Jane Liu: An entrepreneur’s journey to global leadership
New Deantronics is a BMO (formerly Bank of the West) customer
If you ask Jane Liu the secret to her success, she’ll tell you: “I think I’m very brave and very naïve. And also, I am always a very optimistic person.” Jane is a venture capitalist and founder of medical device company New Deantronics, a global leader in designing, developing and manufacturing medical devices used in general surgery, neurosurgery, cardiology and orthopedics.
After studying law in Taiwan and earning an MBA in marketing and international business from University of San Francisco, Jane was invited to work for her great uncle’s business, but she decided against it. She wanted her own business – something that would support her financially and give her the freedom she found so appealing in the United States, but also allow her to remain close to her family in Taiwan.
At the time, the U.S. government was encouraging Asia-Pacific trade in medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, and Jane landed an opportunity to help at a trade show, in part because she spoke fluent Mandarin and English. That led to research and the realization that it was very expensive to start a medical device company – a hurdle she liked, since it created a barrier to entry for future competition.
In 1985, Jane set out to learn the business by studying the top companies in the field and contacting executives at industry leaders like Valley Labs. “As a businessperson, I didn’t have any technical background,” she explains. “I had a different strategy—to follow the leaders so you can learn as much as you can.”
One day she called a company that sold surgical pencils, and the owner needed help; a vendor in Taiwan—Jane’s home country—could not supply the surgical cables it had promised. The owner asked if Jane could supply the cables. She began asking questions and scribbling calculations: what he was paying his vendor, shipping costs, the volume needed, frequency of deliveries. When she was done, the owner put a hand on Jane’s shoulder and said, “You got a deal.”
There was just one problem: Jane had never manufactured a surgical cable in her life.
The power of good luck – and persistence
Today, she laughs. “I always say, ‘If you help others, you can always get good luck.’”
Sure enough, Jane’s good luck came. A friend of her father’s, who was in San Francisco for a trade show, had a company in Taiwan that manufactured cables. When Jane explained the opportunity, he asked her to represent his company in the U.S. Instead, she persuaded him to manufacture cables for her company.
An entrepreneur’s journey
It took several more years—and a lot of persistence – to get Jane’s business to where it is now. She recalls Valley Labs’ vice president of operations calling her to say they were interested in doing business, and asking what she had to offer. “I tell him, ‘You know what? I’m telling you what I do not have, and I do not have the opportunity. That’s all in your hands,’” says Jane. “That’s how I got the business with Valley Labs, and it’s been 37 years.”
Today, New Deantronics is a global leader, supplying specialized surgical instruments to some of the largest medical equipment brands, including Medtronic and Johnson & Johnson. With operations in Taiwan, the U.S. and the EU, the multinational company Jane built from scratch has been described as one of Taiwan’s “hidden champions”—inconspicuous compared to Taiwan-based goliaths like Foxconn or Foxlink, but a dominant manufacturer of specialized health care products such as electrocautery instruments. New Deantronics is a BMO (formerly Bank of the West) customer through the bank’s Pacific Rim Division, which specializes in serving Asian and Asian-American individuals and companies.
In 2019, the Taipei-based company completed a 460,000-square-foot facility in Chiayi, in southern Taiwan. Their latest expansion is a $40-million, 14-acre campus in Sparks, Nevada, for research, design and manufacturing. The location also serves as the company’s U.S. headquarters.
A culture of caring
At a time when cost-cutting and layoffs dominate U.S. corporate news headlines, Jane talks about the culture of caring at New Deantronics. Last year the company surpassed its financial goals – and shared over half its profits with its more than 1,000 employees.
“This is a life science industry, so caring is my mission: Caring for people, caring for our products, caring for this Earth, this planet that we love,” says Jane. It’s a mission she shares with BMO, a Purpose-driven bank focused on growing the good in business and life. “We are all human beings. I have to promise my employees not only to offer a comfortable working environment and job security, also I should help them to move forward with their career goals.”
A year ago, Jane handed off CEO duties to Ivon Liu, who has been with the company for 15 years. Now she’s shifted her focus to supporting Ivon and leading ForMED Ventures, which she established in 2015 to fund and nurture medical device start-ups. ForMED has invested in early-stage companies in Taiwan, the U.S. and Israel.
She expects to fully retire in a few more years – but for now, she wants to contribute in the area she knows best, which is the medical device field. ForMED allows her to help the next generation of companies by sharing her experience, her knowledge of marketing and her connections with the big players in the market.
Her advice to entrepreneurs following in her footsteps? “Be positive, be passionate, and be persistent. And you will make your way. Never give up.”