How to Get a Federal Grant for Your Medical Device Startup

What is the best way to get a federal grant for your medical device startup?  Considering that the success rate for companies seeking federal loans hovers only between 11 and 15 percent according to Bhramara Tirupati, of BBCetc, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based business consulting group, it is best to do everything you can in order to get one of these loans.  She shared these four tips with Brandon Glenn from MedCity News for startups looking to acquire the elusive federal funding:

Determine if you’re eligible.  SBIR and STTR grants are open to for-profit companies with fewer than 500 employees that have a U.S. location.

Follow the money.  Eleven different government agencies issue SBIR and STTR grants. Think of each one of those 11 as a separate program, as each has different interests, deadlines and requirements.

Exert some influence.  Agency scientists and engineers typically author “topics” that indicate the types of projects the agency is looking to fund. Find a topic that mentions technology similar to what you’re developing and contact the author.

Get a letter of support.  Some agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, accept letters of support from third parties that help make the case for an applicant’s technology.

Even though it may seem the odds are not in your favor, it is definitely worth it to check out this funding which could be a lifeline for your business.



The Medical Device Industry in Memphis is Moving Mountains

According to the Greater Memphis Chamber more than 70,000 people work in the life science industry in the Memphis area.  However, most of the local residents aren’t even aware of the bounty of technical jobs that exist there.  Some in the industry are hoping to change that.  “Many of the students don’t necessarily know what kinds of careers are ahead for them if they focus on math and science in middle and high school”, said the Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering’s executive director, Harold Wingood.  But its mentoring program with Memphis medical device maker Smith & Nephew is helping to light the way.

“It’s not just engineers that make the bioscience sector move,” said Gibson “Sunny” Morris with the Mid-South Community College’s Arkansas Delta Training & Education Consortium.  “You can have all the engineers you want, but if you don’t have production workers to make that plant run, it’s not going to be very effective,” Morris said. To that end, his school offers an array of advanced manufacturing programs to help students learn to weld and run machines, among other things.

Also, a work group of medical device companies, university groups and the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce are working on a possibly $4 million facility with the up-to-date equipment used in medical device manufacturing to train locals on the specific skills they need to work in the industry.

So, perhaps the mountain is moving to Mohammed instead of Mohammed having to go to the mountain.


Big Ideas Winner Starts Her Own Company

As Big Ideas rolls around again this year, we thought we would update you on some of the winners from last year.  Jennifer Blankenship, our second place winner, was inspired to start her own company.  Here is an excerpt from her marketing flyer:

“In the competitive market of rural nonprofit social services and nonprofits engaging in effective development, grant writing, and program delivering can be exhausting.  MAE is here to help!  We can deliver the FAMILY EFFECTIVENESS TRAINING program, GED tutoring, and Self-sufficiency skills building (including employability skills building) that your clients need.  For help with time consuming development projects we are able to offer proven and experienced contracting to get the job done and bring in the dollars to keep your great programs on track.”

When asked about her experiences with Big Ideas and her impressions of the contest, Jennifer stated, “The contest gives people the support from the community that makes a big difference in taking a risk in business.  Knowing that people are hoping that there will be businesses started up and supporting that with dollars is a big incentive to overcome the fear of the mountain of work that can come with making an idea a reality.”

Way to go Jennifer!  What a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit that Big Ideas is attempting to encourage.

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Who Are Your Competitors and How do You Protect Your Ideas From Them?- The Final Steps to Building The Business Case

This is the final installment of our Building The Business Case series.  We have been looking at the questions entrepreneurs need to ask themselves in order to Build a Business Case.

What are the competitive products / technologies / services currently available?:

It’s not enough to just design a great product; you also need to be aware of what other products are out there.  Take the time to do the research to see what other people are already offering.  Sure, the new shampoo you developed smells great and makes your hair soft, but were you aware that there are also 500+ other brands of shampoo out there that do the same thing?

Why is your product / technology / service better than competitive products?:

Once you discover what the other products are, figure out what differentiates your product from them. What do you have that they don’t?  If you can’t come up with an answer to this question, perhaps you shouldn’t be marketing your product.  Does your shampoo perhaps rinse itself, or automatically highlight one’s hair as it scrubs?

Can your product / technology / service be protected via patents and/or trade-secrets?:

This is important so that you get the credit for your idea and someone else doesn’t.   Remember, it’s not your idea to steal if it’s not patented.  Just because you thought of it first doesn’t mean it belongs to you.  Talk to a patent attorney if you aren’t sure if your product should be protected.  You might also want to conisder non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements if they apply to your situation.   It is important to note that once there is public disclosure of your idea, your ability to patent the idea may be compromised. In fact, once there is a public disclosure, your patent rights are gone in most of the world (you have one year from date of public disclosure to file a patent in the U.S.).

