The Southeastern Medical Device Association: Regional Connections DO Make a Difference!
Access the entire Southeast medtech ecosystem in a one-stop, two-day shop at SEMDA 2017 in Atlanta, April 26 & 27.
It was December 2006. We were in the midst of fundraising with a Nashville-based medical device company that I co-founded out of Vanderbilt University, Pathfinder Therapeutics. It was an even more challenging time to raise money in the southeast for pre-revenue, pre-FDA clearance medical device companies – we had been doing the “road show” for about 8 months across the northeast and now clearly understood the challenge before us.
We were encouraged by our service providers and technology transfer contacts to attend the annual SEMDA conference early in 2007 and engage with southeast investors and others. “What Southeast investors?!” I remember thinking at the time. Given that everyone told us you had to have a connection to get “in” with investors and the fact that we were new at the game, we didn’t think such a conference would help us.
Well, as is typical with startups – we were wrong. But fortunately we did take the chance and attend.
In attending SEMDA in only its second year as both a presenting company and myself as a participant on the SBIR panel, I made connections that last to this day. We met several senior level executives with expertise in the capital equipment medical device market that in turn introduced us to the FDA consultant that would assist us significantly in getting both of our medical device products cleared for sale. We also met a software validation consultant that taught us how to properly design and test Class II medical device software. Finally, we met with investors. Not ones that wrote the checks right away (that never happens!), but ones that we were able to meet and engage with over time and give us sage advice in February 2007 that I still apply to medtech and healthcare IT startups I work with today.
We did not have to have an “in” with these investors from North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia – they were there to engage and genuinely interested in what we were doing and how to help us succeed. Some of those investors ended up funding Pathfinder, while others are those I can reach out to now as I launch new medtech and healthcare IT companies.
SEMDA is a regional organization – we have come to realize that in the Southeast, only by working together can we be truly successful and compete with the more traditional medtech regions. We have advantages that we all like to talk about – cost of living, quality of life, engineering talent, infrastructure, etc. But the key to success has been and will continue to be collaboration, not only with other medical device companies, but also healthcare IT and service ones as well. That SEMDA leadership chose to move the conference outside of Atlanta last year is proof that we will continue to engage those from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. SEMDA Executive Director Jason Rupp also announced recently that the 2018 edition will be held in Greenville, SC.
I was honored to help lead last year’s effort that resulted in a resounding success for SEMDA’s first flagship conference to be held in Nashville. The Tennessee medtech community was integral to its success and I implore my colleagues to be part of the 2017 edition this year in Atlanta. Come be a part of the experience April 26-27! There is still another week to sign up as a PitchRounds company, too. Faros will be there! Looking forward to meeting you.
Jim Stefansic, PhD, MBA
President & CEO