Training the next generation of medtech leaders is a topic of vital importance to the Fogarty Institute, given all our efforts in that direction. That’s why Andrew Cleeland was honored to be interviewed on that topic, along with Paul Yock, co-founder and director of the Stanford Biodesign program, at the opening dinner of the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR)’s 27thannual Medical Device Conference, one of the industry’s most prominent and anticipated events.
The interview, which was conducted by David Cassak, co-editor-in-chief and managing partner of the MedTech Strategist, contributed the ideal kick-off for the conference. The sold-out event was followed by a full day of networking and panel discussions, featuring top names in the industry discussing topics critical to the industry. Sessions included new investor models for medtech venture investing, funding strategies for entrepreneurs, advice for building a reimbursement plan, international funding strategies and more.
Casey McGlynn, a partner at WSGR, has been one of the key players behind the illustrious event since its inception. A 40-year veteran of WSGR and partner at the firm, Casey represents companies in their formation, funding, venture capital, licensing, M&A and IPO transactions. He was responsible for forming WSGR’s Life Science Group and today leads one of the largest practices in the country focused on medtech and healthtech companies. He is also a Fogarty Institute board member and has had the opportunity to observe and work with Dr. Fogarty as an inventor, company founder and investor.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Casey to get his thoughts on the conference and the latest trends in the industry.
Q. What would you say was the buzziest new topic of discussion at the conference?
A. One of the most engaging discussions revolved around artificial intelligence in healthcare and some of the companies that have emerged in this upcoming field. It’s such an important topic that we spent two panel sessions on it — the first focusing on how some of the most successful companies in this space are leveraging AI and the second on how its use is transforming radiological care.
AI is an area I am particularly excited about, due to its potential to transform our industry by addressing issues such as high labor costs and human error. The goal with these panel discussions was to educate entrepreneurs and investors on this field and encourage CEOs to begin thinking about how the technology may impact and/or benefit them, even if they are currently not using AI.
The panel discussion was organized by an expert in the field, Siddarth Satish, founder and CEO of Gauss Surgical, whom I have had the privilege of representing. He knows the companies that are most prominent in this space, including Qventus, Tissue Analytics, Ferrum Health and Viz.ai.
Another hot area in medtech devices where we are seeing a lot of innovation and early-stage companies emerging, is in smaller robots that enhance a physician’s skills and techniques. A lot of procedures that have been very difficult or impossible will become easier to do. An example is a company like Auris, which was recently acquired for $3.4 billion by Johnson & Johnson.
Q. And what were some other subjects that you think the attendees found particularly engaging?
A. Another important topic of discussion was on funding strategies related to China and the opportunities and challenges of foreign investment. While China has shown strong interest in U.S. medtech companies, the money often comes with strings attached. Our goal was to educate CEOs on the issues they should be aware and cautious of, but also to make introductions to investors from China who participated in the conference, as they remain a significant source of capital. We also had a panel discussion on regulations governing foreign investment into U.S. technology companies, with the aim of explaining the landscape and educating both investors and CEOs on how to navigate these regulations.
And, we once again partnered with MedTech Innovator, a nonprofit that identifies important new medtech and healthtech companies and helps them build their businesses. This year they expanded their search internationally to find the 50 best early-stage startups – out of nearly 800 applications – and then they presented to VCs in the MedTech Innovator Showcase with a three-minute pitch and live product demonstration.
Lastly, we had a panel session focused on funding strategies for entrepreneurs, always a hot topic for early-stage companies. The panelists discussed the methods and strategies behind finding capital and connecting with VCs who have already invested and shown interest in one’s particular field.
Q. How has the conference evolved over the years?
A. Our first conference started with 35 people, and we thought it was a great success! At that point, we had a singular focus – laws that innovators and VCs may not have been aware of and/or were inadvertently misusing. But, as I sat through that first meeting, I realized we needed to focus more on educating attendees about the business opportunities and challenges in order to meet our goal of getting people from the different parts of the medtech ecosystem together. Hence, we shifted our focus and reached out to top industry experts to share their knowledge about the latest trends and findings, which has resulted in a steady increase in attendance, with nearly 800 participants in this year’s conference.
While education is still important, we now see that one of our primary goals is to provide investors and entrepreneurs the opportunity to network, begin a meaningful dialogue, and hopefully facilitate more funding for important early-stage startups and/or find veterans in the industry who are willing to act as mentors to help companies become more successful. To this end, we updated our interactive Partnering Hall app, which provides personalized opportunities for investors and large medtech companies to meet with startups that are pursuing potential investment, partnering and acquisition opportunities.
Q. What are some of the trends you are seeing in the industry?
A. The major shift this year has been on the exit side. It’s been a big year in terms of acquisitions and public offerings, which means higher returns on investment for VCs. This will benefit early-stage startups through a trickle-down effect: When investors make money, they can raise more money for their funds and consequently are able to make more early-stage investments. It’s a good cycle of growth that bodes well for early-stage companies.
While fundraising is still not easy, and even good companies are still struggling to get financed, it’s easier than a decade ago, and I feel that the industry is growing in a very positive way. In fact, I am very excited about where the industry is now — the quality of the companies is better and the VCs are beginning to see returns on investment that we haven’t seen in a while.