BVI’s Shervin Korangy


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Shervin Korangy, president and CEO of global device manufacturer BVI Medical, shares with host Ehsan Sadri, MD, highlights of his professional evolution. He tells how his unique path of living overseas and working on Wall Street has impacted how he thinks about building and managing teams, and how that extends to planning the next steps for BVI. His perspective is innovative, refreshing, and not to be missed!

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Ehsan: All right. Hi everybody. This is Ehsan Sadri, Ophthalmologist in Newport Beach, California. I’m also as you know, involved with venture with Visionary Ventures here also in Southern Cal. I’m super excited to introduce our next guest here on the OIS Podcast. This is our first official podcast of many to come in 2021. And we’re hoping and praying right now in California, Southern Cal, that this pandemic slowly dissipates and everyone’s getting vaccine. I got mine done and it hurts. So anyway, we’re just excited to have Shervin Korangy join us. He’s a fellow Iranian American. Actually, I just learned his father his or his parents or ancestors are from the same part of the city Esfahan which is basically where I’m from.

Shervin: Good pedigree, right?

Ehsan: So there you go. Somebody, I’m delighted to have you and I, we were just chatting before we started recording, along with Craig, about your background. And I’m super excited, because I think you guys are doing a lot with BVI and you’re scaling, you’re doing a lot of exciting things. And you shared that with me, offline, I first I want to just tell you, thank you for coming and tell us a little bit and sharing. Just tell us a little bit about your background and your sort of multinational background in different sectors.

Shervin: Yeah. So I can go all the way back, you know, my, my parents moved here from Iran, as you mentioned, and into the US. So I was raised here in kind of the DC area, I went to public school, played, you know, basketball, tennis, some American football, but my mom didn’t really like that. So she made me stop by the time I get to varsity. She thought it was too violent. But anyways, moved on. went to undergraduate University, Pennsylvania, and came out really with a business degree and was looking to even though my grandmother kept forcing me to want to go to law school, I resisted. And I said, well, you know, I’m going to try my hand at Wall Street. And a lot of you know, a lot of friends were moving to New York, I didn’t know a lot about it. I had a bunch of interviews that used to come to campus. And it was at the time a smaller firm, which has now become a much bigger name, the Blackstone Group, I ended up joining them right out of college, it was in one of these two year analyst programs that, you know, it’s kind of two years, you’re up or out. A lot of people go to business school, you know, grad school after, I ended up staying right, the company was growing incredibly fast, it was a wonderful place to learn, you know, the founders of the firm, and a lot of the partners who were there were just an unbelievable kind of teaching ground, so to speak about business, how to grow companies, I mean, how to grow the Blackstone business, but also the companies that they invested in and looked at. So I had a couple different roles there. And it ended up turning into 15 years of my life, right. And it was the only thing I had really done out of college, one firm for that long, I didn’t really expect to leave either. But I had this itch. That, you know, I wanted to get into industry, right, as opposed to only being in financial services for a long period of time. But never really. And when you’re at a place like blacks, and we were 125 people when I started, they’ve got 1000s. Now across the globe, it’s I mean, it’s grown incredibly fast as a company, but you know, when you’re there and you’re doing it, it’s it’s hard to find the right step off point where you get excited about it. And what I ended up doing was, you know, it kept in touch with a lot of folks that I had worked with executives at