Off to College: Cannon Quality Group Supporting Future Entrepreneurs
May 7, 2019

On May 20, a small group of California Polytechnic State University alumni and supporters from the medtech industry will gather in San Luis Obispo to meet with select students, faculty, and Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) staff for a 1-day planning summit. Among them will be Nicolle Cannon, founder/CEO of the Cannon Quality Group (class of 1997, mechanical engineering).

The CIE is making a new thrust into the world of medtech and medical device. The vision is to create an ecosystem and opportunities for entrepreneurial Cal Poly students who want to create transformative healthcare companies, products, or technologies. Nicolle will be there to represent the quality management side of medtech, but also to bring in the experience she has in working with a wide variety of startups both as an employee but also for the last ten years as a service provider to startups.

Working primarily outside of medtech so far, the CIE has made impressive inroads in other entrepreneurial markets, accumulating 89 companies started to date, over $200m capital raised, and 10,000+ hours of alumni mentor hours.

Two of those 89 companies have been in medtech, and their alumni mentor, Jan Haynes, provided the spark to create a focus within the CIE on medtech startups. Jan is a co-founder of FzioMed, Inc., a privately held medical device company headquartered in San Luis Obispo.

“Jan has made it her mission to encourage more entrepreneurial paths among Cal Poly students”, Cory says.

The CIE’s director of development, Cory Hy Karpin, says Cal Poly has most of the other pieces of the puzzle – a well-respected engineering department, a biomedical engineering program, and a great business school.

Cory believes the time is right for the new medtech focus.  “The current generation of students is driven to change the world in some way – there’s this need to have an impact in a meaningful way, and the response from students is huge. Often it’s a career path they didn’t know was there.”

Not all students will be drawn to the startup life after graduation, Cory said, but the program will be successful in his eyes if students who are interested have a path to follow, and if they have partners in the industry that allow students to get out of the classroom and see theory in practice.

Nicolle Cannon is well-suited for the role as advisor to the CIE.

“We don’t come with a black and white quality management solution but we first take into account the stage of your business and help you get your product to market with that in focus.”

Nicolle describes the approach with early stage organizations of helping them see their milestones and making sure they don’t take on too much burden with their quality system too soon.

“You can get started too early and it can handcuff you and you can spend way too much money too soon, or you can get started too late and again you can spend way too much money catching up and possibly delay launches.”

Nicolle says that for founders, a good rule of thumb is that as you move toward putting more money in the business, you want to systematically put some controls in place to reduce risk to your investment.

“When you’re funding a clinical that’s going to support a submission, supporting a claim, that’s a lot more money, so you want to be sure that design has some control around it.”

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