Bending Time

Ortho startups are in a race against the clock. Unlike established companies with steady cash flow, these ventures operate with a finite pile of cash. And raising additional cash is not a guarantee. Their success hinges on maximizing every day before the cash runs out. Startups are always concerned with their operational runway, or getting too close to their “run out of money” date.

Some of the most successful ortho startups have found a way to bend time and stretch out their resources as a competitive advantage.

4 Real-World Examples of Orthos Bending Time

#1 Danek prototype during meeting

In 1990 during the early days of spine, Danek bent time.

When an important surgeon with new ideas visited the office, Ronnie Pickard would make sure that the Engineers met with the surgeon at breakfast. The surgeon would inevitably sketch out product ideas with the Engineering team. At the end of the day before surgeon left for the airport, Ronnie would place a plastic prototype of the surgeon’s morning sketch into the surgeon’s hand and say, “Let us know when you want to see this in titanium.” Concept ideas were turned into prototypes in hours.

#2 Arthrex cadaver training

In the late 1980’s Arthrex bent time.

Reinhold is said to have flow KOLs from Germany to Florida for an all day meeting with leadership at Arthrex. He wanted the KOL to be trained on the products by the time the KOL arrived in Naples. So he had the KOL complete surgical training with cadavers (suture anchors, shavers, etc) on the plane during the 7-hour flight over. The surgeon was trained on the latest products when he landed.

#3 Wright’s pre-clearance build

In 2006 Wright Medical bent time.

Both Wright Medical and Stryker won FDA clearance for the first Metal-on-Metal hip products in the US.
Stryker manufactured the new hips after receiving FDA clearance in May 2006. Lead by Barry Bays, Wright Medical pre-built the launch inventory of its Conserve hip in 2005. The sterile launch kits of this new hip product were shipped to distributors the same day Wright received the FDA approval letter. This gave Wright a 6-9 month running start on sales before Stryker came to market.

#4 Ellipse mini-redesigns

In 2014 Ellipse Technology bent time.

We had the most complicated implants in orthopedics with MAGEC rods and PRECICE nails. These telescoping rods had little motors inside, like putting a watch inside a 8mm rod. A PRECICE nail was made up of 45 parts. This was very challenging engineering work. We were always chasing more reliability and more torque with meant more axial force. The CEO challenged the R&D team to re-design, re-prototype and re-test the critical components of the implant every 7 days. By doing this, we could evaluate 50 design iterations per year, incorporate the good changes, and discard the bad changes. The implants became dramatically better every few months. Why live with 12 month product development cycles when you can execute 7-day product development cycles?

Take Home Message

Time isn’t an endless resource; it’s a weapon to be wielded strategically. By focusing on the right problem and working with relentless focus, ortho startups can bend time and outrun the competition.

Read also: Speed as a Weapon: for more insights on this critical startup advantage.

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