Mike Stadnisky - Thielsen Capital - Part 2

Transitioning from Lab Bench to Industry | Breaking Into Business Development | Finding Decision Makers & Champions | Navigating Partnerships & Strategy

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Part 2 of 3: My guest for this week’s episode is Mike Stadnisky, Managing Director of Thielsen Capital. Thielsen Capital is a seed-stage financing syndicate network bringing together life science investors, operators, and innovators to drive exceptional outcomes for founding teams, investors, and science. Before Thielsen, Mike was the CEO of Phitonex, which Thermo Fisher acquired. He was also VP & GM of Informatics at BD Life Sciences and was the CEO of FlowJo before its acquisition by BD. He has also taught at MIT Sloan, authored 10 patents, and won the 2019 International Society for the Advancement of Cytometry Innovation Award.

Join us as we sit down with Mike Stadnisky as he discusses his transition from academia to business and how he learned about business development. He also discusses the importance of your peer group, and how thoroughly you should do your research before meeting potential business partners. Lastly, Mike discusses the complexity of finding decision makers, and the importance of differentiating between decision makers and champions in business partnerships. Please enjoy my conversation with Mike Stadnisky.

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Episode Guest

Mike Stadnisky is the Managing Director of Thielsen Capital. Thielsen Capital is a seed-stage financing syndicate network bringing together life science investors, operators, and innovators to drive exceptional outcomes for founding teams, investors, and science. Before Thielsen, Mike was the CEO of Phitonex, which Thermo Fisher acquired. He was also VP & GM of Informatics at BD Life Sciences and was the CEO of FlowJo before its acquisition by BD. He has also taught at MIT Sloan, authored 10 patents, and won the 2019 International Society for the Advancement of Cytometry Innovation Award.

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Episode Transcript

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Intro - 00:00:01: Welcome to The Biotech Startups Podcast by Excedr. Join us as we speak with first-time founders, serial entrepreneurs, and experienced investors about the challenges and triumphs of running a biotech startup from pre-seed to IPO with your host, Jon Chee. In our last episode, we spoke with Mike Stadnisky about his childhood exposure to business and science, his time working for Red Bull as an undergrad, going to UVA for grad school, and the positive lab experiences he had there. If you missed it, be sure to go back and give Part 1 a listen. We continue our conversation in Part 2, covering his transition from academia to business, learning about business development, understanding the complexity of finding decision makers, and the importance of differentiating between decision makers and champions in business partnerships.

Jon - 00:01:01: So after your time in grad school, and you're talking about, you know, having that FlowJo hat on, how did you get drawn to FlowJo as a place that you would want to work at?

Mike - 00:01:10: So I finally started pulling my shit together on my career hunt way too late. Luckily, my PI would have me around for another year. And we went on a large, what would now be called multi-omics study. But back then, it was sort of like crushing data together. I helped him run that study. And I was actually analyzing the data. But I was trying to, beyond just flow, put multiple types of multi-omics data into FlowJo. So I was essentially hacking FlowJo to be able to do this data visualization. Because I was like, we want to gate. We want to bin. We want to analyze this data. And as an aside, it wasn't like, oh, there's a light shining down. I was like, are we going to work with FlowJo? That was not how it went. I started doing these informational interviews, which are the second piece of like graduate student career advice I would give somebody is like, every time someone mentioned networking, when I was getting a PhD, I'd roll my eyes so hard to get hit. Man, I was so wrong. I was so freaking wrong, Jon. I was so wrong. And now, like when I get a graduate student on the phone, like where I'm like, hey, reach out to me, like I evangelize to them. And I'm like, use me, use me. Like people that I know, I will intro you. Like, there's this notable experience that I have where this guy finally took me off on this offer. There's an undergrad and a graduate student in this exact same lab. And he's like, oh, I applied for this job, blah, blah, blah. I said, I know the hiring manager. Oh, that's great. I said, no, no, no. I'm going to message him and you're going to get that job. Like that's how this is literally how this works. It doesn't work any other. Oh, I applied online. Nope, doesn't matter. I'm going to throw in the shroud, right? It's kind of like that theme where like something comes off the printer and in the shredder. Graduate students and postdocs, listen to me. That mean is what happens with your resume when you apply for something online and you don't know anybody. Okay. And it's the same thing. Even people like Jon and I are like, oh, well, your resume. Cool. I mean, and I've hired people blindly before. Sure. But I promise you in these large things that you're trying to get into, it's just like printed-

Jon - 00:02:59: RIght into the bin.

