David Kay

Tooling a cutting-edge company for success

“BioEnterprise has connected us with potential investors and vendors, and provided great opportunities for networking and education.”

David Kay, M.D. founded Orthohelix in 1995 to develop innovative implants and instruments for use in small bone reconstructive foot and ankle surgery. Orthohelix was acquired by Tornier N.V. in 2012 for $155 million.

In 1995, David Kay was an orthopedic surgeon working at Akron General Hospital frustrated with the instruments and implants then currently available for use in operating rooms. “The tools were from the 1950s, and looked like they came straight from a hardware store,” said Kay. “I was seeking solutions that would lead to better results.”

A self-described “intuitive as opposed to trained engineer,” Kay literally took matters into his own hands by designing his first surgical device – a corkscrew open-wire helix for orthopedic surgery – and bootstrapping his company, Orthohelix, out of the basement of his house.

Through BioEnterprise connections, Kay was introduced to Mutual Capital Partners, a Cleveland-based venture fund, which led a $1.7 million Series A round in 2006 and a $3.3 million Series B round in 2007. Mutual Capital Partners helped Kay secure executive team leadership and board members, with Kay serving as chief medical officer and board member. The transactions were in keeping with Mutual Capital Partners’ investment philosophy of attracting investors from outside Ohio for use in building economic strength here at home.

Kay translated surgical needs and biomechanical concepts into commercializable proprietary products, acting as go-between to the designers, management team, sales force and surgeons. “This definitely isn’t an easy process,” said Kay. “I ruminated about serious surgical needs and solutions surrounded by crumpled paper with smoke coming out of my ears.”

Kay and his Orthohelix team soon developed a comprehensive line of innovative implants and tools for foot and ankle surgery helping the orthopedics industry focus for the first time on extremities, now the industry’s only growing market segment. In 2008, Cincinnati-based River Cities Capital Funds and Mutual Capital Partners invested $12 million in a Series C round.

Orthohelix soon became one of the fastest growing companies in the region and, after several successful financing rounds, was acquired by Tornier N.V. for $155 million in 2012. Kay credits his entire team for the company’s successful development and exit.

Kay recently founded and serves as Managing Partner of EDC (Extremity Development Company), an incubator led by an investment group of internationally renowned orthopedic surgeons to spinout individual standalone companies in a range of orthopedic specialties.

The firm has already filed six patents for ankle braces (a $2 billion market) and has spun out a new company, Rubber City Bracing, LLC.

In addition to his role at EDC, Kay is Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Northeast Ohio Medical University and maintains a private surgical practice at the Crystal Clinic. But he is not considering retirement anytime soon.

“If I’m not seeing problems every day, I’m not sure what problems need to be solved,” said Kay. “My motivation, my passion is to get better surgical results consistently – how can you make even very good surgeries better and elevate ability? So many things need to be addressed.”


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