In this episode, Ethan shares his insights about:
Regulatory compliance is complicated at best and many medical device manufacturers are struggling with the updated European Medical Device Regulation, MDR.

In this talk, Ethan from Citemed discusses the typical challenges medical device manufacturers face, how you ensure that your medical device remains safe and effective, how to optimize your processes, the digitalization of the regulatory world, and more.

Listen to Ethan tell the story himself in this podcast!

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Success Made to Last Podcast – Spreaker

Episode Transcript

This transcript was generated using an automated transcription service and is minimally edited. Please forgive the mistakes contained within it.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:00:49] And welcome back to Success Made to Last. I’m Rick Tocquigny. The show is brought to you by Edward Jones Financial Advisors. Our very special guest today is Ethan Drower. He is the CEO and co-founder of Citemed. They leverage a software platform and it’s built in-house to perfect the formatting of uniform and error free submissions. And we are so glad to have you on today, Ethan. And we’re going to explore your company and some of the great solutions that you guys have come up with. Welcome.

Ethan Drower: [00:01:20] Thanks so much, Rick. I’m excited to be on and ready to dig into it.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:01:25] Very good. Before we do that, tell us about yourself and where you’re from originally and kind of lead us up to the win Citemed was founded.

Ethan Drower: [00:01:36] Yeah, absolutely. So I am from Chicago originally. I’m a trained software engineer. I went to university there, studied computer science and. For the last 4 or 5 years we’ve been building Citemed and it’s kind of been an interesting run because we’ve since inception we’ve been building the company entirely remotely. And so our team has been all over the globe. I’ve been all over the globe and I’m coming to you right now from from Portugal. So we’ve we’ve tried to to build and maintain a team. All fully distributed. Everybody’s traveling or in different locations, and that’s proven to be it’s own own set of unique challenges and learning points. So it’s been quite the ride for for us and for me personally. Mm.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:02:32] You’re reporting from one of my favorite countries in all the world. Are you working there as a digital nomad on a a long term basis or short term basis?

Ethan Drower: [00:02:47] It is short term for now. I will likely be rotating back to North America soon, but it’s always nice. This is a great place to kind of take our European meetings and we have several contacts out here, so it’s easy to be in the neighborhood, so to speak. You bet.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:03:06] You bet. How did how did Citemed, how was it born? What was the when did the light bulb go on?

Ethan Drower: [00:03:14] The light bulb went on in a very almost cliché way. It was a a dinner table conversation with my father, who ultimately became a partner in the company. And he is he provided the insight into the regulatory industry. He’s he’s had one of those massive, massively successful and detailed careers in regulatory and pharmaceuticals and medical devices. And he was complaining to me about a new regulation in Europe that was causing lots of pain for for one of his his companies. And that’s kind of when the the bulb came on for me because the problems that they were facing were reasonably easily solved with with kind of an innovation in software and kind of a leap in a technological approach. So so when I heard about the problems that they were facing with getting their documents submitted, conducting research, doing, you know, processing a lot of data, there’s a huge market and a huge problem. And it’s one that, you know, my team and myself are qualified to to to solve. So we just started digging into it and, you know, kind of the rest is history. We’ve been we’ve been following down the path for years and continuing to build and, you know, refine our our tools and our team.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:04:46] Oh, fantastic. And for those that know nothing about your company, tell us the kind of the elevator speech. The shortest way to explain it.

Ethan Drower: [00:04:55] Possible is that we help medical device companies. So anybody that makes things from hospital gowns to pacemakers, we help them get their products approved and prove that they are safe to use specifically within Europe. So within that, that’s a lot of that’s a pretty big area, but that’s the overall mission of our company is to. Prove as many devices are safe to use as possible. And that is what enables our clients to gain the the approval to sell them. Yeah, that is a.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:05:33] Giant solar system that you’ve entered into. And so are their boundaries. It because it is products in general that the medical industry.

Ethan Drower: [00:05:44] Considered a medical device needs to go through an approval process. So that’s a hip implant, that’s a latex glove, a hospital bed. You know, pretty much any product that is purchased and used in in a hospital or a clinic setting has to go through a increasingly strict process for approval. And it’s an old industry. People do everything on paper. There’s not a lot of trust to technology in the same way. And that’s kind of where the opportunity lies because it’s a complicated process and the better you get at it, the more devices you can bring to market and the more people you can help. So so for us, it’s, you know, it’s a it’s a very. It’s a very passionate issue because the more you can reduce the red tape, the more companies can focus on innovation, which in the medical industry means more lives saved and improved. So so we are we’re very committed to making that process as cheap and streamlined as possible for companies, especially startups.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:06:57] You took the words right out of my mouth because I was going to say, did you did you leap from success to significance? Because now the sudden here’s the Chicago well-educated software engineer, son of a very successful guy. And you leap to this industry of helping save lives. We’re trying to save lives.