Mike - 00:03:01: Immediately. And I actually learned that from Genentech, who was pretty much like, oh, hey, we get 4,000 applicants for every intern spot. And they're like, if we don't have somebody reach out to us, we're just not even looking. It's like, holy smoke. So I did these informational interviews. I started ruling out the things I didn't want to do, right. Like there's things that look real shiny when you're in school, right. Including being an academic PI. You're like, I can do this. But like, you know, you go through like biotech postdoc. You go through like, am I going to work in the patent space? And then, of course, like you're good at school. You're like, should I go back to school for something that's going to make money?

Jon - 00:03:37: Just really quick. When you said patent, remember the tie? It was a law firm.

Mike - 00:03:42: Oh, man.

Jon - 00:03:43: I was like, I'm doing the patent thing. And I was like, oh, God. Again, but I love my patent folks. Not saying every patent firm is like that. But mine was.

Mike - 00:03:52: But, you know, they're sure bought by people. Right. Like, it's also like, yeah, you got to figure out. I think the insight you're sharing there is you're going to find a kind of a culture you're also going to fit in personally, right. Like it's like every career has a culture, but like it needs to fit you where you are. And you're like, I'm not doing that. That's valuable to you. It's not like you end up. There's plenty of people, you know, and I don't do, you know, they end up doing something for 20 years and they're just like, well, I was just doing this to pay the bills, right? And like, that's fine. I get it. But you didn't get a PhD because you want to pay the bills. I can promise you that. Jon just told me that he couldn't pay his bill. Obviously, you didn't do it to pay the bills, right? 

Jon - 00:04:27: Yeah.

Mike - 00:04:27: Some other reason. And like, if you've spent 27 years of your life, like in school, and then all of a sudden you give that up. Kind of like, well, there was a lot invested in you until this point. Now you're giving me the yuppie Nuremberg excuse. Like I don't think that's gonna happen. So anyway, so informational interviews, highly recommend them. Reach out to the alumni, like just be pushy. If someone showed me what a CRM was when I was doing this career thing, oh my God, John, it would have blown my mind. Like, oh, hey, you need to follow up with this person. I'd be like, oh, I don't wanna be too pushy. No, you need to follow up with this person. They're busy and they're distracted, right? That's why for every consumer company that you ever sign up for their email list, they're emailing you every single day. They're trying to create mindshare, right? It's the same thing with your career thing. So get these people on the phone, say you're gonna talk to them for 20 minutes. If it goes well, you'll be talking to them for more than 20 minutes. Figure out what you don't wanna do and figure out at least some region of what you do wanna do. That helped me kind of narrow, figure out how things were going. And then I knew that I wanted to work in flow. There was something about flow cytometry, right? Which sounds like there's something about Mary, but like there was something about flow cytometry was like, I'm either gonna go work in a core, I'm gonna go run a core, I interviewed for all these jobs. Or I interviewed with, at that time, an MedImmune for one of their translational roles, which was obviously, it was like a 90% flow job, right? And so I was like, man, I just am so fired up about what we could do with this tech. As it turns out, my wife actually ended up with a job offer in the middle of nowhere, like quite a bit. I was like, what am I going to do anywhere near this spot? I mean, it's like, it turns out that the company that was selling and working off Fludger was actually headquartered. It had been moved out of Stanford. And it was in a very small town in Southern Oregon, just over the California, Ashland, Oregon. Which is known mostly for Shakespeare, like a Shakespeare festival in the Northwest. And I was like, no way. So it was pretty much like, hey, let's just go look. You're going to interview for your job. I'm going to go up over the hill and I'm going to go spend a week in Ashton with these people, which is kind of like, honestly, see what happens, right? There was no position that was advertised. It was like kind of like an interview, but I didn't know what that was. Like, I didn't know. I didn't even know how those interactions were supposed to go because. Yeah, I didn't either. Right? Like we didn't know. As long as grad schools, they don't teach you how to be hired. Like, no, 

Jon - 00:06:42: I didn't know what to wear. Literally just had a ill-fitting suit that was just like way too big, had clown shoes on basically, and rolling up in the mic.

