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Know when to get help in a startup

It doesn't matter if you are just starting out in a startup or deep into a series D - one of the secrets to great leadership is to know when you need help.

The worry of s struggling startup
The worry of a struggling startup

I see time and time again floundering CEOs of Medtech startups that have simply not come to terms with the fact that they don't have all the answers. It can be for technical support at the start of the startup - but often it is around the hardest part - commercialisation. Sometimes it is around key fund raising and even around strategy.

Stop thinking you know everything

You had an amazingly good idea - you are a smart person - you know a lot of things. But you don't know everything. And some things are just better handled by professionals with deep sectoral knowledge. The technical details and know how behind many of the success factors in MedTech Startups are known by those sectorial experts. Their knowledge can save you months, and ensure you are doing the right things. And that converts into saving wasted burn of cash - which is the lifeblood of your startup.

Fact: no one knows everything. Ask for help.

Five signs that your startup needs help

  1. You are struggling to raise money: which often means your plan is not right, your message is not convincing, you don't have compelling use of proceeds, or you are transmitting strong doubts to investors.

  2. You are running out of money: it means you didn't plan right - or you didn't raise enough money. Something is off plan and you are not able to reach some critical milestones that allow you to raise more money. Or sales are way lower than you projected.

  3. You are arguing in your leadership team about day to day decisions: This hides a deep rift that has grown for varying reasons - but something is not right and you all know it. Finger pointing and blaming has crept in. It's time for some fresh perspectives.

  4. You struggle to make the right decisions: Obvious right... but if lots of your decisions result in issues that are just not helping the situation - you might be blind to the fact you need external help. You might not be able to see the simple answers because you are too close to the problem.

  5. You cannot get commercial traction: Something is either fundamentally wrong with your product, your strategy or you entire forecasting ability was off. You need someone external to give a brutal dissection of where you are and get you back on track.

One of the biggest struggles: commercialisation

There are many many reasons your company could be struggling. But one of the most frequent and certainly one of the biggest is a struggle to commercialise. Often seen simplistically as "we can't sell the product." But in reality there is a much bigger strategic issue happening around the entire approach to commercialisation. Many founders and CEOs are not business experts (especially first time CEOs) and even if you are a super smart researcher PhD or a genius clinician.... it doesn't mean you understand the intricacies of what to takes to commercialise product - the right way.

Craig T ingram
Craig T Ingram helps companies build sustainable commercialisation strategies

Craig T Ingram is an expert in helping failing startups to turn around and commercialise product the right way. "The issue is I'm often brought in too late. Cash has burned too low and there isn't time to turn the ship around. CEO's of startups need to bring me in earlier," says Craig. "Commercialisation of medtech devices is very hard when you are a multibillion dollar strategic company. That goes up exponentially when you are a small startup."

Craig has nearly 30 years of experience of commercialising product. "You need a bespoke strategy for your company and product, built by someone that deeply understands the market and environment. An expert that knows how to tailor a plan to ensure commercial success. Just hiring twenty reps and setting them off with hope and a brochure is not a sustainable commercial strategy. Certainly not in 2024."

Commercialisation is just one area where expertise can stop false starts and save both time and money. But the same is true for regulatory, quality, clinical, funding and every complicated aspect of a startup. The issue is that as a startup you just may not be able to hire in all the right people with know how. Struggling along, hoping you can work it out is the wrong thing to do. At some point as a startup you need to reach out.

Finding the right help

My advice is clear. First - don't wait too long before you go external for some help. You can scour LinkedIn - or tap up other industry experts for their recommendations. But you need to find the right help. You need experts that specialise in your field of healthcare - be it diagnostics, apps, medtech (Therapeutics, interventional, surgical etc). But what is important is that they have a good understanding of how to do this in startups. The wisdom of a large strategic does not hold true for the small startup. So you need to have people that specifically know how to do it in the context of a startup.

Final word

If you suspect you need help... do not wait.


Steve Bell has created a full course where this and 100 topics are covered in full details - with list of useful contacts and help for all stages of your startup. No matter of you are a young startup raising seed or a long way in but struggling the course can help you to succeed in your startup.

Craig T Ingram is an expert in medtech commercialisation. strategies with a focus on startups and SMEs. You can find him at

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