How to Build Your Startup—and Grow It into an Empire | Chris Loose

Hertz Foundation Fellow Dr. Christopher Loose sold his first startup for $80 million in 2012, and co-founded his second startup, Frequency Therapeutics Inc., in 2015, which is developing methods to restore hearing loss, with greater applications in human regenerative medicine. Even if you aren’t in the field of medicine, innovators of any kind looking to found their first startup will benefit from his experience and advice on mentorship, building a balanced team, consulting experts, and how to develop the right first product—one that the rest of your career might be valued on. The Hertz Foundation mission is to provide unique financial and fellowship support to the nation’s most remarkable PhD students in the hard sciences. Hertz Fellowships are among the most prestigious in the world, and the foundation has invested over $200 million in Hertz Fellows since 1963 (present value) and supported over 1,100 brilliant and creative young scientists, who have gone on to become Nobel laureates, high-ranking military personnel, astronauts, inventors, Silicon Valley leaders, and tenured university professors. For more information, visit hertzfoundation.org.

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Transcript: As an entrepreneur, focus is critical, especially with a platform technology.
One often knows that you can go after many different product applications, but you ultimately get valued most importantly on the first application you bring forward, and as an entrepreneur you have limited time and limited resources, so you need to choose well and drive deep into clinical and regulatory validation for that first product.

Now, in order to make that often really painful decision about what to invest in and what to leave on the side—at least for a while—there are many aspects of a certain product you need to think through. Obviously market size plays a role. Technical fit to need plays a role.

As I’m looking at new ideas, I often try to follow some of the advice I once got from Bob Langer, who has been very prolific—he has started roughly 50 companies out of his lab, I think, at this point, and I have had the honor of starting two companies with him. Among the other kind of rules of the road he shares, is first: look for a platform company. If you’re going to build a company make sure that if you’re successful in one area it can create value in a number of adjacent areas, because that really justifies bringing in the investment, building the whole infrastructure not just for one product but potentially for many.

But within that it’s crucially important, and perhaps most important, to select an opportunity that has a very clearly defined first product opportunity that you have the ability to drive to a major value creation event, like a regulatory or a clinical approval.

As you’re building a business you ultimately get valued on that lead asset you’re carrying forward, so it’s important to have a platform but not to lose focus within that platform and make one crucial bet that ultimately can drive the early success of your company.

What really gets me excited is developing new therapies that can help patients. In order to do that you need to think through: who exactly is the patient you’re trying to help? What disease do they have, and what kind of clinical trial could you design that really proves that you’re giving a benefit to that class of patient?

When you do that you have to think through: What type of therapy is practical? How is it given? How frequently and by whom? And understanding that whole pathway from basic discovery to delivering an actual therapeutic requires a great variety of different skills you must bring together.
And early in our startups what we’ve done is first focused on some of the fundamental biology, but then defined: who are the experts along the way that we’re going to need to engage in order to advance all the way through the development, regulatory, and clinical process? And I can’t encourage young innovators enough to think about engaging project development experts and clinical experts early in the discovery process, because that really shapes what you’re trying to discover, and what you’re trying to create that can ultimately help the patient.



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