Health Innovators
Health Innovators

Episode · 1 year ago

7X serial entrepreneur sells to Microsoft and gives us his winning strategies w/ Daniel Levitt


Startups can be challenging. And, with an abundance of ambiguous tips and strategies available, and it’s almost impossible to distill it down to actionable steps toward success.


Daniel Levitt has spent an entire career in the world of startups, learning the ropes by taking on roles tied to sales and marketing - critical components of any successful venture.

Self-branded a serial BIO/IT entrepreneur,  Daniel pulls back the curtain and gives our listeners a rare glimpse into the strategies he used that helped him sell one company to Microsoft.

In this episode, our viewers are treated to a sincere and thoughtful interview that takes the mystery out of why some companies succeed where others might struggle.

Grab a drink, turn up the volume and get ready to take notes. You’re not going to want to miss this one!   


Here are the show highlights:

  • How staying humble can build your expertise and bring more experience to your next venture (2:13)
  • The difference between - and importance of - technical founders and operational founders (6:42)
  • Why the method in which your startup raises money is critically important (9:20)
  • This scientific evidence can be a gamechanger for building a successful startup (24:19)
  • What investors want to see when they’re considering backing a startup (25:59)
  • The critically important reason to include customers in every stage of your ideation processes (30:26)
  • How to navigate success without sacrificing viability (33:10)


Guest Bio

Daniel Levitt is CEO and Founder at Bioz, a comprehensive AI search engine that empowers scientists to accelerate research toward cutting edge discoveries and technologies.

With a career dedicated to IT and life sciences, Daniel has successfully built and sold companies to such notables as Microsoft.

A self-professed serial Bio/IT entrepreneur, Daniel earned his BA in economics from the University of Berkeley in California and his M.Sc. in management from Boston University.

If you’d like to reach out to Daniel, or are looking for more information about Bioz, you can reach him by email at, on LinkedIn at Daniel Levitt, or visit his website at

Welcome to Coiq, where you learn how health innovators maximize their success. I'm your host, Dr Roxy, founder of Legacy DNA and international bestselling author of how health innovators maximize market success. Through handed conversations with health innovators, earlier, doctors and influencers, you'll learn how to bring your innovation from idea to start ups to market domination. And now let's jump into the latest episode of Coiq. Welcome back to the show coiq listeners. On today's episode I have Daniel Levitt with me. He is the founder and CEO for BIOS. Welcome to the show, Daniel. Hi, they are great to see you and I'm happy to be here. Yeah, so thanks for joining me. Let's start off the conversation by giving our listeners and viewers a little bit about your background and what you've been innovating in your journey. It's a very exciting story, so I want to make sure we start off with that absolutely. So you know, I maybe a kind of a little bit different from most. I spend my whole life in startups. Founded about seven companies around the no Bioi area and high tech, and the journey has been interesting one. First Startup. I spent four years working, starting in sales, actually moving up through roles and marketing, and it was an amazing journey with a startup which eventually did not succeed. But I always tell those who are young and coming out of college that, you know, it's tempting to start your company right when you leave college, but oftentime it's better to join an existing startup, spend the time learning from others, you know, and really getting that experience and then maybe start your company if that's your journey. So yes, I find that to be very important. There so much learning to be had out there and you know those sometimes we think we know it all. We might know a lot about that small area which we're trying to focus on, but there's so much out there which is very generalized and applies to almost every company and I really think people should learn. And my going back to my background a little bit. So I did start in a software company. After that company I had left. Originally, you know, I've started with which was a software company also, and this was a ninety nine, where I cofounded a company, was a CEO Company, was called Webpoint, and that company was later on acquired by Microsoft so that was you know, you know, as a founder, you kind of say wow, this is a dream. You kind of start a company. You know, relatively quickly Microsoft comes knocking on the door. It was a phone call saying we're interested in chatting, go through the motions and then boom, Microsoft has acquired your company, interestingly enough to actually offered me a job at Microsoft. Yeah, with a lot of stock options. At that time I refused. My cofounders, the two technical funders, went to work there and that was interesting because it sounded like, you know, this is an interesting maybe point for people to think about, is you just sold your company, you made some money. You know, the last thing you really want to do is, okay, let me just go right to continue working if you don't have to. But so so, when I look back, you know, was it a mistake or not a mistake? It's hard to kind of say. Okay, in hindsight, but I think I should have maybe been more humble and went to work for Microsoft, because that would have given me another layer of experience and more of a corporate environment and I think that would have maybe been interesting decisions. I think that's the lesson. There is really you know, even if you feel on top of everything. You're just starting, you just learning. Yeah, go from there, and that was an interesting point. After that I found it another company, or Profund at another company as CEO, which is in the realm of personal protective equipment in the medical field and we protect against Gamma radiation and it focuses on three areas. And first responders, on the space area, where astronauts are going to space need protection from radiation, and also the medical professionals in a lab setting. They also need radiation protection. A lot of procedures use high levels of radiation during procedures, and that company is now currently doing great. I left it to do my current company, BIOS, and that company is now got a product actually on the International Space Station. So we just launched there about two months to go and it's right there, being warned by US or not. So it's really exciting to actually know that something you started from scratch has a physical product with your company name now floating in zero gravity on their national space station. And you know, next year there's a mission planned for our product to go around the Moon on assist learner mission with a German Space Agency. So it's wonderful. How you can create something from an idea and then you really see it growing. But I will say it's that company has been around for almost ten years. Wow. Well, it's a long journey. The average startup takes about seven to eleven...

