for me is that this cohort approach, including a lot of learning from peers, works extremely well. [Read more…]

Crowdfunding done right: Scanadu’s tricorder

I’ve been excited about the potential of crowdfunding for quite a while (here and here). The campaign that launched this morning on Indiegogo by Scanadu (developing a Tricorder) is a good example of a campaign done right, and shows the potential of this approach.
Scanadu on IndieGoGo

  1. The campaign reached its goal of $100K in 2 hours.
  2. It’s up to $240K as I write this and day 1 is not ended.
  3. 1200+ people already pre-bought the product as a result of this campaign, thus doing a great job of validating that (some) people will buy it. Frankly, this is probably more important than the capital.

BUT, …. this is by no means a “typical” crowd funding result. What are the lessons? [Read more…]

Web-based healthtech startups have invention risk. Surprise!

As readers of this blog know, I am interested in the potential of novel social networking and other internet-age techniques to transform our creaky healthcare system. A particularly intriguing class of startups is using these social techniques to change the behavior of patients in ways that lead to better health. For example, helping people to eat less, or avoid pre-diabetes, or manage their medication better, or avoid hospital readmission by taking better care of their heart disease.

The exciting thing about these web-based startups is that they use Lean startup methodology, have low capital requirements, and are staffed with young, energetic, change-the-world types.

And, putting on my investor hat, they have market risk perhaps, but no invention risk, because all this internet stuff is engineering right?

So, I was quite surprised recently, when I had reason to think more carefully about this class of companies, to realize that I think they do indeed have a pretty substantial invention risk. And interestingly, most of the ones I have looked at don’t realize they have invention risk, and are not managing their businesses as if they have invention risk. That is a worry. [Read more…]

Invention risk makes lean science startups different

A hallmark of new ventures that are based on scientific advances in fields like medical devices, health tech, or cleantech is that they often have invention risk. Frequently they also have market risk.

InventionAnd while the standard venture capital reaction to startups with both market and invention risk is “come back when one of the risks has been eliminated”, I find them exciting, have been involved with quite a few of them over the years, and am always looking for ways to optimize the rate of risk reduction per dollar invested.

For the last 18 months I have been trying to apply / modify the principles of lean startup and customer development to a handful of companies I have been helping, each of which has a healthy amount of invention risk as well as a dollop of market risk. I have gained some insights that I have not seen discussed elsewhere, and thought I would share them.

And lest you think invention risk only applies to hardcore science projects, one of the most counter-intuitive things I have come to realize (here) is that many of the new, web-based healthtech startups that aim to change patient behavior, and thereby improve healthcare, have a very high degree of invention risk (as I define the term).  [Read more…]

“Lean” medical device, cleantech, telco startups

The Lean Startup movement is a good example of the new internet-company methodologies mentioned in my last post. I got around to reading Eric Ries’ book over Thanksgiving. I liked it a lot, and I have been mulling over what its lessons are for non-internet businesses – particularly for the sort of science-based business I am interested in (medical devices, cleantech, telecom infrastructure).

Does “Lean” need tweaking for science-based startups?

It seems to me that there are several important topics here:

  • Regulation.
  • The number of available early adopters, and ease/cost of access.
  • Speed of each iteration cycle.
  • Metrics.

[Read more…]

Can science-based startups learn from Web 2.0?

For startups developing web-focused businesses, the ecosystem has changed enormously in the last 2-3 years, almost entirely for the better. In contrast, in the world of new ventures based on hardcore science (cleantech, medical devices, biotech, etc.), as far as I can see it is more or less “business as usual”, and in some areas things have gone significantly down hill (think FDA and medical devices for example).

Being an eternal optimist, I see grounds for excitement here. It seems to me there is now a great opportunity to take some of the ecosystem improvements pioneered by the Web 2.0 folk, and adapt them to the world of science-based startups.  [Read more…]

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