Founder and Executive Director of MedTech Color
Kwame Ulmer wears many hats in our medtech community; he serves as Principal at Ulmer Ventures, as a medtech investor with Wavemaker 360 Health and as Founder and Executive Director of MedTech Color. Kwame and I first met as judges and advisors to Medtech Innovator, the largest global medtech accelerator. Veranex (formerly Ximedica) is a sponsor to Medtech Innovator and our team supports and mentors startups. Mike Neidert, Vice President of Strategic Development at Veranex, and I regularly send promising startups to Kwame for his wise counsel. When we heard about MedTech Color’s upcoming Pitch Competition on March 23, 2021, I reached out to Kwame to learn more and spread the word.
Could you provide an overview of MedTech Color?
MedTech Color is a non-profit organization that advances the representation of persons of color in the medtech industry. The medtech industry serves hundreds of millions of people globally but suffers from the lost learnings and insights from persons of color who are largely absent from high-level decision making. There is immense untapped potential from people of color, and MedTech Color is committed to providing and promoting opportunities for them to make a meaningful contribution to the industry.
How does MedTech Color achieve its mission?
MedTech Color seeks to advance representation through community building, thought leadership, and professional development. MedTech Color does this by hosting networking events, offering pertinent resources / job opportunities on their website and social media channels, driving clinical trial enrollment of patients from under-represented groups and providing capital / mentorship opportunities to early stage medtech companies.
What was the tipping point which led to the foundation of MedTech Color?
In the Fall of 2017, a group of 15 executives in the medtech industry got together over dinner. We shared stories of challenges we needed to overcome in our personal and professional lives to reach success. It was a pivotal moment – an emotional one – and we resolved to bring more people of color to the medtech ecosystem by reducing existing barriers and providing opportunities for professional growth. MedTech Color makes a meaningful contribution to this industry by increasing the number of diverse voices and advocates within the medtech community. MedTech Color was officially established in 2018 by seven founding members including (in addition to me):
- Angelique Johnson, CEO/founder of MEMStim LLC
- Ernest Adams, SVP Talent, Ralph Lauren
- Ibraheem Badejo, Ph.D., Senior Director New Ventures (Med Devices), Johnson & Johnson Innovation Center
- Javier Evelyn, Founder and CEO, Alerje
- Nada Hanafi, Chief Strategy Officer – Experien Group
- Vernessa T. Pollard, Partner, Co-Leader of FDA Practice, McDermott Will & Emery
What has the reception been like in the medtech community?
We have received a warm reception. Once exposed, our partners understand the issue and want to get involved. We started with seven founding members and have grown to encompass nearly 1,000 stakeholders. Additionally, MedTech Color has 17 sponsors who help support MedTech Color’s important initiatives. Platinum sponsors include Danaher, McDermott Will & Emery, Johnson and Johnson, Medtronic, ResMed, the Mullings Group, and the California HealthCare Foundation. Other sponsors include Abiomed, AdvaMed, BD, Health+Commerce, MedTech Innovator, MedtechWomen, Octane, Stryker, Stanford Biodesign Alumni Association, and the UCLA Biodesign Program.
It’s been fantastic to see the excitement and positive reactions our mission has generated. Our annual MedTech Color Networking Breakfast at the AdvaMed Conference had nearly 300 participants, which was an 88% increase from the year prior. We’ve also hosted or participated in over 10 webinars and panels, and significantly expanded the number of partnerships and sponsorships supporting MedTech Color. The growth of MedTech Color is largely due to the immense number of passionate supporters in the medtech community who believe in our mission and want to get involved.
Tell us about your upcoming MedTech Color Pitch Competition?
Over the next decade, MedTech Color plans to provide quantifiable support to 100 Black and brown medtech founders by 2030, as well as create a network of over 10,000 stakeholders. MedTech Color’s first step is to award $100,000 in non-dilutive funding and in-kind services to 10 companies who have diverse founders at our first pitch competition, which will be held on March 23, 2021. The 90-minute event will feature pre-recorded pitches with a live Q&A and deliberation. To learn more, visit LINK.
What benefits will the winning start-up founders receive?
Knowing that Black entrepreneurs receive less than 1% of venture funding, we will seek to address this problem by providing capital and curated resources / mentorship from key strategic life science and medtech industry partners and investors. By providing access to top-tier service providers, we directly provide start-up roadmap and development support for Black and brown founders. This mentorship is not soft, but concrete, giving specific feedback and support to help grow the value of their companies. All applicants will benefit and have access to masterclasses led by ResMed and Johnson & Johnson (J&J).
