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Taking on the start-up opportunity - Advice from Galway’s MedTech Leaders

08 July 2021 by Mary Joyce
Taking on the start-up opportunity - Advice from Galway’s MedTech Leaders

Advise from Galway’s MedTech Leaders

We can all agree that starting and running a start-up is risky business. When the start-up is in the MedTech industry, that bar is raised even higher. From raising financing to clinical trials the path is never linear and you can expect many ups and downs.

Taking an idea from concept through to commercialisation is difficult in any MedTech start-up journey and ultimately the strength of your team will determine if you can make it happen.

Building a successful team, with the right technical skills, motivations, work ethic and comradery needed for a start-up is no easy feat but an essential component in a company’s success.

With the emergence of more and more start-ups within Galway’s MedTech sector we are seeing an increased interest across the board but particularly from R&D Engineers, QE’s,and Regulatory professionals to leave the security of a MNC for the chance to cut their teeth in a start-up. Gaining this level of experience and exposure can be pivotal in your career, especially at the Mid-Senior level.

Although the trend is increasing, a hesitancy still remains among some candidates. I spoke with two leaders within Galway’s MedTech start-up community to ask them for 3 reasons a MedTech professional should join a start-up? And one piece of advice for candidates looking to transition from a MNC to a start-up?

Barry McCann, CEO & Founder – Nua Surgical
3 reasons a MedTech professional should join a start-up?

1.     The chance to upskill: Working in a start-up you will be exposed to every facet of an organisation. Team meetings will involve finance, marketing, R&D, clinical, etc, enabling you to get a panoramic view of the business.

2.     Limitless potential, both financially and careerwise: A start-up can fail but it can also become a unicorn! One of the most exciting things for me in our journey is the unknown. With the right team around me, the chance of success is far greater, and nobody knows where it could lead us to; an early acquisition such as EMBO, or a successful home-grown multinational such as Aerogen.

3.     Flexibility: There is no doubt that teams in start-ups work extremely hard, but quite often it comes with flexibility, ownership, and autonomy. It might seem like a small thing, but I cherish the fact that most days I am able to walk my kids to school. Building in flexi-time is vital for our founding team because we all have young families and we want to be part of their lives. Quite often, we are back online having team calls long after the kids are gone to bed, but that works for us.

And one piece of advice for candidates looking to transition from a MNC to a start-up?  

Don’t make your decision lightly. The reality is that most start-ups don’t go on to achieve the amazing vision set out by the founders. Do your research into the technology, the team, the market opportunity. If all of this adds up, then the next key component is compatibility between you and the founding team. Ultimately, there needs to be synergy as you will be working closely with them, and every start-up expects their key employees to go above and beyond to help reach milestones.

Tim Jones Co-Founder – Symphysis Medical
3 reasons a MedTech professional should join a start-up?

1.     Forging strong and meaningful relationships: This is not only with the core team but with all partners, be it clinical, commercial, academic, or industrial. This is a real core value of ours as a company where we want to promote a culture of psychological safety and build long and lasting relationships with our external partners. It’s an exciting environment filled with a lot of energy and drive.

2.     Ownership over your work: Being directly responsible for your work (without any real hierarchy) has a lot of positives. One of the major positives is the flexibility it offers you to conduct your work in the best way you see fit without too much structure already built up around you. Looking after the kids, going to the gym, getting the car fixed can all be worked around with good team communication. There’s also a significant level of job satisfaction associated with driving the work and being accountable to a close-knit team.

3.     Diversity of the work: In a start-up, you not only have domain expertise in your core area, but have the opportunity to gain valuable experience in many areas. Gaining deep knowledge in the clinical area, working closely with clinicians and patients alike, and putting your hand to pretty much anything that comes your way.

And one piece of advice for candidates looking to transition from a MNC to a start-up?

One piece of advice I would give anyone moving into the start-up space would be to look at the founding team closely, look at the clinical area they are working in and if you like the vision, the energy of the team, and the problem that is being solved, then that goes a long way to deciding if it is worth ‘the risk’ on taking on the challenge. Keep in mind though that the risk may not be as big as you think it is. Start-ups often get funded for a number of years to deliver on a number of milestones. This gives candidates time to build their own skills and understanding of the medical device space in a real deep and meaningful way, understanding all facets of the sector and gaining highly transferable skills into other start-ups or multinationals alike if the venture were not to be successful.


Valuable insights from both Barry and Tim, from a recruitment perspective ‘’novel and adaptive thinking’’ (the ability to think beyond what’s been done before) and ‘’transdisciplinary thinking’’ (the ability to think beyond your functional role) are two of the key traits workers will need to succeed in the future; the environment within a start-up fosters these traits and gives individuals joining a chance to accelerate their career and to stand out from the crowd.

There’s palpable energy across the West’s MedTech sector at the moment, confidence in the market is back post-pandemic and candidates have many opportunities to choose from. A start-up may not be for everyone but there’s no denying the upside is huge for those willing to back themselves.

Considering a career transition? Get in touch with me

Born and raised in Connemara, I spent the last 5 years supporting MedTech organisations across the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul to build and scale their technical teams. In my current role, I act as talent solutions manager at Mason Alexander providing services that help MedTech businesses scale and otherwise get the edge on their competition.


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