For biomedicine startups, the road to commercialization is paved with mentors and winds through Boston

the road for biomedicine startups

Marina Freytsis, PhD, supports the Technology and Innovation Development Office (TIDO) at Boston Children’s Hospital in seeking industry partnerships for Boston Children’s technologies and intellectual property.

Last week, Boston Children’s Hospital’s Technology and Innovation Development Office (TIDO) had the privilege of hosting a Boston Biomedical Innovation Center (B-BIC) panel discussion on the path from academia to entrepreneurship. We heard from Jeffrey Arnold (an angel investor), Jonathan Thon (an academic-turned-CEO) and Pamela Silver (an entrepreneurial professor).

My top five takeaways for budding entrepreneurs:

  1. Find good mentors. This piece of advice was echoed by each panelist in response to just about every question asked. Jonathan Thon reminded us that “no one is born the CEO of a company.” So, form relationships with people who have already walked the path you’re embarking upon. Not only will you likely get good advice and perspective, but you’ll be increasing your network and garnering warm introductions to VCs and angels that may fund your company. As you continue on your path you will need different mentors for the different hats you wear as an entrepreneur, so maintain a dynamic network.
  2. Ask for advice before asking for money. And then keep asking. As many people as possible. You’ll gain a better understanding of what the major problems or hurdles are in your field and get closer to a technology that really provides a solution by listening and refining your ideas in response. Do not make endless pitches to investors – not only will they not spend the time giving you honest feedback on why they won’t fund you, but they also talk to each other so your technology will get a bad rap and become essentially unfundable.
  3. Put the right people on your team. Culture counts for more in a startup than you may think. The company will only succeed if the people working the long hours next to you are excited and motivated to advance the science behind the technology. If you do hire someone who isn’t contributing or pulling the company in the wrong direction, don’t be afraid to let him or her go – startups are too lean to afford salaries that do not contribute to the bottom line.
  4. Be in Massachusetts. Massachusetts is a hub for the biotech industry. Mentors, talent and investors abound. There are dozens of accelerators – B-BIC being one – and other resources for promising companies: CIMIT, The Capital Network, M2D2, MassChallenge, MassConnect and more. But if you can’t be here, California is also a good place.
  5. Get Bob Langer on your board. The man turns every startup he touches to gold. If you can’t get him, you better have very convincing data or a very rich uncle.