Ethan Drower: [00:07:23] You know, it’s. It’s kind of an overlooked industry, Rick, because. Everybody looks at the top tier innovators, we call them the people making the things. And what we the more I learned about this industry, the more I realized that it’s kind of like anything, the more rules you have, the safer an environment you create, but also a more it makes it a more formidable and expensive environment for a new company to approach. And the more of these really incredible medical device entrepreneurs I spoke to, the more the problem appeared, which is that any any idea that they want to test and bring to market in Europe, it’s it’s costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars to to essentially apply and not even guarantee that they’re acceptance. So if we can do anything to to reduce that cost and that burden and that risk by 25% or 50% in some cases, then. That’s a massive you know, that’s a massive amount of value that’s unlocked for for innovation in this industry because people can take a shot, they can take a shot and build a product that, you know, that can potentially become state of the art and used across across the world.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:08:51] So you. And your team have collaborated to become the gateway. For these inventors and these patent holders. And now all of a sudden the gates are starting to open because of your efficiency and your process. Give me a success example that one that perhaps you’re most proud of, that you go, you know, if there’s one story I need to tell today, this is the story of Citemed and how we move this product from being locked.

Ethan Drower: [00:09:23] And those are.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:09:24] Always the.

Ethan Drower: [00:09:25] Those are always the best stories. Right. And to give you a little bit more context, Rick, we we’ve built kind of a series of software tools or software. We’re software people and regulatory people. So we’ve built a series of these tools that allow us to get these reports and these documents done quicker, faster, higher quality. And, you know, one company we worked with this year, they had attempted to submit their documents. They’re called literature reviews and clinical evaluation reports. Not that it matters right now. They submitted their documents. They essentially got rejected and received a whole list of black marks on their their reports saying these need to be corrected. Et cetera. Et cetera. And by the time they came to us, they were pretty destitute because they had less than a few weeks, less than 2 to 3 weeks to to correct their documents and submit again for their final chance at approval. And the only other hopes that they had were kind of these these consulting firms and these bigger these bigger enterprises who quoted them much more money than they could afford, and also timelines that would take months. And when they called me and I guess they maybe they saw an interview or they found us online, they called me and they said, listen, to be totally transparent, we’ve got you know, we’ve got days, not months. So. Can can you help us? Can you save this process? And thankfully, you know, we’ve invested so, so much money in so many years in in our people and our, you know, building out our proprietary software, I was able to kind of rally the troops and say, guys, this is going to be this is going to be a few very long nights.

Ethan Drower: [00:11:22] But. This is the end of the line for this company. So do we want to do it? And, you know, we’re just fortunate also to have just an exceptional amount of high caliber folks on our team that that share the vision. And so it was amazing to see the team rally and say, okay, it’s going to it’s going to be tough. It’s there’s not going to be much sleep this week, but but we’re going to get it done for get it done for this company and we’re really going to put our, you know, put our money where our mouths have been and and really, you know, stick it out and we’re able to get them. The reports that they needed, they they slipped right through the the auditors. They got them approved. And that company went on to to, you know, maintain their their certification status and and sell their sell their products in Europe under the new rig. So just a massive win for them and a really you know almost emotional win for for our team that that you know, gave it gave it all they had in a in a week in a few days time. The team really just kind of built that confidence saying okay we know that our software is is top tier globally for this process. We know what we’re doing. And we we’re getting even further, you know, even more examples of submissions where we’ve we’ve nailed it. Right. And the more you can do that, the more confidence your people have. And, you know, just kind of further strengthens that that resolution of, okay, what we’re doing is having an impact. And that’s just, you know, that’s the best feeling. That’s the best feeling there is.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:13:06] That’s the feeling of significance because it wasn’t about just money. I mean, this was a this was a it was a seminal moment for me.

Ethan Drower: [00:13:16] I post a lot of our team’s content there, or you can find us at And all of our articles are there as well all of our info.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:13:26] And we will be right back after this. Quick message from Edward Jones and with our special guest, Ethan Driver.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:13:26] And we will be right back after this. Quick message from Edward Jones and with our special guest, Ethan Driver.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:14:26] And we’re back with Ethan. And on the back side of this show, Ethan, we’ve just got a couple more questions. Um, based on that brilliant example you just gave, um, I would, I would love for you to kind of fly at 30,000ft for a second and talk about the lessons that you learned from that experience of building. Building has kind of.

