EPISODE 032
The Inventive Entrepreneur
Tamara Baynham is a brilliant polymath with a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering alongside extensive experience as a medical device R&D consultant, patent agent, and clinical research strategist.

Her career has taken her from the halls of academia to the research labs of some of the most innovative and exciting startups and incubators operating today.

In this conversation, we explore how having a diversity of interests keeps her sharp while discovering some of the secrets to a corporate vs entrepreneurial lifestyle.

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Host - Monique Mills

Now, typically, I start the unpolished MBA with asking people two questions. And I think I'm going to continue that we're starting off on a new foot here, but I think I'm going to continue that because there's so much emphasis on whether or not you can be a great entrepreneur based upon your education, which I don't believe that to be true, but you're going to come to us from a health tech perspective, and that may or may not be true. So let me ask you this question. The same question I asked everyone else, entrepreneur or corporate employee? 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

A combination of both. 

Host - Monique Mills

That's great. Okay. MBA or no MBA? 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

No MBA 

Host - Monique Mills

Okay. So, Tamara, I would love for you to describe to the audience what it is that you do. It's very interesting, everyone. I just want to give you a precursor, but describe to everyone what it is that you do and the entrepreneurial aspect of your career. And then, you know, the corporate side too. 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Yeah, so in the entrepreneurial side of my career, I started my medical device consulting business. And in that business, I'm working with small startup medical device companies to help them primarily with their clinical evidence. And then, I also am a patent agent.
So I've helped some of my clients with their patent portfolios. 

Host - Monique Mills

So when you say you help some of your clients with their patent portfolios, what does that mean? 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

So I've had clients who have looked to me to help round out their subject matter expertise when actually writing their patents. So I've actually worked with clients where I wrote their specifications and work with them to take their ideas and put together their patentable ideas in their patent specification.

Host - Monique Mills

Okay. So what I see a lot in my world, because, you know, applying for patents is expensive. I see the entrepreneurs do most of the, most of the writing. So it sounds like you're someone that can be engaged to help with that. And then once they do all of that, then they give it to the attorney. And it seems like the attorney doesn't do much. I don't know, not hating on the attorneys, but I'm guessing from what you're saying, you're part of that process when entrepreneurs have to basically kind of write the information, the specifications for their own patent. 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Absolutely. I can help them to gather their research thoughts into what's novel and put it together in a form that they can give to the patent attorney, who would then do the work with me on the claims or do the claims themselves and take care of the patent after it's filed and filed the responses, etc... But I'm really kind of focused on helping folks put together, move their ideas to the patent specifications.

Host - Monique Mills

Oh, that's awesome! What prepared you in your career to be able to do this? 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

When I first started, I got my Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, and my first industry job was at what's now Boston Scientific Cardiovascular, but it was Guidant, which was a small, medium-size medical device company. And I was working in the emerging therapies group, and our job was really to take our core technologies, which was pacing, and move that up to the disease pathway, and come up with new ways to use pacing. So, in our group, part of our ability to be promoted really was how proficient you were at coming up with new ideas that were patentable. So I was able to become an inventor that way. And I got so interested in the invention process that I had my employer send me to get a patent bar exam training, and I took the patent bar. So that's how I became a patent agent. 

Host - Monique Mills

Woah, I, I did not know that about you at all! So, everyone, it's not like you know, Tamara and I are great friends or anything we have met in person, thank goodness for LinkedIn that's how we were able to even know each other existed. And then we took it a little further and actually met in person one day when I was in her city. It is amazing how you meet people, and you just don't even know the whole story. I had no idea about that. Did you ever have any interest in being a startup founder yourself and like taking some of your inventions and commercializing and going through that whole process?

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Yes, I did actually dabble in that myself. And when you are an individual, and you're not associated with a university, and you're not part of a company, it's very difficult to get traction on your ideas. So I tried to do, um, I work part-time in an incubator when I lived in Maryland and kind of worked on the idea while I had clients, and it just never took off. And I think part of the reason was that resources are just very difficult to come by if you're not inside of a university or inside of a company. 

Host - Monique Mills

So when you say resources, is it money, people, equipment…?

Guest - Tamara Baynham

All of the above.

Host - Monique Mills

Okay. Okay. So I was wondering what you were going to say, because even in like companies that are just, you know, building a SaaS platform, software or something that doesn't require clinical trials and all those different things, a lot of them will come out the gate and have a similar experience, but it's really because they're used to also having a big brand backing them. So they're like, Hey, you know, I came from Facebook, you know, and it's just like, yeah, but see at Facebook, you had a Facebook brand. So just from having that Facebook.com email address. People would talk to you. And when you're coming out, as you know, the entrepreneur from this new cool SaaS product, they're like, oh, they just see it as spam. You know, that brand just plays a big part in people even just opening the email and taking your call.

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Absolutely. Absolutely. 

Host - Monique Mills

So, in your experience with working with founders, right? So what are some of the things that you see are other challenges that they experienced, but also what are some things that you think that they should do differently to help their process move along better? 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

I think one of the primary challenges has been when you're working on a healthcare technology, it's very difficult to get from that ideal stage to that actual first-in-human clinical trial. You need a lot of resources depending on if you're an actual hardware device or if you have an actual physical product. You have a lot of prototyping needs that in some areas just aren't available, and you see more and more incubators that are coming on board that are focused on that hardware team. I've just been engaged with an incubator in Chicago called MHUB. That is really now one of the first that is focused on the hardware piece of the puzzle. So things are coming along where founders can actually get traction, such as the TMC program, where you can come in and do an immersion and come up with ideas, and then they kind of help you to get started. You have a ZeroTo510 program in Memphis that's similar to that. So there are more and more programs that are cropping up to kind of help build ecosystems around medical devices. 

Host - Monique Mills

And it sounds like both of the ones you just mentioned, you said TMC, where's that located?

Guest - Tamara Baynham

That's in Houston. 

Host - Monique Mills

Wow. Okay. So I know Houston is definitely growing in regards to their startup and technology ecosystem. It's incredible, but I just want to note to everyone listening that the two places you mentioned are outside of Silicon Valley. So it is possible to be a successful entrepreneur, to be an inventor, to get access to resources you need and not be in Silicon Valley, especially in regards to health tech, or as you say, healthcare tech. I hear it both ways, and being that I'm not in the health field, I'm always fascinated by a lot of the things that I see come out of these incubators and accelerators. One in particular that I've supported for years is ATDC at Georgia Tech. And they're just now starting to really have a focus on that health tech device, inventions, and technologies. So what are some of the things I know everybody has out the gate? They're excited to get started on their business, on their new idea...when folks are getting ready for putting together or preparing for clinical trials or whatever they need to do to get approvals, what are some things that they need to consider in their due diligence?

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Sometimes, especially founders who have PhDs and they've worked in research, they think they know how to do all the research. 

Host - Monique Mills

Oh, really? I think we've had that comment made on Unpolished MBA, probably like three other times. 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

So the first thing that we need to do is hire a clinical consultant. They don't need a full-time person, but they need someone to help them to put together their protocols, their data collection forms to submit to IRB, and also help them to make sure that they are collecting data in the right way, setting up their clinical databases and the clinical native beds can be something as simple as Dropbox. You don't need to go out and buy an EDC system, an electronic data capture system, at this stage. Still, you do need to have a systematic way that you are collecting the data and actually doing quality checks on your site to make sure that you're getting quality data. 

Host - Monique Mills

Ah, so that clinical consultant, is that what you would call what you do? 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Yes. Yes.

Host - Monique Mills

Okay. All right. So at what point would a healthcare or health tech founder need to reach out to someone like you to get involved in the process?

Guest - Tamara Baynham

When they are finishing up their preclinical studies, and they're thinking about starting any human critical investigation, whether it's ten people or 300 people, whatever you're going to do when you first start, you should engage someone right from the beginning so that you can make sure that you have all of your systems and processes in place. Well, you don't have to put together a big process, but you do need to systematically be collecting your data, and you need to do that from the start.

Host - Monique Mills

And if they don't, what's the consequences? 

Guest - Tamara Baynham:

 If you don't, when you get to the point where you need other people to fund your work, you get into your do-diligence with either a strategic company like Medtronic or Boston Scientific, Abbott or BC, they're going to want to look at all your data. They're going to want to look at your clinical study reports, they're going to want to look at your protocols, and they're gonna want to make sure that the data that you're presenting is actually real. 

Host - Monique Mills

Wow, that got me thinking about the Theranos scandal where, you know, the founder was supposedly collecting small amounts of blood samples and was able to do whatever with it, which we found out wasn't true. So how does someone like that get away with that? If people are supposedly checking these things?

Guest - Tamara Baynham

You know, I honestly have no idea! I've never been in a situation where people do not check! I have no idea How she was able to pull that off. I'm fascinated by that. 

Host - Monique Mills

I'm still dumbfounded by it. And the thing is, I'd encourage people to just keep in mind that if you want, you can do it right from the beginning, or you can get out. This is what any business you can get along on your journey and think things are just fine. Then you're going to have to start all over again and do it the right way at some point. Is that something that you've seen happen quite often, not that often because people, you know, already understand this or not especially coming from, you know, the academic side of things? I'm guessing they would know that you should do this, but I don't want to make any assumptions.

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Not necessarily. It happens quite often, especially if the founders are scientists. If you have a non-science founder, they are more likely to go look for that expertise early. But if your founders are, you know, Ph.D. in bioengineering or something like neurosciences, they think because they've run a lot of studies for their research that they can do clinical research. Cause I already started the thing that's where people kind of get tripped up and kind of what happens is you have to go backwards and try to do forensic analysis on these folks data to try to pull together what they did, what they meant, and try to pull together a clinical study report with partial information.

Host - Monique Mills

So, let me ask you this. Once people realize that they have to basically back up to move forward, do they invite you into that process? And if so, do you usually accept those opportunities, or is that not something you... a mess you want to deal with? 

Guest - Tamara Baynham:

I will definitely accept those opportunities because it's a learning process for those folks. Also, you know, investigations are fun sometimes.

Host - Monique Mills

Sounds just like a scientist or engineer. Oh my gosh. We love problem-solving. Yes. So, yeah, but you know what, that's also the fundamental part of entrepreneurship, and most entrepreneurs are very curious, and they want to solve a problem. It's not just about making money. It's about solving this problem. So I really appreciate that about people who fundamentally that's just who they are and who they've been trained to be. Let's talk a little bit about... you said, all right, I'm an entrepreneur, but I also have, you know, a corporate job. How do you manage and balance this, and is your corporate job in any way related to what you do in your entrepreneurship ventures?  

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Yes. So actually, I worked out a deal to work 80% with my company. I work with EBT Medical as its clinical research director. They've been one of my clients, and we kept adding time and adding time because they needed me to help them with clinical. So I said, well, I still want to have my time to do my entrepreneurial pursuits. So I would bill 80% so that I can have one day a week where I'm just totally working on my projects.

Host - Monique Mills

Well, that's a great deal. Why is it important to you to work on your own entrepreneurial skills? 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

I like to create new things. And one of the things that I've been working on, on the side for a while, and it has nothing to do with health care or sciences; it's a travel app.

Host - Monique Mills

Oh, wow. Okay. So what's that involve? I mean, we all have a variety of interests and hobbies, so I mean, it's no surprise to me. Most people are surprised I'm in real estate. I love it. So tell me, tell me a little bit more about that.

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Whenever I travel, I'm always searching, for whatever city I'm going to, I want to know what's the black experience in this place. So, for instance, when I went to Paris. I took the Black Paris Tour. 

Host - Monique Mills

Oh, that's pretty cool. How did you find out about that?

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Just on Facebook? Um, in New York City, there's a walking slavery tour in Lower Manhattan that... I'll send you the link, but it's a... there's a walking tour in Lower Manhattan that talks about slavery and the actual influence of the free black people during those times. And another thing I've also done is the Harlem bike tour. So I took a bike tour of Harlem. So I like to do things like that. And I know I have friends who love to do things like that. So my husband and I are working on an app that we call Experience Black, so you'll be able to use our app to map out your experiences when you travel. And I will send you some ideas for New York City on the side.

Host - Monique Mills

Oh, I appreciate that. Cause I'm right now, I'm one of those folks when I travel, I build an agenda, so I know what we're doing every day, and to get the most out of the experience, I would love that. And your app sounds absolutely amazing. It just shows your creativity and also your systematic way of thinking, which is so important in trying to build anything. So I appreciate you for being on the Unpolished MBA today and sharing a little bit about the process with our audience. What's the best way for folks to connect with you?

Guest - Tamara Baynham:

 LinkedIn. Absolutely. The absolute best place.

Host - Monique Mills

Okay. Hands down. That's how we met.
Well, I want to thank you again. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

Guest - Tamara Baynham

Thank you.


The Unpolished MBA conversation continues, and you can be a part of it by going to unpolishedmba.com. Thank you for listening.
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