Medgadget recently had the chance to interview Adam Bazih, MD, an entrepreneur and angel investor with, as he puts it, “a focus on social media, web startups, and all things medical.” Dr. Bazih is a managing partner at Boombang Medical, a division of Boombang Inc., which is a full service product and creative development agency in Los Angeles. At Boombang, Dr. Bazih manages product development and strategic services to a wide range of medical and healthcare companies, in addition to internally developing healthcare products, brands, ideas, and intellectual property.
Dr. Bazih graduated with honors in microbiology and chemistry and then went on to study medicine and business. He has multiple pending patents, authored scientific publications, and has received numerous scientific research awards. In addition, he has developed and licensed multiple medical device products, in addition to co-founding K_space, an integrated MRI and fMRI hardware and software company. He is also an advisor to and board member at a variety of technology companies, and a member of the Tech Coast Angles.
Medgadget: What attracted you to medicine initially?
Adam Bazih, MD: Since I can remember, I’ve been interested in science and technology; that seed was planted at an early age. My real interest in medicine probably started in high school after volunteering at a hospital. Health and illness are intimate experiences, which cradle both science and emotion. I found that very appealing.
Medgadget: How did you get interested in becoming an entrepreneur in the medical device arena?
Bazih: I would say it was partially unexpected and partially ordained. Entrepreneurship has always been that fascinating star in the sky for me. I think growing up during the computer/software and Internet revolution fueled my interest in ideas of creation, venture capital, and blending professional specialties. Secondly, from my work in healthcare, I continuously found myself asking, ‘can this be done better or differently?’
All in all, my interest in becoming and transitioning to entrepreneurship peaked while at UCLA. It was there that I had the opportunity to interact with a guru in the product design space, Tylor Garland at Boombang Inc. and Robert Heller, MD from a local angel/investor group (Tech Coast Angels). Both are now dear friends and colleagues.
Superficially, medicine/science and business seem in conflict, but I would take the counterpoint to that view. When in balance and appropriately framed, healthcare and business can be very synergistic. The recent boom of mobile healthcare applications devices is perfect example of this.
Medgadget: What advice would you give to a physician looking to enter the medical device industry?
Bazih: Learn as much as you can, be open-minded, and surround yourself with the right people. It’s human nature to focus on what we are good at. It is hard for one individual to be a master at everything: team building and management are critical ingredients for success.
Again, commercializing a medical device requires multiple skill sets from a variety of fields, everything from quality control, R&D, finance, marketing, industrial design, etc. My advice is to early on develop a clear road map, process charts, and a commercialization plan. Having these assets will help one better allocate resources and identify strengths and weaknesses.
Lastly, never ignore your competition and market trends. The medical imaging market is a perfect example of this, where reimbursements, referrals, and technology are constantly shifting the landscape.
Medgadget: What kind of responsibilities do you have on a daily basis as an entrepreneur in the
medical device sector?
Bazih: My responsibilities are probably not that different from most entrepreneurs. I spend a lot of time managing people, expectations, and assets; it’s really like being a conductor. I always tell people, being an entrepreneur is like keeping 20 pots of water boiling at the same time with 4 burners. Entrepreneurship is pure choreography, balance, and leadership.
Most of my work is very exciting and stimulating, but as with any job, it’s occasionally tedious and mundane. Be prepared to pull your sleeves up an get dirty. Like people, companies go through stages, as requirements and responsibilities change. Early on, technology development, prototyping, branding, and fundraising are common challenges. As monies are raised and milestones are met, companies can shift into more sales- and marketing-centric roles. Being able to quickly adapt and shift gears are essential parts of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Medgadget: How difficult is it to transition from practicing medicine to doing what you do now?
All in all, it wasn’t difficult, because I embraced entrepreneurship and was ready for the change. This said, transition means a lot of practice, a lot of anxiety, and making quite a few mistakes as well. Persistence pays.
I would say the biggest difference between medical practice/research and business is structure. Although, an enormous amount of uncertainty exists in medicine and research, especially in today’s economy, there is still an underlying, albeit often awkward, orderliness. In entrepreneurship and product development, it’s a bit like containing chaos and controlling for entropy. The map is constantly shifting, teams are dynamic; it’s a different kind of responsiveness, and it takes time to get used to.
I spend a lot of time working with Tylor Garland and Boombang, both advising and consulting to aspiring medical entrepreneurs, as well as incubating our own intellectual property and devices. With the right team, specialties, and creativity, the entrepreneurship process is magic.
Medgadget: Is there anything you miss by not focusing on clinical work?
Despite the tremendous amount of work and effort, clinical work does provide quite a bit of instant gratification. In a single day, one can make an enormous difference in the lives of his/her patients. In business, a lot of work and planning are for longer-term goals. Ninety perfect right in business can often mean failure: a lot of eggs riding in one basket so to speak. For the most part, I feel that clinical and research work have an inherent day-to-day fulfillment mechanism built in. Business has this as well, but again, it’s more long-term. Much of it is milestone based. One needs to be prepared and committed for the long haul.