October 2010 source: Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry online
The MX Q&A: Ted Driscoll, Claremont Creek Ventures
Fledgling device companies can get a leg up with VC firms by developing a product that is ‘unique and protectable,' says Tibion's anchor investor.
The cofounders of Tibion Bionic Technologies may want to send a thank-you note to Will Smith for helping their start-up get off on the right foot in 2004. Ted Driscoll, a technology partner at Claremont Creek Ventures (CCV) in Oakland, CA, says that Smith's “I, Robot” was in movie theaters when he first saw a lab demonstration of Tibion's Bionic Leg. Driscoll recalls being impressed by the device's capacity to provide enough force “to lift a person out of a chair,” its unique lack of resistance when turned off, its computer-guided technology, and the 25 or so patents.
But the technology zeitgeist also played a role in CCV's decision to invest venture capital funds in the start-up that was cofounded by Tibion's chief technology officer, Robert Horst. “I, Robot” was packing theaters, and “there was a lot of talk about bionics,” Driscoll says. Sold on the applied technology, the VC executive realized that a robotic body part was no longer confined to the fictional realm of big-screen blockbusters “They could actually do this,” Driscoll thought.
Six years later, Sunnyvale, CA–based Tibion is set to finalize a $15-million B-round investment, and the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network in Allentown, PA, has become the first healthcare system in the United States to use the FDA-approved device. Stroke patients at the Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital in Haverhill, MA, are also using the leg, while Stanford University and UC San Francisco are conducting research with it. The leg is not a prosthetic but a rehabilitation device that patients wear during therapy until they relearn how to walk on their own.
In addition to his position as a CCV technology partner, Driscoll is an active angel investor in the Life Science Angels and a founding director of the Sand Hill Angels. Before becoming a VC investor, Driscoll helped found five imaging-related companies, including Be Here Technologies, where he was CEO. He also was responsible for MRI, ultrasound, digital x-ray, and related technologies as division president and CTO of Diasonics. At Diasonics Driscoll directed the team that developed the first commercial MRI scanners.
Holder of more than 40 U.S. and foreign patents, Driscoll received a PhD in digital imaging from Stanford, a masters degree in computer graphics and remote sensing from Harvard, and a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania. CCV continues to be Tibion's “anchor investor,” says the VC executive. Besides discussing why Tibion knocked his socks off, Driscoll talks to MX about what he looks for in a potential device company, the importance of securing ip rights, CCV's view of the investment climate, and what's in a name.
MX: As an investor in medical device start-ups, what elements do you look for that convince you to either pony up or not?
Ted Driscoll: The first thing I'm trying to look for is a market that has some venture scale to it—something that I can scale to a venture return. We don't want to come up with a device that serves only left-handed Lithuanians; we can't necessarily make a sufficient return to justify the time and money. We are looking for deals that will, first of all, justify the years we will put into them and the millions of dollars we will put into them. So we need to make multiple millions of dollars back to justify that. That's a key one.
I'm also particularly interested in technologies that are unique and [IP] protectable, as opposed to just “me-too” technologies.
Read the full interview at: The MX Q&A: Ted Driscoll, Claremont Creek Ventures