...years to exit, if they are so lucky. So patients is key here. Things can take many years for getting the product out there, building awareness, penetrating markets, monetizing. So that's just another lesson there in terms of be very patient and things can really work out. Even if today ten years or fifteen years, it's still fine as long as it's progressing. And then the third thing, which is kind of know what I believe is my third success, and this is the current company, BIOS, which is a kind of a search engine for life science researchers, whether they're in academia or by a farmat and what it does it helps them conduct experimentation more correctly, more accurately. So we all know that a lot of scientific research is not reproducible. We I think the numbers are almost eighty percent of scientific research. If somebody goes and say, okay, I can see this article that was written, let me go out there and you try to duplicate that experiment, they try to duplicate it and get the same results and that they can't. They can't replicate it. So what we've built as a search engine which kind of uses natural language processing to analyze scientific articles, structure the data and give the researchers who are doing these important experiments for us to develop new drugs and ture diseases just be more effective at that. So this is a is a wonderful AI company and we're doing great. We have customers like Thermo, Fisher Scientific and in New England, Bar Lads, Long Zo, Roche men. This is a very exciting journey which I'm on right now, and you know, Standford's invested in us and we're very excited. But again, this is a long journey. We've been doing this for almost seven years and now we're pushing monetization about a year or so in. But again, you know, you have to be patient. You can take a long time until you really see the fruits of your effort. But I think that's kind of my background a nutshell. I will add one little point which is kind of Nice, as my dad's a professor at Stanford and won the Nobel Prize and chemistry in two thousand and thirteen. So it does help to have influential people, either as acquaintances or family members if possible, because that opens a lot of doors. You know, people listen. When they get an email from a Nobel laureate, they will respond. So try to leverage people in your in your circle that already connected because you know, we're all bombarded with so much stuff today. It does help of someone who you know can get you that attention. Not Bad, Daniel, not bad. So let's rewind a little bit to the Microsoft story, because I'm sure our viewers and listeners are pretty anxious us to hear a little bit more about that experience. So, you know, take us through like when you first started the company. What was your the mindset or your dreams for the Exit Strategy? Did you ever, like, did you have your mind or your heart set on Microsoft was like from Day One? You know, let's kind of just take us through that journey and how you got from and I have an idea to I'm selling it to Microsoft. Okay, that's very good, so I will will state that. You know, there I think they're different, two different types of founders, probably anymore, but just into categories there are the technical founders, the ones who are either, in my realm, the software engineers though the grounds, who write the code and come up with a cool idea, or those maybe the scientists who have some kind of an idea for a medical device or some kind of a technology platform, like my cofounder, Dr Prin Letch me, who was at Stanford as a post doc and came up with the idea for BIOS. So I find that, you know, it's not that I don't think that I have good ideas. I find that consistently over the last twenty five, twenty six years of doing startups, every single startup has been someone else's idea and it's always been a technical person, a scientist or engineer who's had the idea. And I find that my role was me that other have to be the person who comes and, you know, help some raise the money, build the team, build an execution plan and operates. So I think that's so in the Microsoft case I was the operator. I found, you know, an in a couple of engineers or had this idea. You had some initial working productype and the idea is okay, let's find investors. Typically, Angel Investors are the best source for early money, people who can write checks for, you know, as much as twenty five thousand, Fiftyzero hundred thousand dollars, and those initial checks are very helpful. We start with small salaries and the initial objective was not to sell the company. Of course it was sold relatively quickly. The objective was to raise a certain base amount of money that we could hire a few people who could not only be engineers, so maybe three or four engineers in total and maybe on the business development sales side, a couple of people as well, if we're in that phase. And to do that, I believe that a company needs to really raise about a million dollars. Less than a million dollars, it's hard to operate and it's very simply if you just look at the burn rate a million dollars requires. Maybe if you spend Eightyzero a month, that can cover maybe, you know, seven, eight, nine people and an office for a year. So I would say that if you can't raise a million dollars, and doesn't have to be in one jump, you can start with, say, raising Fiftyzero, then a couple hundred thousand. I recommend that the method to raise that money should always be on what's called a safe note. It's a called...'s a simple agreement for equity, something which why combinator came out with in the past people used to use convertible on agreements, clas