3 Reasons Why Great IP Doesn’t Get Developed – It’s NOT Always About The Money

 

By: James Kashmer (LinkedIn Profile here.)

 

For a product person like me, walking through a research institution is like a kid going through a candy store. Visiting with brilliant people and listening to them talk (while they show their life’s work) is an uplifting and motivating experience for me. So how do people like me choose with whom to work?

 

Personalities And Assembling A Team – What Is The Personality Of The IP Generator?

 

Personalities play more of a role than they should (and I do admit it). I, for example, do not waste time trying to get someone who has been working his or her entire life in pure research to sit down and prepare a detailed 100-page business plan. It’s NOT that they can’t do it–it’s that they choose not to. I also recognize it is not usually the best use of their time.

 

The same can be said about getting “researchers” to help get their “product out the door”. Recognize that implementation is not usually what interests (motivates) these people, and the person who created the IP (basis of your company) might not be the best person to do this.

 

In a startup situation, everyone needs to wear many hats and minimizing time to complete tasks is of the important for success. Some people can “flex” to do tasks they do NOT enjoy. It has been my experience a person who actually does (is able to) “flex” is a rare bird.

 

Greed – Drinking Your Own “Kool Aid” – Rewarding Those Who Actually Contribute To The Company Moving Forward

 

I have written previously “your IP is not worth much until you start eliminating unknowns” .  Another way of putting it is that your IP becomes more valuable when you are able to answer questions, and replace assumptions, with facts.

 

So how much do you compensate (with salary and equity) the IP Generator on day one of your NewCo? What’s the idea premium really worth? Usually going through this exercise on (or before) day one of your NewCo tells you everything you need to know about the people who you are choosing to start working with. Even though it is true that you would not even be talking about NewCo without the IP Generator, the IP IS NOT WORTH VERY MUCH until things start to get accomplished and the unknowns have answers. Shouldn’t the people making the contributions and enhancing the value of NewCo be as generously rewarded as the IP Generator? I think so.

 

Getting The Message Out:  Be Pro-Active

 

Just because you think you have a better “mouse trap” does not necessarily mean people will be “beating a path to your door”. Often the answer to fulfilling your funding needs is getting your succinct and targeted message out to where the people that can help frequent. Kudos to the present generation for creating and using powerful networking tools to help get the message out.

 

Getting the message out also implies people will respond. Critically analyze responses to see that the message that you thought you sent is being heard and / or understood by your targeted market (people). If your targeted market is responding and engaged to your message it is an excellent opportunity to choose “early adopters” willing to work with you to refine your initial product offering.  This, in part, is the basis of that well-described strategy of “getting out of the office” to create the Minimum Viable Product (or MVP).  For more on the MVP, look here.

 

Questions, comments, or feedback?  Let me know.  And keep the ideas coming!

3 Things To Know About Licensing Your Intellectual Property (IP)

By:  James Kashmer (LinkedIn profile here.)

 

Going the license route is a “no brainer” right? You get lots of money up front and still get to sit back and collect all those future royalty checks over the life of the patent!!!! You do not need to worry about raising money, hiring employees etc etc…….not a bad way to go right?

 

I wrote previously “there is NOT a shortage of new ideas or inventions that warrant licensing and development”. Visit any web site where you can find available IP from Government and Universities to see and understand this. Try Googling “tech transfer” sometime…..(or just click here–I did the work for you).

 

The truth is Government and Universities do a great job of licensing technology with revenues in the billions of dollars each year. Unfortunately, only a relatively small percentage of available IP is ever licensed despite their best efforts.

 

What Are The Potential Markets And Who Are The Leaders In Those Segments?

 

Chances are you did not create your idea or invention in a vacuum. It’s likely you already knew something about the subject; who the players are in the field; something about their strengths and weaknesses; something about the current offerings that you could make better. Chances are that, as you talk to people, you will learn about additional markets or potential applications. Spending some of your time researching potential markets (including their size and competing companies) is a good idea even if you have no intention of licensing your IP. By doing so you likely will come up with alternative paths on how to proceed.

