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Seven Signs of MedTech Startup Struggles

If you or your Medtech startup have any of these signs and symptoms - then you really could need some help to avoid becoming a victim of the startup failure curse.

I've spent over 30 years in MedTech startups and have been involved in great success (Europe's biggest MedTech Unicorn) and multiple failures and struggling startups. The failures all have the same symptoms sooner or later... and all of them can be fixed.

1: Lack of team spirit and fun

If you and your team are not having fun, feeling stressed, bickering, and generally struggling to have an absolutely amazing team spirit... then this is a severe watch out. It is a symptom hiding a multitude of problems - and all of those problems will eventually lead to the people. Startups are the people.

2: Struggling to get funding 

Of course it's hard to raise money - but this is different. This is that you just cannot get people to invest in your idea and your company. There are many reasons why you are struggling to get money. From "the idea is just bad" to "You don't know how to create a compelling investment deck" to "You are not helping investors to see the full journey". It is sign that the deep underlying story and strategy are not planned out well enough. You have a tech idea looking for a solution. You didn't convert idea into mission... or other deep flaws in the company.

3: Mistakes happen way too often

Mistakes can happen in any business - but they should be few and limited to complex things that could just never have been predicted. Instead if your company is making simple errors that just seem "obvious" after the event; it points to lack of experience in the management team with regard to medtech startups. I see mistakes time and time again that can be avoided with just a little knowledge. It is a sign you don't have enough scar tissue and expertise in Medtech startups around the table. Either that... or you are not listening to the experienced voices. Watch this as you will burn through money and time as you repeat errors that are well known.

4: Struggling to hit sales numbers

For later stage companies this is the "classic" problem. It often comes from startups fixating on R&D and getting approvals - instead of from day one focusing on it being a business - a commercial business that needs to make money. "Adding" commercial on at the end is a total disaster. Commercialisation strategy is about 80% of what your startup is about. Unless it is baked in from day one - bad decisions will be made that will ultimately lead to a commercial flop.

5: Running out of money faster than you thought

Over optimistic people start companies - otherwise if you knew their truth most people wouldn't do it. Burn is utterly and totally everything in the finances of a startup. It is likely that you have underestimated the time things take, the complications you get, and the money it will take to get to the next milestone. You maybe didn't raise enough money and set out real use of proceeds. You may be hiring in more people than expected to fill the lack of experience hole. All of this will burn your cash faster than you can make the next milestone. Fail the milestone and you may be closing your doors.

6: Find it hard to say "what you have"

If you and your team cannot easily and simply articulate what your idea and mission is - you have a problem. If your story requires so much nuanced explaining to people - it is on the road to failure. It means there are potentially some big underlying issues. The product may just not be "unique" and own a unique space so you struggle to say why it is really different and the value that brings. The space is so crowded and you find it hard to say where you fit in. You have not spent enough time early on creating a unique selling proposition - so didn't design features and strategies to amplify it. You had a technology that you are forcing into a need (That's just backwards). You just don't have good marketing professionals around the table who know how to refine messaging.

7: You are making it up as you go along

You and your team have not done a genuine medtech startup before - and well - you think you can make it up as you go along. You can't. There may not be enough expertise in medtech startups around the table (yes they've done big medtech companies. Yes you're a clinician. Yes you are an inventor.) But you may not have enough knowledge of the most complex thing to do in business - "a startup". And you may not have enough people that know one of the most regulated and complex businesses on the planet "Medtech". And none of you have decided to go and actually get educated before setting off on a multi million $$ and 10 year adventure where over 75% of companies fail. This is not the place to just be making it up as you go along. Get educated.

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Steve Bell
Steve Bell
Jan 03

Do feel free to write comments and suggestions - it's all helpful to me to improve content

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