Endeavour Vision’s Katie Ellias Maps Out Her Winding Road to Venture Capital
Ask Endeavour Vision’s Katie Ellias what song best represents her career path to venture capital and she’d probably say, “The Long and Winding Road.”
“It wasn’t a life vision,” she recently said in an interview with Medtech Talk. There were twists and turns, but somehow, Ellias always seemed predestined to be firmly in the Medtech space.
While still in her teens, her father, a neurologist, brought home videos of catatonic Parkinson’s patients who suddenly started moving around after receiving deep brain stimulation implants.
“It probably wasn’t HIPAA compliant,” she recalls with a bit of humor, “but it had a big impact to see from one minute to the next how medical technology can dramatically change patients’ lives.”
Though she was pre-med at Yale, Ellias decided against medical school and opted instead to change the world from a policy standpoint, taking a position with McKinsey & Co. in Boston helping healthcare companies think about their businesses.
After a stint with Partners HealthCare negotiating contracts between hospitals and payor systems, Ellias was off to Wharton – and that’s where everything changed.
A TED-type talk by Medtronic’s Stephen Oesterle re-ignited her interest in “cool and exciting” medical technologies, like the ones her dad had shown her years earlier. Ellias signed up for a Medtech project at Wharton sponsored by Oesterle and rose to project leader. That led to a summer internship and then a job at Medtronic upon graduation.
Though Ellias’ plan at Wharton was to do core marketing, she says she fell into business development and ended up liking it, though, again, “It wasn’t my life’s plan.”
Medtronic’s leadership development program in Minneapolis is where Ellias says she learned to “build the airplane while it’s flying” as a member of the heart valves team. She helped engineers by playing the voice of the customer in the R&D process. She also played a big role in the billion-dollar acquisitions of valve-makers CoreValve and Ventor Technologies. That, Ellias says, helped her learn the craft of business development and cultivate the mind-set of a big acquirer.
After a rotation to Medtronic’s Switzerland office, her work in business development and M&A, ironically, led to yet another unplanned career shift. Prompted by Oesterle, Ellias joined MD Start, a joint venture between Medtronic and Sofinnova Partners. After a few months of prodding by a principal at Sofinnova, she joined the clinical-stage venture capital firm, where she spent six years.
Last January, Ellias pivoted again, this time to Endeavour Vision as senior investment director in medical technology and digital health investments. The difference, she says, is the focus. Like Sofinnova, Endeavour Vision looks for breakthrough opportunities and tech, she says, but at the growth stage. “If you’ve got a medical technology that works, we’d like to hear about it.”
Learn more about Katie Ellias here.