Date: Dec 01, 2014 Author: Caitlin Hill Source: Company Data (
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Managing a relationship shift with some clients has been part of St. Paul company's rapid evolution
By Caitlin Hill
The concept for medical device company Minnetronix came about 18 years ago, when company CEO Rich Nazarian was working as an engineer at 3M in the medical device arena. “It seemed like there was a good opportunity, and an original idea, to do some sort of engineering consulting for other medical device companies,” he says.
Later, Minnetronix became more involved in manufacturing. Today the St Paul--based company has about 200 employees and specializes in the design, manufacture, and support of electronics-based medical devices. It works on a broad range of devices in a number of medical specialties, which Nazarian says is part of the company’s attraction.
There was a great deal of risk and investment, he notes, in getting into the manufacturing industry, especially since the company has been self-financed to date. “The marriage of an engineering organization with a manufacturing organization can be really challenging,” he says. “We have grown considerably in the last 10 years — that was a big step.”
In the beginning, the company mainly focused on developing software, electronics, and electro-mechanically inclined products. More recently, it has expanded into mechanical activities and production, as well as developing its own intellectual property.
In recent years Nazarian observed medical device companies looking outside their own walls for intellectual property they can use or acquire. For Minnetronix, that’s spelled opportunity. One technology it developed and licensed supports ventricular assist devices — mechanical pumps used to support heart function and blood flow for people with weak hearts. “The future of those [devices] is to put them entirely inside the body,” Nazarian explains. “To do that, you need to send power to them wirelessly.”
Developing such technologies without being commissioned represents a relationship shift with some clients, he acknowledges. But, “the appetite of our customers and changes in the market have created opportunities for us to get devices from someone’s idea into medical practice.”
One Minnetronix customer is Philip Vierling, owner and president of consulting company Plumb Line Vision. He first heard about Minnetronix 15 years ago while working as the CEO of med-tech company Empi, which contracted Minnetronix for the design of a new medical device that it later manufactured in its own facility. “Based on that positive experience, I approached Minnetronix when pursuing a medical device startup several years ago, asking them, specifically, if they could provide many of the resources [the company needed] to be a virtual company,” Vierling says.
The services Minnetronix provided helped his startup obtain venture funding and become Kalypto Medical. Minnetronix provided the entire product development plan under its quality system, which enabled Kalypto to develop the master file required by the FDA. Minnetronix developed devices, established a repair center, and operated the company’s fulfillment center from 2006 to 2012.
Providing such services has enabled Minnetronix to gain new clients primarily through word-of-mouth since its inception.
Of course, Nazarian and his leadership team have found opportunities to improve the company and foster its culture along the way. “In the beginning, we grossly underestimated and didn’t understand the role of a board of directors very well,” he says. “We didn’t appreciate its value in shaping the direction they set for a company. That took us a while to learn.”
Over the years, he says, hiring the right people has been key. The company puts a great deal of energy into on-campus recruiting. “It’s a disproportionate time and energy for the size of the company,” he admits. “I think it’s important. When we hire people in key positions, the time and energy we put into it is exceptional.”
Another way he’s able to find new talent, and spread the word about Minnetronix, is through his support of and involvement in the annual Design of Medical Devices Conference. Facilitated by the University of Minnesota, the event has garnered a reputation as being among the world’s best. “[It provides] a ton of intangible rewards for Minnetronix,” Nazarian says. “What they’re trying to do there is important for patients and clinicians and the community. It’s important for us to support it.”
Original Article from Minnesota Business Magazine, 2014