Casey McGlynn Shares Insights on Launching Some of the Biggest Companies and Working With the Brightest Stars in the Medtech Field

by | Jun 30, 2021 | Mentoring, Thought Leadership

Foreword: The following is an abbreviated transcript from the latest Medtech Trailblazers, the real stories behind the innovators, Fogarty Innovation’s series of casual, in-depth conversations aimed at discovering the people who have forged our industry. To view part I of the videocast click here

The term “medtech trailblazers” encompasses far more than just those who create innovative devices, and an excellent case in point is Casey McGlynn, one of the most legendary attorneys in our field. As a founding architect of our industry, he has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs navigate the explosive growth of this industry over the last 40 years. 

Casey kicked off his prolific career in life sciences when he incorporated Advanced Cardiovascular Systems (ACS), which eventually led to building one of the largest medical device/life science legal practices in the country. As a partner at Wilson Sonsini, he has focused on helping entrepreneurs start, fund, grow and sell their companies. Along the way, he helped to form and participate on the boards of organizations in all the major life science fields, ranging from cancer to cardiovascular to women’s health and so many more. His passion lies in ensuring new therapies get to patients.

Casey is also a long-time friend of Dr. Tom Fogarty, with whom he worked on several startups, and Fogarty Innovation, whose board he joined in 2013. 

Andrew Cleeland (AC) had the pleasure of chatting with Casey (CM) and the following is an excerpt of his interview.  

AC. Tell us a little bit about your background and where you come from.

CM. I am a seventh-generation Californian, I was born in Hollywood and raised in the Hollywood Hills. My ancestor, Don Antonio Yorba, came over on a boat from Spain in the 1700s and was part of the Portola Expedition that founded the Missions in California. As a young kid, I was a Boy Scout and became an Eagle Scout. Later, I earned an undergraduate economics degree and a law degree from Santa Clara University with a full scholarship from the State of California. Without that scholarship I am sure my life experience would have been very different.  

Santa Clara of course brought me to Silicon Valley which, in hindsight, provided me with the most incredible opportunity you can imagine.  

AC. After law school, you joined Wilson Sonsini. What was that like?

CM. In 1978 when I graduated from law school and joined Wilson Sonsini, the firm and Silicon Valley were both still very young. In fact, when I interviewed with the firm, it was Wilson Mosher and Sonsini, but changed to Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati just as I started. In hindsight, the firm was not very stable at the time, but it turned out to be a rocket ship, headed for the moon. We had just begun to see the revolution of startups in Silicon Valley, and the firm was prospecting for new opportunities in the electronics industry and eventually in the life sciences industry. That first decade at the firm was truly an incredible ride as there were just a few lawyers and so many opportunities to seize.  

AC. What made you open up the life sciences practice?

CM. I was just sitting in my office, a first-year associate, when Larry Sonsini walked into my office and introduced me to Ray Williams who wanted to start a company. I sat down with Ray and heard more about his startup, Advanced Cardiovascular Systems (ACS), a company he co-founded with John Simpson, MD. I created and filed the articles of incorporation and began working with Ray on the company’s formation, and little did I realize that this chance meeting would change my entire career. That first year, I helped incorporate ACS (predecessor to Guidant Corporation) and Lam Research Corporation (today the world’s second largest semiconductor equipment company). The people I met through Wilson Sonsini and the work I did at the firm were just amazing.

In those early times, I soon realized I needed to either focus on life sciences or be a generalist, and I chose to focus on life sciences. I felt that the world was just too big, with too many opportunities, and if I wanted to be an expert, I needed to really focus deeply on one thing. I felt there could be nothing more exciting than meeting with CEOs and helping these visionaries change the world and save lives.  How could anything be better than that!

AC. What was it like to work with these medtech giants—people like Ray Williams, John SimpsonTom FogartyAllan Will and so many others?

CM. Each one had a very different personality. Ray Williams was the humblest guy you could ever meet, but he was also a visionary. People were immediately attracted Ray because he was so kindhearted. But he was also a very shrewd financial guy from IBM and a founder/CFO of Amdahl, one of the first supercomputer companies. Ray started a lot of medtech companies that I had the honor to work on (in addition to ACS).