other companies. And then had had the opportunity to work with a gentleman Joe Jiminez and as who worked with us for a couple years at Blackstone, and then he moved on, into becoming the CEO at Novartis. And so, you know, Joe and I used to chat on and off had a ton of respect for him, we worked very well together. And effectively, Joe recruited me to come over and Novartis and said, Look, he talked about going into industry a lot. Here’s your chance, you know, we’re a huge company across the world. And oh, by the way, we’re buying this business Alcon, and we can get you involved in that. And so I didn’t know a lot about ophthalmology at the time. But, you know, Joe threw the wrinkle and said, Well, you’ve been in New York for a long time, we’re gonna have to move you to Switzerland. And I was like, Okay, I have two young boys and my wife and I. We said, All right, kids are young, let’s take them out of school. Let’s go, this will be an adventure. It’s certainly what I want to do for my career is, you know, transition into this next phase of moving into industry. But gosh, moving to Switzerland is kind of crazy. You know, live in New York, New York was fun, we loved it. So we picked up and left and we moved to Basel, Switzerland. And it started a seven year journey over in Europe for us. It really helped me learn about European markets very much so versus the US market. You know, the every country in Europe very different healthcare system is very different. So living there living in the markets was really important. And a real cultural lesson for me. We did end up buying Alcon, which is now carved out and spun out of Novartis, I spent about a year and a half, integrating the Alcon business, I got to know from the inside, really, ophthalmology got to meet a lot of key opinion leaders through that, and just an incredible exposure. And it was really fascinating to me, and I really enjoyed it. So when I had the chance to move into more of an operational roles, I moved into different geographic roles with Alcon over in Europe. So we moved to Paris, was probably the hardest role I’ve ever taken on is running that French team because I didn’t speak French when I walked in, you know, it was learning on the fly literally tutoring at night, trying to get to a point where I could, you know, speak the local language, and just learned a lot about myself, right, in terms of, you know, we talked about leadership and how you lead in what you say, it was really hard to lead when you can’t speak the local language, right. So that was fascinating, met a ton of the doctors are still in touch with within ophthalmology. And really just, that’s what really got me the most excited after that move. Ended up in the UK and was doing a kind of, you know, role there in the UK and Ireland. And then, you know, wanted to really bring the two experiences together, when we want to get back to the U.S. when we get family settled, the kids weren’t as young anymore. And we got back to the US. And I wasn’t enamored with the size of Novartis personally, right. This is what kind of drives me and what we’ve been able to create a BVI, business was two big very slow moving from my perspective, right. Others were quite comfortable in the way that the business operate. But the business was, Alcon was too big outcomes too big for my, you know, taste personally. And so had the opportunity really to take the private equity experience that I had had partner with TPG Capital, who’s our owners today. And they had bought kind of what I would call the legacy business platform, Beaver-Visitec, which was an interesting business very, very well positioned nice products, but certainly not as broad an offering as we thought we could have, right. And so over the last and this was about three and a half years ago when I joined. So over the last three and a half years, we’ve really just taken a true transformation and we can talk about it more later. But come in re strategize. The business really thought about where and what folks in ophthalmology have been telling us they want and need. And so we’ve been kind of, you know, transforming the business from there.

