Diversity and inclusion are of paramount importance in promoting creative thinking for organizations and startups. And certainly an industry that thrives on being innovative and disruptive has every reason to be a frontrunner in bridging the gap and amplifying the conversation. That’s why Fogarty Innovation launched Diversity by Doing HealthTech (DxD) in early 2020 with Stanford Biodesign, and sought out alliances with likeminded groups, such as MedTech Color.
According to a study conducted by AdvaMed, only 3.2% of leadership roles in the medical device industry are held by Black people; and MedTech Color was conceived to help bolster those numbers. A desire to build a sense of community and increase the number of underrepresented executives in the industry led to the formation of the nonprofit following a dinner of 15 African American leaders in the industry in 2017. “We felt we could make a big impact by creating a community where professionals could come together and see other leaders of color in the industry,” said Kwame Ulmer, co-founder of MedTech Color, Venture Partner at Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health and Principal of Ulmer Ventures.
Programs offer educational and networking opportunities
The organization started by sponsoring a networking breakfast, which has now become a core part of its programing. The next event will be held this year in Boston, with an anticipated 300+ medtech professionals coming together to discuss the medtech landscape.
Since its inception, the group has added two more programs, the Pitch Competition, which awards up to $250,000 to medtech startups led by African Americans or Latinx entrepreneurs, and the Collaborative Community, a partnership with the FDA and other key stakeholders to diversify medical device product development and clinical research. “We decided these programs were the best way to move the needle in our industry after seeking feedback from multiple stakeholders and holding strategic planning sessions,” said Kwame.
One of the perks of the pitch competition is that the winners receive access to resources such as one-on-one meetings with venture capitalists, master classes and workshops led by industry leaders, often with an invitation to enter corporate accelerators. “Our partners supercharge the impact for these early-stage companies, and we are looking forward to our upcoming event,” says Kwame
The deadline to apply for the 2022 MedTech Color Pitch Competition is January 14, 2022. The top 10 projects will be announced on January 28, and the live competition, hosted by BioscienceLA, is scheduled for March 8 in Los Angeles. “We are anticipating our largest turnout to date and are excited to have more capital to invest for promising early-stage companies that will eventually become the leaders in our ecosystem,” said Kwame. The event will be part of MedTech Week and feature a discussion of a new collaboration between MedTech Color, BioscienceLA and Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health to dramatically increase investments in early-stage medtech companies based in Los Angeles.
Rapid growth fuels success
Partners such as Danaher, Johnson & Johnson and ResMed have been the backbone of the organization. While it began as an all-volunteer group, in 2021 MedTech Color hired its first two full-time staff members who will help execute on the programs. “I’m really excited about our steady growth, and we anticipate increasing our staff level in 2022 as we strive to make a measurable and quantitative impact,” said Kwame, adding that he looks forward to the Collaborative Communities program growing three-fold.
Since its start, the community has quickly grown to over 2,000 stakeholders, partners and active members and expanded from one corporate sponsor to over 10 today. Kwame is optimistic about the group’s future, as he sees increasing interest and response from companies who want to join together to support the organization’s mission. AdvaMed, for example, has been a true leader in coordinating its many members to express support via a unified voice. “We’ve been very encouraged by this strong support and believe this is just the beginning. There’s a substantial opportunity to increase in capital commitment that companies can put to work for diversity leadership teams, to really make a transformational change. The number of partners that have been coming on board with our organization is proof of this desire to truly make a profound impact and accelerate change,” says Kwame.
Would your company like to help support this important endeavor? MedTech Color continues to broaden its base of corporate sponsors. Reach out to the group at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about supporting its mission.