Why this former spine surgeon built an incubator for healthcare startups in Seattle

Dr. Jeffrey Roh started his career as an entrepreneur after creating a method for a less invasive form of spine surgery. He started knocking on the doors of spine companies to sell the idea and got what many first-time entrepreneurs experience: lots of rejections.

Eventually, he landed a buyer that would later take the technology to a number of surgical platforms — but only after discovering a brand new opportunity.

“We recognized that there was this pain point both on the entrepreneurial side, as well as the industry side,” Roh said. Here was the problem: large healthcare businesses had shifted their appetite away from internal research and development teams in favor of acquiring companies. But life science companies need lots of early-stage support, which is hard to come by.

Roh took a page from the tech industry’s handbook and started an incubator in Seattle called IntuitiveX with the goal of supporting startups during those critical early years.

“In the tech industry, you can actually start up a company with relatively low barriers and low initial investment capital,” Roh said. But for life science companies, early investment in intellectual property is essential to getting up and running. Roh co-founded IntuitiveX with Mark Hahn and Simon Robinson, who both brought extensive intellectual property knowledge.

Since launching in 2016, IntuitiveX has amassed a portfolio of a dozen startups, which includes digital health, medical device and biotech companies. Given Roh’s own background in spinal surgery, it’s no surprise that six of the incubator’s startups are working on efforts related to surgery or spinal conditions.

The format is a hybrid of accelerator programs like TechStars and Y Combinator as well as “startup studios” such as Pioneer Square Labs. The idea for an IntuitiveX startup can come from people within the incubator or from outsiders, which in most cases involves someone with technical knowledge who needs business and financing support. In exchange for equity, the incubator provides both funding and expertise to young companies.

By James Thorne | GeekWire

Image Credit: James Thorne / GeekWire


About Peter Coffaro 477 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 25 years of progressive management success within the medical device industry. Recognized by the World Journal of Orthopedics, Exponential Healthtech, and MedReps.com as one of the top medical sales influencers in the industry; he has 10 years of combined sales management experience and has held positions as a Director, General Manager, Distributor, and Vice President. Peter has worked for some of the top orthopedic companies in the world - Zimmer, DePuy, and Stryker. He is also the founder of OrthoFeed: a popular blog that covers digital orthopedic news and emerging medical technologies. Peter is a three-time Hall of Fame award winner at Johnson and Johnson and has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, digital marketing, and professional education. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology and Chemistry from Northern Illinois University.

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