Brandon Craft is the Head of Research and Design for Clinvue, a medical device innovation company based out of Westminster, MD. Trained at Virginia Tech as an industrial designer, he founded the consultancy firm in 2010 along with his two partners, fellow industrial designer and mechanical engineer, Paul Fearis and surgeon Dr. Jonathan Sackier. Informed by their combined expertise at identifying the needs of all stakeholders in the design and implementation process, they provide research and development services for cutting edge medical technologies.
The Clinvue team conducts extensive field research and consultation with patients, clinicians, scientists and businesspeople involved with both the development and use of the product. They then create a detailed data package that chronicles the entire history and application of the device. A veritable encyclopedia of all aspects of the product’s development, it includes tech specs, narrative descriptions, pictures and even video footage. This detailed documentation of the development process assists clients in navigating their way through clinical trials and creating a product entirely in synch with their specific market.
The hybrid process that Clinvue’s founders have developed combines the best of business school and design school with the clinical tools of research and observation. By immersing themselves in the healthcare environment in order to test and confirm the viability of their ideas, they are able to translate them into innovative products and services with an actionable plan for their clients. Brandon and Paul volunteer their time at Johns Hopkins University where they teach a graduate course on their innovation process at the Center for Bioengineering, Innovation and Design.
Their total immersion approach has attracted the attention of clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups, including large medical device manufacturers as well as small inventors. Craft and his team have taken their entirely self-funded company and turned it into a solid business with five full-time employees plus a network of associates (subcontractors with various skill sets), available to scale up the size of the team for specific projects or certain businesses. Project areas have included chemotherapy delivery, thoracic surgery, insulin delivery for diabetes and medical packaging.
The first year off the ground was quite challenging. Craft recalls eating a lot of cereal for dinner during the early months of traveling around the country for weeks at a time, making cold calls. The company’s first big win was when a large company heard about the course at Johns Hopkins and asked for an in-house presentation to help them solve one of their problems. That talk turned into a year-long project requiring an expansion of their business, and from there, other companies began jumping on board. Since then, they’ve been steadily developing a client base with increasing name recognition and a good reputation in the industry, in some cases working on projects for three or four different divisions within the same company.
As an entrepreneur, Craft has found the process of founding and developing his own company extremely satisfying. He has particularly enjoyed being able to put his design skills to use in the branding of the business and appreciated being able to develop its history and culture from the ground up. Elements such as a modest office space, regular group bike trips and an ongoing focus on developing their own intellectual properties down the road have created a distinctly flexible and creative environment, in line with Clinvue’s innovative working method.
But perhaps most gratifying has been the opportunity to view the impact of Clinvue’s work through direct benefits to patients, particularly on some of their more consumer based projects, and on medical conditions he has had direct experience with, through family and friends. Brandon and his team have also made it a priority to contribute to the community by partnering with the Starlight Children’s Foundation, donating a portion of their profits to the organization for the last two years. They are currently negotiating with local nursing foundations to give them funding as well.
Craft’s advice to new entrepreneurs? “It’s really nice to go into a business like this with a partner, or someone you can shoot ideas off of during the whole process…. It’s been really valuable having Paul and Jonathan…” However, he recommends really getting to know your prospective partners beforehand, both financially as well as personally because, as he says, “It’s like a marriage.” You definitely want to choose wisely before you make that kind of commitment.
As a child, Craft spent many hours after school sitting and drawing superheroes in the hospital office where his mom worked as a practice manager. Later, armed with a 90 mph pitch, he was grooming himself for a life as a pro baseball player, when a life-altering back injury derailed those plans. Perhaps these behind-the-scenes experiences in the medical marketplace had a hand in directing his work as an engineer into the field of medical product design and innovation, where he resides today. What is certain, is that the team of dedicated individuals at Clinvue is bringing a well rounded awareness into the medical device industry that aims to keep patient needs front and center, alongside broader business concerns.
Listen to the full interview here:
Deborah Oster Pannell is a writer who specializes in the arts, culture, special events and creative & innovative projects of all kinds. As Director of Communications for the tech start-up eventwist, she also manages their blog. Some of her favorite work is featured on modernlifeblogs.com, lizkingevents.com, and her own blog, shesaysyes.wordpress.com. Currently she is preparing to launch Project Mavens, a content branding firm. On Twitter @projectmaven.