President Natasha Bond facilitates the design, prototyping, manufacturing, and testing of a wide variety of medical devices.
ERI Group helps clients to develop “novel products to help sick people in need,” says Bond. She describes how an entrepreneur will typically come to ERI Group and tell her, “I have a product, I just need to (fill in the blank).” Bond adds, “And ‘just’ is normally about a year of work.”
Throughout the company’s history, it’s assisted in bringing a variety of external medical devices to market. Examples include: a cell filtration system for cancer patients; a hand-held surgical laser used by dermatologists; and a life-saving CPR device. Ophthalmologists use equipment the company manufactured, as do surgeons and critical care specialists. “One major product line for ERI Group is dialysis equipment,” says Bond. “We build the capital equipment of the dialysis machines” — in other words, the large electronic-filled cabinetry.
ERI Group was previously known as Evergreen Research, until Bond rebranded the company about a half-year into her presidency in 2022. The previous owners — who purchased Evergreen Research in 2009 and remain on the company’s board — sold their business in 2020 to three private equity firms, two of which are based in Colorado and one in California. Bond joined the company about a year later. Her background includes consultancy and product startup work. “The team at ERI is amazing,” Bond says of the organization she stepped into. “It has a depth of expertise and a longevity of client relationships that I have a huge amount of respect for.”
That team has increased ever since ERI Group merged with the product development firm LINK in July 2022. The owner of LINK Product Development, Marc Hanchak, now serves as VP of Product Development at ERI Group. As previously detailed in a CompanyWeek profile published in 2019, LINK has helped to develop a carbon-fiber mountain bike, a limited-production motorcycle, and a snowboard binding — quite different products from the medical devices that ERI has worked on. So what’s the connection?
Bond explains, “Within about six to nine months of my joining ERI, about a third of Marc’s portfolio was coming through ERI; he was using us for electrical engineering, we were using him for industrial design, almost exclusively. So, our teams were effectively an extension of each other. Culturally, we were a very common fit.” She dubs the merger a “natural move for both of us.”
Although Bond expects her company to issue press releases soon about its current work, non-disclosure agreements prevent her from talking about projects in progress. However, she’s willing to reveal that the company has experienced 30 percent growth since the merging of ERI and LINK.
While about 60 percent of ERI’s business consists of product development, around 35 percent is spent on the complete manufacturing of “highly complex, highly skilled, lower-volume, critically important, high-safety impact, high-value items.” She adds about her company’s manufacturing work, “I’m building 400 a year of something with 1,000 parts in the bill of materials. And if one of those is wrong, it’s going to kill someone.”
In addition to making sure that clients’ prototypes and products are built effectively from both a performance and cost standpoint, regulatory compliance is one of ERI’s critical specialties. Bond says designers need to ask themselves with each project, “Is it of a format that we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt to the FDA that it is safe and effective?”
Needless to say, that type of specialized work requires a specialized work site. ERI presently works out of a 15,000-square-foot facility in Golden, which includes “an environmental monitoring system that requires calibrating with very high-precision gases.” 3D printers whir away.
“You’ll see a lot of very smart people typically taking some incredibly complex looking printed circuit boards and putting them in some very large cabinets with some very scary looking optical equipment that needs some incredibly detailed alignment to make it work,” says Bond.
While the company helps others with their ideas, it doesn’t independently develop its own products. “Our job is to take the ideas and the visions of our customers and support them in their journey,” says Bond. “We don’t, at this time, develop our own IP. We don’t have our own portfolio. We are a service organization. And that is our focus. Our mission is to empower entrepreneurs to improve the lives of others.”
Challenges: “Every project has a natural end date,” says Bond. “So, we have to keep filling the pipeline. Because if we’re good at our jobs, we will eventually work ourselves out of business. So, we have to keep finding new business.”
Opportunities: The uniqueness of its multidisciplinary work: “There’s no one [else] that does quite exactly what we do,” says Bond, “and I think that gives us a real competitive advantage.”
Needs: “We’re working on an expanded facility to make sure that our people have a really cutting-edge space to grow into,” says Bond. “We’re working on modernizing some of our internal systems, again, to make sure that our team has the right tools at hand for the future. I think more than anything right now, we need a little bit of time to do those two things and fulfill the promise that’s been set ahead of us.”