The secret weapon for Orthopedic startups
We had a secret weapon at Ellipse Technologies.
We had the ability to take on extreme RISK… and we knew our competitors did not. We could try anything to see if it worked. We embraced our high-risk culture to blow past the competition.
How did Ellipse use risk?
A few real examples.
- We redesigned our two implant systems weekly. Can we make it better for our customers?
- We experimented with creative regulatory strategies. How do we find the way to receive 510(k) clearances for remote control implants in kids?
- We redesigned the product assembly and testing processes weekly. Can we build the products faster and with less waste?
- We experimented with borderless sales strategies that quickly put us into 20 countries. Where are our evangelist customers and how do we best serve them?
- We reorganized the company every few months for speed. What is the best organizational structure and physical layout to go faster in the next six months?
The result was that we outran the big Orthos with a rapid development of new technologies that solved unique clinical problems. After a couple of years, we literally had zero competition in our two market niches – remote control spinal growing rods and remote control limb lengthening. In a span of 6 months, we had accomplished what Smith and Nephew had struggled to do in 5 years with limb lengthening. The competition was in the rearview mirror and we never looked back. We booked annual sales of $1M, 6M, 12M, 24M, and 42M before being acquired by NUVA for $410M. During this exponential doubling of sales, the employee count grew from about 12 to 120.
- management has to protect earnings and the shareholders first,
- management has to protect the zillions of dollars of legacy products out in the field,
- management has to protect their jobs by not taking chances and screwing up.
In small Ortho, employees are evaluated based on what they are going to do for the company today, tomorrow, and this week. This is forward-looking.
In big Ortho, employees are evaluated based on what they did do for the company last year. This is backward looking.
I could go on and on here, but you can feel the cultural differences.