The energy, ambition and sheer excitement associated with young start-up companies has helped shape the Cambridge Consultants brand. We played a pivotal role in the UK’s celebrated Cambridge Phenomenon, the explosion of globally significant technology start-ups and innovations in the latter part of the twentieth century. Several years on and many success stories later, CC continues to invest time, money and expertise to help nurture some of the world’s most innovative and creative start-ups. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As I write this article, I’m embarking on a sequence of mentoring sessions from my Singapore base as part of our commitment to MedTech Innovator Asia Pacific. For the second consecutive year, CC is collaborating with the organisation to provide hands-on professional support to selected start-up participants while also helping to finance the programme.
When we initially signed up to MedTech Innovator last year, I said that we wanted to be in for the long haul. Community building takes a long time, but already I’ve been impressed by the year-on-year progress made by the programme in terms of numbers and quality of applicants from the region. As I alluded to before, CC can only exist in areas of the world where a high level of significant innovation is happening. Asia Pacific is rapidly growing, and the programme is proving to be an influential meeting point for investors, start-ups, industry, and other ecosystem stakeholders.
CC has a responsibility as a good neighbour to help the community go from strength to strength. You could say it’s always been that way. Back in 1960 our founders, Rodney Dale, Tim Eiloart and David Southward had the inspired idea was to apply the best brains of Cambridge University to solve industry’s most pressing problems. That thread of DNA is woven into our collaboration with Medtech Innovator, as we help propel the growth of companies determined to transform global healthcare.
An outstanding cohort of start-ups
As you’ll see from the recently published list of top 20 finalists, this year’s cohort of start-ups features an outstanding line-up of entrepreneurs looking to solve real-world problems in healthcare. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to help accelerate their journeys. Broadly speaking, a start-up comes to the table with a golden nugget – a core technology representing something that is new to the world and makes them entirely unique. Their challenge is finding the pathway that will turn this core into a market-leading company.
As a mentor, I focus on identifying the challenges they’ll face and helping them find the right solutions. Quite often that means bringing in expertise from fields outside of their core competency. This is where having Cambridge Consultants’ resources and ecosystem can really accelerate the start-up’s journey. In places like the United States, earlier stage companies benefit from a mature innovation ecosystem that instils commercial savviness at an early stage. In Asia Pacific where the innovation ecosystem is less mature, I try to make up for this fact by putting upfront emphasis on elements like pricing and reimbursement, competitor analysis, and the complexities of regulatory pathways. All these elements are necessary to develop a successful product but are often overlooked by start-ups just focusing on their technology.
Frank start-up conversations
Of course, these commercial questions are not the only thing founders have to deal with. There’s a whole host of questions for the company founders to get to grips with. How do you line up with downstream manufacturing? How do you make sure you’re aligned with user needs? How do ensure clear differentiation from your likely competitors? Often the process of mentoring includes really frank conversations about what will – or simply won’t – work. That’s doesn’t necessarily mean the core technology isn’t up to scratch, but it could mean that it is embodied in something that nobody wants to buy. A crucial difference.
Focus is another important topic. When you’re a start-up talking to investors for the first time, you get pulled in a thousand different directions. Part of the value we can bring is to help set a clear direction of travel. Having sight of the complete pathway from prototype to product launch to ROI gives founders a real confidence. They can talk to investors knowing that their vision has been endorsed by a credible third party with real-world experience. We’ve been there before countless times.
I also devote time to sharing insights with participants in The Actuator, Australia’s National Medtech Accelerator, which is on a mission to support the rapid transformation of new ideas into medtech solutions. Meanwhile, over in the United States, my Boston colleagues are ramping up their relationship with The Engine, the ambitious venture capital firm spun out of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). They’re in the midst of a series of workshops to support founders of start-up companies within The Engine’s portfolio. Starting with risk identification, capture and mitigation, the sessions will evolve to cover a broad range of themes vital to start-ups that are determined to tackle the toughest technology challenges.
So, what drives this enthusiasm to work with start-ups? Essentially, CC is a company that thrives on big, breakthrough ideas. Emotionally, they are reason that many of us get up in the morning, and commercially they are the motor that drives the future success of the organisation. So, for us it is imperative to stay committed to the cause – and initiatives like MedTech Innovator Asia Pacific provide a brilliant opportunity to contribute to ambitious and potentially game-changing ecosystems.
If you’d like more background on CC’s approach to supporting technology start-ups, please take a look at our dedicated webpage. And please do watch this space for more news on MedTech Innovator Asia Pacific as we build towards the Grand Finals to be held in Singapore in late September. Only four companies from the hundreds that applied will compete for the final prize, which will be decided by an audience vote. It promises to be an exciting finale to another great year of medtech innovation in the region.