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Got a Big Idea? Test Its Viability with this Quiz


Your job as a medical entrepreneur is to kill your idea early and often.

Your job as a medical entrepreneur is to kill your idea early and often.

The innovation landscape is littered with buzzwords describing the impact of new ideas: earth-shattering, killer-app, disruptive, blockbuster, game-changer. Your idea, invention, or discovery might be one of them. However, before you get ahead of yourself—or full of yourself—take the time to do a high-level risk assessment. In this exercise, your goal is to kill your idea early and often at as least cost as possible and continually ask "Why shouldn't I kill this idea now?"

In bioinnovation, the risk categories generally include:

TECHNICAL RISK: Will my invention or discovery do what I claim it will do?

FUNDING RISK: Will I be able to get the money to do what I want to do when I want to do it?

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RISK: Will I be able to protect the intellectual property I create, control it, and defend it?

EXECUTION/TEAM RISK: Will I be able to surround myself with experienced executives who will be able to execute our business plan?

MARKET RISK: Is there a large enough unmet need that will continue to grow and be profitable?

INDUSTRY RISK: Will the industry continue to grow and be immune from threat of substitutes, competitors, shifting suppliers, and buyer power?

BUSINESS MODEL RISK: Will your proposed business model work, i.e., how you will make money and how will you make enough of it quickly enough to satisfy investors?

REVENUE MODEL RISK: Are your assumptions about number of leads, conversion ratios, units sold, revenue/unit, and repeat business valid, or are you betting on "only" 0.1% of the China market?

COST RISK: Are your fixed and variable cost projections reasonable?

REGULATORY AND REIMBURSEMENT RISK: Will you be able to get Food and Drug Administration or other regulatory approval and get someone to pay for your drug, device digital health app, or diagnostic before the money runs out?

Give yourself 1-10 points for each category.

70-100 points: You've got a shot

50-70 points: Sounds like you have more work to do

<50 points: Don't give up your day job.

Performing this risk analysis before moving ahead with a formal feasibility plan (forget the business plan, dude, you are SO not there yet) will help you avoid spending time, effort, and lots of money on an idea that was DOA from the beginning. The last thing you want to hear is your spouse telling you "I told you so.”

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice