Graeme Thickins on Tech

Reflections & analysis about innovation, technology & startups, with a focus on Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes

My Live Blog of the 10th Annual Defrag Conference…

defragx-logodates

Once again, I live-blogged the Defrag Conference in Denver. This is the tenth year of this great annual tech event, and I’ve attended them all. The original idea was to get together to defrag our brains and stop to think about where technology is headed — what’s coming next. I’ve met and interviewed so many great people at this event over the years: Brad Feld, Seth Levine, Fred Wilson, David Cohen, T.A. McCann, and tons of other tech leaders, investors, authors, and more.  Not to speak of many fellow tech observers, analysts, writers, bloggers, PR people, and notable geeks who’ve come to be frequent collaborators and friends. I’ve also connected with old buddies, like the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, and shared some huge laughs. Attending this conference is almost like going to camp each year. I just wouldn’t miss it! (Especially when I was one of only three guys who had perfect 10-year attendance records.) Eric and Kim Norlin and their team do such a great job putting on Defrag.

So, what was on tap for discussion at the 10th annual? Lots of topics: AWS Lambda, microservices, blockchain, APIs, machine learning, AI, insights about developer marketing, bare-metal cloud, and other geeky stuff — presented by an impressive band of speakers… founders, CTOs, rock-star developers, tech evangelists, and other crazy folks. Always a fun event. And what you don’t learn in the big room, well, you can learn in the Tap Room each night till the wee hours. (Oh, and we talk a lot about sports, too!)

My play-by-play updates are posted below, now in archived chronological order, from Wednesday morning November 16th through Thursday afternoon November 17th — all posted live, in real-time from the Omni Interlocken Resort, in beautiful (warm and sunny!) Colorado… well, until it snowed in the final hours.

What’s the Future for MedTech Startups? Reasons to Be Worried (and a Ray of Hope)

[NOTE: This post first appeared at Minnov8.com. My friends at Rochester Rising in southern MN also ran a version of it later.]

Living and working here in Minnesota, as I do, you constantly hear about how wonderful our state’s medical technology industry is. After all, we’re the No. 1 Global Medtech Cluster, as I was reminded again here at the AdvaMed 2016 conference.  We all think we’re sitting on this huge industry that will just keep growing forever and bring bountiful riches to our state. Well, it turns out things are not all that rosy.futureatrisk-cover280w

I learned today about a new report, “A Future at Risk: Economic Performance, Entrepreneurship, and Venture Capital in the U.S. Medical Technology Sector.”

Here’s the gist:

“The American medical technology industry has been suffering from a steady decline of entrepreneurship for more than two decades…”

What? Yes, it’s a fact: the numbers associated with this engine of innovation (and jobs) have been declining quite markedly.

We can relate to the medtech startup engine very well here in Minnesota, with our own giant Medtronic having been started by Earl Bakken in a garage in Northeast Minneapolis. (I worked for the company early in my career and got to be taken out for a welcome lunch by the man himself.)

Two charts from the report, shown here, will surprise many. (Click for larger view.) startupdensity-chart-kauffman

newcoformations-chartHere’s more from the report’s executive summary:

“The (medtech) industry is increasingly concentrated in a shrinking number of large players. All of those companies are scouring the globe for medtech innovation. With fewer startups in the system, the industry’s dominant companies recognize the long-term threat to innovation represented by fewer companies fueling the industry’s pipeline of innovation. All these factors represent a present and future threat to American leadership in the industry, to medical innovation and, ultimately, to patients.” Continue reading

TreeHouse Health Names Its 13th Portfolio Company

The winner of the 2016 Minnesota Cup, the largest business plan competition in the U.S., has been named by healthcare-startup incubator TreeHouse Health in Minneapolis as its latest portfolio company. StemoniX is leading the development and manufacturing of human-induced pluripotent stem cells for pharmaceutical drug-discovery applications, such as biologically accurate, miniaturized organ-like microtissues.TreeHouse-FinalLogo

“We are excited to announce the addition of StemoniX to the TreeHouse Health ecosystem,” said J.D. Blank, managing director, in a prepared statement. “Through their innovative work, they are advancing the field of drug discovery and ultimately helping patients get better treatment more quickly.”

StemoniX’s biotechnology provides scientists with standardized, easy-to-use, cost-effective access to relevant human microtissue for toxicity and efficacy screening. stemonix-logoIncorporated in Minnesota, the company is colocated in Minneapolis and San Diego, California.

TreeHouse Health defines itself as an “innovation center” designed to invest in emerging healthcare companies and help accelerate their growth. It says Stemonix is setting a new standard for stem cell technologies to meet the demands of drug discovery and personalized medicine.

mncup-logo-squareStemoniX earned the Grand Prize and title of “Best Breakthrough Business Idea of 2016” at the 12th annual MN Cup awards, held on September 22, 2016 at the University of Minnesota.

StemoniX says its efforts are revolutionizing stem cell-based research and drug screening and will lead to a new era of drug discovery and personalized medicine. “We’re grateful to become part of TreeHouse Health as a portfolio company,” said Ping Yeh, CEO. “We’re confident our relationship with TreeHouse Health will help us establish a strong presence in Minnesota, as well as generate new opportunities for Minnesota-based financing and collaborative partnerships with TreeHouse Health anchor tenants and other connections.”

TreeHouse Health now has 13 portfolio companies.

TreeHouse Health now has 13 portfolio companies.

Yeh continued: “We are thankful to the MN Cup organizers, sponsors, and community for their support and the opportunities created by our participation in the competition this year, which includes our new relationship with TreeHouse Health.”

Along with providing investment, TreeHouse Health offers its portfolio companies access to its ecosystem consisting of leading healthcare organizations (its “anchor tenants”), professional service providers, and other emerging healthcare companies. To date, TreeHouse Health has invested in thirteen early-stage healthcare companies and has anchor tenant relationships with Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (BCBS), and Accenture.

 

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