Mike - 00:06:51: Yeah, you and I were the guys who, like most people were like, how do you create a resume, not a CV? Like you're a grad, you're like, I just got my PhD, I have a six-page CV. Some people are like,

Jon - 00:07:00: what, why?

Mike - 00:07:01: Yeah. You're like, sorry, because that's all, like literally that's all I know. Do you want my thesis? Because I don't know anything else. This is it. Yeah, so I ended up spending a week with the Flojo team. And with one of the two founders. And they were like, man, it would be great if we could get an application scientist, someone who really, really knows tech, and then have them sit literally on our engineering team. Because it was a small software engineering group at that time. It was 16 people. And I guess about half them would have been software engineers. And I got, it was like a good job offer. And then my wife ended up receiving kind of a gnarly job offer, where it's pretty much like you're going to be on call all the time. And the reasons that are kind of hard to even discern now, I just told her, look, don't take that job. But I really want to take this job with Flojo. And we're going to move to do essentially a part of the country where you've never been. She didn't spend a minute in Ashland. The first time she actually ever saw the town was actually in a documentary about ultra running. That we saw, I think, two weeks before we packed up everything in a car and drove us and our dog across the entire country. And I was like, this is what we're going to do. And it's amazing that she took that risk. I mean, I think in retrospect, it's like, what the heck was she thinking? But I was like, there's a there there, right? And I was like, passionate about FloJo. I was passionate about FloJo. And someone was offering me at that time way more money than I was making in graduate school. Right. And I was like. Let's give this a rip. And as an aside, it's also that, frankly, like the trail running there was amazing. And I was a big trail runner, gotten big into it. I've already run a couple of ultra marathons and you could literally leave your house. And you'd be on a hundreds of miles trail system, right? So that was also enticing, right? I was like, wow, I can do that too. Like, you know, we always wanted to order meat. And so just took that risk and made that leap.

Jon - 00:08:42: Very cool. And when you talk about significant others, just being willing to be supportive and make that sacrifice. I'm like, every time I think about Chloe, I'm like, holy crap. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Because we were in the trenches and you brought me out of the trenches. And I think that's something for entrepreneurship broadly speaking. That I don't hear it all too often is the importance of your significant other being on the same page, in the same car as you. And if they're not, there's an obstacle coming your way, which could quickly derail whatever venture you're starting. So I'm incredibly grateful for same situation, like moving across the country to a place that she's never been is quite a leap of faith. 

Mike - 00:09:24: Crazy, right? It seems like illogical. And of course, it's one of these things where it's in retrospect. Of course, it's like, no, it's not the time. It's not how it works, right? And I think the other side of it, though, is like... When you are an entrepreneur or whatever, I mean, CEO, whatever. I think the great advice I got from some folks, I went to this high performance leadership class in Chicago is also like, if you are going to a new place in terms of like your personal philosophy or the way you see them, don't take them with you. Cause that sounds like demeanor. But it's more like, make sure you share that. As you're going through the journey, right? And I think that's hard because I think what ends up happening is like, your relationship is not a dumping ground. It's not like, oh, I'm so stressed. All this stuff sucks. Yes, it's there for listening and for feedback, et cetera. But it's also there for like, hey, I'm maturing and I have this new perspective. Am I crazy? Because as an entrepreneur or whoever, you spend a lot of time in your own head, right? It is because I think that's the thing, like you iterate 10 times, like when someone's like, oh, it's a really good idea. That's because I've been iterating on this thing. Just like constantly 

Jon - 00:10:26: just sharpening this thing. Yeah, absolutely.