Ehsan: Well, that’s a really good overview. I mean, I, you know, you’ve done so much we could pick up pick apart a lot of it I, you know, and we’ll go back to your history, because I think that’s a really good way to kind of sort of finish your background. But, you know, when you and I had dinner here in Orange, when your team and I had dinner in Orange County, did you know they were talking, discussing so much about your vision, and what you want to implement. And I you know, I know BVI very well, it’s been a while, but what’s exciting to me is your repertoire of lenses and your next sort of entree to the US, which is just absolutely fascinating. Tell me, tell me the one to five year thing that’s exciting for you, and what your vision for BVI is in ophthalmology and and how you going to implement?

Shervin: Sure. I mean, I think you need to go back a little bit to kind of what we set out to build here initially, right. A lot of what we had heard, you know, myself and talking to a lot of our customers, doctors, purchasers, I mean, across the board, right? was almost a desire, right? We want people to listen to us, right? A lot of times industry doesn’t listen, not picking on any individual company industry doesn’t listen. Yeah, the businesses get bigger, and I give ideas or I give my views and it goes into a black hole. And what we found as the opening or opportunity that the market was really presenting to us is saying it’s a little bit of a throwback, you know, what made a lot of the companies that are in our space quite successful was they used to listen to the doctors, they used to listen to the customer. And so we started out really With that said, What do you guys want, right? What could we give to you that you guys need and want? And that’ll actually be the catalyst or impetus to how and what we do and how we build BVI. And of course, it was just listening to us, right, keep it simple, make it not difficult to deal with you. Right, no bureaucracy and for us at the heart of it has been staying entrepreneurs So we brought in so we started with that the Beaver-Visitec business. we’ve acquired several other companies because they’ve been product categories we want to get into like iOLs, as you mentioned, we’ve gotten into the equipment space, but also developed a lot of innovation in the space that will be coming to market over the coming years. Same lenses, same with instrumentation. But the what the goal in all that was we were bringing together companies that were started by entrepreneurs, and people who naturally gravitated towards these companies were were of that mindset, right? They wanted to stay agile. So we talked now a lot about our company is it’s not just about the vision of Okay, what’s the product portfolio look like? It’s about what environment we want to create for people that we’re attracting from the industry to come work for us, right. And the reason is, three and a half years ago, I was selling a vision of the future. I think, today, more and more, we’re getting to, Hey, you guys are doing something interesting here, people come, they’re very excited to work there. And we want to come do that with you guys. Right? Because none of this happens without getting great people into the company, that will then be the drivers of the innovation that will then be the drivers of the next ideas. Right? So you know, the long and short of it is really what we’re trying to build here with BVI is, it’s almost going back to I think you’ve used the term old school with me, Ehsan right, it’s going back to the old school a little bit and saying, we just want to go back to what doctors wanted out of industry, which is people listen to them. People are excited and energized to work at the company, right aren’t complaining about something that’s happening there. But as excited about talking about the future, what’s happening, right, and what’s to come and what’s next. And that’s really what we’re trying to do. And if we put those you know, our belief is we put those things together, we’re going to attract the right people, which is going to drive innovation, it’s going to drive new products, it’s going to drive the broader portfolio. And that’s what gets our teams excited.

Ehsan: That’s a really good overview. Are you so you know, just looking at your board, you got your you got a very nice diverse board, you got Mark was an ophthalmologist got the types of perspectives. And that tells me right there, how open and openminded you are. And I think that’s critical, like you said, I think a lot of times is that there’s a stagnancy that occurs as the companies grow to, you know, and the bureaucracy. And I think they just kind of challenge this notion of, if we’re telling him something, I just had this competition with a certain company. And it was like, in one ear out the other I could tell I could see them. They’re like, they had their business plan, right. And I would say something entirely different than that. And, look, I’m on the ground, boots on the ground. I’m just telling you what I’m seeing Yeah, too many

Shervin: times people want to only want to hear what they want to hear, right? And the differentiator will be listening. me my wife always says, Are you listening? Are you hearing me? Are you listening? Yeah, you do both. And it’s a good thing.

Ehsan: My dad, my dad still does his 80s is like Are you listening? And he’s right. I think that’s leadership, though, that which is kudos to you. Because it starts with you, you set the pace. And I think that allows a culture for everyone to feel like, you know, they can contribute. And hey, let’s look at this list. Look at that. And I think you have that advantage tactically. And I think that ultimately, in my opinion, is what’s exciting about companies that grab market share. It’s just it’s really the people that which drives us. And obviously, they have to have good brands, which you do, by the way, I mean, your your brands in, obviously, in Europe, because of regulatory measures here in the US. So the guys over there have their hands a lot more toys than we do here.

Shervin: And we get them earlier!

Ehsan: You get earlier right? I get envious every time I got it. ESCRS. But I like what you’re doing. I mean, I tell us about internally. Are you thinking anterior segment? I know you have the packs and that’s all BVI strength. Who Are you hiring and why? And tell me a little about about the direction of the company. Give us a little granular data on what what do you think is is really talked about?

