7 Questions

Mike Karim

Mike is the CEO and co-founder of Oxford Endovascular Ltd, a spinout from Oxford University.

The company is developing a revolutionary medical device, a next generation flow diverter, to treat brain aneurysms; a life-threatening disease affecting 1 in 50 persons in a strongly growing market valued over $1 billion. In 2017 it won ‘Best Med-Tech Start-Up’ at the Oxford Bio Network awards, 1st place at the BioTrinity ‘Perfect Pitch’ competition and an award at the ‘European Health Catapult’ finals. It has won significant non-dilutive grants from the European Commission’s prestigious Horizon 2020 program as well as Innovate UK. Mike has raised over $20m from investors to support the company’s development activities.

Mike has 30 years growing international businesses in large corporations & start-ups and is experienced in strategic planning, execution, team building, gaining regulatory approvals & fund raising.

Mike mentors budding entrepreneurs, is a panellist at industry conferences, sits on the ‘Medfit’ organisation steering committee as well as being a sub-board member of the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI). He studied Pre-Clinical Medicine, Physiology & Pharmacology at Southampton University and holds an MBA from Henley Business School, UK.

01 How has the founder journey shaped you so far?

I have met so many people who have supported our journey and have been willing to offer great advice. There have been many hurdles along the way but these have been incredible learning experiences that have made myself and the company stronger and more experienced.

02 What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?

Working to fundraise during the Covid-19 pandemic whilst keeping our research and development on track. Our amazing team kept resilient, optimistic and innovative which really helped us through and enabled us to to achieve our goals.

03 What do you wish you had known at the start?

I wish I had known more about the technical challenges and how the regulations in medical devices would be affected by all the recent MDR changes. This was hard to predict in an area that has become much greyer in Europe but clearer in the US. Fortunately we have found great advisors to help navigate through the hoops!

04 What's the best bit of advice you would give a first time founder?

Build your network in as many areas the business touches. Keep looking for fundraising opportunities and potential investors. Fundraising always takes longer than one can imagine and is a continuous process.

Keep optimistic, think critically and be prepared to ask others around you for help and advice.

05 What is your key advice on fund raising?

Ensure all the line items that need to be funded are very carefully thought through, so that your business plan is as realistic as possible. Allow room for the unexpected (e.g. Covid). Have a plan B & C as mitigations and different versions of pitch slides according to the audience you are addressing.

Keep positive and understand you will get many rejections until you find the right fit of business for the investors, optimal timing, having the right evidence for the stage one is at. Ensure lots of practice at pitching especially in front of non-technical experts so you learn out to explain your story coherently and concisely!

06 What was the best hire you made?

Working through a diligent process to find our development engineers; they are the creative geniuses that drive our development.

07 What are your tips on managing your day?

Have a good structure to allow you to manage everyday messages and tasks, time to spot opportunities that could support the business, space for creative thinking and quality time with your team as a group as well as one on one. On key days ensure structured time with all the other important stakeholders around the business, especially the board and investors.

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