Previous blog posts on Building a Business Case:

Building a Business- The First Step

How Well Do You Really Know Your Market?

Location, Requirements, and Market Size

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Getting Ready to Kick Off Big Ideas Competition

Creo Quality is getting ready to kick off its Big Ideas Competition for 2011 on April 15. This is a contest for anyone who has a business/product/technology idea that would help improve Morgan County.  Each participant submits their idea and a panel of judges reviews the submissions.  The winners receive cash prizes to help start their business, as well as access to business mentors and resources to help learn about business ownership and entrepreneurship. It also gives sponsors a chance to invest in their community by donating money that will go towards helping new businesses.

We are excited about this opportunity to improve the business and economic climate of our county and are looking forward the innovative ideas our contestants will come up with.

Look for more information in upcoming posts.

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Starting a Business the Right Way

Lise recently wrote a post about a friend whose daughter started a duct-tape fashion accessory business. Sure, the story is cute. More importantly, there are several lessons this 10-year entrepreneur can teach the rest of us about starting a business:

  • Provide a product that customers want and will buy.
  • Figure out how to generate revenue and make a profit.
  • Focus on a niche market and product.
  • Keep overhead as low as possible.
  • Build a loyal customer-base.
  • Early adopters will accept an imperfect product.
  • Innovate.
  • Only expand the product portfolio based on voice of customer.

I doubt that Trinity has thought about many or even any of these items. She’s just having fun making wallets and purses out of duct tape for her friends.

However, if you are considering or have your own business, maybe you should think about these lessons and apply them to your own venture.

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Better Luck Next Year

I’m an avid Cincinnati Reds baseball fan. And if you follow MLB, you know being a Reds fans has been difficult in the past 10+ years. Yes, 2010 was a fantastic season for Cincinnati. But they were swept in 3 games in the division playoff series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Better luck next year.

It’s late October (yes, another year has flown by). We at Creo Quality have started to reflect a little about the year. We are pleased but not complacent. We are definitely looking to 2011–yes, next year. However, we are doing more than crossing our fingers in hoping next year is better. We are tweaking our strategy to ensure 2011 exceeds 2010 (and 2010 continues to be the best year ever in our 3+ year existence).

The Cincinnati Reds made some significant changes in their organization (both management and players) a few years ago to be position themselves for the playoffs in 2010. I’m anxious to see how they do in 2011.

What does next year hold for you and your business? Are you crossing your fingers hoping 2011 is a better year than 2010? Or are you actively planning NOW to make sure it’s a better year? Do you have goals and objectives defined? How about a strategy?

I know–tough questions to answer. And often times, answering these questions requires some help. Maybe we can help. Give us a call (765 315 2736) or send us an email ( to find out.

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November 12-14, 2010 – Indianapolis Start Up Weekend

StartUp Weekend on November 12-14

Once again, the Purdue Research Park has agreed to host the event, and the planning committee is lining up everything from the food and logistics to program elements, judges and sponsors. You can see a preliminary schedule here:

So are you up for another weekend? We could use your help!

Use the code ‘Creo’ and you’ll get a $10 discount!

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Bad Employees Rarely Quit

I recently read an article at VentureBeat’s Entrepreneur Corner titled “8 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting A Business”.

The 8 things:

  1. Things take longer than you ever imagine
  2. Items that do succeed tend to do so quickly
  3. People will let you down
  4. Good employees are really hard to find
  5. Your bad employees rarely quit
  6. You will be lucky and unlucky
  7. Avoid the myth and misery of sunk cost
  8. Fill the pipe, always fill the pipe

Good list. Let me expand on a couple.

Things take longer than you can ever imagine: Prior to starting Creo Quality, I did not imagine the sales cycle taking so long. I’ve lost track of how many times we thought we had secured a new business opportunity only to learn months later that we had not.

You will be lucky and unlucky: So very true. My dad has often said “it’s better to be lucky than good”. I get that and have experienced it first hand many times during the past few years. By and large, good luck and bad luck have cancelled one another out. Luck hasn’t been a huge factor in our business either way.

Fill the pipe, always fill the pipe: We are very actively pursuing new business opportunities. If all of these “pop”, we’ll have to get creative in staffing the needs. However, we’ve been saying this for a couple years now. We haven’t gotten to the point of leveraging creativity to meet the needs of too many projects. We win some, we lose some. It’s the way it goes.

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Remove The Distractions

My wife is not a big fan of when I use business case examples to describe our personal matters. But for me business and sometimes sports analogies are very fitting ways for me to explain my thoughts.

Now it’s a bit of a reversal. Let’s just say over the past few weeks, we have more than our share of distractions in our personal life (one example – a water pipe failed soaking the sub-floor). We have been dealing with all of these distractions and it has taken us away from our primary focus. As I’ve thought about these distractions, I realized our personal situation is very similar to many clients we’ve had. Let me explain.

