Oops, I did it again! I took a new (fantastic) job.
Many have been asking me, “What the hell are you doing these days anyway?” The answer has been difficult to provide. It’s pretty much been some variant of “figuring it out while futzing around,” which is a much more open-ended shade of gray than with which I am comfortable.
A few years ago I decided that my full time stint in venture capital needed to be put on pause. Too much market insanity, too much money being thrown around at mediocre ideas, too much distance between effort and ability to impact company outcome. While I love many aspects of the venture world (and am still involved as an advisor to several funds, including Manatt Venture Fund, Longitude Capital, Aphelion/Cardeation Capital and Nina Capital), I felt like it was time for a break.
By the end of last year, I realized that what I really wanted was go back to my roots as an entrepreneur and operator. I was missing that feeling of a direct contribution to building something of value. I realized I could scratch the VC itch for now through my advisory activities, and then throw myself full bore into a great operating role with a more direct mission than creating returns. Hey, don’t get me wrong. Returns are great! They put my kid through college and bought me countless pairs of cool shoes, but an operating mission is really different. Those of you who have done both know what I mean.
So I am delighted to announce that I have been appointed President, Digital and Data Solutions of Canary Medical, a medical data company focused on the development and commercialization of its patented implantable sensor technology and data management ecosystem. I could not be more excited.
I’ve been saying for YEARS that the world of medical devices has been missing out, taking way too long to find the world of digital technologies (see this blog post I wrote in 2018. 2018!). I mean seriously, even pharmaceutical companies are all in on this digital thing. But medical devices are so much more obviously suited to sensors in that they are actually used on and inside patients. You want to fix your tracking adherence problem? Implant the sensor inside the patient and it is pretty much solved. It is also likely to be more accurate, being so close to the action and directly measuring more than can be done from the outside.
In 2021, Canary Medical, together with Zimmer Biomet, introduced canturio™te, the world’s first “smart knee” tibial extension, which is implanted in the body (aka – inside the knee replacement) where it monitors patient activity and joint performance, and transmits data to the cloud, autonomously, requiring almost no patient compliance or physician involvement. The battery in the device lasts up to 20 years, and the sensing itself is entirely passive, sending data to a small base station in the home without requiring the patient to remember to do so. There is zero chance the device ends up in the bedside table drawer or lies, uncharged, in the kitchen junk drawer like so many of its predecessors. Plus, having achieved FDA approval (and breakthrough status), physicians are excited about it.
Canary has many more sensor-laden implantable medical devices to come, and they are not all orthopedic (though some are – stay tuned). Imagine implanted devices that could tell you there is a problem brewing somewhere in the body before it becomes a crisis or that the rehab process needs to be tuned to respond to your personal trajectory – that’s the goal. Yes, of course, that means that the person has already had to have a surgical procedure, but you can bet they would like to avoid having another one, especially if it might be due to the failure of some life-saving implant.
Canary Medical was conceived and created by Dr. Bill Hunter. Bill’s vision is that healthcare transformation requires reliable and cost-effective healthcare data and that the effective monitoring and analysis of that data will produce better outcomes for patients at lower costs. That’s not a unique vision to be sure, but his method of doing it is. I have been frustrated for years by the wealth of wearables, especially those that are not medical grade, and the complexity involved in making them useful. Data collection is nice. Meaningful insight is considerably better.
My job will be to take the absolute avalanche of data that these products stream 24/7 for 20 years, and to work with the rest of the amazing team of researchers and data scientists to create a business unit that builds, partners and otherwise establishes and sells a variety of products and services that drive towards Bill’s vision. So much can be done. Remote monitoring, predictive analytics, new metrics for analyzing risk – the opportunities are vast. No other company has accomplished what Canary has, and that is what made it so appealing to me. That, and the fact that the company is squarely at the intersection of my two favorite healthcare sectors: devices and data. Notably, the medical device team is also a pretty amazing one, globally regarded for broad expertise in device design, development and commercialization. No gold chains or groovy passenger vans, but definitely the A Team.
In the “you never know what might happen if you say yes to opportunity” category of serendipity, I met Bill Hunter about 5 years ago when we were both on a digital health panel in Melbourne, Australia, hosted by the great folks at ANDHealth. It was love at first sight, at least for me and from a platonic/work sort of standpoint. I was fascinated by what Canary was doing and basically stalked Bill over the last 5 years, working together here and there on a project or two. We kept in touch, and when this opportunity arose, I jumped at it.
I have a wonderful friend, Bob Rebitzer, who gives great advice. As I looked for the right thing, which was tough considering how many companies I’ve seen and how skeptical I’ve become about most things digital (not all – still a few gems out there), Bob gave me a great guide to think about as I considered my various choices (copyright entirely his):
- Is it a viable organization with respect to people, product and capital?
- Are there good people you want to be around?
- Can I visualize how I can make a difference in a way that would make me feel good
- Would they allow me to keep the other activities (like teaching and this blog) going?
I think Bob’s is a great framework and Canary Medical ticked all those boxes, plus others. I am delighted they gave me this opportunity.
I had so many people provide me with a myriad of introductions and even job opportunities over the last 10 months of my futzing around and I am eternally grateful to all of them for having such interest and motivation to for being so generous with their networks and ideas. Thanks again to my longtime friends and those new friends I had the opportunity to meet as I explored. The abundance of kind consideration reinforced my good feelings about people in the healthcare universe and made me want to leave the house after all of the months of never leaving the house.
And speaking of leaving the house, I spoke at a medical device conference last week and also did another panel with Bill. It reminded me how the digital health and medical device worlds are so separated. I saw exactly one single person who I would say hails from the digital world of healthcare – the person I did the keynote interview with, Deb Kilpatrick, Co-CEO of Evidation, . It reminded me how separate these sectors have been. Sensors and medical devices should be in the “we complete each other” part of the romantic cycle. I am excited to be part of making that romance blossom.