Last week’s event marked a new format for the San Diego MIT Enterprise Forum – an interview-style discussion took place with three CEOs from the medical device industry. There were two main talking points: “What was the ‘Big Bang’ moment where you realized your idea had the ability to change lives?” and “How am I going to fund this thing?” Three of the take-home lessons from the evening, at least for me, revolved around establishing milestones, proving commercial feasibility, and managing investor relations. But before I get ahead of myself and start summarizing the evening, allow me to set the stage on who presented:
- Mark McWilliams, CEO, Medipacs
- Craig Misrach, Chairman and CEO, Freedom Meditech
- Keith Murphy, CEO and President, Organovo
- Manuel Jaime, Managing Director, Senoma Group
- Daniel Kosoy, Partner, Athenian Venture Partners
- Jay Kunin, Tech Coast Angels
Right off the bat, Gail set the scene for an exciting and fast-paced evening. After a quick introduction of the presenters and advisors, each CEO presented their “elevator pitch.” All three of these companies are doing things in the medical industry that I would never have thought possible. Here is a quick paragraph on the advancements that each is focusing on:
Medipacs aims to decrease IV infections and eliminate dosage errors made by nurses. I didn’t get a chance to write down the amount of money spent each year on these two issues, but the cost savings that Medipacs can provide t ohospitals is astounding. By delivering IV fluid and prescriptions through an under-the-skin pump that can be monitored remotely, patients will experience greater accuracy and comfort. The Medipacs pump is designed to be wearable, programmable and disposable – a ton of convenience at a lower cost. Brilliant.
Freedom Meditech works with eye care professionals in the early detection and treatment of diabetes. The early detection method (up to seven years prior to diagnosis) is performed via an eye examination – paving the way for Freedom Meditech to bypass Pre-market authorization and take the 5 10(k) approval route. Some of the approval processes related to the medical device industry are a bit foreign to me, but this strategy received overwhelming praise at the Forum. In the end, Freedom Meditech will be able to offer a 6-second test (no blood – no finger pricking) that delivers immediate results. Fascinating.
Since 2009, Organovo has been focused on delivering breakthrough “3D printing” of human tissue. The ability to create human tissue outside the body has positive implications for both research and medical applications. In the short-term, it will be possible to test immunizations on tissue created in a lab, Long-term, the technology may be able to solve issues related to organ transplants! As the first company with a three-dimensional tissue technology that works across different tissue types, Organovo plans on meeting the promise of regenerative medicine to fill unmet medical needs.
Each company had a unique story and was at a different stage of financing. Some of the discussion was related to being a small public company – and how the additional requirements can be a constraint. But one of those areas, Investor Relations, is an area that should be confronted before you go public. By keeping your investors informed as the goings-on of the firm (ex: quarterly newsletter), your company will build goodwill, strengthen your relationship with stakeholders, and be prepared to file such information if & when you go public.
Another big takeaway was that young companies can legitimize themselves by proving the ability to collect revenues. When the CEOs talked about the importance of commercial feasibility, it reminded me of an episode of Shark Tank. The sharks always seem to get excited when the presenters have established streams of revenue. Hearing this at the MIT Enterprise Forum helped to solidify the importance of this. (Customer development, anyone?)
There were plenty of additional talking points that were useful, ranging from making course corrections in a public environment (that’s where all the hard work in investor relations can pay off!) to international distribution agreements. One of my favorite quotes of the night came from Keith Murphy when he said you have to “balance the swagger of technology with the reality of results.” It all goes back to establishing milestones for your business, and creating credibility by crossing those hurdles.
Prior to the panel, there was the typical networking session accompanied by light food and drinks. In a similar fashion to May’s Tech Fiesta, the presenting companies had a table setup explaining their breakthrough technology. Following the panel presentation, Forum attendees had the opportunity to partake in 1-on-1 discussions with the CEOs, and engage in group chats with funding mentors & other speakers over coffee & dessert. The feedback from this new discussion format has been positive, and it appears that MITEF San Diego has a new forum format in its already impressive repertoire!
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I continue to be blown away by the entrepreneurial resources in the greater San Diego community. This past Wednesday, I attended an event put on by MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego – it was titled “Tech Fiesta” and featured a competition among some of San Diego’s hottest up-and-coming tech companies. The event took place at the Salk Institute – literally across the street from the Rady School of Management. The student price of admission was only $15 – more than 75% off the general public ticket price of $65. There were so many powerful people in attendance that I can’t even begin to explain it. And in case you couldn’t tell, I’m already looking forward to the next event on June 19th: “Spuds, Pivots, Exits–and Beer: A Retrospective.” Here’s some highlights from the Tech Fiesta..
The first hour was an open networking session, with a classy selection of appetizers and a cash bar. Each of the ten companies that was presenting later that evening had a table set up where you could walk up and talk to the CEOs about their company – very informal. There was open seating for people to get to know one another. Unlike events I’ve been to in the past, where “networking” actually ends up being small clusters of conversation between people that already know each other, the attendees were actually eager to expand their professional circle. You could sit down and ask a stranger, “So, what do you do?” – and 15 minutes later you’d be exchanging laughs, business cards, and personal stories.
Following the networking was the presentations portion of the evening – moderated by David Titus, President & CEO of the SD Venture Group, and founder of Silicon Valley Bank. The CEOs that presented their companies weren’t pitching for capital, they were all rather well-established firms that were competing for audience votes. The awards included “Company I Want to Have a Beer With” & “Coolest. Company. Ever.” Two companies that I found extremely compelling were Mogl (‘Eat Out. Cash In.’) and Pure Forge (‘We Make Metal Tougher.’). It was interesting to see these established CEOs deliver 3-minute pitches – and to hear the expert panelists critique them on various points. It was a real-world application of the tools the Rady curriculum teaches in its Lab to Market series – and Professor Del Foit was in attendance!
After the pitches, audience members were able to vote through a web app. Awards were presented, jokes were made, and the event dispersed back into the foyer for coffee, desserts, and additional networking. I was able to chat up the CEOs that had presented just an hour earlier and ask them follow-up questions on their companies. I can’t make it any clearer – the MITEF events are phenomenal networking opportunities for an MBA student. And the dessert bar was to-die-for (I’m a sucker for a good cookie). I hope this encourages some of you to check out the event in June – I’ll be there for sure.