Origins story: Meet MDesign co-founder SC
With a career in product design that spans almost 40 years, SC enjoys nothing more than supporting innovative start-up companies to bring their medical device concepts to life. And since co-founding MDesign back in 2004, his team has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs do just that.
We caught up with SC to find out where it all began, what his top piece of advice for medtech start-ups is and where we’re likely to find him when he’s not busy designing.
When did it all begin?
It all started back in 1986 with Philips - so that's almost 36 years working in product design. Right?! I stayed with Phillips for almost 15 years. First as a mechanical designer, later moving into managing people and project management, as well product. My last job before I left being product costing for global line of business Audio with 1.3 billion Euro and financial control for my department.
I left Philips in 2000 during the .com period, when many start-ups were being created. After working for a few years with former colleagues who had left to start their own ventures, I by chance met another of my former colleagues, ES. And it was perfect timing.
He had started his own design company and was looking for a partner on the factory side. At the same time, I was looking for a partner to extend the offering of the factory business I was involved with. So, we made a perfect match, being able to offer the whole value chain.
That's how we ended up getting together. A few years later, going on to officially started MDesign (which stands for Master Design).
Our vision has always been to provide an excellent product development process for start-ups. Hopefully, helping them to make less mistakes and allowing them to focus more on the market, as well as the technology.
What was the first medical device you worked on?
Because of our relationship with Philips, they have been a key customer for us and the first medical device we ever worked on was for them. It was also the first product we provided a full turnkey service for - with us taking on their industrial design and completing the engineering design, software design and electronics, as well as working with the contract manufacturer and achieving all medical regulatory requirements. The device went on to win a President’s Award in the year 2009, which was a very proud moment for us.
What makes MDesign so different?
I think what makes MDesign so different is that we are more prepared to work with start-ups. We are prepared to learn - because I think when you work with start-ups there is a lot of learning time, with almost every project being brand new technology. We have a special passion for design, so we don’t mind learning at the same time as trying out new areas.
I think a key strength of MDesign is that we are a ‘product architect’. That means we are able to put everything together with a focus on achieving key metrics, such as performance and quality levels, reliability and costs, within a certain timeframe.
What advice would you give a medtech start-up?
I think the most important thing you can do is to prioritise. For start-ups, the key elements to consider are the market and the technology.
Understanding the market is crucial, as that’s needed to validate all that you do. For example, you need to know what features will be important to the market. What level of performance will be needed. What price point the customer will be prepared to pay. You also need to talk to the right group of people to get this data, as that will help you to refine your product spec and features. It matters, because every feature will cost money.
The second thing for medical devices is accuracy – that’s vital. The key challenge is what we call ‘the signal noise ratio’. If it's a diagnostic device, the error rate has to be minimal. This is a major challenge for any medtech start-up, so it's very important they to do your research and really understand the technology.
Which products or brands do you personally admire?
There are two brands I admire for very different reasons.
Like most engineers, I really love the convenience, the user experience, ease of use and the connectivity of Apple products, which go beyond engineering design and are so human centric.
The other brand that I really love is IKEA. Again, coming from a design angle, IKEA really streamlined its offering to prioritise features that are needed to do the job. At the same time, it doesn't make things that are ugly. So basic function but made very pleasant. The price point is always at an affordable level and there is no over designing.
Finally, where might we find you outside of work?
There are three things you’re likely to find me doing. The first is cycling - I’ll cycle almost every evening if it isn't raining! I’ve also picked up my camera again. I first started photography when I was in school but when I was busy building my career, I stopped for a long time. Now I’ve picked it up, as I also want to spend more time travelling. So, I need to spend a bit more time practising!
And of course, reading. Especially around topics that I cover when teaching and coaching young designers. I think that’s very important, as things change so fast.
Young designers today don’t have the same opportunities we did - such as to experience a manufacturing line, and see and feel mass production in action - which is one of the reasons why I think it’s so important to find ways to pass on knowledge and share experiences. I hope to help develop the designers of the future, who will take forward the ideas we need to make a better world.