John Simpson, the other founder of ACS and co-inventor of its balloon angioplasty catheter system, was a brilliant doctor and a perfectionist. He could look at technology and immediately see what wasn’t working quite right. It was just amazing to see how he could constantly find a way to improve things. After ACS, John continued to invent, start/grow and sell companies in the cardiovascular and vascular area.  He was so dedicated to developing products that could solve large unmet needs. He was a brilliant visionary, like Tom Fogarty.

I met Tom Fogarty through John Simpson. One of John Simpson’s many companies was Devices for Vascular Interventions (DVI). Allan Will was its CEO and Tom sat on the board of directors. As time passed, I began to work with Tom on some of his own startups; he isn’t only an inventor, he is a hands-on developer and a very secretive guy. Therefore, I never really saw or heard about his inventions before he was ready to start a company. He had them hidden in his workshop that only a few engineers had access to. Tom was a heart surgeon by day and a tinker by night when he would visit his workshop and collaborate with his engineers. I have always enjoined working with Tom because he was a shrewd businessman, very focused on making sure he and his teams did well, but more importantly he was completely focused on delivering lifesaving products to patients.  

Allan Will is another giant and one the smartest, most ethical and hardest-working persons I know. He is an incredible strategist. He’s been a CEO and venture capitalist. He has founded some incredible companies (including DVI and Aneurx).  He created the Foundry (a medical incubator), and he’s been a mentor to a huge number of people. He has a steady hand, a big vision and is extremely wise about how to build a company. 

AC. Where does your passion for this industry come from?

CM. Here’s what I really love about life sciences and particularly the medical device industry—you can do well by doing good, and you can make this world a better place. Often when somebody comes into my office to talk about a product, it’s a long way from being fully thought out. Yet, I can think about that product concept and get so excited about the people that product will help. That’s really what gives me the passion; it’s not just another widget, it’s a product that’s going to save somebody’s life. 

I have represented hundreds of companies in the medical device field, of course many of them were focused on cardiovascular, but I have represented medtech companies in almost any field you can think of.  There’s hardly a company that comes to me that is working on something in a medical area with which I am not familiar. It’s truly satisfying to see how these entrepreneurs keep building on past technologies, some that were successful and some that failed, always aiming to see how a new idea can improve on patient outcomes. To me, it’s very exciting to see how entrepreneurs continue to move the needle in healthcare. 

…And while I can’t develop an idea for a medical device or improve on it, I can help connect an entrepreneur to a CEO, engineer, doctor or other expert in the field. I love to draw on past relationships to help clients find individuals who have previously worked in their area of interest. This networking helps founders find coaches, cofounders, engineers, consultants and investors, all of whom can potentially move the project forward. People want to help the next generations of entrepreneurs move things forward, and I believe this drive to help is something that’s unique about our industry.

AC. What’s venture investment looking like? 

CM. I feel like the venture business has really come back in a big way for medical devices in the last few years. Most of them are trying to do later-stage investments, so we’ve got to keep digging for new investors interested in early stage. But there are some fantastic early-stage VCs today who have really jumped in and shown their wisdom in terms of funding and committing to help young entrepreneurs create great companies. The key is (1) a founder/CEO with a real game changing idea, (2) some demonstrable progress on developing that idea and (3) a willing early-stage investor to fund that idea. It all takes a lot of work and tenacity. So while it is a better time today for early-stage companies than a few years ago, it certainly isn’t easy to be an entrepreneur.

AC. Any wisdom you can impart for our young innovators?

CM. I would just say medtech is a long path. You have to find a product and an area that’s really important because it’s a long road. And if you aren’t solving a big need or creating a big enough idea, then it may be hard to raise money. I really want to encourage people to swing for the fences. Let’s change this world. You’ve got so many things you could work on, and you’ve only got so many years so try to find something that’s really going to ring the bell.

I am very optimistic about medtech—hopefully it’s going to keep us all healthy for many years to come.

Click here to view Casey’s full bio.

  • Search by category: