My MedTech Life: Medibrane’s Elad Einav
Welcome to our blog series sharing highlights from conversations with Chamfr sellers, the leaders of companies that are helping to shape and drive the medical device industry forward.
This month, we spoke via videoconference with Elad Einav, CEO of Medibrane. Based in Rosh Hayin, Israel, Medibrane is a contract manufacturer of polymeric covers for medical stent devices. Its unique sutureless lamination technology allows optimal adhesion without the need for costly, time-consuming sutures.
Learn how chutzpah helped him land his first job in the medical device industry, why he pays employees to make mistakes, and how a culture of “not taking no for an answer” has contributed to Israel’s becoming a medical device hub.
Chutzpah (pronounced “hutspa;” rhymes with “foot spa”): Yiddish word meaning audacity.
How did you become a mechanical engineer?
I was very technical as a kid. I was always helping my dad, who’s an engineer for cars. I knew I wanted to do engineering, but I didn’t know which type. My girlfriend (who’s now my wife) went to study at the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology. I looked at what I could study there and had 3 options: mechanical engineering, physics, or industrial engineering. I got accepted to physics. But the day before classes started, I found out I could switch to mechanical engineering. It seems like a good decision now. And we got married, so it all worked out!
How did you get into the medical device industry?
One of my engineering classes had an amazing lecture about medical device materials. I was really excited and impressed! It was an industry that combined different capabilities with a clinical side, a mechanical side, and a materials side, so it really opened my eyes.
When I was finishing my undergraduate studies, I became interested in a company called Disk-O-Tech Medical Technologies. I reached out to them about a job, but they told me they didn’t accept anyone at university and I should call back in about 5 years. I asked if they could please tell the hiring manager that he SHOULD hire me, even though I was still a student. Five minutes later, I got the interview. I’ll never forget the question: “Why should I hire you? You don’t have any experience. You’re young, and we’re not looking.”
I told him, “I know how to get things done.” A few months later, they hired me. I think it’s a story about chutzpah. It’s part of my nature, my character: I don’t take no for an answer.
What made you stay in the industry?
There is much more to this industry than designing medical devices. It’s about talking with people and building relationships with physicians. The anatomical and clinical aspects are fascinating. From one end, you’re on the cutting edge of technology. And from the other end, you can really help people. Looking back at the products that I’ve been involved with, they’ve actually helped people dramatically. That’s the right way to live.
Why do you think Israel is such a hotbed of medical device innovation?
In Israel, we don’t accept things as they are. It’s a culture that won’t take no for an answer. We always work to find a way to overcome challenges. We have very good physicians, and they don’t accept “impossible.” They’re always working to come out with a new procedure, a new treatment, or a new device.
The Jewish tradition is all about creating knowledge, which is very important in the medical device industry. Also, the government funds a lot of startups in the early phase. Many Israeli startups then partner with larger American companies to get their products to market. The Israeli chutzpah plus the American attention to details and stabilization of processes is a beautiful combination.
What do you think are important characteristics for an entrepreneur?
To build a company from scratch, you’re a gladiator. You live to fight another day. You need the ability to face the challenges, to acknowledge them. The market changes. Requirements change. You need to learn to adapt, all the time. Rethink what you’re doing every day and what purpose you’re serving. Entrepreneurs have to be versatile because there’s not a lot of money and human resources. You need to be versatile to fill the gaps.
I joke that you need to be stupid and blind. Because if you knew in advance what the difficulties and challenges would be, you probably wouldn’t jump in.
You’ve founded a few startups. How did you find your path to entrepreneurship?
There are some people who always knew they would be entrepreneurs. I was not one of them. In one of my interviews at Disc-O-Tech, the R&D manager told me, “I know what you are. You’re an entrepreneur, and you’re coming to learn how to build a company.” In the four-and-a-half years I worked there, I learned how to bring a product to market. I think it really changed my career, my life. It drew me into founding companies.
In 2009, I was approached via LinkedIn by a PhD in physics. He had an idea and needed an engineer to help him execute it. We joined together and started our first company, Airway Medix, which we later sold to Teleflex. I think it was a little bit of luck and a little bit of inspiration from entrepreneurs who mentored me and showed me that I could do almost anything.