or convertible notes. It's not meant for the startup environments because they have a maturity day when investor can say, okay, after a year, okay, I want my money back and I can put the start up into a very difficult situation. They're also interest bearing, which requires that you have to pay them more than they actually invested. So safe notes are the way to do it. Raise that money, get started, hire people again, but don't hire more people than you need. Try to have the founders be the ones were doing most of the work, and it's amazing how a founder can take on many, many roles. A founder who's never done, you know, managing engineers. Sure they can manage engineers. They can start, you know, looking at the sprints, they can put together agendas, they can have meetings with the engineers and it's surprising how far you can get without hiring so called professionals. The professionals need to come in when you start scaling the business, but that can be many, many years down the road it's that far off. Hire people who can individually contribute, engineers who are going to not do the managing but do then do the work. I also find that the type of person you want to bring on, especially in those early days, as someone who is very committed, very entrepreneurial. So you know, I'm not seeing people have to work all the time, but you want someone who's excited, who has no problem answering an email on a Saturday or a Sunday, excited to work, you know, Friday night. You know it's it could be from home, but you know you want it to be happy. Someone who expects a ninety five job should absolutely not be involved in early stage start up, even if they want to be an entrepreneur. It's not for them because really they're no benefits. The benefit is just working on something cool with cool people, learning a lot, and I think when you tell people what's the main benefit, it's learning, they don't get it because, okay, what's about the money? What about my free time? You know? So. So I think you have to find the right people for the early stage a venture and and then after that we miss we raise the money, we hired the small team and then the method was very quickly to start getting to monetization. So we immediately started to find partners we could have agreements with and and start to show proof that not only having developed technology, we've decult technology that other people actually need and want. So if you build something which is cool, it's not enough. Has To be solving a problem or addressing a pain that someone else has. And I think there's always this interesting point which I think really really resonates well with any startup. When you think about you know, is your product or something you developed going to make money, and that is you know, are you firing someone else or some other process or task? So think about it in that sense. Know what is being done today inefficiently or incorrectly, that your solution can actually do better. So you're actually firing the current way of doing things or you know, intensially, you know, in the sense of firing the person, you're firing a current way of doing thing something and if, when you looking around you don't really see that one thing you're firing, it's going to be really hard for you to get your product out there or service, because you know it's hard to convince someone here I've got something new, they will ask, okay, how's it going to help me do what I'm doing better? It's going to be a hard cell. So you really want to try to look for don't create things which are more like wants, create things that address needs and make sure you're actually confery cularly find what you're firing in the current process. I think that was something we learned and then, you know, out of pure luck, Microsoft called us and was interested in learning more about our technology. I think the acquisition went very fast and there is a lesson here as well, because the the technology we had built our platform one happened to be happened to be Microsoft technology, and so when they did an evaluation of the technology in their mind they could very quickly see how they could incorporate our company's technology into their current platforms, which I think accelerated the process. So I think after that acquisition my thinking was, okay, let me think about who could potentially acquire the company. Now. Maybe that should influence how we're actually building our technology, because you can choose to code your platform in many ways. You can choose the different platforms, and I think there's some for thought to do that process of cake. You know, it'll definitely be easier to close an acquisition if you can be more aligned with the acquire in certain ways. So always kind of keep the keep that in the back of your mind. But that was a cool like a cool event. I will say one thing which I think is important for founders to realize. This is going to you know, last point on on this Microsoft transaction is that there's a concept of acceleration investing for stock options. So stock options, you know, you can also put in place something where, if the company gets acquired, then if you had to let's say three or four year vesting, all those stocks will vest immediately, which means now you actually own those stock options and can convergent convert them into the shares of the acquiring company or cash. Okay. So, because we hadn't operated for that long, a lot of our employees had stock options. The founders are okay, they usually have stock board disagreement, actual s shares, so they're no problem there. But the employees who had worked hard have stock options.

