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Take note of lessons learned from life science CEOs

Chris Seper

There are some lessons that no amount of reading can teach an entrepreneur. Sometimes, you just have to learn by doing.

And that goes for companies at all stages, as a panel of CEOs at the CED Life Science Conference shared on Wednesday. During a workshop focused on building a successful life sciences company, they talked candidly about mistakes they made that taught them an important lesson. Here’s what they shared:

Mark Sirgo, president and CEO, BioDelivery Sciences International: “I think when you’re a young company, there are certain things you need and the list might be short of the providers. I can think of a situation where we got involved in a financing that became toxic. We managed our way through it, but oftentimes because you need the money, sometimes you’ll actually feel desperate, so you’ll do things that if you’d had more options you maybe had done differently. There’s no way sometimes to avoid that, unless you really feel like you’re getting into something that you shouldn’t be. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.”

Tim Willis, president, CEO and co-founder, TearScience: “We were out raising a series C, and we thought we had done our due diligence on the firms we were working with, and we assumed incorrectly that they had money to (do deals). I had four venture groups; two of them cost me over $10,000 apiece in the time they spent with my scientists and clinical advisers. At the end, I got a call that said, ‘I love your technology and I wish we could invest, but we don’t have any money.’ They had literally spent three months looking at us and talking to us.”

Jeff Williams, CEO, Clinipace Worldwide: “I would add getting some key staff on earlier and raising money earlier. But I think the biggest thing I wish we had done was pivot our strategy a little bit. We made a wholesale pivot in our strategy in 2009, which, when we look back now, was a critical inflection point in our growth and I wish we had done that sooner. One of the cool things about being an early stage company is that you can be nimble. Take advantage of it.”

Robert Schotzinger, president, CEO and director, Viamet Pharmaceuticals: “I think a mistake we made was not bringing in independent board members soon enough. You really need to look for someone who’s well connected, but really likes the technology, because they need to be an advocate. It’s amazing how one person can open so many doors, and after the first door opens, then 10 more open. Don’t wait on those type of people. We waited too long with both of my companies.”


[Photo by - riNux]

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