Having a creative, inquisitive and innovative engineer can be one of the biggest indicators for success for an early-stage startup. Bernie Andreas brings that expertise—along with a great sense of humor—to his new role as engineer-in-residence at Fogarty Innovation. Here he supports the Invention Accelerator Program (IAP), which oversees clinicians, researchers and faculty, as well as the companies-in-residence and those in the Company Accelerator Program with his technical expertise.
A penchant for hard work and a gift for ingenuity
Bernie learned the value of hard work from his parents who immigrated from Germany. A San Francisco native, he grew up outside the city in rural Marin County and started working at an early age around his house. He got his first full-time job when he was just 13 years old, working in the summer as a janitor at the elementary school he had graduated from. From that point on, he always had a part-time job after school and full-time during the summers, wearing many hats from golf course attendant to sports photographer.
In fact, that’s where he got his first taste of entrepreneurship, traveling to a variety of locations to photograph people at bowling alleys, golf courses and ski resorts. He’d take their pictures, develop the high-speed film on-site, and create color slides that he would place in “keychain viewers” for people to see themselves in action. People snapped up the souvenirs, which he sold for a dollar each.
While in high school, Bernie realized his talent for tinkering and, in junior college, entered an automotive technology certification program. During this time, he got a job as an auto mechanic in a Porsche repair shop, which led to the first of several full-time auto mechanic positions where he earned and saved enough money to go back to school to get his B.S. in mechanical engineering and material science from UC Davis.
At the time, jobs in the field were scarce, so, on a whim, he answered an ad in the newspaper for an entry-level position at Devices for Vascular Intervention (DVI), which later became part of Guidant. “It was a lucky break that set the stage for my career,” he says.
Bernie quickly moved up the ranks to a position as senior engineer and later joined Perclose (Abbott Vascular), where he became the second engineer on the team. “That was a real highlight, being part of a very innovative team and company that was developing breakthrough technologies very quickly,” he says, adding that he was fortunate to be mentored by the likes of the legendary John Simpson and serial entrepreneurs Hank Plain and Allan Will.
Bernie later became engineering director of R&D at The Foundry, where he helped to spin out three companies, including Emphasis, Satiety and Xtent, which is where he first briefly met Andrew Cleeland when he became CEO of Ardian, a portfolio company of The Foundry.
Joining Fogarty Innovation
With more than 100 patents to his name and broad expertise from a variety of medical device company settings, Bernie was ready for his next endeavor, which led him to Fogarty.
“It’s incredibly invigorating to work with these young entrepreneurs, and the mentoring is very much a two-way street as I soak up their knowledge and creativity.” He also enjoys the hands-on part of the design work. “It’s exciting to get in the lab and help them put the pieces of the puzzle together, integrating the technologies that we currently have at our disposal,” Bernie comments.
But what he loves the most is the fact that all technology, even if it seems old, can be reinvented, as reflected in one of his favorite quotes by Carl Sagan, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
“It’s exhilarating to teach these young entrepreneurs that while there may be existing technology, there’s always a way to improve it,” Bernie says.
Having an engineer on staff is a boon to the early-stage concepts and companies, many of whom still don’t have a full team. With Bernie’s vast experience on so many devices, it’s a perfect fit for him and helps position them for success, whether through commercialization or a potential acquisition.
In his spare time, Bernie enjoys being outside golfing and hiking, and spending time with his three kids and wife.