What role has mentorship played in your career?
One thing I look for in every role is a person to learn from. From Disc-O-Tech I had Dr. Motti Beyar, and Ronny Barak guided me when I was with Airway Medix. After we founded Medibrane, we brought in STI Laser Industries and Tovy Sivan became my mentor. And since Resonetics made a huge investment and showed such faith in us, I now have more mentors to guide me: Tom Burns, Chip Hance, and Mark Weishaar. They have all been very helpful.
How did you come to found Medibrane?
In 2012 I read a book by Jim Collins called Good to Great: Why Some companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. I said, “I want to create a self-sustainable company. I don’t want to build a company to be sold. I want to create a community—a home—for people I would like to work with.”
I knew a little bit about medical devices. I didn’t want to develop a product at that time. I wanted to move to something self-sustainable. So going into contract manufacturing seemed like a good idea. I was stupid enough to think it would be easy!
Medibrane was founded in 2015. The name refers to polymeric coverings—membranes—applied to medical stent devices. My business partner and the co-founder of Medibrane, Dr. Amir Kraitzer, was one of our first customers. I needed someone with technical capabilities, and we’ve been working together for 6 years now. The Medibrane tagline is “We’ve got you covered.” That’s what Amir does for me.
What is the Medibrane corporate culture like?
I say to everybody who comes to work here, “We pay you to make mistakes.” A new mistake every day. I get paid to make mistakes. God knows I’ve made many of them. We try not to make the same mistake twice. The greatest feedback we get from customers is that when we fail—and we do fail—they don’t give up on us until we succeed. And when you get to this point, it’s something special.
We also tell people that they’re not committed to doing what their manager says. We are committed to the product’s success, to meet the spec, to do what needs to be done to prove the concept. That’s where the Israeli culture comes in. Don’t give up, and don’t accept things as they are. Find a way.
What are the top 3 things you’d want a design engineer to know about Medibrane?
First, that we see them. We understand the restrictions and the pressure they’re under. We feel their pain when they don’t have the capability to raise funding or when their prototype fails. And we want to help them and fulfill their vision as much as we can.
Second, whatever challenges we find along the way of development, we’ll find a way to overcome it. If we see a challenge that someone else can do better, we’ll send the customer there. Because it’s not about us. We’ll do anything to fulfill the customer’s vision or requirements, even if it means giving up the job.
Third, we “translate” material science into mechanical engineering. Most customers are mechanical engineers, and they don’t have a lot of information or knowledge about materials. Helping with that translation is how we develop our product and service portfolio.
What can Medibrane do that no one else can?
Our sutureless lamination technique is unique. We developed a technique for polymers to bond to the metal scaffold automatically—without sutures. When we show it around, everybody says, “Wow, why didn’t anyone think of this before?”
Other companies—big and small—have people spending 12–18 hours a day sewing their covers to the scaffold. This is a huge hassle in terms of scale-up. Sutureless lamination saves costs and reduces the profile of the device. Everyone is trying to get into smaller spaces in the body, and that’s what we’re enabling. We’re the first ones to push and execute this technology.
We’ve also developed a dip-coating method to control the wall thickness. So today we can do a 15-micron covering to a scaffold, which not a lot of companies can do.
What appealed to you about partnering with Chamfr? Why was it a good fit for Medibrane?
A year or two after we founded Medibrane, we saw that engineers were reluctant to try our products. They’re not as simple as some products—they’re less accessible. We developed a webstore for prototypes, but it didn’t reach a lot of people. I saw a LinkedIn post about another company that was partnering with Chamfr. It was new and it sounded really great. I had a call with the founders and their approach was very inspiring. I decided we needed to take this opportunity to bring our prototypes to a broader market, and it has really worked!
What motivates you to go to work every day?
I love the people I work with. The most rewarding part of the job is to grow people, to teach them, and to help them feel fulfilled. When I look at the people who mentored me or helped me, they played a huge role in what I have become. And the opportunity to pay it forward is a real motivator for me come to work in the morning, even in the tough times.
Medibrane is not Elad or Amir or anyone else. It’s a team of wonderful people—18 and growing—but the most important thing is to choose the people you want to work with and to enjoy and grow them. This is the gift that I receive.
Let’s keep in touch.
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