Shervin: Let me talk about the people first and then I’ll talk about the portfolio. So you know what, what we look to hire, and for those, you know, three and a half years ago, I could almost meet every single person we hired I think the pace is picked up such as I can’t meet every single person which is okay we’ve got a great kind of leadership team that reports me that the team that is with underneath them also spectacular and they’re the carriers of our culture. We but what we always try to emphasize is back to the it’s easier to build towards what you want. Then trying to chop back something That’s there, right? And then you mentioned bureaucracy, that’s the number one thing we try to do. We’re not a PowerPoint culture, we’re a culture of doers, right? People who come and want to do, and but you’ve got to be able to deal with uncertainty. Right? So the one thing we like, again, is the, the thing we talked about is the gray zone, right? 50% of your role be very defined, right? This is what you’re gonna go do 50% of the will not be and that’ll be, you know, available to people or not, I mean, that’ll be attractive to people, and won’t be attractive, certain people, right, they can’t operate in the gray zone. Because it’s uncertainty not because some people don’t like uncertainty, we like it, because that gives people that degree of flexibility as a as a employee or associate inside the company. Say, I get to define what this other future, yes, I get guideposts. And I know I got to go in this direction, of course, and that’s how businesses and structures work. But at the same time, if you don’t give that degree of freedom, it’s hard to then chop away and get it right. So we try to start with that. So that’s, that’s the type of person we want. That’s the type of environment that we set up. In terms of the portfolio, you know, it is really interesting, you talk about Europe is certainly your frustration of mine, when I look at our broader portfolio in Europe, and then look at what we have today in the US. So look, our goal would be again, keeping things quite simple is we want the same broad portfolio in the anterior space that we have over in Europe, right and everything you see that we sell there into the US market into the Chinese market, Japanese market, right? The businesses that we brought in the brands we brought in have done very well, in the regions that they have operated in, and it’s you know, we give them the platform to do primetime globally, right? So European docs have a real appreciation for some of the products and some of those brands and other acts in other regions US market or, you know, Southeast Asia, etc, may not have had their hands on. So the platform we’re able to provide them is be able to take those products globally, right over time. I mean, unfortunately, as I told my sales reps here, and then we also have the team over here going well, how can they get they have this product, or this product, and like I can’t make the FDA go faster. At some point, we will. But you know, what that gives you though, is, you know, we can stage our innovation and introductions into the US market over the coming 1,2,3,4 years. And that’s exciting for doctors like yourself, right? Keeping the leaders who just want to, you know, be able to put their hands on new products understand what they like them, whether they do something better for their patients or not, and how it’s gonna make a difference.

Ehsan: Ya know, it’s interesting, because I, you know, when you’re, when you’re layering all the products, you know, you’ve got your PhysiOL, which has, I think it’s, you know, remarkable technology, I think you’ve got your other brands in the US, we use a lot. And then you have your Phaco systems, which is which is going to be exciting for us to tell me about that. Because, you know, when I talk to other companies that are, you know, in the same space, some are challenged, because like, for instance, you know, you work with Alcon, your new merger with Novartis, you know, they’re the 800 pound gorilla in this marketplace, with their, you know, Legacy, Centurion and Infinity products prior, you find that was just a tactical decision, say, hey, Phaco makes sense. Because other companies that are similar space like, well, we’re just not going to do that we’re going to do we’re going to focus on Femto, or we’re going to focus on for instance, iOS, what was the decision to get into the Phaco? And is that going to lead into like, trifocal iOLS? I was in the US for, for us starving ophthalmologists?

Shervin: Yeah, well, let me answer that on the trifocal lens, you know, the, the team had PhysIOL that we have joined us, you know, martinhal, Chris Penuel. I mean, just brilliant, right. I mean, they were the world’s first trifocal lens nine years ago, right, before some of the entrants that have come in, into the market. It was it was a bit of their brainchild to say this is we could do this better. And, they proven they have right they can so yeah, the goal would be love to get that into your hands. You know, FDA willing, at some point, let’s see. And then on the equipment side, look, again, it’s about listening to our customers listen to the docs. And a lot of what you know, we got was, again, I want options, right? I want I feel like you know, I’m stuck, quote unquote, right with very limited options. It’s amazing to say with this day and age with all the technology and the responses. I feel like I’m stuck, right I mean, I got it when I was on the other side with you. Alcon and Novartis, it was a while I feel like I’m stuck with you guys. Right? Or, you know. And so what we got was we want options what we want, but we at BVI don’t like to enter a space without having really market leading product. Right? So that’s been the kind of push-pull, so to speak, which is, you know, customers saying it was we really want you guys are great, right? You’ve got phenomenal offering on the instrumentation side, your custom package offering spectacular, you know, you’ve launched an interesting monofocal lens, like in the US trifocal lens would be awesome. You know, it’s done so well over Europe, when we get that. And when are you guys going to give us an option, right that so that we don’t feel like we’re stuck with the only couple options that we have. So we’d only do that if we can do something that’s truly, you know, rivals market leading tier one performance, top tier product lines. And, so, you know, again, we’re open to it. I mean, we’ve gotten the same on the microscope side, we’ve gotten the same on, you know, diagnostics, right. So it’s, it’s in the interior space, and then the retinal space, right, those are the two kind of core segments for us, which are retinal. We’ve got a good product line there with our Vitreq brand. And we’re continuing to build that as well. So you know, anterior cataract, cataract, cataract refractive as well as in the rental space.