Mike - 00:10:29: And so I think they're always the first line for that thought process. And then usually when things go badly, then they're also the first line there. So I think you can read all the entrepreneurship blogs and all the podcasts you want to. And they're like, we've been through different phases of this, right? We went through the lean startup phase. But like, maybe, John, at some point, someone will be like, hey, we need to go through like the human relationship phase. It's like your significant others and your business partners and the first couple of people you want. The mentors that you have are critically important. Your investors are really important. If all these people are creating value at the same time, guess what? You are going to be successful. And then people are going to be like, oh, wow. John and Mike are geniuses. No. No. We got really lucky with all the people that were around us. And then we were able to make something of that. Yeah. We were in a very strong situation, which we did not sometimes intentionally create. Yeah, absolutely.

Jon - 00:11:21: And I'm always highly skeptical when one says, like, I did it on my own.

Mike - 00:11:25: Like, I don't believe it. No. And you know what, John? This is maybe another time to talk about your peer group and who you surround yourself with in terms of your close friends. I would put on an almost equal footing. I mean, statistically speaking, they're going to be the strongest influence on me because they create the context around me. But I think that that is another aspect that people don't talk about enough. And I think, frankly, like, at least from what I see, particularly from... People who are entering their mid-career. There's not a whole heck of a lot of focus on like, hey, by the way, like, sure, you need to like take care of yourself, et cetera. But it's also like, hey, you need to maintain the friendships that you have and work on because your peer group is what got you here. Again, statistically speaking, like, what is it that you're the average of your three closest friends or what have you? Like, that's actually true for what it's worth. And it's really important. Like, these are the people who you want to take on this journey with you. And I think it's not as important because you're not like spending day-to-day time with them. They're not a significant other. It's a different status. But like, I think for me, that's also been an aspect. I can point to several specific examples where I had a friend who was, none of these guys were life scientists, right? None of my very close friends. Doctors, folks who are incredible at sales, et cetera. But at any one time I could reach out to them and be like, hey, I have this specific problem. And like, I know that you could probably help me with this. And they go out of their way. And they also can understand the personal context of like why it matters so much. Even if they're like, I don't understand all that shit you do. But what I do know, and they can really help you out there. I think that's another aspect that receives little discussion, but is super clear. 

Jon - 00:12:59: Critical, super critical. And it's a conscious effort to maintain those relationships too, as everything gets more complex. But it's like a muscle, use it or lose it. And you got to keep working at it as much as you can fall into the inertia. Exactly what you're saying, just reminding yourself, you are a product of who you surround yourself with. And it's so important. And so for FloJo, you're in there. And you're cross-country, you're an academic scientist, you're now in business and a small team. I'm going to imagine on a small team, you're wearing a ton of hats. Can you talk about that experience above and beyond just like applying the scientific knowledge and the other skill sets you learned?

Mike - 00:13:39: Sure. I mean, I had not developed software to that point. So I think you really learn how to actually engineer a piece of software to address a customer need. So my favorite example is how we bend data. It wasn't just a visualization. It was... It was a scientific... People miss classifying systems because we had... And this is nerdy, but it is what it is. There were tons of cells piling up in the zero. Okay, cool. That's great. And people wrote papers about it. But frankly, who gives a shit unless you solve it and you solve it in a way that people can understand? And so we created a way for people to visualize how their data is being bent. Not like problem-solve magic, but like... When you can see that you can actually like impact someone's science through software and you can do that and design from software around that was a true need. That's pretty special, right? And so I think that was part of it. The other part was increasingly ended up being essentially the interface between our scientific team, which was all the application scientists for. So it was spread at that time through really mostly North America and Europe and kind of home office, right? Always tension there, right? Like we want this done. We want the product to go in this way. Home office maybe has some of their own ideas. How do you get that customer feedback in? And then also increasingly so, mostly because we just frankly had someone who was truly out of their depth, was also cutting my teeth on business development. Yeah. And so at that time, it was a major European partnership that we were sort of trying to reboot and save. And so it ended up being this ever-expanding sort of pie, which at that time, I did not know that that's what I was looking for. But when I started looking for it, there was more responsibilities you could possibly manage in that business. Also because the one founder, one of the two founders in that business really just wanted to just program and tinker and be creative. And I think kind of honestly happened into this at that time. Modestly but still successful business as a result of it right and so didn't really want to have the leadership role necessarily so yeah that's how the responsibilities expanded and kind of took me up to this place where ended up taking over like the leadership of the company because it was just like hey here's someone who has the skills to be able to do it has started thinking strategically about where i want to actually take this thing has some ambition for like where's this thing going to go beyond just it being a good lifestyle business and also has a vision for like hey how do we serve science through this thing right which was always kind of front and center for what we wanted to do and i think that's why i was successful albeit modestly so until that point and

