Thinking about applying to the Medtech Actuator Accelerator? Here are top tips from Maria Pelipas, our Head of Programs, on how to prepare a stellar application.
You have come up with a health venture idea, you have talked to your friends and family, and you are ready to take the plunge and become a startup founder. So what’s next?
The MedTech Actuator Accelerator is a 12-month program that helps early-stage founders address critical aspects of the commercialisation process such as regulatory approvals, reimbursement models, pricing strategies, product development, and IP. We bring together more than 100 experts who help health startups like yours to figure out how to get to market.
If you’re thinking about applying to the MedTech Actuator Accelerator, here are three areas of your application that you need to nail in order to be successful and take your first steps towards becoming an early-stage founder. We’ll take a look at pressure-testing your idea, building a great team, and essential planning to make sure you get the most out of your experience with us.
1. Let’s start with your idea
MedTech Actuator Accelerator cohort 1 startup Nutromics Head of Product, Rob Crowder leading a workshop.
Are you ready to disrupt healthcare?
Chances are you have come up with something that could disrupt the current workflow at a hospital or for clinicians. To begin with, think about this: what is the current approach, and how familiar are you with it?
Our application process dedicates large segments to market and customer validation: pain points, competitors, market estimates, etc. We do this because we need to understand the potential of your idea and why the current market is ripe for disruption.
If your product is a medical device, here are some of the questions that you could think about before applying: who currently manufactures similar products? What makes you think there is a need for your idea?
And really, when you say that your product will be better, what features will make it better? Have you thought about the changes that it will entail for users and the added value? And how about disruptions that it will create, and the adoption curve?
Talk to your end users
A good first step would be to talk to clinicians or other potential users to get their perceptions about the gaps and solutions.
Why is this important? Here are some thoughts from one of our founders.
Tim Tyndale, Quitta:
Customer validation can seem like an inconvenient step that slows the building process. After all, we entrepreneurs know exactly what our customers want already…right?!
In truth, validating the problem and solution is more important in MedTech/BioTech than almost any other field. In a highly regulated industry, the further you go down the development journey, the harder it gets to make adjustments.
In Quitta’s case, we wanted to tailor our solution to the needs of our end-users without having to conduct expensive clinical trials for each iteration. Fortunately, e-cigarettes created a legal precedent in the U.S. for us to test real-world demand and gain all-important user feedback.
Without developing a deep understanding of the needs of our customers, we could have spent lots of time and money building a product that no one wanted at the other end.
Through this time we acquired more than 3,800 customers. We learnt about their needs through interpreting sales data, conducting focus groups and formal interviews, and hundreds of informal conversations with individual customers.
Start with ‘the need’
Let’s imagine you are creating smart glasses for surgeons to use in the operating theatre. One piece of advice would be to not talk to them about glasses just yet.
Instead, start with the current workflow, the problems they face with current solutions. In other words, the need – is there any?
After you validate the need, you can begin the solution validation interviews. I always recommend the book called The Mom Test to the founders that are looking to do their first customer interviews. Check it out to make sure your potential customers are not cornered into praising your innovation when you talk to them.
When completing your application, make it clear that you understand the problem inside and out and back to front. Be concise and back yourself up with X, Y, Z to really capture our attention.
2. Your team
Having a great team makes a huge difference to your health venture’s success. Photo: Virtetic, MedTech Actuator Accelerator cohort 6.
Every Spock needs a Kirk
The MedTech Actuator Accelerator is intensive. We are proud of the efforts founders are putting into their startups but it sure can be overwhelming at times. We wholeheartedly believe that you need a solid team to succeed and you need to be in it for a long game.
If you have a team already, then think about the balance of skills – are you the visionary and your co-founder is the down-to-earth pragmatic with commercial experience? That could work.
