Inaugural Swimming with the Sharks Competition at Molecular Medicine

Christina Lingham:

Hi everyone. Welcome to this podcast from Cambridge Healthtech Institute for Molecular Diagnostics which runs February 16th through 18th in San Francisco.

I'm Christina Lingham, Executive Director of Conferences at CHI. We have with us today the moderator for the inaugural Swimming With The Sharks competition which takes place on Wednesday, February 18th.

Alan Carter is consulting for Sales Performance International, the sponsor for the award for the first and second place finalist at the event.

Alan, tell us about yourself.

Alan Carter:

Well Christina, my career's been primarily focused on sales and business development in the genomics and diagnostics market. A few years ago I decided I would use what I had learned and consult for startups or companies looking to get into new markets. Primarily helping them with value prop messaging and early market traction into clinical or clinical research workflows.

In the field I've been fascinated by and I kind of sell into it in the early days of PCR when I was at PerkinElmer and we started selling thermal cyclers. As far I'm concerned that was the revolution that kicked all this off and I got to be one of the first sales people in that and then had the fortune to move up into Applied Biosystems when all the genome centers were going and then on to Celera when I got to be in real-time watching the human genome project at work and then just got to see all this go. I was in the genome [inaudible 00:01:29] for about twenty years and then I entered the molecular diagnostics market.

That was a real eye opener, watching what we'd been doing in clinical research in all those years transition into the healthcare system to impact the outcome of patients. The challenges for adoption of those technologies and those test into the clinical markets.

Christina Lingham:

Give us an overview of this year's competition and what makes it exciting.

Alan Carter:

It's funny, about ... I guess it's been about fifteen years ago when the Tri Conference was at the Fairmont and everything was buzzing. It was like the dot com bubble in genomics if you will. I think people were fighting for your both spaces and I was at Celera and everybody was watching us and Insight and Human Genome Scientist, Millennium and all these companies and the customers and the researchers ... everybody was there to see what was happening next. And it was happening so fast that we all couldn't keep up with it.

It was back then, it was a time when all this data was coming out and all this information. I think we got humbled at how much work we had to do. And there was a disappointment in that. And along with that, for a lot of the promising companies that really were developing some good things, a lot of this got stalled and a lot of the investors got jaded because some of the investments hadn't panned out.

So what's changed is ... I was talking to Phillips about two years ago and I said, "Phillips, you know there's a lot of really good companies now here at the show in San Francisco and the challenge that I see with a lot of them is getting out there or getting traction so that people understand the value of what they're doing."

Because having been so close to it, I felt like I could see a lot of potential because I was working with a lot of these companies or companies like them but it is a challenge for these early technical companies to get their message across in a short amount of time.

Especially with what I'll call Investor 2.0. We like to refer to the Customer 1.0 which has changed today because everyone's online. Everyone's doing a lot of background research. So the companies that fifteen years ago could really pitch the wonders of what they were doing have to very quickly get to something important and survive what I call the iPhone moment.

Because if they do ... if their value proposition or how they're impacting clinical healthcare out there quickly. Investors will check out, customers will check out.

So it's a real challenge for a lot of startups to do that. Especially if they don't have people in their organization coaching them on their presentations, et cetera and they'll spend a lot of time on background. I really want them to get their message out there quickly and tell us how they're going to change healthcare outcomes.

So as you and I, I think I brought this to you six or eight months ago, and as we knew we were going to do it, all right, let's not call it the Elevator Pitch, but they need to boiled this down to what I'll call the Hallway Pitch. Like you could be at JP Morgan and meet an investor or someone you really want to get your point across to, so it's like having that five minute conversation under the clock at JP Morgan that you need to be able to finesse.

So that's maybe a little ambitious, it will be interesting to see how it goes. But I think five minutes, they can get their value proposition across. It's going to not only go a long way for the companies that are competing this year but it will also, hopefully as other people will see that, it will help people too. Maybe mold their presentations to get to the point faster as their presenting to investors.

Christina Lingham:

So give us a high level outline of the format for the competition.

Alan Carter:

The way the format is ... we had a lot of really great companies apply and we decided we'd choose twelve, give them about an hours' worth of presentation. So in a random order, we're going to have twelve companies give a five minute pitch. This is really focused again on ... we're going to impact healthcare outcomes because we bam. And they've got to get right to it.

We've got our panel of judges. They're going to critique these companies and then we'll narrow that down to five.

Then the afternoon session, what we'll do is we'll bring those companies back, maybe give them a little bit of coaching on maybe how to regroup and then they'll come back and give a ten minute presentation.

Out of those ten, we're going to first to pick a first and second place for the most promising company, well at least in our minds, at this year's Tri Conference.

