Building a Successful Medical Device Business


What does it take to start & grow a successful medical device company in Santa Barbara?  Speakers for this event will give participants an overview of the opportunities and challenges they have encountered in doing just that.  They will share their lessons learned and successful strategies from a number of different perspectives:

The Start-Up


How do you turn an idea into a company?  What unique advantages and risks exist because a medical device company is in Santa Barbara?  How did this company maximize the advantages while minimizing the risk impact?  Consider Funding, Resources, Manufacturing
The Thriving Business How did the founders of this company manage the growing pains of their medical device company as it moved from the startup phase and into a thriving business?  How has being located in Santa Barbara helped and what creative ideas helped the company overcome the challenges of being in Santa Barbara?
Serial Entrepreneur What are the through-lines across the businesses – success factors & common risks.  How do you know it’s time to sell/let go?  What makes Santa Barbara a good incubator for medical device companies?   What strategies proved successful in building, growing, and selling businesses here in Santa Barbara?
Talent Management There are many wonderful aspects of living in Santa Barbara, but it is a small community.  What are the strengths that a Medical Device Company based in Santa Barbara should leverage when trying to find the best talent?  What weaknesses are there and what suggestions are there for addressing them?  How do the challenges and opportunities change as a company moves from start-up to a thriving business?  What are the critical elements to consider during an acquisition from a talent perspective?

What we will look at:

  • Can a successful medical device business be created in Santa Barbara?
  • Can a business grow and thrive in Santa Barbara?
  • What Strengths and Opportunities does Santa Barbara present?
  • Weaknesses and Threats (aka Risks) does a business need to protect against?

This program will be moderated by Astrid McNellis of Terumo BCT.


  • Sumita Pennathur, Professor, Mechanical Engineer, UCSB
  • Alison Bauerlein, Founder, CFO & EVP Finance, Inogen
  • Bree Hendrick, Co-Founder, VivaHire
  • Sandi Hirsch, President & CEO, Zyris

About the Speakers

SUMITA PENNATHUR, Professor, Mechanical Engineering, UCSB

Professor Pennathur has been a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of California, Santa Barbara in 2007, specializing in the fields of MEMS, nanofludics, and electrokinetics.  Her most significant contributions include: 1) unearthing a novel mechanism for separation and concentration of analytes for bioanalytical applications, 2) developing a label-free detection mechanism for nucleic acids (that has since spun off into a point-of-care diagnostic company), 3) developing commercial medical diagnostic products, 4) building optical and acoustic biosensors and 5) developing revolutionized methods for measuring blood glucose for patients with diabetes. She received her B.S. and M.S. from MIT and PhD. From Stanford University and has founded three medical device companies.

ALISON BAUERLEIN, Founder, CFO & EVP Finance, Inogen

Ms. Bauerlein is a University of California at Santa Barbara alum who graduated with high honors in 2003 with a degree in Economics/Mathematics and a minor in Statistical Sciences. She began her entrepreneurial career in while she was a student at the UCSB. A personal connection to COPD led to a desire to improve oxygen patient’s lives and the establishment of Inogen. She and two other students co-founded Inogen in 2001 after receiving First Place honors in the Technology Management Program 2001 Business Plan Competition.

Inogen went public on the Nasdaq exchange in February 2014 and has over 1,000 employees worldwide. The Inogen One product line has improved the quality of life for over 750,000 oxygen patients worldwide. Ms. Bauerlein is currently CFO / EVP of Finance, Corporate Secretary, and Corporate Treasurer at Inogen.

At Inogen, she is responsible for all areas of finance, accounting, reporting, investor relations, treasury, SOX compliance, legal, and revenue management.

BREE HENDRICK, Co-Founder, VivaHire

Bree Hendrick is the co-founder of VivaHire, a Santa Barbara based recruiting firm that specializes in talent acquisition for the technology, health, and hospitality industries. At the start of her career, Bree worked in luxury hotels and resorts, recruiting for properties such as the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa and Carmel Valley Ranch. She gained extensive expertise in recruitment strategies and human resources before transitioning to executive search.

For the last 10 years, Bree has been working with local industry leaders on recruiting strategies and effective methods for building teams within the start-up environment. Bree holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law & Society from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

SANDRA “SANDI” HIRSCH, President & CEO, Zyris

Sandra is a co-founder of Zyris, pairing decades of experience as a financial manager and CPA with a zeal for entrepreneurship. This was originally sparked by exposure to the newly established Entrepreneur Program at the University of Southern California, where she earned a BS in Business Administration. Her career has included a wide spectrum of industries and business models, from cattle ranching and custom home construction to organic groceries and liability insurance. The school of hard knocks taught invaluable lessons through the failures and minor success of several tiny start-ups, yielding precious knowledge and experience. This built the foundation that was able to recognize an idea with great potential in the dental field, developed by her industrial designer husband and dentist brother-in-law in 2000.


Under Sandra’s leadership as President and CEO, the company has grown from a struggling start-up to the world leader in dental isolation, distributing Isolite products throughout North America and in over 20 countries overseas. Apart from a small initial pool of angel investors, Sandra is proud that Zyris has grown through bootstrap funding. She is even prouder that Isolite products are extending clinical careers and easing the anxiety of millions of dental patients. Sandra is defined by her family, the Zyris team, and unwavering resolve to forever change the experience of dentistry for patients and clinicians.




Astrid McNellis has almost 15 years of experience in managing global marketing and new product development in the medical device industry.  Before that, she worked in a variety of organizations that ranged from one-year-old software development startups to 100-year-old manufacturing organizations.  Her expertise in managing large, multi-disciplinary, international teams, budgets, and deliverables while reporting to C-level executives has allowed her to consistently achieve targets previously believed to be unattainable.  Her BS and MS degrees are both from MIT.



Event Date:  Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM

Where: ONLINE EVENT – Zoom


  • 6:00 – 7:00: Speaker/Panel Discussion
  • 7:00 – 7:30: Q&A
  • 7:30 – 8:00 Preciate Social/Networking

Online event registration is for By Their Own Device powered by Eventbrite
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