Not Enough of it. Had invested, some of them maybe not even past the cliff period, and the acceleration clause, you know, with something which would have helped them a lot, which was in those agreements. And I remember this interesting situation with one of our investors who, you know, didn't agree with me. And then event I did what I thought was right. Is I actually said, okay, if I accelerate all the shares or all these options for the found for the employees, you know, I might personally lose a couple hundred thousand dollars and the investors would lose, the other foundersold lose, but these individuals would now get another check of Eightyzero hundred thousand dollars, which could at that point have been a down payment on the house, instead of getting five thousand dollars. And and and I remember the argument with it, with with the investors, saying hey, no, I'm going to accelerate everyone. You know, the fact that we were sold relatively quickly was not in everyone's plan, but they need to benefit as well. I don't mind giving a bit of my money. The investors were very against that, and I think that's kind of a lesson as well. Choose who you want to be on our team. As an investor, you want people who are aligned with your values and and it's always about doing the right thing. So I always believe in doing the right thing. You have to look at the people around you. Karma does exist and, you know, just be good, be nice and do the right thing, whether or not others agree. Would you're not? Yep. So lots a whole chalk full of lessons already packaged in one story. I love it. So, you know, one of the things that you said that I think it's really interesting is this distinction between the the founder, being the one that has the business acumen or commercialization acumen versus being the technologist or the physician or the scientist that has the idea of the technology. I would also say, you know, a building the company from a different mindset of being technology first versus being customer first or is very different. So just kind of talk about that a little bit, because I wonder if your early background in sales and marketing, you know, shaped your role as the business expert to come alongside these other innovators and then with that sales and marketing background, it made you think not only just about the problem but even about the customer first versus the technology or the science first. Yeah, I think that's all. That's all very interesting and also that I definitely agree with what you're saying. So I did start in sales. Wasn't not that I didn't tend on starting in sales. Actually, I think it was a kind of a flute which happened at the time, whether it was in the kind of the mid S and, you know, kind to sales at a startup if she wants to work in marketing. But the interesting point here, this is what I realize, it that about sixty percent of CEOS of companies have actually started in sales. So if you think about that, sales is a critical skill set because you really can understand, know what people want, what people need and how to offer it to them, and that's, I think, a critical skill set. So know the idea here that you know, someone is born with a certain skills that I think it's a personality trait. I think some of us are much more into the technical side and thinks things and other people are much more in the okay, let's raise the money, let's talk to investors, and I think that if somebody says again, what is the skill set which I have, which is, you know, the thing which makes a difference in my role, and I'll come back to a VP who I've worked with it, you know, many, many years ago, and he basically said, you know, you know, that my ideal tag of who I am is basically a product or evangelist. So, you know, being able to evangelize what you believe in and and convinced people that what you have is the best thing since slice spread is a huge skill and I believe that people who don't have that ability to really be convincing and articulating things, and whether it's in writing or in speaking, are going to have a really hard time being the CEO or commercialization leader of a company. and which is fine because, honestly, you know, I I've met so many amazing technical people and I think that even if some person had this ability, okay, I'm this. Maybe Elon Musk would be an example of someone who can kind of do both really well. I actually think that having additional people as founders with you is really, really helpful. I would not want to start a company by myself and more than happy to give equity so that somebody else can be with me in this journey. And you really want people who are different from you, people who can actually, you know, you know, argue or discuss things with you. I'll give an example, like my my cofounder, Dr Kreen Letni. So, she came from the scientific background. She's come up with ideas which I initially thought didn't make sense. I thought, there's no way this is going to work, the customers not going to accept it. But you know, after seeing her,... know be right about five times over the last three years. I've I've built this trust that she gets the vision, she gets what customers really want, and it's very comforting to me because I almost say, okay, if she thinks this is going to work, okay, you know there's a high likelihood that she is right. And you know, if I was doing this by myself, I wouldn't have that. If she was doing it by herself, she wouldn't have someone to kind of challenge her ideas or kind of say, well, maybe it's wrong or right. So I honestly believe that do not start a company by yourself, but do not randomly find someone. Find someone who can really be this bouncing board or something you can actually actually discuss ideas with brainstone where the politely, even if it's sometimes he did. Your company will be much better off for that. So, again, coming back to that initial point that you make. I think you know I definitely came from more of a sales evangelizing background, which is more on the commercialization aspects. And I think where it becomes important is that, you know, you know, things start with a product or idea or service, right. But you know, I'll give an example which, you know, Steve Jobs gave, which I think is really, really true. Let's all think of a a printer. Let's think of a laser printer, especially the apple laser printers, which are kind of these these these very neat clean square boxes, these cubes which output a paper. So the engineers who develop that printer, they love they think about the gears inside that printer and how it all works and, you know, the lasers moving in there and and and it's true, it's remarkable and unbelievable. They might even want the side panel to be transparent to people can look inside. But what's Steve Jobs said is that ultimately, the customer the one who has that need. All they care about is that piece of paper that comes out of that slot, nothing else. And this is this is, I think, a good example for me because, you know, you really have to be thinking in terms of that piece of paper coming out of that printer, not in terms of the gears or or how the whole thing does it. Get it all right, make sure it's all working beautifully and perfectly and reliable, but the key is, does somebody want that piece of paper? What is the quality of that piece of paper? So very critical to not, you know, be so super focused on the product and developing more and more features and less you are hundred percent sure that what you're doing will lead to monetization and lead to monetization always quicker than you think you need to because it's very, very hard from the second you start to monetize, it could take years. So don't wait. I see a huge number of founders waiting too long, focusing too much on the product without thinking how that product solves a certain need for someone else. Yes, yes, yes, yes, so I was talking to a physician who's immersed in the problem all day every