Jon - 00:16:05: you brought up business development and when i talk to grad students it's always like how to break into bb Always. And from your perspective, it sounds like you went into FloJo and had to figure out BD from scratch. Now looking back on it, on that experience, what would you define as business development? And then how does a scientist like a grad student break into it?

Mike - 00:16:27: It's such a broad topic when people are like, I want to do business development. I'm like, what do you mean? Because business development at its highest level is... A partnership between two or more parties who are receiving, generally speaking, equal benefit from some relationship and some exchange of assets or selling of assets, right? It's going to benefit both parties. Usually, just for its worth, usually there's some asymmetry there, right? If it's not just some sort of OEM or manufacturing partnership, even then, if you think about it, there is some asymmetry there, right? And remember, so like in pharma, that can be licensing with a biotech, you know, and biotech, biotech might be like, hey, I need your drug delivery system, right? And there's some partnership that gets formed and there's some money that changes, et cetera. So business development is huge in terms of like the number of verticals you can stack it into. For me in life science, it was always sort of this David and Goliath type interaction. We're always a small company. We're always partnering with a larger company. One of the things I say, much to, I think a lot of people's chagrin, because it'll be a startup founder, they'll go meet another startup founder and they're both like, hey, we're friends, we're doing the same thing. Startups don't partner with startups, okay? Let's just get that out of the way right now. They don't, because it's both too high risk. And frankly, if you're a customer, you're looking at like, okay, it's like when you go into a daycare and you see two toddlers interacting with each other, that's not like, oh. This is a less risk situation to having one toddler. It's not. It's a higher risk.

Jon - 00:17:50: That actually might be a recipe for disaster.

Mike - 00:17:51: Yeah. Like this could be bad, right? And so kind of like set that aside. I focus in on the kind of a smaller business or the startup partnering, which is also huge. It's one. So like there's actually a couple of assets. There's one, if you're a graduate student and you want to get into business development, first be really good at science. Because all of it's going to be based on technology all the time. You can't just have craft science or non-eradication. You can't just have craft science and be able to talk partnering. That's it. So get your PhD and be really sound technically. Okay. Because at some point there's going to be a subject matter expert. And if you're full of shit, it's never going to work. Okay. Just get your baseline in, worry about business development later. Okay. The second aspect of this is always partner with a larger company that's going to offer you something asymmetric. And I bring that asymmetry up again, because if it is something that you're saying, hey, look, we don't have a sales force. We've got great tech. We know we've got this consumable stream. But what we want to do is commercialize this. And what we really need is a distribution. Boom. Okay. You have just condensed the whole universe. And you've identified exactly what you want. And there's probably going to be, what, three to four companies who you respect because you've already talked to your customers about that, by the way. You're going to go out and start forming relationships with them. We can talk about the block and tackling how you do that. Cause a lot of times when I get founders on the phone, they're beating their heads against their laptop and saying like, Oh, how do I do that? We'll get into that. But the aspect for graduate students here or anybody that's doing business development is that start with that value creation thesis and share it with the people that you are talking to. Okay. And I do this. I make this such a disciplined thing now when I coach and teach business development, because most people, what they do, this is 99% of people, no matter how smart they are. Here's all of our wares, right? It's going to like the bizarre, right? Like we do this. We're great at this. Here's our team. We're amazing. Like we all went to Harvard and MIT and like, blah, blah, blah. We're geniuses. And our tech is like the greatest thing since sliced white bread. And then they get to the very end of the hour. When people are already worried about the next thing and they're like, we want to do this. They've already moved on. 