At Medtech Actuator, we believe every Spock needs a Kirk. So, as well as your skills mix, think about comprehensiveness, chemistry, flow, magic, and connection as key ingredients. Health ventures take years before they enter the market and secure a revenue stream, so motivation and focus can’t be underestimated.
Your team influences success
Here is what one of our founders had to say about the importance of a team.
Nick Murphy, GenEmbryomics:
The MedTech Actuator Accelerator has been the perfect springboard for GenEmbryomics. The program has prepared our business for the realities of what it will face on the road to becoming a thriving startup. But there are some things that even the MedTech Actuator can’t do for you!
Startup teams will have a range of personalities, expertise, and passion, and require the virtues of a functional group like communication, compassion, honesty, trust, and respect. This way a startup can forge lasting success through a concerted unity of action.
Setbacks, disagreements, and mistakes will all inevitably happen. But a good team dynamic will buffer these issues and ensure the resilience to learn and push through them.
A startup team that can fall back on each other will, I think, always have a better chance of success at achieving their goals than a team with gaps in the key basics of teamwork.
The finer details of your team
As a part of the application process and due diligence, we will ask you to explain the relationships between co-founders and your projected shares distribution. Not only do we want to understand the team dynamic, commitment and magic between you all, but also the finer details of how your team is structured, legally.
If your CEO has full responsibility for the business strategy, the program participation, shares need to reflect that. And know that splitting shares 50/50 could create unnecessary difficulties down the road, like a decisional gridlock.
3. Time commitment
Founders from MedTech Actuator Accelerator cohort 6 were thrilled to meet in person again.
Get ready to sprint
We have been through a lot in the past two years – closed labs, caring responsibilities, founders not being able to meet co-founders and brainstorm – we get it. It has been tough.
In the two programs delivered since the pandemic began, we have seen that those founders who can meet in-person quickly and build support networks to fall back on, ultimately, succeed faster than those who try to brave the journey alone.
Within the program, startups will be undertaking one-week focused sprints each month. These sprints are delivered in the form of interactive workshops, panel sessions, and fireside chats with vetted industry experts. The sprints are designed to tackle, guide, and refine strategic thinking around critical elements associated with MedTech commercialisation including regulations, reimbursement, clinical trials, product development and IP.
The downtime between sprints isn’t a break. You will dedicate this time to implementing your plan and working towards milestones, alongside rigorous mentoring, coaching, and leadership support from our resident mentors and the MedTech Actuator team.
Our experience leads us to prefer in-person sprints as much as possible. We are recommending founders to attend at least two sprints in person in Melbourne and a Demo Day in February 2023 (subject to government restrictions, of course).
Giving it your all
So, consider your workload in advance. Think about the first week of every month between July and October – will you be able to fully engage in what the program has to offer? Will you be able to maximise the time between sprints to put into practice the learnings of the program?
We recommend that at least one team member attend the program full-time. You can delegate the attendance of some specific sessions to your co-founders but you still need to have that one key person on the team who will oversee your participation in the program and its deliverables.
I will give you an example. In the program, we have sessions on product development. If a CEO doesn’t attend and delegates it to an engineer on the team, then when the time comes to submit the product development strategy, incorporate it into the pitch deck, pitch to the investment committee, or at the Demo Day, the CEO needs to be fully across the details.
So in the application and during the interviews we want to see that you have thought out the program’s time commitment and that you, and your team, can handle the workload and give it your all.
Here to help with your next steps
In this blog post, I have addressed only three aspects of the application. I am sure you still have questions, so don’t hesitate to sign up for our info session on Feb 15th, join our half-day bootcamp on March 4th or book an individual call with me here to discuss your application.
Or if you’re all set, apply by March 6th!
Accelerator programs can be overwhelming and exhausting. But they don’t need to be – connection, community and relationships of support are what makes the difference. If you decide to join us on the journey, you will be welcomed into our community of 250 MedTech founders and befriend companies like Nutromics, Navi, Ventora, Jaynik, and others. Come, join and level up!