day. Has Four years, decided that they were going to develop a product or technology to solve that problem and they've been iterating on that product. Now it's actually been you can download the APP in the APP store, but they have no commercialization strategy whatsoever, and so for three years. They just keep adding more features and functionality with that one paying customer or even a strategy to get one paying customer, and I it breaks my heart because I know that this person is so passionate about it, but in the world probably could use it, but the world will probably never know that this even exists. Yeah, that is sudden. I think someone like that could truly benefit from someone who has experience commercializing thumping and getting it out there, because you could have something amazing, but if nobody knows about it, it's unfortunate, both in terms of the utility it could provide to other people, which is being lost, but also in terms of you personally in your company. So I think that happens much more than people realize that. There's some scary numbers out there that ninety eight percent of startups that have been funded fail. So you know, the odds are against us. Essentially, and and I do like the point you mentioned about heat, we can continue adding features, because that's what a lot of people do. They kind of have developed some kind of a product, or could be a Widgett whatever it is, or or service and they think, okay, I'm not selling because it's missing. This feature, but almost always is never that. It's not that one feature which I you and you spend a lot of time, maybe your last dollars, I'm developing that feature, then you release it and nothing much changes. It's really not about that. You just have to figure out, am I solving a core need? So maybe I have to pivot to a different customer, maybe have to repackage my technology in a different form so that actually appeal to that need out there. And I will stress one thing that you know. I'm also involved in start x, which is a Stanford's accelerator. I judge the applicants for those want to be accepted into the program and you see a lot of companies that have amazing ideas but totally don't understand the the commercialization aspects, and it's really scary because you know those are the people you want to bring into the program if they have something amazing, but they have to be willing to learn. And one thing I will add here, which I also think is critically important, which is something which you know I'm learning all the time thought this, is that before you go too far... your company, interview customers and I hear the best companies what they do is, even if they're four or five, six, seven years along, they're spun, still spending time every week talking to one, two, five, hundred and ten customers and or potential customers, just you asking them questions, because a lot of times, and this is something I'll give you some insight from my current company, but we found is that, you know, we have a service for offering and we're kind of pushing it and closing and customers like it. But as soon as you ask the customer, okay, we're offering this, but what would you like to see? You know, what do you think here would be, you know a little bit, you know, more customized towards your specific needs. As soon as they feel that they can get something more specifically that they want, the ability to sell it to them switches a hundred eighty degrees. Suddenly they're saying, I want this, when could when can I get this, instead of you pushing it, and what you have you really done here? You haven't transformed your product completely, you've just adjusted it to be aligned with what they are asking for. So asking your customers is great for learning. It helps in selling and I know there's a whole program which Steve Blank it's Stanford put together and it's used by the National Science Foundation as well. You know, in every in customers is become like literally, you know, scientific evidence for success for all startups in Benout to do it sooner them later, and it's amazing how much you're learned. Don't be afraid, don't be shy. Just talk to people. What are they going to say? You know they'll say not interested in talking. You go to the next one. Amazing insights can be had. Hey, it's Dr Roxy here with a quick break from the conversation. Are you trying to figure out what moves you need to make to survive and thrive in the new covid economy? I want every health innovator to find their most viable and profitable pivot strategy, which is why I created the covid proof your business pivot kit. The pivot kit is a step by step framework that helps you find your best pivot strategy. It walks you through six categories you need to examine for a three hundred and sixty degree view of your business. I call them the six critical pivot lenses. As you make your way through this comprehensive kit, you'll be armed with the tools, tips and strategies. You need to make sure you can pivot with speed without missing out on critical details and opportunities. Learn more at legacy type and DNACOM backslash kit. So so, Daniel, I think that that is like probably the most critical advice or wisdom that we could ever share with any entrepreneur innovator out there that you know, the earlier the better. So many times I see I've got an idea, I know the problem in the solution, I build the widget, the solution and now I'm going out and I'm going to do these customer interviews. So it's kind of a static, one moment in time experience. Most of the time I'm just confirmation bias. I'm just looking for them to confirm what I already believe to be true. I'm really not suggest look soliciting new insights, because that would derail my whole strategy and plan and and and and I'm going to market and it's so it's like I'm going to do just one time, check the box kind of thing. Yep, I did these interviews and I love what you said because it's so important and it's something that is you're seeing to be a lot more proudable prevalent and both startups and mature companies and other industries. But we're still just kind of scratching the surface on implementing this in healthcare from the very beginning, like when I think about I'm going to get investors, I'm going to get advisors, I'm going to get target customers, like day one, day two, really really early on. Yeah, I agree and I think what I've seen is so a lot of the people who come to Stanford STARTEX program are actual faculty members at stand for, so professors who've come up with ideas from the medical school. Yeah, and it's they have remarkable things and they're sitting in the room and they kind of feel they want to be an entrepreneur. But you do feel that they have to bring someone on on the business side and sometimes it's hard because someone who's professor at Stanford has gone through a lot of curdles in life and has done a lot of amazing things. So for them to now partner equally with someone who's, you know, maybe a lot younger but has start up experience, I think that's always sometimes of a mental block. But what they have to do that. It's you can have the best idea in the world, but if you really want to make something big, you've got to do that. And I think what I see a lot of professors do because of that is they don't start companies themselves. What they'll do those stay in the lab day as a professor or in the medical school and they will basically sell their idea to another bigger company for peanuts. Yeah, to them it's just an easier way out and they don't want to start a company when they could actually build the companies. And what I see, which is quite amazing, because I do see a lot of these medical companies. You see companies that come out of, say, Stanford and within three years get sold for a billion dollars to companies like like Bristol Myers. It's shocking. And then those same guys go and start another company which is worth a couple of billion, you know as well,...

