Increasing Representation of People of Color in Medtech: Interview with Kwame Ulmer, Co-Founder of MedTech Color

Mar 04, 22
Increasing Representation of People of Color in Medtech: Interview with Kwame Ulmer, Co-Founder of MedTech Color

Medtech Color is a non-profit organization that aims to increase the representation of people of color within the medtech industry. The organization sets out to achieve this by creating networking opportunities, highlighting the barriers faced by black and brown people within the medtech industry, and increasing access to venture capital funding.    

The organization reports that less than 1% of venture capital funding is received by black entrepreneurs. To help address this, Medtech Color runs an annual Pitch Competition, where early-stage startups with black and brown founders compete for a variety of awards, including industry mentorships, $100,000–$250,000 in capital, and a range of classes and workshops.

See a video about the competition below.

Medgadget had the opportunity to speak with Kwame Ulmer of Ulmer Ventures, and a Co-Founder of Medtech Color, about the organization and the upcoming 2022 Pitch Competition.

Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Please give us an overview of Medtech Color and what it is.

Kwame Ulmer, Medtech Color: MedTech Color is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the representation of Black and Brown professionals in the medtech industry through community building, thought leadership, and networking opportunities. 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.

MedTech Color holds various networking events such as our annual Pitch Competition and Networking Breakfast in order to help us reach these goals. We have also established the MedTech Color Collaborative Community on Diversity and Inclusion in Medical Device Product Development and Clinical Research, a forum for medtech professionals and other stakeholders to address minority health issues in medical device product development and clinical research.

Medgadget: How did the organization come about? What inspired you to start it?

Kwame Ulmer: In 2017, I met with 14 other African-American leaders from the medical device industry to discuss the complexities of the medtech industry and how minorities are affected. Our conversation then turned to the untapped potential of POC who either don’t join the medtech industry or leave early, culminating in a discussion of ways we could build a community that could tangibly address some of these issues. With that, MedTech Color was born and was officially founded as a nonprofit in 2018.

Medgadget: What sorts of barriers do people of color face within the Medtech industry?

Kwame Ulmer: Although the medtech industry serves all individuals, people of color are inadequately represented in the medtech industry as professionals, executives, clinical trial patients, and entrepreneurs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on medtech professionals, although Black people represent 13% of the population, they represent less than half of medtech professionals – and the number is even lower for Black executives in the industry. It’s vital to have diverse decision makers at the table to ensure that populations served are accurately represented. Furthermore, Black entrepreneurs receive less than 1% of venture capital funding, which is one of the main drivers behind our annual MTC Pitch Competition.

I spend my professional life working nearly exclusively with early stage medtech companies and have seen that minority-led companies tend to get the farthest with the least amount of capital. I meet companies with the talent and unique solutions for overlooked companies. One great example is Candlelit Therapy Inc. – a digital therapeutic for new and expectant BIPOC parents at risk of postpartum depression or anxiety. My work in Venture Capital has me in countless meetings a week. Over nearly four years, I can count on two hands the number of times I have sat across from an African-American medtech CEO. I want to change that.

Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the Pitch Competition and how it works.

Kwame Ulmer: The MTC Pitch Competition highlights Black and Brown startup founders seeking further funding and mentorship for their innovative medtech products and services.

This year we received 75 applications, which our judges narrowed down to the top ten finalists. During the virtual competition on March 8, these ten finalists will present their business model and innovative technology to a group of seasoned industry judges. The finalists will be awarded $100,000 – $250,000 in non-dilutive funding and in-kind services, including:

  • Curated masterclasses and workshops
  • Membership to MedTech Color
  • Special prizes sponsored by Johnson and Johnson Medical Devices Companies, Medtech Innovator, the California Life Sciences FAST Advisory Program, and Harvard Catalyst Post Graduate Education TRANSCEND program

For those interested in attending, the link to register can be found here.

Medgadget: Please give us a brief overview of this year’s finalists.

Kwame Ulmer: We’ve already been so impressed by this year’s finalists who are developing some interesting and impactful innovations in spaces ranging from women’s health, mental health, surgery / recovery, and diabetes.

The top 10 finalists include:

  • NeuGen Dx INC – an AI assistive medical device for vaginitis diagnosis.
  • AllergenIQ – a virtual allergy solution that addresses allergic conditions with a holistic perspective in order to democratize access and improve healthcare outcomes.
  • TAB Diagnostic – a portable, non-invasive diagnostic salivary device for diabetics improving access to care, quality, and cost.
  • Dialysis-X LLC – an easy-to-use, needle-free access device for over 482,000 hemodialysis patients in the US.
  • Candlelit Therapy Inc. – a digital therapeutic for new and expectant BIPOC parents at risk of postpartum depression or anxiety.
  • Free From Marketplace Inc. – a digital health platform offering a curated food selection service and integrated educational support, while measuring individualized health outcomes.
  • Menstrual Mates Inc. – a re-invented, reusable menstrual cup that inserts like a tampon.
  • Medtech Solution LLC – disruptive wound care technology that prevents lower extremity amputations from chronic non-healing wounds.
  • SealCath LLC – an innovative double balloon catheter that saves time during colorectal procedures and increases hospital revenue.
  • Diatech Diabetes, Inc. – monitoring software that improves the efficacy, safety, and automation of insulin delivery for people with diabetes.

For more information about this year’s finalists and their products visit our website.

Medgadget: Aside from the Pitch Competition, what other activities does Medtech Color participate in? Do you have any future plans?

Kwame Ulmer: Beyond the Pitch Competition, we’re expanding on several plans to help further our mission of increasing the representation of people of color in the medtech industry including adding a clinical trial information repository to our website, kickstarting a webinar series in conjunction with our Collaborative Community efforts, and establishing the MedTech Color Fundraising and Membership Committees.

Besides these new initiatives, we will be hosting our Annual MTC Networking Breakfast again this Fall at the AdvaMed Conference, an event that drives our core pillar of building a strong, diverse network of mentors and sponsors who champion thought leadership and innovative clinical advancement. We will also continue to guide the Collaborative Community through upcoming milestones including the publishing of the Collaborative Community Annual Report in March, which details key 2021 accomplishments and initiatives planned for 2022.

Link: Medtech Color homepage…

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