6 Questions with Albert DaCosta, the founder of Paragon 28 who is defining the future of extremities
In 2005, Albert DaCosta and I worked together at Wright Medical where he was the Director of Sales for Biologics & Extremities. Fast forward to the end of 2010 and Albert co-founded Paragon 28 (“Paragon” means the perfect embodiment of a concept and “28” equates to the number of bones in the foot). From very humble beginnings, P28 grew into a powerhouse in the Foot & Ankle segment of Orthopedics. Today, Albert is the President & CEO and I sat down with him to ask a few questions to better understand the amazing Paragon 28 story.
1. What was the genesis of Paragon 28?
Hey Tiger and thank you for the interview. The reality is that Paragon 28 was started out of frustration. It was frustration from experiencing a market full of people interested in capitalizing on the amazing growth of this young and emerging segment but very few truly interested in being part of defining this segment. The fact is that as an emerging market the opportunity exists to help define and create the descriptions that will ultimately advance the science and benefit patients for years to come. Paragon was truly founded to be the most significant part of defining what this segment will ultimately become.
2. How was Paragon 28 originally funded?
The idea of funding has truly evolved for us. Initially, Lee Rosenthal and I put together our life savings and flew out to Germany to partner with Normed, a pioneer in the foot and ankle space to supply the plates and screws that are essential to developing a foot and ankle portfolio. Our desire was to focus on some innovative areas of the segment that were still ignored or underserved. We believed that the proceeds from the sale of Normed products would fund our ambitious development goals outside of traditional plates and screws. We quickly realized that this strategy would stretch our timeline beyond what was acceptable for our team so we initialized our first capital raise in 2011. At that time we had a few friends and family investors enter the round and we were fortunate to have a single Angel investor who shared our vision and he came in and closed that round in only 6 months. We have never looked back!
3. How did the Normed acquisition by Zimmer change your business?
The acquisition of Normed by Zimmer was truly a turning point for our company. This was the time we realized that we didn’t want or couldn’t afford to be dependent on anyone else. Although it was a tough time it turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened as we directed every resource to create the best plate and screw system on the market. Normed represented around 72% of our business at the time and today we are 100% in control of our future. If we are going to do anything, it has to address a need or dramatically improve the expected outcome.
4. Extremities is a very competitive space. How is your team able to innovate faster than the competition?
Tiger, I have to say that innovation is something that comes naturally when you have a sincere passion for what you do. We eat, sleep and breathe foot and ankle. We have participated in thousands of surgeries amongst our team. When we are not working we are debating the soft tissue structures and ailments of the foot and ankle to rationalize what could be wrong with the descriptions that exist today. We focus on meaningful research, not research for marketing purposes. It is research to better understand what we don’t yet comprehend about certain ailments. We want to help everyone that is excited about our segment to make better solutions and improve surgical outcomes for patients. When you pay attention to all these things, innovation is something that comes naturally, it is effortless. Our engineers, marketing team, executives and sales team all share this passion and excitement to be part of something amazing. To be a part of defining a space and for us there is nothing we care more about then foot and ankle. I know that may sound cliché but the reality is that is the secret behind the success of Paragon 28.
In addition, we are not built on a single platform. We don’t have a technology that defines the company but rather we focus on all things foot and ankle. If we need PEEK or Nitinol or suture based solutions for an improved outcome we create it. This really helps to prevent finding a home for something innovative. Instead, we find the best solution for each specific need. We love that about our approach and it keeps us always stretching the boundaries of innovation.
5. What can you tell us about your current trajectory?
We have been very fortunate that our surgeon customers seem to share our enthusiasm for being a part of something great. As a private company we don’t disclose our financial statistics but I can tell you that we have been growing at 7+ times the markets reported annual growth rate and that does not seem to be slowing down any time soon. This year alone we are planning to launch over 20 exciting disruptive projects and beyond that our pipeline continues to grow every day.
6. What does your crystal ball say about the future of Paragon 28?
I think the best way to describe the future of P28 is to quote a surgeon in Florida that said: “If you’re a surgeon that continually thinks about why you do the things you do, you are probably using Paragon 28 products”. This really describes what we hope to be as a company. My personal goal is to have people talk about our contributions to this segment long after we are gone.