I’m in Minneapolis for the MD&M show. While in town, I took advantage of the opportunity to meet with Ven Manda of Medtronic. I found him to be an interesting guy, and tasked with a fascinating job. As the vice-president of internal ventures, Manda’s job is to uncover internal R&D, determine if it’s viable, then fund that R&D. With an annual budget of $100 million for these ventures, it’s obvious Medtronic is talking these opportunities seriously.
Word on the street is that Medtronic is more interesting in acquiring technology than developing it internally. After speaking to Manda, it’s obvious that this is not true. They really want to come up with their own technology, and are obviously willing to put their money where their mouth is. Manda made it clear that he’s not doling out the money willy-nilly. But he is very interested in helping to discover the next new great technology.
One of the things to keep in mind when funding such ventures is that they’re not all going to pan out. Manda understood the risks involved. “We’re not afraid of having people fail, as long as they fail for the right reasons.” To me, the “right reasons” means that the company can learn from the experience and potentially capitalize at a later time or gain a deeper understanding into a particular space.
Three key criteria that Manda uses in his evaluation process are: is the idea based on solid science; does it identify a critical unmet need; and is there a sound business rationale. That sounds like a solid strategy for any type of business.