Over the course of her career, Kerry Coffee has consulted countless startups and investors in healthcare and the life sciences, making her a valuable part of the UNY I-Corps Node’s team of regional course instructors.
In 2015, Coffee founded Schiller Discovery, which specializes in the evaluation and commercialization of specialty pharmaceuticals and medical technologies serving unique patient populations. Coffee and her company, partner with clients to evaluate new markets and potential investments, structure partnerships, and develop roadmaps to successful market entry.
Additionally, Coffee is a mentor and guest lecturer for the BioVenture eLab, an entrepreneurship program led by Weill Cornell Medicine and designed to support students and faculty members commercializing medical technologies.
In this Instructor Spotlight, Coffee touches on how her background as a consultant, mentor, and educator in the healthcare and life sciences space informs her approach as an I-Corps regional instructor.
Q: What motivated you to become an I-Corps instructor?
Kerry Coffee: My business specializes in commercializing healthcare products and technologies, and I’ve learned over the years that a product’s success or failure is often determined by elements that are typically overlooked. How will the product affect existing workflows? Who will pay for it, and how do they buy? Are there existing misconceptions about the technology? The best way to find the answer to these questions is by talking directly with customers. I love that I-Corps teaches this method, really drills it in, because it’s not enough just to have a great product, you need to understand your customer.
Q: What one piece of advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?
KC: Don’t assume you know what your customer wants or needs. Go find out, talk to people, ask the hard questions, and actively look for information that will disprove your assumptions.
Q: Of the startup teams you have instructed, are there any success stories that come to mind? Where is/are those team(s) now?
KC: I’ve only been teaching for I-Corps this past year, therefore it’s still the early days. I’m confident that once more time has passed, I’ll have a story to tell. The ideas and technologies these students bring to the table makes you hopeful for the future; they are really incredible.
Q: After learning about so many different customer markets, can you share a market or customer problem that still requires a solution/has great demand?
KC: Yes! Price transparency in the U.S. healthcare system — an easy-to-use app that would give patients and physicians the ability to see how much a procedure or diagnostic scan will cost ahead of time. It still surprises me that doctors often aren’t aware of the cost of the tests they order.