1. Tell us about your background and experience.
I consider myself to be a technologist at heart. However, after working at two Fortune 500 companies focusing on technology and product development, I have spent the last decade working in business development with small startups. I have worked with labs and universities and spent years co
mbing through new technologies, talking to inventors and scientists, and starting companies. What I have learned is that, although technology needs to be competitive and innovative in the market place, forming the right team and working with the right people is essential when starting a company.
2. Why did you decide to pursue a career with VIC Technology Venture Development?
I am a technology junkie and I love working with smart, creative people who are endeavoring to solve a problem and are willing to be trailblazers. The VIC company ecosystem was very appealing to me, and wearing multiple hats allows me to be both a technologist as well as a business person. It offers me opportunities to be resourceful and creative in solving challenging problems, as well as continuing learning new things. I like VIC’s interim CEO (iCEO) model for both the effectiveness of operation, as well as the efficiency (cost-effectiveness) of maturing a technology.
3. What makes the New Mexico/Arizona area unique for life science startups?
The Southwest is often overlooked as a source for life science intellectual property, which works to our advantage because there are significant technology resources in the area. Two of the top national labs for the Department of Energy are based in New Mexico (Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories) and they are creating a lot of exciting technology. The University of New Mexico School of Medicine has a very well-established technology transfer office that works well with entrepreneurs and companies like VIC. The University of Arizona has two medical schools -- in Tucson and Phoenix -- both with an emphasis on medical research.
4. You are also the interim CEO of Nob Hill Therapeutics, one of VIC’s portfolio companies. Can you tell us about what they are working on?
Nob Hill has created a first of its kind dry powder nebulizer. Our unique dry powder nebulizer is ideal for inhaled antibiotics; it can deliver multiple, potent antibiotics and isn’t limited by the patient’s inhalation capabilities. We are very excited about the possibilities for our nebulizer to positively impact treatments of lower-respiratory infections. This is a multi-billion-dollar market with dire unmet needs based on market research. We believe that the Company will be in an excellent position for M&A after clinical phase II.
Nob Hill Therapeutics is located in the BioScience Center incubator/accelerator in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
5. Serving as an early stage iCEO is part of VIC’s core business model. What do you think makes this so successful?
VIC’s model of iCEO is very efficient, especially with early-stage startups when you need a well-rounded CEO who is well-versed in the technology and is savvy with people and business at the same time. With limited resources, we can leverage every VIC team member’s skills, and it demands each of us to be efficient in allocating time and money to get the most done with the least dilution.
6. When evaluating a business plan, what’s the most critical element you look for? What makes a good investment?
For me, I want to make sure it is technology/product that is sound and competitive in the selected market before I look at the business plan. In my experience, a company strategies and team can be reshaped and changed, but if it is not built on reliable and competitive technology/applications, it will not go very far. If it passes my initial screen, then I look at the value proposition of the business plan, as well as the team capabilities. I highly value a cohesive and capable team, which is hard to evaluate from a written business plan.
7. What challenges do you see in the Southwest area for early-stage life science innovation? What are some solutions?
One of the biggest challenges is venture capitalists don’t pay attention to the Southwest region. It’s hard to raise the initial capital that is needed for a startup. However, VIC’s unique ecosystem business model has solved a lot of those initial capital issues. Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the US and offers a lot of the resources required for creating a startup, in my opinion, expanding our operation there will be very positive for both VIC and Arizona’s startup communities.
8. Any thoughts in closing?
There is important science and research being done in universities and national labs all across the US. But it takes a diligent, discerning team with close relationships to research institutes to discover these innovative, hidden technology treasures. I think that is what makes VIC’s commercialization model special.