Selected top ten pitching startups will receive these benefits:
- Opportunity to pitch to VIP judges such as leaders with J&J, Olympus, ResMed and top venture capital firms
- Curated masterclasses on what strategics are looking for in startups
- Workshops led by J&J
- JLABS membership and mentorship by J&J leaders
- Match-making event with venture capitalists hosted by Bio LA
- Opportunity to pitch at a Medtech Innovator accelerator event, the largest global medtech accelerator
- Inclusion in the California Life Science Institute’s (CLSI’s) FAST advisory program
One start-up will receive a special prize from our platinum sponsor ResMed which includes $25,000 in capital and a curated 6-month accelerator program.
What are the criteria for acceptance in the MedTech Color Pitch Event?
We are looking for early stage medtech startups (defined as medical device, diagnostics or digital health) that would gain value from an intimate relationship with top-tier partners (California Life Science Institute’s (CLSI’s) FAST program, Medtech Innovator, top tier law firms), a modest non-dilutive capital investment, and other services they can access. Our desire is to support startups that have raised $1M or less, focusing on great ideas that could really use solid ecosystem support. We deploy the same metrics as other accelerators e.g. CLSI’s FAST program or Medtech Innovator.
How is your program different from other accelerators in the medtech space?
We are the only program singularly focused on medtech startups led by under-represented groups. We are looking to support Black and brown start-up leadership.
Any special asks for the medtech community?
We welcome sponsoring partners for our MedTech Color Pitch Event. Please reach out to us on our website to learn more: LINK
What will be next on the MedTech Color horizon?
- Annual MedTech Color Networking Breakfast for the MedTech Community in the Fall of 2021 – This will be led by board member, Vernessa Pollard, Partner, FDA Practice Leader at McDermott, Will & Emery.
- Diversifying Clinical Trials Initiative in 2021 – This will be led by board members, Vernessa Pollard, Partner, FDA Practice Leader at McDermott, Will & Emery, and Nada Hanafi, Chief Strategy Officer, Experien Group.
More about Kwame Ulmer, Founder and Executive Director of MedTech Color
Medtech Color LINK
Twitter: @medtechcolor LinkedIn: MedTechColor
Become a sponsor of Medtech Color Pitch Event – March 23, 2021 LINK
Kwame Ulmer – MedTech Color Founder and Board Member
Kwame Ulmer is the Principal at Ulmer Ventures – A Regulatory Strategy Consulting firm and Venture Partner at Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health (WM360) – the leading Southern-California based, early-stage venture capital firm (Seed and Series A) focused on the healthcare industry. He brings nearly twenty years of experience evaluating medical technologies in the government and serving in senior operating roles at medical device companies. This experience enables him to expertly invest in companies and guide them in efficiently navigating global regulatory agencies.
Kwame is the founder and executive director of MedTech Color, a non-profit 501(c)(3) with a mission to advance the representation of persons of color in the medical device industry. This organization has three main programs: 1) a partnership with the FDA to increase diversity in medical device clinical trials 2) a partnership with Industry to provide capital to diverse medical device companies 3) a convener of the largest gathering of leaders of color in the medical device industry.
Mr. Ulmer previously served as the Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Quality Assurance at Implant Direct, a Danaher Corporation (Fortune 150) operating company. Kwame has in-depth knowledge of the international standards, country-specific laws and regulation, and cross-functional activities needed to take a medical product from concept to product launch in markets including North America, Europe, EMEA, China and LATAM. Kwame has served in progressive leadership roles at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and personally evaluated over 1,000 medical technologies.
Mr. Ulmer leads the MedTech practice at WM360 and participates in all aspects of fundraising and firm management (e.g. deal sourcing, diligence, negotiation and advising portfolio company management teams). He advises early-stage life science companies for the NIH on their regulatory path, business development and go-to-market strategy. Mr. Ulmer also provides advice on diversity efforts within the NIH.
Kwame serves on the board of the University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group. He is also a lecturer on MedTech Innovation at the University of California Los Angeles Anderson School of Management. He earned his B.S. in Physics from Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) and both an M.S. in Materials Engineering and an M.B.A. from the University of Virginia.