Industry pundit Joe Hage on medtech innovation in 2017

November 18, 2016 Erin Righetti

Joe Hage, a medical device marketing consultant, is well known in medtech circles. In particular, he runs one of the largest and possibly most successful LinkedIn groups, the “Medical Devices Group,” as well as organizing The 10x Medical Device Conference. Insight had a chance to speak with Hage about the state of the industry and his upcoming participation in Medtech Showcase, a two-day forum for companies to share breakthrough medical technologies with an audience of investors and potential commercial partners taking place in January.

Insight: Tell us about yourself and the evolution and success of the Medical Devices Group. It almost seems to have a cult-like following. 

JH: I specialize in marketing communications and strategy, lead generation and website development for medical device-related companies. That’s how I earn my living. I am also the moderator of the Medical Devices Group on LinkedIn, which as of this interview has 338k members worldwide. The Group was founded by Chris Taylor back in 2008, and when Chris died in 2011 (from cardiac arrest at Medica), his wife reached out to me a month later asking if I could continue her husband’s work. At the time, there were 72,866 members and there were 4,000 outstanding requests to join. I took a personal approach and reviewed each and every application individually, the way Chris used to. When I finished and went to sleep, there were 125 more requests to join the next day. It was time intensive. While it doesn’t take as long to manage the Group now, all members are on moderation to protect the Group from spam. I go in once or twice a day to approve comments and sift through suggestions, publishing only what would be relevant to the busy medical device executive.

I’m flattered you think I have a “cult-like following.” It may be due to my informal, colloquial nature. Readers feel as though they know me before we ever meet. And I genuinely care about the Group members. Some of the most valuable work I do is pairing people up, seeing deals initiated, connections made, and helping people find jobs. I recently introduced a client to someone in the Group which resulted in a USD 1M deal.

Insight: Let’s talk about innovation. According to some analysts, there will be an influx of new innovation-focused players in the coming year in medtech. What do you see as innovation areas in medtech for 2017?

JH: There are plenty but the innovations in the 3D-printed space excite me. So do personalized medicine and the Medtech Internet of Things: We’ll see concepts for digitizing data, connecting procedures to the cloud, and deciphering patient data to improve outcomes.

Insight: Information technology, cloud connectivity, personalized medicine—these are terms we hear a lot about. Some seem to cross over into digital medicine. How do you differentiate the space?

JH: Connectivity makes “dumb things” smart but also helps innovators collaborate in ways previously impossible. Interpreting data is one thing; using information technology to build resources to connect data to real-time implementation of that data is something else. As far as personalized medicine, researchers are making great strides in democratizing the analysis of each individual’s DNA. That sentence will seem archaic in 50 years. I won’t be surprised to have a DNA test done at birth to help manage each person’s health on a customized basis.

Insight: One thing the 21st Century Cures Act does is appropriates funds for biomedical research, including high-risk, high-reward research and research conducted by early stage investigators. This Act is meant to accelerate timelines for innovative and necessary products, i.e., medtech, as well. What impact could it have on medtech device manufacturing?

JH: Do you mean, are we having fewer recalls? I don’t know that throwing money at a problem helps.

I think the 21st Century Cures Act is a restatement of that which was stated long ago with regard to regulatory issues and hurdles. If you ask me, I think it was marketing. I don’t have an expectation that the Act is going to have a significant impact on the market. We had a robust conversation about the Act in the Medical Devices Group.

Insight: Early stage financing remains tough—what do you foresee for the investment climate for medtech in 2017?

JH: I have to think about that in the context of our new President. I am not sure yet what impact the recent election will have on the investment climate. In general, the value analysis (VAC) committees will not likely change their process or requirements. In order to get your device into a hospital or clinic you need to prove better outcomes and lower cost. And have a CPT medical code for reimbursement. So what does that mean for investment? I have had many discussions on that in the Group. In particular, one discussion was VCs saying, ‘if you have a 10 milllion dollar idea, chuck it and work on something else.’ Since VCs track all their investments, they’d rather focus on the bigger deals. A second discussion, “How Big is Big Enough?” took the other side of the argument. Also see my interviews with VC Klaus Stockemann and VC Thomas Weldon who looks for USD 500 million ideas. Ultimately successful fundraising hinges on the management team’s ability to connect with the right audience for their concept. Having direct access to investors interested in early stage companies at events like your Medtech Showcase are helpful. Medtech’s best and brightest will be converging on San Francisco in January, so we’re bound to see some investment-worthy ideas there.  

Insight: You will be participating in Medtech Showcase in January. How did you get involved in the event?

JH: I don’t accept many of the invitations I receive. Medtech Showcase looks really good, with high potential for participants to launch their businesses. As well, I always benefit from meeting the participants in a meeting such as this. Delegates get a chance to get to know me and I them, which adds to our mutual network, and in turn, expands the robust nature of the Group. I am looking forward to it.

Medtech Showcase at Biotech Showcase is a two-day dedicated medtech investor and networking event with a robust program including presentations by medtech companies to share technologies with investors and potential commercial partners. The event takes place January 10–11, 2017 in San Francisco. Find out more.

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Erin Righetti

Editor-in-Chief, Insight

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