Ethan Drower is the Co-Founder and Operating Partner of CiteMed, which is revolutionizing the European Union Medical Device Regulation (EU MDR) process. Literature Search and Review is the cornerstone of medical device companies’ Clinical Evaluation Report, and CiteMed has made this process more streamlined and optimized than ever.
The CiteMed team was formed to deliver a high volume of beautifully written and formatted Literature Reviews on timelines that will enable companies to meet their EU MDR goals. CiteMed’s top goal is to help companies get their medical products to market as quickly as possible, all while maintaining state-of-the-art compliance with the European Commission regulations. A renowned business expert, Ethan educates others on the fundamentals of launching a successful software product, tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, and more.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Ethan Drower: I was one of the original founders of CiteMed. My contribution to the team was originally to build and lead the software development team in the creation of our first internal tool.
We saw a massive need rise with the implementation of the EU Medical Device Regulation in 2020 and 2021. Manufacturers were suddenly buried with work, especially when it came to Clinical Evaluation and Post Market Surveillance. Someone had to come in and innovate the space, because current best practices simply wouldn’t be enough to comply with the new regulation — we launched CiteMed to do just that.
CiteMed leverages a software platform that we built in-house to perfect the formatting of uniform and error-free submissions. Humans read and write, while CiteMed’s machines handle the arduous tasks of formatting and error handling. The result is consistency across all literature review submissions. ‘The CiteMed Edge’ has been our ability to bring together amazing technologists and industry-leading medical writers and regulatory consultants. It’s the collaboration between these groups that has allowed us to build tools unlike anything used in Regulatory Affairs and scientific literature review today.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your viewpoint, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Ethan Drower: I love this question. I think that anyone with the desire for entrepreneurship, and the tolerance for risk and uncertainty, can be successful. As to what fosters those desires/traits, it’s really anyone’s guess. If I had to choose, I would say they are made. Not necessarily trained in university, but the mindset of an entrepreneur I do feel has to be nurtured and grown over time.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Ethan Drower: I would say I’m practical. In all of my ventures, I look for the simple solution to the challenge that a large group of people is facing. We build the smallest thing possible, and then go out and try to sell it. If it works, we keep going, and if it doesn’t, we make a change.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Ethan Drower: CiteMed is revolutionizing the European Union Medical Device Regulation (EU MDR) process. Literature Search and Review is the cornerstone of medical device companies’ Clinical Evaluation Report, and CiteMed has made this process more streamlined and optimized than ever. The CiteMed team was formed to deliver a high volume of beautifully written and formatted Literature Reviews on timelines that will enable companies to meet their EU MDR goals. CiteMed’s top goal is to help companies get their medical products to market as quickly as possible, all while maintaining state-of-the-art compliance with the European Commission regulations.
We are in the Regulatory Affairs and Medical Device space for the long haul. We hope to continue to help clients with their Clinical Evaluation submissions, while simultaneously building amazing software platforms that innovate and drive this industry forward.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Ethan Drower: Assume that it’s going to take you much longer than your projections to build a profitable company that pays you what you’re worth. Some people call it the 1000-day rule, or 3-year rule, which states (especially if you’re not venture funded) that it will take you at least 3 years to grow your business to the point where it pays you more than the salary of what you were making before. We all see exceptions in publications and on the news, but these are the outliers. Be prepared to grind it out for years without a big payday. If you can do that, you can build virtually anything into a successful operation.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Ethan Drower: My biggest failures have always centered around taking on too much. Too many new ideas, new projects, new companies. Ultimately, I think I just matured as an entrepreneur and started to find the true value of time and focus. Your time is your most precious asset as an entrepreneur, and you need to constantly try and spend it on the biggest-impact tasks. This almost always means picking one massive idea, and staying the course without distractions
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain.
Ethan Drower: I would give my younger self advice that Felix Dennis gave to me: ‘Ignore great ideas, focus on great execution.’ Most tech entrepreneurs are not short on ideas, but they are short on time and focus. When I look back at all of my previous business ventures, it’s become clear to me that any one of them could have been wildly successful if I had just stayed the course and continued to execute on it. Far too often, we give up our current project for a more exciting, shinier item.
Another piece of advice I would give my younger self is also advice that another person once gave to me: ‘Learn to sell and learn to build’. These really are the quintessential skills for a startup founder, and while fundamental, they are surprisingly overlooked. I spent a lot of years of my youth laser-focused on building things, and then forgot to go out and try to sell them! The most useful ideas in the world will remain unknown, unless you learn how to sell them as well as you can build them.
Finally, I would say that in order to be successful, an entrepreneur must have empathy, resilience to rejection, and a love for building useful things.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Ethan Drower: The worst advice I ever received was ‘try a bunch of ideas and see what sticks’. This sounds great in theory, but I have since learned that the biggest killer of revenue is a split focus. When you’re young, definitely play around and try different things to see what you like. However, once you find yourself a great product/service in an industry that is hungry for it… go all in and focus.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Ethan Drower: People are finally starting to get accustomed to doing all sorts of types of business online and over the phone. Where before you needed a handshake, now a video conference does the trick. This means that if you aren’t out there trying to sell globally, you are missing a big part of your potential market.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Ethan Drower: I think the biggest myth is around hard work. People feel that if they just grind out the work and work REALLY hard, that things will make it. Instead, I say yes, work hard, but you should be relentless when it comes to analyzing what you are doing and determining if it’s actually furthering the growth of your business. You need to start thinking in terms of your time. Are you doing tasks over and over again that are worth less than your time is valued? If so, you need to hire more people to do them. That’s how the growth begins
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Ethan Drower: The most important trait is tolerance of risk and uncertainty. The truth is, no one has any idea what will work, what will sell, and what will succeed in the long term. The entrepreneurs that do the best overall are ones that can be comfortable with not knowing what the future will hold. Instead, they simply are confident that they can always grow and adapt to whatever the world throws their way.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Ethan Drower: 100 Million Dollar Offer’ by Alex Hormozi is a great book for entrepreneurs to read. Hormozi is a master salesman, and even if your business model isn’t a fit with what he does exactly, you can improve your product offering and salesmanship tenfold just by watching what he does.”
Also, Naval Ravikant has probably had the most profound effect on how I approach business and company building. He thinks of everything in terms of time (how much will doing this action cost you) and leverage (what things can we do to increase the impact of our time). His podcasts teach you to think in terms of long-term, strategic moves.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Ethan Drower: If I couldn’t build companies, I would either go back to being a software engineer or a writer. I think either career path could give me my fix of building new things and creating.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Ethan Drower: I think I would choose someone like Alan Watts. His message is all too often forgotten in a time when it’s most needed in America. I doubt anyone would recognize him though!
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Ethan Drower for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Ethan Drower or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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