The Edison Awards was held April 21-23 in Southwest Florida.
The Edison Awards, a global product innovation contest and celebration named for famed inventor Thomas Edison, recently shined a bright light on one of the region’s largest companies, Arthrex.
Not only did the Naples-based orthopedic surgical tools pioneer win three gold awards, but Founder and President Reinhold Schmieding won an Edison Achievement Award. Schmieding, 66, joins a club of past winners with the top Edison honor that includes Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Martha Stewart. The 34th annual event, which took place April 21-23, was held in Southwest Florida for the first time, in Fort Myers and Babcock Ranch.
Schmieding, who rarely gives media interviews, was a prominent part of the event. In addition to the awards, he gave a taped interview with show’s host, PBS News Hour reporter Miles O’Brien, inside Arthrex’s headquarters. Schmieding also sat for a question-and-answer session with an orthopedic surgeon in front of a live audience at Babcock Ranch, a solar-powered development outside Fort Myers. The Q&A was broadcast virtually.
In both interviews, Schmieding revealed some of the insights into how Arthrex has both gotten to the top of the orthopedic device market — and stayed there. The company has about $3 billion a year in revenue, with 6,000 employees worldwide. Founded in 1981, Arthrex has roughly 14,000 products, 1,500 patents and some 14 million people have utilized its products in surgeries and other medical procedures. At least 15,0000 surgeons visit the Naples Arthrex facility annually to see and learn about the company’s innovations. Some of Schmieding’s Edison Awards comments, from both interviews, include:
• Constant innovation: “Our minimum expectation is 1,000 products every year. It was 2,000 last year. “
• Sustainable success: “(Hire) a lot of creative people and give them the resources and the autonomy to make decisions.”
• Starting out: “Economic gain was something I was never really interested in. That’s my one piece of advice for someone starting a company. Our passion is to do things for the right reasons. If you are doing it for economic gain, you probably won’t be successful.”
• Humble beginnings: “I was able to see the problem and design a solution. And I had the tenacity to go out there and make it…once I started on that path it was very natural for me. It was a like a calling.”
• Still going: “I’m still an addicted inventor. I have over 150 patents. I love solving problems. Many times I go to bed thinking about a problem and a solution and will wake up in the middle of the night and go ‘there it is’ and grab a piece of paper or my phone and write it down so I can go back to sleep.”