Top 20 Reasons Start-Ups Fail… and How They Apply to Medtech

I recently read an interesting report from CB Insights on why start-ups, in general, fail. Most of them are relevant to the Medtech sector, particularly the # 1 reason (42%): the start-up did not properly address an unmet user need.

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As my students have heard me say more than once: Identifying a clinical unmet need (and how to effectively address it) is always the starting point for a successful start-up venture.

Furthermore, while it certainly may apply to more than one industry, if you go to market prematurely in Medtech, it’s a pretty sure bet that success will be hard to come by.

In many start-up situations, investor pressure to get sales ASAP will result in the start-up CEO cutting corners, taking an immature product or service into full commercial sales without proper clinical validation and support strategies.

I have had to save several Medtech start-ups in my career, and I would say this is the most lethal mistake CEO’s make: please do not succumb to investor pressure! It takes a strong backbone to stand up and resist at times, but it’s essential.

Another mistake involves sidestepping the critical phase of securing KOL (key opinion leader) support, especially in countries like the U.S. and Japan, where respecting the very hierarchical structure is so critical for market adoption.

In the Medtech sector, KOL’s play a leadership role when it comes to new technologies and solutions. In my experience, these 10 % of physicians in any specialty set the tone and the vision for the future. Most physicians rely on the KOL thought leaders to pave the way when it comes to innovation.

OK, now that we’ve touched briefly on the “don’ts”, going forward we’ll be focused much more on the positive things a start-up should do on the path to success.

The next series of posts will focus on key examples and lessons from my own experience in Medtech, blended with learnings from highly successful entrepreneurs across the business world (names like Thiel and Jobs might ring a bell). Stay tuned!