Mike - 00:19:51: Nobody gives a shit. So look, take what you want to do. Make it the second or third slide. Of what you're going to say, because the attention is limited. So you say, hey, I'm from company X. We do X, Y, Z. By the way, if you can't do an elevator pitch. Find another job, like be able to summarize it really quick and then say, hey, the reason that I'm here today and I'm going to get this out of the way right now is this. Make it very clear. Like, here's the value proposition to you. This is why we're doing it. This is the value proposition to us. We think there's a there there. And then go in the rest of your credibility stuff and your technical stuff. The number of times that I've done this and then had people propose what I've already proposed back to me, which is a measure of their listening. It's not a measure of like magic. It's like, oh, yeah, I see what you're saying. And thus. And then you bring it back around and you plan for a shorter talk in an hour. This is not your research in progress talk for all your PIs and PhD students. And you bring that exact same slide, not a different slide, that exact same slide, and you leave it up. And that is what you're talking about. If you do that and you've done enough homework to know that proposal fits into their strategy and fits into what they want to do and it's going to be received correctly because you've got to do that homework. Now you're doing business development. It doesn't matter what time business development you're doing. That's like the recipe for success for doing business development. And then you can move on, like, again, more block and tackling aspects of like, who do I need to talk to? How do I get a proposal going, et cetera. But like that for any business development relationship to me is the frame of mind that people need.

Jon - 00:21:22: That's spot on. I guess my style too is like, I do an abundant amount of homework on who's the counterparty and basically just like try to know them as much as possible, what priorities they have, what are they incentivized by really scoping that out before. Because like, if you don't understand that your slide's going to fall flat, the ask is like going to be misaligned. Or maybe you're just meandering and you're not really hitting what they actually care about?

Jon - 00:21:47: Sometimes I think BD and sales kind of get smushed together. But it has sales elements, you kind of like gotta sell the thing. But it's not just like, hey, here's my good, buy it. Especially when you're trying to structure up working with the big dogs.  

Mike - 00:22:02: It's big game hunting, right? I mean, that's what you're doing, right? So you spend a lot of time preparing. I mean, I think I would take what you said, I can phrase another way, which is that if you are successful, the negotiation is starting. So you better know who you're dealing with. And to your point, like, why would they do this at all? And is it a fit? I'll take it one step further, John. Because we're having fun on this topic. Every organization has a way that they say things. And it's publicly available. And most people don't take advantage of this. I call this like semantic hacking for the longest time. But like, if you listen to an earnings call, and you hear a phrase, or you see it in the slides, and you're like, I haven't heard that before, it's possible that that's unique to their culture. Use it. Because now you're speaking their language quite literally, right? That's really important. And by the way, like, again, because the companies that you will be pitching, partnering, blah, blah, blah. The likelihood that they're public is very high. So guess what? If you go in a meeting with a public company, and you haven't looked at their quarterly earnings report, their presentation, you haven't listened to that, good luck. Like, it's all out there, buddy. People are like, oh, you don't need to know what's on their balance sheet. You damn well need to know what their business units are. You need to know what their strategy is. And this is, by the way, this should just be like fun stuff. It's a good way of learning the business. And by the way, it's also a really good way as a PhD student or anybody that's trying to transfer into business. So if you're a PhD student, you're going to need to know what their business is. It doesn't actually matter. It doesn't matter if it's a student, you're a student. It could be someone who's already working in biotech. The fastest way of learning business is starting to listen and consume that material. Because you're getting reps, and you're understanding the vernacular, right? It's kind of like when we were making ventriloquist self-jokes earlier, right? Like, that plays well with an immunology crowd. But like, what if I start making like deferred revenue jokes, right? Be able to speak that is really important. So there's kind of two aspects there, which is one is like, you can do a lot to figure out how organization thinks about things. Like I worked with a very large sequencing company. And they were very, very focused on go to market. All the time, it came up in every conversation. 