Ehsan: Well, you know, it was it was unique by your background to also because you’re basically acting as the CFO and strategy officer, I think that really gave you the expertise to be able to like, make sure that everyone’s doing the proper blocking and tackling as you’re going after new space, and really try to grab market share. So now let’s go back to your background, because I think that’s so you come into BVI know you this is essentially, what four years and you were that you were at Novartis for six years. And then the cultures are different, you establish your own culture, do you? Do you? How does that look like you have you’re hiring, you’re scaling? Tell us about some of the challenges you have to go through as you kind of entering and challenging the old guard, if you will, now you’re getting their attention. Right. And there’s, as you know, there’s no secrets. And the people you have are strong. And they they have a lot of connections easily. Like, you know, Darren and your other crew. So tell us about that. How does that play out?

Shervin: Yeah, it’s, it’s really been an evolution for so coming in, is, you know, where the business started, we were about three times the size of where we were before, with, with our breadth of portfolio materially different. Now, that’s where we are today, three and a half, four years ago, we were selling there and used to call it selling futures, right, we were selling the vision of the future to people and say, Look, this is an environment for you to come flourish. So come join us, this is what we’re going to be able to do that we can’t do it overnight. But this is what we’re going to be able to do. Right. And so we’ve done a couple, you know, call it transformative moves along the way, where I think more and more now, our folks internally, as well as folks, we’re trying to hire very different than where we were four years ago, where we’re selling less of the future, right and selling a little bit more than Hey, this is what we have done. Here’s the environment that you get to be able to operate in. So come join that and see what you think it is. Right? And what you can do inside of that. And it’s resonating with people. So that’s, to me, the exciting part is that’s when it starts it gets really exciting, is when you know it’s frustrating when you know, knock on doors, your knee with, you know, KOLs, and it’s early on, they’re like, Okay, well, you know, you got a very good, nice brand. But why are you calling me Shervin? And I’m like, but trust us, it’s going to be something more than then you see today. And what we want is same for you as KOLs, we want you on board with us, right? We want you, we want you to help us. Because again, we’re the ones who want to listen to you. So come tell us what you think and see if we can deliver against that, right. So that’s been the biggest challenge or evolution. Right. early on. It was tough to get folks in the door today, you know, still not easy. I think that the biggest challenge for us today, which has changed from before. So in future today, it’s maintaining the right culture, and the team that we want to bring in, right. And that becomes the hardest part because I hate bureaucracy, right? I mean, some of my team says, Sure, you’re operating too loose, we need more structure. And I’m like, I don’t like structure, right? Let’s let people be a little bit free to operate because we’ll get great stuff out of them. And they’re like, yes, so I you know, I appreciate there’s a balance and I listened to my team. And so we do put a little bit more structure in place, but I like to maintain that flexibility because I want to give freedom to operate people. And in getting the right people to fit into, right? Because again, as you get, as you get a bit bigger portfolio gets broader geography expansion happens, inevitably, right? You’re bringing on people that it’s a numbers game to some extent where you’re going to have some misses. And that’s disappointing when you have someone who doesn’t fit. So the challenge always is how do we what’s the right bar? Who hits that threshold that we bring in? Who can flourish in the environment?

Ehsan: Absolutely, I mean, there’s so much there, for those of you listening. You know, we’ve had different types of leaders on this podcasts. And it’s just fascinating to see how their management style is, and how everybody’s sort of different. And I think, at the end of the day, you know, you have to be you have to be true to you, and what makes you work and what makes you thrive. And I think that’s great. Do you have any highlights in your career or challenges with what keeps you going when things are not going right, because, you know, learn more from that. And some part, you know, we always have people email me and Craig and reach out, hey, how do I become the next Shevrin? Like, how do I, What do I need to do to make that happen? What? So this is part of this is I for me, I leave it back and sort of develop leaders. And so I I’m always fascinated about.