...just after for so so so. The medical schools and these these ideas are sometimes unbelievable. I think they get sold off prematurely and and I and people in professor to stay as advisors to a bigger company. That takes it all. If those individuals would align themselves more with the business people, people like I think myself, not giving myself over your credit. But you know, there's definitely another side to this. I'm not a scientist. I don't understand those areas which, you know, people come with these amazing ideas, but I certainly understand how to form a company responsibly, reliably and to initiate an execute on uncommercialization and and there's nothing wrong with that and I think that's a mindset. The other thing I would give as a point to people who are in the medical field is that I think they have a very kind of stable, secure position, usually, which is taken the many years to get to. I think they're much more scared to leave it and and go and start a company because they feel they're like ending that road versus somebody like myself, as always been start up, doing startups. I don't mind, I'm happy to go and do the next one, and so I think there is some kind of reluctance, and it's especially true of those who are already in faculty positions. Yeah, and I see that in the STARTEX interviews. They're kind of they're just like literally, the question we ask always is, you know, are you full time? You know okay, I will be full time later on. It went. What amount of funding does need to be race up? And that's really a kind of the last thing investor wants to see, you know, they want to see everyone a full time now, not later when there's money. Take the risk now, right. So I think that's an interesting point. But yeah, I just think there's not enough push in that are and there's amazing ideas to be had. Sure, sure, yeah, and so probably similar to Steve Blanks idea, I have a five co framework that I created in one of the things that I think it makes it unique is that, you know, so we're not only including the customers in the ideation phase, but even in launch, right, so it's not even just like hey, help me build this technology solution that you're going to love and want to buy, but also including the customers in the launch process and thinking about this as just part of the culture. It's just what we do. And in you touched on that. To you know this, it's not like we're going to do a focus group and then everybody's going to go back and maybe in another six months or another year going to do another focus group. Like we build it into our operating processes of we got this continuous flow of information of how are we building meeting needs, you launch, launching, you know, to collectively where we really start to see our target customers as part of the team. Yeah, absolutely, and I think, I think when we try to try to think if I'm trying to close a new customer in our for our service right now now, in that to sales discussion, what is the number thing, number one thing I can show them that will give them confidence that what I'm selling them has value and will give them benefit? And it always comes down to referenced customers. Everyone, I wants to see your product live on some other customers website being used by some other customer. And and again you can do that through creating case studies, having press releases where your customers are quoted. But it always comes down to that and that's why it's so hard to get that first or second or third customer, once you get them their amazing references. So I think your point is very valid. It's not only in the ideation stage that you want to ask people and you want to do it. There's really no ideation stage. is almost like there's endless ideation. I gation. Your ideation stages for every feature, every direction you want to take, every new market. So it's continuous and I think that customer interviewing or customer interactions and asking, not telling. Asking is is the right way. But I think sometimes founders ego gets in the way where they think, okay, I came from this domain, I know exactly how it works and that's finally might know exactly how it works in one sense of it, but there's a whole world out there that maybe you have to educate and they might not under stand the way you're presenting it. So you need to switch the way you're conveying the messaging. So I think this is something great out of this conversation which is really being focused on, is talk to those who you want to be your customers all the time throughout the entire venture. Even if it seems artificial, even if it sounds, you know, waste of time, it's really valuable. You wouldn't be shocked how much you can learn from from talking to them. Yeah, that's great. So do you have any insights in look the size of that customer right, so I also see a lot of folks get a little, I call it, like Woo Woo. If you know a big health system right with a really deep brand, you know ends up being their pilot customer or their first customer, and you know there's some pros and cons to that. You know this might customer might end up being extremely demanding and take over your...

