From Zero to Success: Creating the Right Product Through Strategic Opportunity Evaluation

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DeviceConnect Premier Event: From Zero to Success Panel Recap

Successful innovation begins well before the launch of a traditional device development program.

The complexity and high cost of product development requires a potential innovation be considered from several different perspectives. While vetting these opportunities is never an easy task, there are actions you can take to reduce risk.

Our kickoff DeviceConnect event, From Zero to Success: Creating the Right Product Through Strategic Opportunity Evaluation, took place at the Life Science Washington conference center on November 14.

To explore this subject, we brought together four device leaders with different backgrounds to discuss how they have successfully navigated Phase Zero.

We were honored to host Kate Sharadin (eQuility), Ron Paulsen (Microsoft NEXT), Greg Sessler (Olympus Respiratory America), and Sean MacLeod (FenoLogica Biosciences) on the panel, moderated by our own CTO and Co-Founder, Scott Thielman.

In this 45-minute program, our experts discussed the decision criteria they use when deciding which opportunities to pursue (and which to forgo) in Phase Zero. How do they weigh their options? How do they efficiently explore areas of risk, fill gaps and pivot as necessary?

Below is a summary of the main discussion points and key takeaways. For full audio from the event – complete with panelist examples and a Q&A from the audience – listen to the audio recording below.

Evaluating Product & Technology Opportunities

Integrate consumer needs with current technology - Kate Sharadin

Look at the current science and technology trends against consumer needs and expectations. How will these trends affect your industry in 5-10 years?

To integrate consumer needs with current technology, eQuility considered the following: therapeutic treatment for use outside the body (versus implants), form factor friendly devices, and embeddable sensory motor stimulation to activate specific neural networks delivered via software (digital therapeutics).

Phase Zero works in large corporations too - Greg Sessler

In a large organization, instead of going straight to your management with an idea, take the Phase Zero approach as a small business would. Do your homework upfront, then take it to management to see if they give you the okay for next steps.

Look beyond the horizon - Ron Paulsen

When creating a business model, forecast market dynamics in 3-5 years, rather than base your model on where they are today. Define your product’s impact on the market, and then pitch your milestones against a timeline.

Not sure which milestones to consider? Scott Thielman gives a few tools to help you organize your thoughts and create a list of critical activities in his article Zero To Hero: 9 Opportunity Evaluation Actions For Phase Zero.

Utilize a research - Ron Paulsen

With great innovation comes great uncertainty. Applying a research-based approach to early technology initiatives and opportunities can help you make an educated decision on whether to move forward.

Keep a pulse on the industry - what new technologies are on the horizon? Know yourself - how can you evolve as a company or product? What potential market segments have product gaps? How can this technology help?

If you can answer those questions, don’t let a lack of research stop you. Use that gap to drive your Phase Zero activities. (e.g., Microsoft NEXT is working on Project Natick, an underwater data center in a submarine, that has mature technology but limited research and answers that need to be solved).

Create a Winning Team & Culture Combination

Stick to what you do well - Sean MacLeod

Don’t try to do everything. Hire a great engineer, and let them lead the engineering. If you’re great at sales, focus on the sales.

Find supporters of your vision - Sean MacLeod

Gather a team of supporters around you. Get out into your community and expand your network, find out who is doing what. The insight can help shape your vision while collaboration creates a stronger buy-in for everyone.

Also, it’s important not to be by yourself. Have a support network around you that encourages you to keep going when you don’t feel like you can, or you’ll go crazy.

Create an impact-first culture - Ron Paulsen

By not pre-defining your exit, you are given the flexibility to look at a broader range of opportunities. An impact-first culture focuses on building competencies versus building products to sell. Yes, getting products out the door is essential, but it is secondary to developing real solutions for real problems. An impact-first approach changes how you operate and the type of people you hire.

Product Development & Business Strategy

Adapt quickly with lean product development - Sean MacLeod

Lean product development improves efficiency and reduces cost. Be clear about what is adding value and reduce everything else that is not.

Technology is changing faster than businesses can adapt. A lean approach allows you to keep pace with the technological evolution, better understand market shifts, and meet the needs of the ever-changing consumer behaviors, values, and expectations.

By utilizing a lean approach, FenoLogica Biosciences has been able to invest resources in current technology strategies and business models that would not have been doable even two years ago.

Get scrappy - Sean MacLeod

Investment companies constantly move targets. You have to have a tremendous amount of patience and, to some degree, ignorance about what you’re doing. There is a “there” at some level, understand that what you’re doing today, may not be the what you were doing two years ago.

The process is messy, challenging and frustrating. How can you get scrappy enough to keep your product alive? How can you move the ball forward when you run into challenges?

There’s always “the next guy” - Greg Sessler

To build on the point above, remember there is always “the next guy in.” Stay alive until you can find the one that likes your idea. Get feedback, morph your story and business plan, then go back at it.

“I think most ideas can get funding if you go at it enough and listen enough.”


The products, services, and initiatives we funnel our resources to is a significant determinant of the potential success of our businesses. The current regulatory and reimbursement burdens on medical devices magnify the ramifications of your choices in the early stages.

Interested in joining us at our next event? On Wednesday, February 13 we will be hosting round two titled “Reality Check: Augmented Intelligence is the Future of Healthcare” located at FUJIFILM SonoSite in Bothell. Please see the Life Science Washington event page for details and registration.