 

In the Medical Device Industry as an example, it is not uncommon to enter a market that has fewer FDA regulatory requirements then an initial targeted market. On the other hand if your intention is to develop your IP ONLY for a specific market or industry, the background work will be very useful for you or your “tech transfer office” to target potential licensees outside your interest.

 

How Do I Get People To Understand What I Have?

 

Newer “cutting edge” or technically advanced IP is often hard for people to understand (and therefore value). Do not underestimate how big a problem this is and how important it is to find ways to make people “understand” what you have AND how to apply it. It is my strong belief this is a major key to success and the earlier in the process it is done the better even when resources are tight.

 

What Is My “End Game” Or “Exit Strategy”?

 

Thinking of an “end game” or “exit strategy” early in the process does not sound like a useful exercise, but I would argue that in fact it is. Managing expectations and measuring results helps to keep the head “screwed on” and focused on the important objective(s). Without thinking about these early on, designing for “manufacturability” can be challenging later on.  If you are strictly planning to only license your IP, you may be able to make your idea more or less attractive by considering what’s coming downstream.

 

Questions?  Comments?  Thoughts?  Let me know.  Until then, keep the ideas coming.

3 Things To Ask Yourself Before You Start Developing Your Intellectual Property (IP)

By:  James Kashmer (Visit James’ LinkedIn Profile here.)

 

Why Would Anyone Invest In My Idea Or Me?

If you already have a track record of commercial success you can do pretty much anything you want and command terms that will make you happy that you were born (or live) in the good ole USA!!!!

Short of proven commercial success, if you are a surgeon and are considered a leader among your peers, most likely you also can do pretty much anything you want under very favorable terms.

The point I am making is that investors look to minimize risk, and the lower your credentials are on the “food chain” the harder it will be for you to get them to invest in your idea. So, unless you have significant credible endorsements that are also early investors, recognize that raising money will be difficult.

 

How Comfortable Am I With The Information That I Have?

Everyone makes assumptions in their plans. It is important to remember these “assumptions” at some point need to be replaced by “facts”. The sooner that this can be done the better so that you (and investors) can attempt to quantify and minimize risk going forward. Even though it is well known that some startup companies have successfully “pivoted” to avoid extinction, I think they all would agree that firming up your business plan “assumptions” sooner rather than later is the way to go.  This idea of rapidly and progressively eliminating unknowns is part of the modern technique of the lean startup.

 

What Are My Options?

I am in the business of developing “options” and have been for the last 20 plus years. Sad to say:  it’s tough to do anything of consequence out there, and it’s getting tougher all the time.

For those of you who do not already have a track record of commercial success, if you have an idea or patent that is applicable to many markets consider licensing your IP to a company that already dominates a particular segment and don’t be a “hog” about it!!! (Borrowed from the expression “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered”.)

Another option is to try to go as far as you can on the “cheap”. By this I mean do your homework to eliminate as many unknowns (and risk) as you can BEFORE approaching potential investors (or licensees). With the ability today to produce mockups and even working models (prototypes) using 3D Printing, never has it been so easy to go so far on so little.

Until next time: keep on developing your ideas, and get in touch with any questions or comments!

3 Reasons To Add This New Specialty To Medicine

by:  David Kashmer, MD MBA (@DavidKashmer)

 

By now you’ve probably heard of 3D printing.  Sometimes, 3D printing enthusiasts are referred to, collectively, as “makers”.  Well, let this maker tell you:  3D printing has wide applications in Medicine–so much so that it could do very well as its own specialty.  Here are three reasons we should create a new specialty in Medicine that focuses on 3D printing:

 

(1) Truly Personalized Medicine

 

The push to serve patients with a focus on their unique needs is on in full force.  Whether it be genetic testing to predict response to anti-coagulation, recognition of the necessary Prograf dose as adjusted for metabolic variation, or a focus on specific social factors, personalization of the practice of Medicine is becoming a buzzword that’s hotter and hotter all the time.

