Millennials are always searching for simpler, and more innovative, ways of doing things. Vivek Kopparthi is a millennial entrepreneur who is aiming to do just that in the med-tech space. Kopparthi is a 2017 Forbes 30 under 30, and the co-founder of NeoLight, a company that is bringing new technology to the world of neonatal care.
They started off with focusing Jaundice, a condition that occurs in 6 out of 10 babies all over the world. NeoLight currently has an FDA cleared technology to treat Jaundice at the comfort of home instead of forcing the baby to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit for days just after birth.
The med-tech space is highly regulated and therefore struggles with implementing innovative solutions in the same way that other tech industries can. Because of this, Koparthi has had to pull out all the entrepreneurial stops to get his product on the market.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Vivek who believes the most valuable attribute entrepreneurs can have is understanding the importance of playing the long game. He explained to me the three "long game" mindsets that all good entrepreneurs should practice.
1. If you want to make an impact, you can't do it alone.
Building a company doesn't happen overnight. The same goes for bringing an innovative product to life. To be able to create something that will stand the test of time--or in Viveks case the test of medical regulations--you won't be able to do it alone.
When Vivek first decided he wanted to build a new model for how a med-tech company can improve the delivery of newborn health care, he was pursuing his graduate degree at Arizona State University.
When he started launching his company Vivek new he had to play the long game. He knew that in part, that meant he would need to build a team. So, he found a technical co-founder and leveraged the resources (including seed money) from the university and its network.
I asked him how he had been able to be so efficient in such tough med-tech environment. Vivek said that "It's because of my team and the resources that surround me. My team works for the cause and not for the cash. Every single one of us cares, for the impact that our technologies can deliver."
2. Good entrepreneurs lead with patience.
In the med-tech space, it takes time to clear regulatory requirements and test the technology on people. Because of this, he had seen many entrepreneurs shy away from attempting to disrupt the med-tech industry. Vivek knew he was going to have to be extremely patient.
When you're talking about human lives and their health, there is a real need for regulation. When you think about the tech sector (mainly social networks and apps) and how innovative these companies have been, you need to remember that they were doing their work in sectors that were either brand new or largely unregulated. This barrier demonstrates the innovative work entrepreneurs need to overcome to be successful.
Being a med-tech entrepreneur is about leading with patience. You can't just treat a person with your technology without proving that it's safe and effective. You need to work through the barriers that are purposefully in place to ensure that harmful or ineffective products don't make it to the market.
This applies to the medical space as much as it does any other industry. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur you need to be okay with hearing "no", you need to be okay with finding real (and valuable) solutions.
3. It's about putting your customers first.
Part of playing the long game is putting our customers first. Good entrepreneurs shouldn't take shortcuts that can negatively impact their users. Vivek says the advice he gives to all entrepreneurs who are starting out is to focus on empathy:
"In the med-tech space, we cater to hospital-grade solutions. We're asking questions like, 'Can a device be small and simple enough for care to happen at home?' 'Can such a device save a hospital time, space and money, while reducing stress in a family.' This mindset helps guide our technology solutions, and it applies to entrepreneurs in any field."
Successful entrepreneurs ask those types of user-focused questions.
It's clear to see why successful entrepreneurs are the ones who play the long game. Viveks says that most stories about entrepreneurs are largely about going outside of "the system" to make a change. "As med-tech entrepreneurs, we need to find our niche, but we need to work with industry to make it happen. This takes time but is definitely possible given the right clinical propositions and the technology," He explained.
Whether you're in an unregulated field, or one that is highly regulated, being an entrepreneur is about creating a lasting product or service by focusing on making an impact, and by playing the long game.