By Wendy S. Meyer and Kathryn Nearing
They say necessity is the mother of invention. And in the case of Dr. Richard Meehan, his need to more successfully, and less painfully, treat his patients with arthritis drove his invention of a device called the KneeTap. A CCTSI member and Rheumatologist at National Jewish Health, Meehan came up with the idea while treating patients in his clinic. He wanted to find a way to compress the fluid in the knee joint to one localized area so the aspiration of fluid—and the injection of a therapeutic to treat arthritis—would be more accurate and less painful. With materials he purchased from Hobby Lobby, he created a prototype of the KneeTap, a single use needle guide. And today, just five years later, his company Arthroventions is actively marketing their device to physicians, thanks in part to I-Corps@CCTSI.
Meehan and Eric Hoffman, CEO of Arthroventions, credit the short course with giving them the knowledge to move their company to the next level. “I-Corps@CCTSI helped us understand our customers better,” says Hoffman. “Right now we are introducing it [KneeTap] into the marketplace and driving sales and revenue in order to demonstrate our business model.”
The CCTSI launched its short course for biomedical entrepreneurs just one year ago. In that time, I-Corps@CCTSI has trained 19 teams of biomedical entrepreneurs (eight new teams are signed up for the fall 2017 course.) Anyone who is a member of the CCTSI may participate; faculty, staff and students from CU-Boulder, CSU and CU Anschutz have all taken the course.
The program guides teams through the early stages of customer discovery where they can test their business models for their technology or idea. Teams initiate a structured customer discovery process by interviewing those who represent key customer segments. Teams have three weeks to complete 25-30 interviews and summarize results in preparation for final, Shark-tank-style presentations one month later.
“The course also provides mentorship for teams through “office hour” coaching sessions with entrepreneurs who offer expert real-world advice,” says I-Corps@CCTSI Program Director Elaine Morrato, DrPH.
Richard Meehan, MD
Hoffman says that the course helped his company put together a process so they could talk to their customers. When they did, they discovered that each physician has his or her own needs and pain points. The program helped them identify how the doctors differ, depending on who the payer is, if the physician works in a clinic or a hospital, etc. They learned that doctors providing preventive, non-surgical care are better potential customers than surgeons.
“We want to help patients prevent more damage and try to defer or eliminate surgery if possible. Non-surgeons are more incentivized to provide a procedure than a surgeon who wants to do a replacement,” Meehan says.
Hoffman says he’d want other entrepreneurs to understand that though it’s challenging for physicians who develop a product to translate that information into a language the customer speaks, it’s vital. Talking to customers helps entrepreneurs successfully translate their messages. Hoffman says, “It changed the way we present our value proposition to physicians and to the patients.”
Arthroventions CEO Eric Hoffman