Ethan Drower: [00:14:50] Been a priority for me personally and obviously for Sinemet as a whole over the last few years. It it really stems down to. At the highest level. It stems down to finding the right people and everything else kind of does it matter after that is what we’ve learned. So to to to dig into that a little bit more, because that’s a really broad statement. We have instead of trying to optimize and build the best processes and have detailed instructions that a robot can do, what we’ve actually found far more success in putting all of our efforts towards recruitment and to defining the right type of fit for our team. And that’s personality, that’s motivation, skill set, obviously. But personality and motivation and just overall competency have kind of been the big drivers of of how we construct our teams, because we’ve found that it’s far more effective to empower the right people, to build the processes and organize themselves than it is for me or senior management to say this is how we’re going to do everything. We just need people to slot into our master plan. The more experience I’ve gotten as an entrepreneur, the more I’ve realized that there is no master plan. And you need good people that are that are willing to adapt and and willing to drive, drive the process forward, you know, in the trenches, so to speak. So so for me, it’s about how do you find those empathetic, intelligent, kind people that are truly motivated by the same, you know, the same the same overall goal. And it’s not money, you know, as you alluded to, that’s you cannot build a team around just compensation. There has to be a mission. There has to be something to hang on to. No.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:16:59] That’s right. That’s right.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:17:02] When did you become. Or have this abundance mentality that you should be hiring people smarter than you.

Ethan Drower: [00:17:10] Maybe after maybe 2 or 3 failed previous ventures is when, you know, the I had to pick up the the the shattered bits of my own ego and self-image of being a master software person and entrepreneur. And I had to you know, I had to realize that if I’m ever going to if I’m ever going to do this, I need to, you know, invest in in people that that can do these things better than I can. And and then that’s okay. Um, you know, the, the founders skill set shouldn’t be they shouldn’t be the best person in the company at everything. They should arguably be the worst person at all of the things. And the only skill set that really matters for, for somebody that’s that’s a CEO or a founder is okay, how do you find everybody that’s better and how do you get them to work together under a unified mission? So, you know, five, five, six years ago, that’s probably when it clicked in for me. And I really had to you know, I really had to do some personal work and kind of reprioritize what I wanted from, you know, from building an organization. And ever since then, that’s kind of been our focus.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:18:23] It is so refreshing and and so spectacular that you stated that. Uh, two more questions for you. And I want to know throughout your your career, what do you think is the. Singular, smartest collaboration with a company ever experienced.

Ethan Drower: [00:18:47] Okay. The smartest collaboration I’ll take both ever experienced. Well, to be honest, I would have to say that. The best collaboration that I’ve ever done has been has been with, with the partners at Citymd, which include my father and family. The family business is is often a very sensitive subject for people and can be very emotional and have problems. Um, but you know, for me personally. I experienced none of those pitfalls. I experienced all of the the benefits, the the loyalty, the trust, the the shared, the shared mission, the open collaboration. It’s it’s the sharing of. Skill sets and experiences. You know, finding, finding people to partner with that have skill sets that are complementary to you seems like an obvious thing. But most people tend to gravitate towards working with people that do the same thing and think the same way because it’s comfortable. And you know, Ed, my partner, he thinks in a completely different way because he’s a regulatory person and I’m a technical person, I’m an engineer. And so being able to combine those two, those two skill sets and kind of the vastness of our separate experiences was the most powerful and effective way to to build a product that is essentially revolutionary in an industry.

Ethan Drower: [00:20:27] So, um, it’s kind of the only paradigm of, of partnership and collaboration that I’m even willing to accept now if the person has to be. You know, they have to be the right, the right personality fit, but they have to have such a such an opposite set of approaching the world and set of experiences and. The strength in being able to bring those two together without tension or conflict or ego is, you know, it’s kind of been the it’s been the cornerstone of why this company’s been successful. And, you know, I guess it just kind of been a realization for me personally that that’s that’s kind of how it’s that’s how it’s done. That’s what you should be seeking out, those different opinions, those different sets of experience. Um, you know, without it, you’ll always be you’ll always be kind of. Refined to your little world and you can’t innovate in just your own little world.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:21:28] Brilliantly stated, and I think that is the great wrap up for Citemed. You guys are strong because you’re so different. You’re you are. You brought together super talent to solve problems. I would say so. And the biggest impact I think the biggest.

Ethan Drower: [00:21:45] Impact for the most number of.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:21:47] People you are in the business of what better.

Ethan Drower: [00:21:49] Industry than the medical industry that directly, directly benefits people.

Rick Tocquigny: [00:21:57] You got it. You are in the right place at the right time. Congratulations to you and your co-founder and dad for coming up with Citemed. I appreciate you being on today’s show. You’re welcome back any time. Well, thanks again to Ethan Dreyer for being on. His company is Citemed. And folks, we hope you have a good week. And as we always say, you know, along your fast, busy chase for success, we hope that you stop and do something significant.

Have a good one.