Shervin: Yeah, I mean, the couple of things I’d point to is, is interesting when I was again, growing up, as we talked a lot about my kind of background. One of the things my parents used to always say to me was, you know, as they would use the analogy, as your tree gets taller, right, the limbs need to be softer, otherwise, it’ll break. And which has always stayed with me, right? It’s, it’s as you flourish in your career you do well, maintaining that kind of humble nature to you, is incredibly important, because that’s what allows you to listen to people and not acting, you know everything, right? You gotta listen to your team, you got to listen to your customers, because you really don’t know, it doesn’t matter how good you are, and what handle you have on your business, you don’t know everything, right, as a leader. And so, you know, that’s been really important to me. And then the other thing was, you know, my wife is one whose kind of the best hard charger in this context is being resilient. because inevitably, anyone, even the greatest of successful people have setbacks in their career, right, where something’s gone off, I was I was at Blackstone, it was very early on, and I got taken off a deal. And for me, it was like, Oh, my gosh, this is like career suicide, like, it’s a disaster, what’s going to happen to me, you know, better and I was, I was a year into the company, I ended up staying for 15. So everything worked out fine. But you know, that was, that was like a shock. So at that time, I remember, you know, kind of zoom in on how you can react to this, right? You can either kind of wither away, and it’ll be a problem for you. And then, you know, you go figure out what, what to do with your career somewhere else, or you fight right to fight back? Because you figure out what didn’t go right. And then you know, of course correct and adjust for it. So it’s so again, everyone’s everyone’s had I mean, I don’t know anyone, you know, as I said, the posts are the most successful people’s to not who have not had a setback, you know, at some point, and to me, it’s all about how you react to that, how you respond to it. That really makes good leaders, good managers, right? People will thrive and flourish.

Ehsan: So our you the fail fast kind of model, are you like, let you let people just make decisions. And you are they come to you with? Good, bad, the ugly or you structure? And you guys have very, like detailed? Sort of protocol.

Shervin: Yeah, we the way again, I like to do it. But this is more style is planning upfront, it’s really good and important, right? So a very thoughtful plan can help take you a long way. So a lot of times, what we’ll do is, let’s, let’s map out what’s our endgame? Right, let’s look out two years, three years, four years, right? Doctors always ask us, right BVI you’re in your current form, you’re quite new to the industry. You know, what do you guys look like in the future? Like, what are you trying to be? What are you trying to become and say, Look, my response always is with our teams. We do look out two years, four years, six years and say, what’s our endgame? And then let’s, let’s develop a plan that gets us there. And then you want to give your team the ability to go operate against that, right execute against that, and then have check in points along the way. So it’s, again, it’s it’s like it’s half unclear, right. Not structured as figured out. Which is we develop along term game plan gives you the guideposts of where to go, you know, we’ve hired you because you’ve got great judgment and you’re, you know, you’re going to be a good leader in the company. And then you go do and then we do touch points along the way and see how we’re doing. And it doesn’t mean just because up front, we set a great plan for four years that it’s only going to be that. Yeah, but at the same time, you know, people need to understand your strategy can’t change. Regular, right? You go, you know, someone who’s changed strategy from year to year, your organization has no idea how to react to that, because it takes a while for a strategy to sink in and your gameplay is sink in. almost have to look at multiple years. In private equity. You know, TPG is really helped us do that. You know, I’ve appreciated that. I mean, again, I grew up in that environment. So it was always about your four to five year plan and what you want to do, and they’ve really let us do that they’ve been fantastic partners. In this space for us, they’ve bought into our vision very early on and allowed us to do that.

Ehsan: Well, it’s I mean, we could talk for hours. Easy, easy. But I just I’m mindful of your time to get here and we’ll do another one. And kind of get updates of what you’re doing with how the years go.

Shervin: Hopefully we can travel more and I can get out Southern California to do it. Because your weather there is much nicer than the Northeast where I’m based.

Ehsan: Yeah, we need to we need to have you come out. Yeah. I won’t tell you how hot it is right now. But it’s an open invitation so you can come out anytime.

Shervin: Awesome. Awesome.

Ehsan: Pleasure. It’s a pleasure having you.

Shervin: This was great. Yeah.

Ehsan: If you need anything, let us know. And Craig and I were just delighted to have you on.

Shervin: Thank you guys.