...whole product development with strategy and and now of a sudden, at the end of the day, you might be in so inclined to invest in that path because you want the additional revenue to come in right and you want to make sure that this customer is satisfied. But then you might end up with something that's really not commercially viable. It's great for this customer but not necessarily commercially viable across the entire market segment. In your experience, is there any pros and cons between like a large player, small player or a middle player and how that might help with product development as well as with the launch process? Yeah, so it's actually very common to get into a relationship with a kind of a big, medium sized customer, because what you're doing in that sense you're actually having them fund your development. Now, the reason they're doing and it's not, you know, from fulfill and tropic reason they're doing it because they probably see potential in your company as being acquired by them. So it's more of a strategic partnership. But you have to be very, very careful not to create a product solely for them that if that relationship goes sour or, you know, if, for example, the money money is not significant, you're not stuck with something which you cannot later on sell to someone else again. It's always about how you see yourself. Don't know, and this is again an important tip for raising funding, you have to see yourself as equal to the partner, whether it's a investor, whether it's another company. The problem with a lot of these deals that's done like, okay, I'm small, I have this Ledya, you're helping me, instead of being more of a commercial agreement between two equals. I'm bringing this amazing technology, I'm willing to do development for you, but you have to pay for it and it's, you know, a part of what we're doing. It's not the entirety of the company, but you know, the last point on this is that ultimately the reason they're doing this is most often because they want to either acquire the technology for themselves and they don't really care if they say no at the end and you're stuck with nothing. So got to be very careful. Yeah. So, so, Daniel, as we think about you know all of your different experience dances, including, you know, your current company, what do you think the number one challenge that entrepreneurs or innovators or facing right now in healthcare and and what's the wisdom or the the lesson learned that you would share in response to that? Yeah, so I think one of the problems is that the products and healthcare tend to be very, very narrow in the need they're solving and I think that's sometimes dangerous because it's almost like either it works or doesn't work. Work, and I think oftentimes it makes you think, okay, I have this amazing again. It might be an amazing idea and it might actually solve in need, which is critical. But what investors want to see? They want to see a big market, which means that you can just take take the widget, take the service and think about it. Okay, how much money am I going to be able to generate in sales from this item? And sometimes it's difficult for founders because they they have a lot of passion towards this one problem that they might have seen, you know, in a clinic environment or maybe in a hospital, and it's truly an important need that needs to be solved. But it might be something that you do need to go and find and medtronic or Johnson and Johnson and actually have them product eyes it, make a company out of it and you maybe are on the patent and then you could get licensing fees. You have to be careful because a product that you believe okay, great, I can make twentyzero these or Fiftyzero these and you know I'll make a few million revenue. That is not something people want to invest in. Investors who are serious investors want to see a business that can be worth a billion dollars with a B, and that means in the kind of in the best case scenario, you'll be able to reach fifty million dollars annual recurring sales, and that's a lot of sales. If Your Business can generate five ten million a year, I think that's a great success, but it's not something you can go to traditional investors with and you have to find a different route to build your business. But I do find that in the medical field a lot of these solutions are very, very specific in terms of what they solved, and if it's a therapeutic it's even harder because very often it's just an idea and it's unproven and then a chance of that succeeding is very, very low. So I think then the lesson here is, even if there's a really, really deep need for something in a specific context, if that cannot be projected out to much, much larger revenue numbers, numbers which maybe seem crazy, because to us, if we sell something and generate five or ten million a year it sounds like a lot and it solves a critical need which saves lies. It's not enough, investors will not look at it seriously, unfortunately. Yeah, yeah, I think that's so important. I think that it's like a balance between, you know, my initial commercialization or go to market strategy might be on a single narrow market or like a niche marketing strategy, but I but I have in plans in place for it to be this bowling pin effect of like all right, tackled it, you know, knock that one down, knock that one down. So you've got the the focus up front, right,... you're not spreading resources too thin, but at the same time you have plans to be able to sell that to multiple sub sub markets, right. So that's good point. So ultimately that's it's a little different from what I said earlier in terms of like what I s Earli is one thing where you have a very specific product which isn't applicable to many markets. In your context, is right, and in a different sense, that you basically have multiple markets that you can target with your product. So if your product is a product that applies to not only a single narrow vertical market but can apply to many markets, it just needs to be kind of adapted, that's great. That's fine, because then what you're talking about is more okay, I'm going to choose a first market or first customer type to Jane. That typically is called your beachhead customer. Yeah, and that's very good because it's basically saying, okay, I know I can approach a lot of other markets, but I'm going to be very focused because I don't have enough money, I don't have enough when to develop a product in five different markets simultaneously. I'm going to go after that beach at customer, kind of the lowest hanging fruit the market which will like a post and and that market could generate only five hundred and ten fifteen million a year. And that's totally fine, because your products are lootable to other things. What I was more worried about is that the product is very, very narrow as a device which can't necessarily be adapted to other markets, which to me is kind of said. It's almost like orphan drugs, where you have, you know, the lot of diseases out there, which is don't affect enough people and therefore the drug companies don't address but the act critically important. So I think actually in vesting in things which are, you know, maybe smaller is a good thing and there are probably investors out there who are okay with that. But when you talk to the big ones, if you want to go to the big venture capital firms, you know if you can't show them that you can be worth the billion, which means fifty million plus in sales, you're not going to be taken. But I think your point is is truly remarkably valid here, that that beachhead market is critical. So even if you develop something which is really cool, if it can apply to multiple verticals, that's perfect. Choose one where you have, you know, the most demand, the fastest demand, the most alignment without having to adapt your product too much, and then go after that, prove that there's demand, make some money and then use that to raise additional funds and go after additional markets. But yeah, very, very good point. Yeah, I'm so glad you clarified that, because I do see a common pitfall is that I can sell many products to many markets and and I don't pick something and so I'm trying to it seems as though I'm trying to be all things to all people and I don't have a whole lot of money. The money aspects the hard parts, and I think it's sometimes tempting. But again, I'm coming from my experience. In the past I would have just said, okay, let's go after this and this and this, and it's just you kind of have to just choose one right, right, one thing you're doing and and it's sometimes hard because you're kind of but the focus is crazy because you'll learn so much and by just doing that one one mark a very focus. That's an also investors love that. Investors hate that you come and show, okay, I can this works for this and for this and for this and for this. It's great, but you're basically five years too early that commercializations tread to keep prove that you can just give me one customer, give me one type of product worth one market. But yeah, very, very good. I totally agree. So when you think about, you know, commercializing your your current company, in your current solution, what are you doing differently in this company, when you think about this being the seventh company that you are building from scratch, you know, help us debunk maybe some myths that entrepreneurs believe or just some additional lessons learned as you come along. Yeah, so I think it's a lot of it comes to the focus on a very specific, narrow area. I think that's one thing in our company. On our company right now we're selling a content syndication service to help, you know, suppliers of life science tools, you know, build trust and confidence in their products now. So I think I think we've taken one very specific area to monetize. We also have a platform where scientists and come in and use as a search engine, but we've chosen not to monetize that. So, you know, it's not that it's not monetizable. We've chosen not to monitize. That's a big difference there and I think that requires a lot of discipline. I think we've kind of developed that discipline and you'd be careful because you can get opinions along the way pulling you in one direction of the other, and I think that's also something which I've learned. To Listen, listen to people who talk to you, to accept the data points, but then analyze it and always go with what your own good is telling you to do, even if it's against someone who might have the biggest title in the world, or you know titles. You know they don't know your company. Nobody knows your company as well as you know your company. To listen to others and, you know, use those data points to make maybe better decisions, but still go with what what you think is critical.

