Biomedical Entrepreneur Roles, Holes and Goals

Biomedical Entrepreneur Roles, Holes and Goals

Biomedical and clinical entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity under VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) conditions with the goal of creating stakeholder defined value through the deployment of innovation using a VAST business model.

We created a not for profit organization, the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, to help members get their ideas to patients. Getting, keeping and growing our membership rests on providing our customer segments with a viable value proposition, like any organization, be they for profit or not for profit.

Our customer segments , and the jobs they expect us do, are segmented by their roles, holes and goals.


Using our definition, there are seven types of biomedical entrepreneurs:

Traditional small business entrepreneurs. Private practice in the United States is shrinking, but still, the majority of practices, particularly those in primary care and in rural and underserved areas, are small to medium-size practices that are physician-owned. Yes, changes in the healthcare system are putting pressure on profitability, and there are high-profile cases of doctors going bankrupt. But the vast majority of practitioners are practicing at a profit and earning six-figure salaries. Some make substantially more and own multimillion-dollar, multioffice enterprises employing hundreds of people. Some earn less.

Although there are disparities between generalists and specialists, most are generating value at a profit and adapting to thrive. Private practitioners generally run "lifestyle" businesses that create a level of profit deemed suitable to the owners, with little regard for creating equity or harvesting at an exit. Still, day in and day out, they are the shock troops of the healthcare system, adding value for patients every day.

Technopreneurs. These are physician entrepreneurs interested in getting products and services to customers by creating and scaling a business. By so doing, they create value for patients, founders, shareholders, and others.

There is a difference between biomedical and health innovation.

Biomedical innovation usually refers to those products and services—like drugs, devices, vaccines, biologics, and in vitro diagnostics—that take a long time to develop; have significant regulatory, intellectual property, and human subject requirements for clearance; and require substantial amounts of capital to get to market.

Health innovation, on the other hand, refers to innovation using digital health technologies—for example, the application of information and communications technologies to improve health; care delivery innovation; business process innovation; or platform or systems innovation to improve outcomes, reduce per capita cost, and improve the patient experience. Examples include telemedicine, retail-based clinics, smartphone apps, patient portals, and medical social media sites.

Digital health innovation has exploded, and investors have noticed, putting about $3 billion to work in healthcare information technology in the past 9 months.

Intrapreneurs. The number of employed physicians continues to rise. Intrapreneurs are employees of an organization trying to act like entrepreneurs from within. Like other entrepreneurs, they face substantial barriers to creating, developing, and harvesting innovation, because not only do they have to find the right product-market mix like other entrepreneurs, but they also have to do battle with the status quo and organizational resistance to innovation.

Social entrepreneurs. Their primary interest is to improve the human condition. However, no nongovernmental organization (NGO) or nonprofit can survive for long without using best business practices to run operations at a profit. Whether it be creating vaccine for a deadly but relatively rare disease; creating platforms to deliver care in underserved and underresourced areas; or building models to deliver high-quality, high-volume care at an affordable price, physician social entrepreneurs are creating substantial value for patients around the world.

Freelancers and consultants. Many physicians have left practice to become consultants to other physician entrepreneurs, specializing in marketing, healthcare social media, digital health, financial planning, or business development. They have become part of the freelance economy, building portfolio careers to serve their clients while bringing a unique medical perspective and understanding of the healthcare ecosystem and the opportunities it presents.

Investors. Every startup team needs to fill a handful of skill positions, including problem seekers, problem solvers, business builders, storytellers, and money finders. Several physician-only angel networks, like, have surfaced to fill the gap, and physicians are coveted as early investors in domain-specific seed-stage companies. Physicians are creating and building biomedical and health crowdfunding sites and are taking active, hands-on roles in managing the company.

Medical Edupreneurs Here are the fundamentals of medical and bioscience edupreneurship

Service providers help the entrepreneurs listed above get their ideas to patients or provide business services like marketing, executive coaching, wealth management, accounting and legal services.


The holes they want to fill i.e. the problems they are trying to solve, typically are in :

Drug discovery and development

Medical device creation


Digital health

Care delivery and process, business model or business process

Medical education

Policy innovation


Regardless of their roles or holes, they all have the same goals:

  1. Improve quality of outcomes
  2. Lower costs
  3. Increase equitable access
  4. Improve the stakeholder/student and clinician/teacher experience
  5. Reduce administrative waste and increase business process efficacy

We are an open innovation network so members come from all backgrounds including patients, those in business, science, engineering, medicine or law as well as the social sciences and humanities. Finding your place in this 3 dimensional matrix is the first step in the entrepreneurial journey.

Then and only then can you acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies you need to deliver value for a particular stakeholder with a pressing problem.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs on Twitter@ArlenMD and Co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship

Share this article

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

terms and condition.
  • Drew Middleton

    Wonderful initiative !

  • Andrew Webster

    Truly admirable, all the best

  • Tom Jacklin

    God bless you Dr Meyers

Share this article

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

Former Contributor

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is a professor emeritus of otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the Colorado School of Public Health and President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at He has created several medical device and digital health companies. His primary research centers around biomedical and health innovation and entrepreneurship and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need his expertise and contacts in the areas of bio entrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism -- nationally and internationally, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures. He is a former Harvard-Macy fellow and In 2010, he completed a Fulbright at Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. He recently published "Building the Case for Biotechnology." "Optical Detection of Cancer", and " The Life Science Innovation Roadmap". He is also an associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology and Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape. In addition, He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School where he teaches Biomedical Entrepreneurship and is an iCorps participant, trainer and industry mentor. He is the Chief Medical Officer at and and Chairman of the Board at GlobalMindED at, a non-profit at risk student success network. He is honored to be named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 50 Most Influential Physician Executives of 2011 and nominated in 2012 and Best Doctors 2013.

Cookies user prefences
We use cookies to ensure you to get the best experience on our website. If you decline the use of cookies, this website may not function as expected.
Accept all
Decline all
Read more
Tools used to analyze the data to measure the effectiveness of a website and to understand how it works.
Google Analytics