- Key Initiatives
By: Katie Dewitt, KEDCO Marketing & Communications Manager
KEDCO CEO Alan Tio recently sat down with Brian Hodorek, President & CEO and Co-Founder of Ignite Orthopedics, to learn about Brian’s journey as a local entrepreneur, and the story of Ignite Orthopedics.
Brian moved to the area from Michigan at age three. And with Warsaw being the Orthopedic Capital of the World® it’s no surprise that orthopedics is what brought Brian and his family to the area. When Brian’s dad began working with Zimmer, he remembered his dad bringing home saw bones, pieces and parts of what he was working on––Brian was intrigued from the very beginning in early childhood.
He went on to receive an engineering degree from Purdue University, and gained experience through summer internships with Zimmer, focusing on hips and trauma. “It was an incredible experience,” Brian said.
After graduation, he joined the team at Zimmer full time, and worked in extremities. Brian was only engineer number three in the extremities, and he laughed and referenced that department at the time as the “red headed stepchild.” Brian added that little did he know, it was on the cusp of exploding.
Brian continued his journey in orthopedics, and went on to work at Tornier. It was a small environment with just a handful of engineers, and it allowed him to cut his teeth on more innovative and exploratory work. He went on to lead research and development efforts locally, and for the U.S. And that’s when Brian met co-founder of Ignite, Matt Purdy.
In April of 2017, Brian and Matt launched Ignite Orthopedics. Brian described the beginning by sharing, “When you have a startup traditionally, usually you have an idea, a patent or some cutting edge technology…we ended up starting with good people.”
They intentionally connected with good, and those first people were surgeons.
They started with a radial head implant, a simple implant for the elbow. And it was because they noticed a problem with the current systems. “A very busy radial head surgeon might do 12 a year,” Brian said. “If you’re doing one surgical procedure a month, you probably need to read about the technique beforehand to even remind yourself how to do this because it’s been so long since you’ve done one. So the concept of creating busier and more complicated systems, when surgeons do very few…didn’t really make sense.”
The Ignite team went in the opposite direction. “We created a simple procedure and implant and then designed a single use sterile kit that had just a peel open top like a Lunchable,” Brian said.
It was acquired by Johnson & Johnson in June 2019.
Around that time, Ignite had begun working on a shoulder system for stemless arthroplasty. The team saw a challenge and an opportunity here as well. Because of the unknowns surgeons face once they’ve opened the patient, to accommodate the unexpected, the scope of what needed to be brought in for the procedure was huge and burdensome for hospitals. So Ignite created a system from the ground up.
“We saw an opportunity to streamline what was being used or potentially needed, by building a system from the ground up,” Brian said. The system they built is called Stemless First Approach, and it’s convertible for surgeons and easy to use. “We’ve dubbed it Fifth Generation Arthroplasty,” Hodorek said.
Johnson & Johnson acquired this technology as well, and Ignite is designing and developing in real time.
Brian expressed his gratitude more than once for mentorship and support from Rod Mayer and Terry Schlotterback of Nextremity Solutions, Inc. “They really rallied behind us,” Brian said.
They offered not only guidance, but incubation space and operations support. Ignite was housed at Nextremity for 2.5 years before settling in to their location at 700 Park Ave in Winona Lake.
Tio emphasized that support opportunities like this help people [entrepreneurs] find their way in the community faster. It helps remove some of the “scariness” factor of launching and growing a business.
Ignite Ortho is just weeks away from its five-year anniversary. Although not a startup anymore, as a young company, Brian feels they are “riding the waves” of entrepreneurship. And his team, along with many other entrepreneurs and industry professionals in the community, are here to support other aspiring entrepreneurs and startups on their journeys.
A piece of advice Brian shared for someone toying with the idea of starting a business is to plan as if you’re going to succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
KEDCO is a resource to help entrepreneurs do just that. Kosciusko County is rooted in entrepreneurship and innovation, and KEDCO along with other business and community leaders, are rallying around entrepreneurs to help them find their way in Kosciusko County.