Mike - 00:23:59: So if you don't think I'm not saying that all the time, when I'm talking to them and negotiating with them, you're wrong. Like, that's not like a unique phrase. It's just something you know is front and center. And it's something that obviously critical path for them. Sure. And as a small company, it costs you nothing.

Jon - 00:24:15: It's so crazy. I'm seeing the parallel to like the Red Bull experience. It's like care before sharing. And it's like, it costs you nothing. Just like go see what they care. Like figure it out, dig in. Like give a shit a little bit.

Mike - 00:24:27: What's the worst that happens, right? You learn a lot about this business and you figure out they're the wrong one to partner with. That's how you do it. And I think it's not obfuscated to me now how quickly you could learn like the business stuff, right? Because a lot of people will tell you when you're in PhD, you can't do business. It's wrong. It's just, what do you want to do with that? And how do you want to learn? Like, how do you break into business development? There's your answer, right? And if you're going to the farm biotech side, it's even easier. They're like, we are looking for assets in these categories.

Jon - 00:24:54: Yeah, they survive on it too. They're just like-

Mike - 00:24:56: It's magic, man. It's like, hey, I fit. That's us.

Jon - 00:25:01: Yeah, it's there publicly, quarterly. And so I guess like sometimes the mantra of just like, yeah, find the decision maker is it's kind of like, just like give it out. But it is much more complicated than that. Can you talk a little bit about that oversimplification of the approach?