 

3D printing is a way to truly personalize that medical experience.  The vascular surgeon can size your aortic graft preoperatively from a model created from your own CT scan…or surgeons can even replace / stent your trachea with a new one generated from images of your old one.

 

This can already be done and is getting easier with time.  So, much like the rise of Radiology focused on imaging studies, let’s consider getting really good at creating personal models, devices, and anatomic replacements by creating a field devoted to just that.

 

(2) One-off, Specialized Medical Devices

 

Having a hard time fitting an ostomy appliance near an open wound?  Is the effluent from the ostomy leaking into the wound bed?  Why bother with all that?  Create a custom printed ostomy appliance from a 3D scan of the patient’s abdomen.  (We can already do that.)

 

Want to get really fancy?  Upload your custom-tweaked design as an .STL file to the “app store” of compassionate-use approved, one-off medical devices.  (Here’s something that’s an early version of what I describe.) No manufacturer could justify a large batch run of the perfect device you’ve created for a small (but important!) patient population…but those of use with printers (and those same patient issues you have) could go to the “app store”, download the .stl file, and create that medical device to solve their patient’s issue.

 

A field devoted to creation of these models, knowledge of filament types, and understanding of model usage would go a long way toward spreading this technology.

 

(3) …In Hard To Reach Places and Beyond

 

A 3D printer and system could allow creation of useful devices and models at even hard-to-reach, remote locations.  Consider rural centers, international areas, and even forward military venues.  Need a prosthesis fit to your patient’s stump?  Make it from a white light 3D scan and printer.  Viola.

 

A team of Makers could easily be responsible for creating the prosthesis from imaging.  It could ensure both fit and tensile strength.

 

Soon, Grasshopper, The Future Is Coming

 

Just imagine a day where a patient has a CT scan and, immediately, necessary equipment and devices are created according to their own personal requirements.  As physicians, we could create everything from special use medical devices (eg ostomy appliances that fit near difficult wounds) to highly personalized cervical spine immobilization collars.

 

Want to take your gallstones home with you?  (We can’t give them out anymore right?) Well now we can give you an awesome copy for your morbid fascination or other interest.

 

Who Would Pay?

 

Hospitals currently have add-on services such as baby photos and other fee-for-service add-ons.  Perhaps 3D modeling could be another.  Filaments like PLA and ABS are inexpensive, after all, and the initial costs would come, mostly, from a one-time hardware expense of less than twenty thousand dollars.

 

…and if the hospital couldn’t make a business model out of the direct revenue, it could definitely justify the expenditure in terms of patient satisfaction and niche marketing.  After all, I would be much more content, as a patient, if a physician could show me how my spleen was injured using a model of my very own spleen.  I’d like to take that home with me, and would give even higher Press-Ganey scores to hospitals that could create that model of my particular injury and send me home with it.  Will that hold for most patients?  I don’t know…maybe a study is in order.

 

Let’s consider creating a subspecialty of Makerology, where we develop a system of creating special use medical devices (we could even have an app store for the .stl files) for rural, international, or under-served areas.

3 Things You Need To Know About Your Intellectual Property (IP)

By: James Kashmer (Linkedln Profile here.)

 

Is it Patentable?

Some ideas are so obvious that we ask ourselves “why didn’t I think of that!!!!” The truth is “obvious” usually means the idea is not patentable–especially when others “knowledgeable in the art” are also working in the field.

Before spending your money, it’s not a bad idea to get a sense of the “mine fields ahead” when deciding to pursue a patent. This can be done simply by visiting the United States Patent and Trade Mark Office Web Site (www.uspto.gov) and conducting a patent search. By doing this you should get a sense of how “crowded” the field is, and, from closer examination, where the mines might lie.

 

How Do I Protect It?

