‘Scaling Up’ for most entrepreneurs is synonymous with growth and revenue, so it makes sense to think scaling when the startup is nascent, right?
We talk to Dr. Satya Prakash Dash, a startup virtuoso and ex-founding Head Strategy Partnerships & Entrepreneurship Development & In-charge Head IP, BIRAC, DBT, Government of India & currently Board Member at Venture Center Pune. He shares his insights and opinions on when a MedTech startup should think of scaling up and when they must implement scaling strategies, precautions they should take when scaling, and can a startup build scale when it is still on the drawing board.
Answering any of these questions first requires defining what scale-up means to the startup, observes Satya Prakash, and that’s where we start our discussion.
Defining 'Scale Up'
The definition of scale-up depends on many factors that vary for each startup, as their value system – are you a for-profit MedTech startup or a social enterprise. Still, putting these variables aside can create a common framework for scale-up that applies to any startup.
There are certain factors a startup should take into account when defining scale-up, says Satya.
- What are your organization’s mission and vision?
- Who is the product going to impact, and what is the depth of this impact?
- What is your product’s reach (in terms of geographical reach) going to be?
- Are your investors aligned with the strategy for scaling?
- Is your organization (or its scale-up plans) ready to match the product scale-up?
Answering these questions from the perspective of your startup will help you define scale-up for your business.
When Should a Business Think of Scaling Up
The right time to scale up should be thought through from the valleys of death perspective, says Satya. The lifecycle of a MedTech startup involves ideation (proof of concept), validation, MVP, manufacturing scale-up, and sales and marketing. In addition, each valley involves stakeholders who come together to see the business through the valley.
While a startup should keep scaling up in mind right from a nascent stage, executing a scaling strategy should happen around the MVP stage so that a clear scale-up strategy is ready by the time the product reaches manufacturing scale-up.
Yes, scaling can be planned when the product is still on the drawing board, Satya reiterates. Still, a MedTech startup in the ideation stage has many variables and uncertainties (technological & engineering, materials needed, suppliers, government regulations, robustness in field conditions, etc.), each of which will define the startup’s path. In addition, the possibilities for product components and attributes to change is also higher early on and reduces as the product moves down the product funnel. Therefore, planning a scale-up when the startup’s path and the product’s components are well defined is the more optimal choice, which happens to be around the MVP stage.
Satya advises using the ideation and validation stage to plan how the product will look, where it will go, how it will be scrutinized by customers and regulators, and use the leeway in product component choice to build a product that works for the organization and its audience while thinking of scale-up once you have an MVP.
With all that being said, businesses must also be open for luck in scale-up, says Satya. The pandemic indicates how turbulence can significantly force companies to rethink their business vision, including scaling up. Several MedTech startups pivoted during the pandemic. Some got traction of their products with several orders pouring in, while others used their platform technologies to build and manufacture Covid19 related products, such as rapid diagnostic kits. Many startups realized the importance of robust supply chains, distributors and keeping sufficient stocks of components for scaled manufacturing. In addition, constantly speaking to stakeholders will help you gauge and calibrate your startup’s scale-up path.
Scaling Up is a Perennial Process. So what Can Startups do to Catalyze Scaling Up and Ensure It Happens Optimally?
Building a product is an amalgamation of science, technology, art, and social science, all of which are facilitated and executed by people within the organization, muses Satya. There are three core factors to consider when scaling –
- Ensure you have the right strategy to scale the product and organization simultaneously.
- Adopt processes and tools to cater to the challenges of scaling up.
- Make sure your organizational culture is aligned to the scale-up. Communicate with all stakeholders and ensure your people are being heard.
Satya reinforces the importance of the people within the company. Clarity and speed of communication, as well as speed of response if customer satisfaction is not achieved, are essential. Teams are interlinked, and hence needs of the interlinked teams at a granular level should be at the forefront of the organization’s culture.
Are There Any Precautions a Startup Must Keep in Mind When Scaling Up?
Plan. Do. Check. Adjust
Satya sums up the precautions a startup must take when scaling:
- Your scale-up execution must stay true to its definition. Do not drift or cut corners.
- Startups must think of quality management systems (QMS) from an early stage, so there is a systematic approach to building a product.
- Constantly understand where the market is moving by talking to people who will use (or are using) the product.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate on as many different platforms as possible.
- You’re always under a tight budget, so map your resources.
- Make sure the people in your team are energized and happy. Take care of the people in your organization.
- If you are scaling across geographies (or internationally), do necessary due diligence, adhere to the local country’s regulation to the dot, build trust with local partners, and make all possible channels of communication open.
The Key to Scaling a MedTech Startup
Always pay attention to these factors when scaling, says Satya.
- Is your product robust, and does it fulfill your customer’s needs?
- Is your manufacturing unit prepared to fulfill large-scale demands?
- Are your on-ground teams – sales, marketing, procurers, etc., able to match the scale-up demands?
- Have you taken legalities and regulations into consideration significantly when scaling across nationalities?
- And finally, and most importantly, according to Satya, have you planned the scale-up of your organization and people along with the product scale-up?
MedTech businesses must, by nature of their domain, be sensitive to people’s needs. This has become more evident during the Covid pandemic. Whether a scale-up improves the quality of life of a (new) group of people is an excellent question to ask when planning a business scale-up.
Through his leadership, Dr. Satya Prakash Dash has successfully contributed to building ecosystems, organizations, and teams that have transformed societies through top-class innovation programs. He has played a key role in the evolving biotech and MedTech entrepreneurial ecosystem in India. He authored the blueprint of the Indian Biotechnology 2025 Roadmap at the behest of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, published in 2012. He has designed & deployed more than 17 national programs that have collectively funded & supported more than 1500 biotech/MedTech startups, established a dozen national & global partnerships, supported 60 tech incubators. Collectively this was instrumental in the development of more than 100 #medtech and #biotech #products.
More on Dr. Dash: https://www.linkedin.com/in/spdash/