So that's one thing. It's the whole focus aspect in terms of monetization. So choose one, and it's a little different from what we talked about earlier because, well, earlier we talked about different markets to sell to. We're still going to the same market, yeah, but going with a much no just monetizing one aspect of our technology and being very focused, and that's ready. The second thing I will bring forth is that I think companies too often just start, okay, I'm just going to build this platform or build this APP or build this this this product is this tool, and they start selling it. They don't look at it as okay, you know what is my overall strategy to become a leader in this market. And there's this whole term of scalable monopoly. I think Peter Til brought it about. Is Really critical because you want to take a market where you can actually become monopolistic in that market and actually own it. So and that might take more than just developing a product and going to market right away. You might have to have different strategic aspects to it. So you might want in our case, for example, we're building the researcher community, we're building the supplier Commun unity, we're kind of bringing those maybe together. So there's all these concepts of okay, I'm staging and I'm starting with one thing, then I'm going to do the next thing that I'm going to do the third things. So kind of like act one, act two, act three. Think of your company in terms of that. It doesn't have to be just one single tooler product, because you want to win in the overall strategy. It's not just by so you're building a company, you're not just developing a product. It's very different. Think of a company is more of a strategic thing. A product is more of a tactical element in building a successful companies. I think those are the kind of the main things which which I've owned here. But I do want to say, and I'm very humpful, although I've done a lot of companies, it's sometimes scary how little I feel I know because it's just it's just learning all the time. And I'm not even talking about, okay, how little I know about other fields I haven't worked in. I'm just talking about just common business sense and and and you know, it's remarkable. So I really feel that every entrepreneur, if they can do themselves a huge favor, remain humble and just be very open to learning, and it doesn't matter who's teaching it. Just constantly suck in information, try to put into the context that you're currently working and then try to convey that knowledge for the others. But you know, I talked to some very smart people who are kind of you know getting on in the years and they basically said that what their focus is on life after they've been very successful is two things. They're focused on teaching and learning. Yeah, that's clear. That's their life and if we think about in that sense, if our lives can be focused around teaching and learning, I think that's really the the core to all of this in the long run. Absolutely I couldn't agree more. The you know, like my doctorate is in a specific business problem. That was seven years ago. I learned something new every single day. It's just it's incredible peeling the layers back, and so I think you just spot on. You just we continuously learn and it's not even that market conditions changed, it's just that there's a whole lot of information out there, even about a single business problem. I know it's endless. I think that's always it. That's there's a flip side to this as well, is that some people say, okay, just sit down and read books all the time. Right. You know, there's no way that someone who's running a start up and sit down and read books all the time. And even if you just looking at articles, there's so much data out there. So I really suggest that when somebody's operating a company. Try to focus on those things which is specifically going to help you continue developing your product and or monetizing commercial as and where you're doing. You know, it's very easy to get sucked into all these theories and strategies which you know very often do not apply at all to what you're doing. So again, I think that's the flip side of this. You know, trying not to waste time on just general learning might be interesting, if it's not a play couple to moving you forward, wait until you actit. Yep, that sound is great. Thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom with our listeners and viewers today. So if folks want to get a hold of you after the show, how did they do that? So the best way to do this email me directly, and my nails a Daniel at bioscom, so it's Da Nieo Bio zcom. I'm totally happy to help people out and if there's some great ideas there that I can introduce to the startux Stanford Accelerator, I'm happy to do that. Like I said, I'm really excited to be helping others along their journey perseverance. I will mention towards the end that that is what I have found to be key, because one thing it's hard to do. It's hard to time the market. You really do not know if your specific product will be most accepted today or in three or four or five years. So continue doing were you doing and your time will come. Thank you so much. I'm very welcome. I really appreciate it. Thanks rosy. Thank you so much for listening. I know you're busy working to bring your life changing innovation to market and I value your time and your attention. To save time and get the latest episodes on your mobile device, automatically subscribe to...

...the show on your favorite podcast APP like apple podcast, spotify and stitcher. Thank you for listening and I appreciate everyone who's been sharing the show with friends and colleagues. See You on the next episode of Coiq.

In-Stream Audio Search


Search across all episodes within this podcast

Episodes (121)