Podcast: Dr. Ken Gall and the Bridge between Academia and Entrepreneurship

elevar-executive roundtable

This is the sixth installment of Elevar’s Executive Roundtable interview series. For this podcast, we shift our focus to the entrepreneurial world and feature insights from startup executives and get their take on the future of digital health, innovation trends and emerging technologies that are disrupting the healthcare industry. Enjoy and check back regularly for future podcasts!

ken gall bio pic Elevar had the privilege to speak with Dr. Ken Gall, Professor of Bioengineering at Duke University and Associate Director in the Pratt School of Engineering – MEDx Initiative. In addition to his research he has consulted for the US Military, the US Intelligence Community, as well as the private sector. Dr. Gall is a passionate entrepreneur who founded two medical device start-up companies, MedShape and Vertera that have commercialized university-based technologies in the orthopedic medical device space.

Thoughts from Professor Gall:

  • I am a huge supporter of the connection between academia/ research and entrepreneurship. In the past couple of years especially, it has really become supported at all levels across a number of institutions (for professors and students to start companies). You are also starting to see masters and PhD programs weave entrepreneurship into the curriculum in addition to basic science studies.
  • I was really naïve going in to my first startup that I think was both a good and bad thing. It allowed me to trudge out to the battlefield without much worry but I also made a lot of mistakes. We built the first company too big too soon and we burned a lot of money.
  • Another lesson learned that’s applicable to introducing new technologies is you think you can bring them to the market easier because it’s a shiny new object that you can market and sell fast but actually it can be more difficult. Even though there is value to a customer, it takes a while to convert people and educate customers.
  • The impetus for practitioners to become entrepreneurs could stem from their desire to get their ideas and products to market faster to help impact patients. For me (an academic), I realized that if I didn’t push some of this technology to the marketplace myself and see how it might impact society, it might never happen. So my motivation came from wanting to see basic research I was doing have impact in the commercial world.
  • Some innovations I find particularly exciting are around designing implants to work with biologics, 3D printing, artificial cartilage and tissue engineering.
  • There are so many reasons to not start a company but it has been such a great experience, both the good and the bad. Being able to see your product helping people makes all the tougher times worth it.
  • Advanced technologies ultimately do win out and you have to have the patience and persistence to go after them – but in the end, it is worth it.
Tune in to the full podcast for Ken’s unique perspective on the relationship between academia and entrepreneurship, new technologies in the mechanical engineering/ material science space, his experience building and growing two medical device startups as well as his advice for digital health entrepreneurs.