Many of the businesses we’ve helped lacked focus prior to engaging Creo Quality. Some had lofty visions or at least a fuzzy idea of what type of business they aspired to be. However, they spent nearly every day going from one emergency to the next. Almost always, the resources were burnt out and exhausted. And not surprisingly, these businesses were struggling to move any closer to their big visions. In fact, most were moving further and further away.

In our personal life, we are at the point where we are realizing that too many distractions can wreak havoc on our big dreams and visions. So we are working on removing the distractions and regaining a strong central focus.

Businesses need to do the same thing. Sure, there will ALWAYS be distractions. But not all distractions need our attention immediately. And guess what: Some don’t need our attention at all.

For a business to be as strong and focused as possible, the leaders of these companies need to realize this. Removing distractions can improve the rate of success and get them closer to where they want to be.

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Entrepreneurial Funding Gaps in Indiana

The more we meet with entrepreneurs looking for funding, the more notice a trend toward a gap in funding.

Currently in Indiana, investors are not very active. VCs have always been conservative, but are even more conservative now and rather than leading the pack in investing, they are focused on late development or post revenue opportunities. Actually, this includes Angel Investors as well. Where do entrepreneurs go to find funding?

There’s always the traditional grants, but they are not typically large enough to be the only source of funding for most entrepreneurs.

What about the 21st Century Fund? This can be a great source for funding, but job creation is a huge metric for the 21st Century Fund, so they are looking for near revenue stage companies that will be profitable within 12-24 months roughly.

A simple medical device (including pharma) takes 3-5 years on average from concept to development. So, there’s quite a predicament for those start-up entrepreneurs looking for funding for their newest, greatest device.

IF you can survive and are revenue generating then you qualify for funding – the rest of you need to be creative in how you raise funds. Other options for you might include: friends, family, and/or personal individual investors.

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Bad Business Development Practices

A good friend of mine has a business. They recently moved into a new location and have some needs. I connected them with a reputable resource who I’ve used and could help them. The resource showed up to understand my friend’s needs and to provide a quote for the work to be done.

And then the resource didn’t something unthinkable. He left my friend with an invoice for the site visit. At no time during their initial conversations did the resource mention that there would be a charge for making a visit. And to my knowledge, I’m not aware of other competitive resources implementing this practice.

My friend told me about this earlier tonight. I was appalled. So much so that I will NEVER recommend this resource ever again.

Had the resource mentioned the site fee, then it would be more understandable. But leaving an invoice after the fact without notice? This is just a bad–no terrible–business practice.

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Are You Cut Out to be an Entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship is often glamorized — make your own hours, be your own boss, complete flexibility, and wealth. Any honest entrepreneur will tell you that starting your own business is easy but running your own business is hard. Are you cut out for this? Babson College professor Daniel Isenberg developed a quiz to answer this very question. Here are a few sample questions…

  1. I get an adrenaline rush from selling things.
  2. I have friends who run their own businesses.
  3. I don’t like being told what to do by people who are less capable than I am.
  4. People get excited by my ideas.
  5. I always look for new and better ways to do things.

Isenberg warns us that:

“All else being equal (and all else is rarely equal in the real world), on the average, people who set up their own businesses don’t make more money, although a few do succeed in grabbing the brass ring. But the ‘psychic benefits’ — the challenge, autonomy, recognition, excitement, and creativity — make it all worthwhile.”

Take the test and see if you are cut out to be your own boss.

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Pitching Your Start-Up

Here are five rules, according to Bill Bartman, for pitching your start-up to investors:

  1. Respect time – be on time and keep your pitch to the allotted time.
  2. Don’t tell them how your product will revolutionize their business – let them decide.
  3. Stick to the facts in your pitch.
  4. Take notes – don’t make the investors repeat themselves.
  5. Anticipate their needs – leave-behind a well-organized document summarizing your presentation.

Keep these tips in mind next time you plan on presenting your ideas to investors. And if you need more help preparing or finding VCs to work with, we can help.

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Simplify Your Start-up

Contrary to what most people think, you DO NOT have to spend a small fortune to start your new business venture. You don’t even need investors or a team of marketing experts – simplify your strategy!

Here are a few tips on simplify your business launch from Everett Bogue’s blog Far Beyond the Stars:

  1. Don’t invent your own infrastructure, use one that already exists.
  2. Keep your business plan easy with real actionable ideas.
  3. Launch immediately and focus on a niche.
  4. Don’t hire a staff or rent an office until you need to – you probably don’t need one at this phase.
  5. Focus on your product’s value and talk about it regularly.

Need help focusing on a niche or developing a simple, straight-forward business plan? Shoot us an email.

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