Business

Inventor gives innovators healthy advice

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Friday, October 05, 2012    

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"Do something that others can't do. Fix a problem," inventor Joe Kiani advises budding entrepreneurs.

"Find what people want, and operate in a good location" the chairman and CEO of California medical technology company Masimo plans to tell Jamaican micro, small, and medium-sized businesses this weekend at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus.

Entrepreneurs and innovators who want to start big, should specialise in products that will be relevant in a market that is growing, he says.

For businesses of any kind to thrive, Kiani says, a good business model is essential.

Health care, his own specialty, is one area Kiani believes still has room for more innovation and improvement.

"There's so much left to be done for health care," he says.

Kiani believes entrepreneurs can both save lives and

make money.

His company, Masimo, which now employs 2,500 people worldwide, was founded on his invention

of non-invasive patient-monitoring devices.

Kiani revolutionised the pulse oximeter, a device that monitors a patient's blood.

He was convinced that adaptive signal processing, a clever computerised way to clean up raw data, could solve the problems of pulse oximetry, which was plagued by false alarms and inaccurate readings caused by things such as patients' movements.

Kiani's solution reduced the cost of medical treatment in the US.

When Masimo was started in 1989, the market for pulse oximetry was US$200 million ($1.7 billion). It is still growing, and is projected to eventually reach US$2 billion.

People needed it, so it was lucrative, he says.

While hospital administrators in the US embraced his innovation, large competing companies wanted it off the market and challenged him over his patents.

But Kiani took them on and became a catalyst for change in the health industry.

He had problems initially, but financing wasn't one of them.

To launch Masimo, Kiani took out a mortgage on his condominium. While he acknowledges that local entrepreneurs may be strapped for cash, he says they should press on.

Angel investors and venture capital funds are limited in Jamaica. In order to get people to back innovators and entrepreneurs, their business models must be sound, he says.

First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union plans to launch the island's first venture capital fund. It is designed to help micro and small enterprises to get started and expand and is scheduled to start in 2014.

The credit union is inclined to support businesses that will contribute to the productive sectors but won't rule out entrepreneurs with a business that will thrive.

"All of us run into problems, it could be a problem with how something works," Kiani says.

Micro fixing is important; it comes with part of the idea that small entrepreneurs can make big changes, he says.

Once that one thing that needs fixing is found, the world will be better, and money can be made, he adds. "We (Masimo) helped 10,000 babies and made money."

Entrepreneurs should ensure their businesses have value. Without that, investors won't buy into them, he says.

Masimo has accumulated a substantial intellectual property portfolio with more than 575 issued and pending patents worldwide.

Only doctors and nurses think about the problems with health care in the US, he says, and it could be the same in Jamaica.

If more people consider the problems, there will be more opportunities to make money he says.

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