Christina Lingham:

Tell me about the role of Sales Performance International or SPI in this competition.

Alan Carter:

You know the way that worked out, when we started talking about this, I had some contacts at Sales Performance and I contacted them about maybe wanting to sponsor some consulting for these companies. Because if we're able to narrow down to a promising company, I though some coaching on how they sell their company can really go a long way ... a lot further than I think that people realize. And as I was talking to Sales Performance, I just got more and more intrigued about what they're doing because they've been doing this for about twenty-five years and I actually joined the company. So I'm a fairly new employee there.

So what they're going to do, we're going to offer the winner fifteen thousand dollars' worth of their services and the second place company five thousand dollars. That's really to help listen to their value proposition and give them some coaching on how they can get across to the Investor 2.0 or what we call Buyer 2.0 even if they're trying to get early market traction. Help them to get past that hurdle that a lot of companies still have in explaining and we think describing their companies versus being able to diagnose their audience and present a solution that people get excited about.

I really thank them for putting those resources out there and I think that will be helpful to these companies that win.

Christina Lingham:

So tell us about the judges that will be rating the startups this year.

Alan Carter:

We've got a seasoned panel of judges. I'll start with Mark Boguski. Mark's been around for a while down the clinical end of clinical genomics and Mark is a great guy. If you've ever heard him speech, got the vision of where we need to be, where we want to be. But he's also very balanced in the practical aspects of what it's going to take to get these technologies and these things adopted within the clinical healthcare systems. So as you know, Mark is the founder and CMO of Genome Health Solutions. But he has a long history in the clinical genomics field. He's just a great guy and a great panel member to have.

Paul Grossman, who's also on our panel, is now a venture partner at Telegraph Hill. Paul and I knew each other years ago through my days at Applied Biosystems. And I don't know if many people know this but Applied Biosystems primarily was there because of the vision of Paul Grossman. As an IP attorney, he worked very closely with Mike Hunkapiller in the early days to get Applied Biosystems going and Paul is a great guy and a tough negotiator. Because he knows his stuff, especially in the IP landscape and field. He's very knowledgeable. So he gives a great, thoughtful critical eye to technologies and companies out there.

Then the next person on our panel is Stan Rose. Stan Rose and I worked together for a number of years. Primarily at PerkinElmer when he was at Roche and I was still in PCR and we went on to work together at Applied Biosystems. After Stan left Applied Biosystems, he founded a company called Genetic MicroSystems which was bought by Affymetrix. At that point, Stan started his own startups and he started NimbleGen as well, which bought by Roche and today he's CEO of Transplant Genomics. So Stan's a scientist, has a wide breathe of field and long history in genomics and he is a very thoughtful science person turned venture capitalist turned business startup guy. So he has a wide breathe of experience across the board.

Enrico, Rose and I also worked together years ago at PerkinElmer when he was with the PCR group and Enrico left and is with a venture partner at HLM and he evaluates lots of companies every day so he has a very good eye for promising companies and good questions to ask.

Finally, Terry Corrigan has agreed to join our panel and Terry's a healthcare consultant and doing this for a number of years. He's very well-known out there. He's helped a lot of companies in their strategy, in their messaging out there. Done a lot of market analysis for companies. Just a wide breathe of experience in the consulting field. And before that he actually had a background in platform technologies and instrumentation. But he's been doing consulting and I believe working with you guys for a number of years.

Christina Lingham:

Can you give us just some brief highlights of some startup companies that you're looking forward to hearing from this year in the competition?

Alan Carter:

Sure, I'll tell you there's a range of companies. It was a very interesting process deciding on the twelve. We have a couple therapeutic companies. Some are still at the, shall I say, interesting therapeutic that may be still be in the university type environment. Others there's some diagnostic companies with some very promising signatures that we feel could have some impact out there if they got the right type of financing and able to go through the right types of validation and building evidence around those markers.

And there's some interesting technologies. The technology platform companies ... we view as the enablers. If you think about the healthcare workflow continuum, I look at it like this. When a sample is taken from a patient and moved through analysis and interpretation and then is able to be provided to a physician who can action it to change or make a decision on a clinical healthcare outcome and improve it, these technology providers can fit somewhere on that continuum and improve the overall process. So we have a few of those mixed in the dozen as well.

So it is an interesting mix of companies but again they're all ... the central focus is that they need to come across to the panel how their offering is going to help improve some aspect of healthcare.

Christina Lingham:

Alan, thank you for your time and insights today. That was Alan Carter of Sales Performance International. He'll be moderating the Swimming with the Sharks competition in February at the Molecular Medicine Tri Conference in San Francisco. If you would like to hear him in person, go to for registration information and enter the key-code PODCAST. I'm Christina Lingham, thank you for listening.

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