Teaching an old business new tricks: Learning about Biotech Business and VC’s in New Haven

It is 7:00 am on Saturday and I’ve already been up for four hours trying to digest all the energy and knowledge passed down this past week.  I was fortunate enough to experience three days of events centered around the Yale Startup competition.

I have never before seen so many brilliant minds in one location for an extended period of time. It is both Beautiful and taxing. Every conversation leads to a potential opportunity or insightful feedback, but one thing was certain no one there was easily impressed. Every person I got to speak with, was “Top-Brass” within their respective areas and it felt amazing being around such confident speakers.

This was such a wide awakening, I was not prepared for how quickly this environment exposed the weaknesses of our planning and put them right into our line of sight. I wanted to share this on the blog because it has been a magnificent experience that I would like to hold on to, as a reminder of how much we still have to grow.

Here’s a quick recap of our experience:

Day 1

I arrived in New Haven and walked straight to 100 College St. As I get closer to the site one structure sticks out. A glass covered building with a sign that reads Alexion, which happened to be my destination.

IMG_20170419_165147

The event was part of a continuous series that lead into the Yale Innovation Summit on May 10th. The first event was titled “Business of Biotech”, and it was basically a crash course on how to pitch in the Biotechnology sector. The event was super fun! The speaker was very dynamic and accepting of questions from the crowd. At the end of the session we got to practice our pitches and received feedback from the audience who was composed of researchers, industry experts and up and coming students.

Not only did I learn how to put a pitch deck together, and which information Biotech VC’s care to know about. I saw first hand the level of know-how you need to possess to be competitive at such high level.

I met two wonderful people at the event, Erika Smith, Director of the Blavatnik Fund for Innovation at Yale and one of the event organizers. The other person was Colleen Cuffaro, a principal at Canaan Partners a global venture capital firm that invests in people with visionary ideas. Both of them were kind enough to allow me to take a picture with them. Trust me, my shoddy interim phone camera does no justice towards these two glowing Ladies.

The information passed down was invaluable for us, since we really had no idea how what was expected of a Biotech pitch deck. Both of them were very welcoming of a new kid on the block startup such as ourselves, I thank them deeply.

Day 2

This day started out a bit weird. I decided to stay with an old college roommate for the week, and relied on public transportation. I don’t know why, but I’ve been doing that as of late. I feel as if taking the bus allows me to reconnect with the places that I haven’t visited in a while, and I really like to people watch. So as I made my way to the bus I ran across this.

IMG_20170421_083710

That’s right, if you thought it looked like an unopened candy bar just laid out on the ground in front of the bus stop, then you are correct!
Now some of you might think this was a lucky break, but even though I’ve been overseas for the last seven years I still retain some good’ ole USA street smarts. There’s no way I was going to take a bite out of this thing and wake up in some psycho’s “SAW” inspired fantasy. So I fought off temptation and headed to my next event.

I got off the bus at my next location, 193 Whitney Ave, New Haven, CT. This was the location for the MIT Enterprise Forum for the Connecticut region. This regular meeting group fosters networking connections that are developed amongst technology entrepreneurs and the communities in which they reside. I was lucky enough to sit in on a case study presentation for a product named Iterative Search led by serial entrepreneur John Ireland.
IMG_20170420_180242

This event had by far some of the fastest networking I’ve ever experience. Since the moment I got there (I was early) there were people in suits ready to speak to you. I barely had stuffed a piece of cheese from the wonderful food plate in my mouth and I was already speaking with a project manager from Bayer, who was there looking for the next big thing.

I was lucky enough to speak with the presenter for almost 20 minutes and learned about his vast entrepreneurial experience. I also met some consultants and prominent IP attorneys from the area and even exchanged information with a formulation pharmacist. I managed to pique some of their interest, but I really enjoyed speaking to Douglas Lyon Director of the Applied research laboratory at Fairfield University and president of the Inventors Association of Connecticut, who cordially invited me to their next meeting.

This was a very productive event as I secured three meetings with people who showed interest in our project. I recommend anyone looking to start a Biotechnology or Tech company in the area to join and attend the events put on by this organization.

Day 3

IMG_20170421_161709

The final day of events was probably the most strenuous for me, and I was just a visitor. I could not imagine what the various teams pitching at the #Startup Yale Competiton felt like. It was truly an honor to witness all these student-led startups making a significant impact in the world. Just to give you a quick rundown, this was an annual event put on by the Yale School of Management where students compete for USD$100,000 in prize opportunities.

The prices were split amongst these categories:

I wish I could go on to describe what it felt like to be there, but I think this post is already a bit lengthy. I do invite you to read more about the competition and the winners here, check out #Startup Yale.

One last thing I would like to add is that all of the winning teams were led by Women. Something that is rarely seen in these types of competitions and that I felt was worth mentioning. These women made their powerful presence felt in that Auditorium bringing home the prize and I was glad to be there to witness it.

There is so much more I can say, but I think you get the point of how progressive this week has been for us. We even had the nerve to submit a pitch deck for the Yale Innovation Summit happening on May 10th.

We realize that we are at a very early stage but we could not pass up an opportunity to get feedback from the talented people at Yale, and if we get anything out of this (even if it is a rejection) we should see it as an opportunity to improve on our goals and vision to create a lucrative and impactful future as one of Connecticut’s Biotechnology companies.

Collaborators

Feb. 14 2017 – 3:58am,

Been up for about an hour, have put a mean hurting on a mug of expresso. Thinking about what to write about this week, and then I realized something. When one works long, productive hours at some point they start questioning if their efforts are being appreciated. I’m not special, what I do is actually pretty normal. There are others who share this valiant struggle to be productive as early as possible, and I’ve met them.

I’ve learned that research driven industries have very dynamic relationship matrices, that can change even before a project is completed or even funded! It’s hard for a scientist to maintain ties while trying to cram as much research as possible. They will humor you up to a certain point and then, you have to part ways.  Teams and research funds are always changing, creating situations that you have to deal with and team members that have to be replaced. Yet none of it could be accomplished without people trusting your vision, and sharing the madness.

It’s a tough cookie trying to predict if a team will ever make it to funding their research before they have to part ways. So it is best to show appreciation to the team you have now.

Thanks for believing in me

This is their shoutout…

Meet our collaborating institutions:

Granja Marina: Economic Resiliency in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean through Seaweed farming

Caleta background 1

So we hear a lot about International Organizations who are working on the development of coastal communities; however, we keep seeing redundancy in their models for sustainability with no avail. What does this mean? Well, they keep trying to teach an old fisherman how to fish in a sustainable matter, yet once the program is over they revert back to what they know best. Well, in case the failed attempts throughout the last decade wasn’t a clue. I have news for you, fishing is not a sustainable enterprise. I hate to break it to you, but the fact that science has pretty much eliminated natural selection from the human growing cycle makes the playing field pretty uneven when it comes to harvesting fish.

As our population grows exponentially, we are en route to wiping out most of the commercial fishing species right out of the race. Not to mention the acidification of the oceans, and unfair fishing practices carried out without any oversight have all just about made our coasts a barren and sterile ecosystem.

What we are proposing is a new way for these communities to keep on making a living from the sea, by harvesting local seaweed species. If this sounds interesting to you, we invite you to find out a bit more about our seaweed farming project. Learn about the communities in which we work, and also see which United Nation’s Sustainable Development goals we contribute to, in this informative presentation about creating climate change resiliency in the Dominican Republic and Latin America through Seaweed Aquaculture.

granja-marina-public_2017_revised