A while ago I had the pleasure of doing an interview with a person whose job title immediately intrigued me: Serial Start-up Entrepreneur. I bet that looks awesome on a business card!
Michael Lauk is definitely a Serial Start-up Entrepreneur. He found his passion in bridging the worlds of Early Stage Venture Capital and Medical Devices. He started several successful Medical Devices start-ups, always on a mission to challenge existing concepts.
The interview is about his upcoming session in Medical Devices S.M.A.R.T. Conference entitled: The New World of Digital and Personalized Medicine: Between Consumer Gimmicks and Serious Medical Devices. For those attending, Michael shares his experiences from his turbulent start-up life as well as useful advice to newcomers on the market.
Before we dig into the content of your presentation, could you please share a little bit about yourself and your background?
“I am a physicist originally but I was always working in clinical research. Already from the start, during my studies in the 90s, I got involved with the data science side.”
“I founded my first start-up in 1998 which evolved around delivering algorithms to the Medical Devices industry. To be honest, that was not really successful because we got a couple of thousands of dollars for the actual innovation of the product while our customers made millions with it. Realizing that, I made sure that with our second start-up we also developed the hardware side; being able to deliver the whole device and not just the control. That brought us to a point where we built one of the largest Medical Devices contract R&D companies in Germany. That company – Seleon – still exists, I sold it in 2007.”
“I founded another Medical Devices start-up, TNI Medical AG, with a new respiratory therapy and then after that I founded two other start-ups. Besides coaching several start-ups, I am on the board of a few other start-ups as well. My world is really “early stage”. I am leaving the companies typically when they start marketing their product.”
The topic of your presentation is “The New World of Digital and Personalized Medicine: Between Consumer Gimmicks and Serious Medical Devices”. Could you please elaborate on what you will be presenting during the event?
“The motivation behind this topic is related to my experiences in my latest start-up called resp(EQ). While we were raising capital from investors, I realized that our target market is mostly looking for consumer technology, like wearables or fun sensors. The consumer purchases them directly in brick-and-mortar or online stores without the doctor involved. While most of the sensors used in these types of products are the same sensors used in serious Medical Devices, what they often lack is a clearly defined clinical endpoint. “
“There are very little Medical Devices on the market that are both consumer-oriented while at the same time really help clinical endpoints. They often fail to generate clinical outcome that helps a doctor, a nurse, a relative or any other care giver to actually take care of the patient. The result is that the market is flooded with what I am referring to as gimmicks.”
“On the basis of several personal case studies, I will be talking about the real challenge in this field: how are you going to interpret the gigabytes of data in a clinical context? My message to Medical Devices start-ups is to deliver something that is of clinical value and not just a consumer gimmick.”
What do you believe is the #1 takeaway of your presentation for those attending the event?
“The key takeaway of my session is becoming aware that we need to design products that not only seamlessly integrate in today’s healthcare system, but that are patient-centric too. Companies should design products as if they were for the consumer market, but still make sure that they support a clearly defined clinical endpoint.”
You may have also had the chance to review the topics of your fellow event speakers. Is there a particular presentation you look forward to?
“I think there are several interesting talks worth attending. I look forward to attending the presentation of Sture Hobro from Baxter. His presentation is about finding out the customers’ needs, which closely relates to the message of my presentation. I’m very curious to see how a large Medical Devices company looks at this topic. Another presentation that looks interesting is from Chris Knorr of Sanofi. I’m particularly interested in looking at what someone from the Pharmaceutical world thinks about the design of smart devices. Given my involvement with start-ups, I have a personal interest in one of the sessions in the afternoon, where Slim Gharbi from St. Jude Medical is talking about start-ups developing a Class III Medical Devices venture.”
Having attended and/or spoken at several events, what advice can you give attendees that want to make the most out of their attendance?
“My main advice to people is to get in touch with as many different people as possible and actively talk with them. I’m quite often visiting conferences and networking events. I’ve noticed that especially when someone is participating with colleagues, they tend to stay among each other, also during coffee breaks or lunch. That’s the biggest mistake you can make in my view. Conferences for me are like a dating platform for business. If you don’t speak to other people in the coffee breaks there is little chance you end up with some good contacts that you can follow up with afterward. That way you miss a vital part of the conference, which is the opportunity to extend your network.”