It is very important to protect your Intellectual Property (IP) starting Day l. You do this simply by putting on paper (preferably in a buond book) a detailed description of the idea and how it works along with your signature and date. (There’s a nice “inventor’s notebook” that I found on Amazon here.)  Once this has been done, explain your idea to someone until they fully understand it.  Then have them sign and date your idea.

Going forward from there, understand that (if you are “sloppy” with your IP and not make an effort to protect it) you may find out in court some day that you lost your patent protection. So use Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) when you talk to someone who may be in the “business”.  Don’t copy and distribute information to anyone just because they ask for it.

 

What Is It Worth?

The truth of the matter is your IP is not worth much…until you start doing something with it.

The value of your IP builds as you accomplish key milestones. Examples of key milestones are: the granting of a patent, the building of a proof of principle model, the building of a working prototype, completion of clinical trials, and FDA clearance to market. In general, the further you develop your IP the more it should be worth. This is because you are reducing the risk and taking out the “unknowns” from the valuation methodology equations for potential investors.  This makes investors more likely to purchase your IP and, so, makes it more valuable.

At the end of the day, the larger question of what your IP is worth is not very straightforward.  It depends, also, on many additional factors (besides completion of milestones) including the size and growth of the applicable markets, competition, cost, and pricing.

We’ll cover some of these elements when we discuss more about your IP in upcoming entries.

As for now, remember:  your IP increases in value as you decrease potential downside risk for anyone who would be interested in purchasing your protected idea.  “Obvious” idea that’s difficult to patent?  Poor protection?  “Sloppy” protection maintenance?  Less valuable IP.

Until next time:  keep on developing your ideas, and get in touch with any questions or comments!

3 Questions To Avoid Failure With Your Medical Device Design

By:  James Kashmer (LinkedIn Profile here.)

 

In my 40 years in the device industry, some questions have come up over and over.  For example, I am often asked how companies go about deciding what Medical Devices to license or develop. The truth is the companies that I know and / or have studied rarely have a formal new product opportunity evaluation process. Consequently there is no “road map” I can offer on how to approach Medical Device Companies with your particular Idea or Invention…but I can give you some insider knowledge to help you on your journey…

 

Does Your Device Save Time or Improve Outcomes?

Inventions that improve surgical outcomes and / or decrease operative time are the engine that has been driving the Medical Device Industry the past 30 years. Chances are that, if you are a Surgeon with an idea or invention that does either one, you can find someone to help you get it to market.

These inventions do not even need to be complicated, technically advanced or really even clever.  For the surgeons out there:  the next time you are operating, ask yourself “What do I need that will enable me to improve the outcome or save time?” The same goes for all physicians who perform procedures.  What would help you save time or improve outcomes?

 

Are You Prepared To Fail?

There is NOT a shortage of new ideas or inventions that warrant licensing and development. Sadly this fact has been the engine that has driven me the past 20 years.

Unless you are truly entrepreneurial (in every sense of the word) do not waste your time or money pursuing your idea or invention.

If you do pursue your idea or invention, be prepared to fail. It is rare that an idea or invention gets to the market. It is even more rare for an idea or invention to be financially successful. Pursuing your idea or invention is often an expensive education.

 

Have You Really Thought This Through? 

A mentor once told me “keep your powder dry” when I was looking to start a new company. It was good advice then and now.  Here’s what he meant:

 

1. Do everything possible to conserve cash. Do not give up equity easily. Be aware of the valuation of your company and price it fairly. This becomes more important the more rounds of financing that is needed. In general the more milestones you have met the lower the risk to potential investors.

2. Do everything possible to minimize risk. Critically evaluate what you have and compare it to your potential competition. The earlier in the process you do this the lower your risk will be going forward.

3. Make time to pursue your “dream”. Remember, the longer it takes to get your idea or invention off the ground the harder it will be to get someone else interested in it.

 

Best of luck with your idea, device, or quest to invent one.  Check back in on the blog for tips and tools that I’ll be sharing to help you with your medical device voyage.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Let me know beneath.  Visit me here on LinkedIn anytime.