Mike - 00:25:17: That is arguably some of the worst advice that's out there now. I don't know. It's hard to stack up versus like raise as much money as you can. And I mean, there's just a whole bunch of just that's not even mythology. It's just bad advice, right? Right. Because the answer is in these large organizations, there is not just one decision maker. There is the fundamental assumption that is built in is wrong. So let's start there. We still are in the United States. Mostly we're dealing with these businesses. So it's not a consensus decision making process, but it still kind of is right. And depending on the corporate culture, too, means some people might just be reticent to make any decision at all. I think what you need to find, however, is a champion. There's a difference between a decision maker and a champion. And there's also a difference between a technical champion and a business champion. These two are the actual people that you need to find. And they might be not at equivalent levels in the organization, and you got to fill that out. And so I think the first port of call, and this is actually different than the advice we were given actually even a couple of years ago. The first port of call, I think, should be your technical champion. Someone who has purchased your system or who understands that gap and who's like, we need to be talking to you. And this can occur in a lot of different ways. And I've seen this, particularly in this business we're building right now. It can be because someone bought your system or your product or your software or whatever, because they have that cultivate that go on site. Okay. And even if they're at a junior level, that's fine, because then you can have them elevate that a little bit. And then we'll talk about how you get it there on the business side. Right. The other one is conferences. I've been very surprised over the past many years now about like the CTO coming and being like. Hey, why aren't we talking to you yet? That happens. By the way, it happens particularly if, and again, if you're a startup, listen to these words carefully. It happens when you have the CEOs in the booth all the time. Unless you're meeting with a customer, we're getting coffee, we're taking a bathroom break, you need to be in that freaking booth. Like get up on your feet and be in that. But there's a reason that you need to be there. And it's for those types of interactions, right? Because that's really where you move things. Hey, let's go sit down and talk about this. That's how you accelerate business development. Don't find a decision maker. Like, let's do this right now. Like, let's figure this out. Let's sketch stuff. I think having a technical advantage is really critical. And I would say on, it's like a parade, 80% of the business development that I've ever had is because there's been a technical advantage. Reach out first from one side or the other. And even then, it's generally the start of reaching out to the larger company. There's just too much noise. They can't find you. Then how do you make that leap? This would be your distinction between sales and business development. The traditional sales approach would be like, you're introducing your boss, or you can certainly do that on the business development side. They might not. These are big companies, right? And so I think what I recommend people do is actually research the way that they frame business development in their organization. Sometimes it's centralized corporate. Sometimes it's by business unit, even like product vertical. That is really important that you figure out how they actually execute these things. And by the way, if they have a partner program. Kind of a priority, equally important, right? And for what it's worth, like that's kind of the dark side of this is like when someone does have a partner and then like the startup positions that like they have a special relationship, that's also not right, right? Like it's not a special relationship. But the point is like, it shows you that they're willing to do this, right? Your goal wants to be the VIP lane there for, but figure out the way that the organization is organized. It's really important. And LinkedIn will help you out a little bit, but I would say that this is an area where the first site visit is going to be the difference between you figuring this out or not, because it's much easier, particularly postcode, once you've got shoe leather on ground, to be like, how do you guys do partnering? You can even call it business development. How do you guys partner? And like, how does that organize within your... And then, hey, can you just get an introduction to like, it doesn't matter even who it is. And then kind of have them be your trail guide. To figure out who's within business development, right? And now you've got the two components. By the way, this is like, you're rounding first base at this point. Now it's time to like bring these two together, right? Like Atom Smashing is what gives you high energy, right? So now you've got to bring these two together. It's not easy, but it's critical. This is how you get things done. You bring these two together and then you kind of do the presentation that we discussed, which was like, we're going to show them, show them, show them again. Because now you've got someone who can actually move the needle on the business side and like, if needed, create a business case, which is a spreadsheet, which by the way, like in many cases, you should have done for them, right? If you're the startup, just prepare to do all the homework. Like you're doing the homework. Okay, remember the group project we mentioned earlier. If you're doing a group project, that's what business development is. Assume that you're on the group project that's like made up of five people and you're the one person doing the work. That's being a startup. Just do that. And don't like be guilty. Like, oh, I didn't like, look at me. I created a spreadsheet. No, like that's how this deal is going to get done because you're going to do the work for them, right? And by the way, that extends to at the end of these presentations, say, hey, can I get you a proposal? Or can we talk about a straw man? Or by the way, this is another great area where people use their own semantics. This is another touchy subject in business development. And like, again, something that nobody covers. But I remember talking to a very large company and saying, hey, can like, I get you a term sheet. And they're like, whoa. And I was like, what? Like, this is just, and they were like, whoa, whoa, whoa. And I kind of described it. And they're like, oh, you mean a straw man? I'm like, there's no difference. Like, it's just terms. But like, just, just be aware, proposal is probably the safe space. But like, hey, can I get you a proposal? Just something for us to discuss. And that's how you get things really, really moving. And if you're going to sit there and wait for like, big company big company X to give that to you, you're going to wait in a long time. You're going to wait until you die. You need to be the one that picks up the pen and kind of controls both this presentation part of it, but also like driving it. And in many ways, even I would add one more thing onto this, which is also explaining why they need to do this and how it fits in their strategy. I'm leaning out of my chair because it's so, don't assume that they know what they're doing all the time strategically or why it makes sense. Like, don't tell them I understand your strategy. Reiterate, like reiterate their strategy and say, this is how this accelerates your strategy to do the following. Really important because what you're doing in that instance, I call finish with like, this will be like the capstone is this is what they're going to tell their boss. Because their boss isn't going to give much of a shit around all the other details. They're probably like, okay, that's great. Good. Sure. But when they pitch it, they're like, it's going to be quick. It's going to be in the hallway. And they're going to be like, Hey, I've got this company and they've got this tack. And then the next phrase is going to be exactly what you said. This accelerates what we were talking about the other day on strategy for blah, blah, blah. And they're like, cool. Let me know when you got to go. And then at some point, maybe the last piece of the emerald spice is when you can form a relationship with someone that's up higher in the organization and kind of top down it. I would say be careful with that. Don't overuse that. You're dealing with the busiest, most distracted people in the organization. But if they were compelled early or taking a look at you or join one of the meetings because they want to see where you're up to, realize that that's something you have. It's in your back pocket. But keep it there until it's needed. I've written up like 86 pages of negotiation notes on this. And this is one of the things where things go wrong, where people use that top down too early. They don't wait until that critical moment where it feels on the edge of life. Well, I don't know if we're going to get it done. And then you need them to kind of push it over the edge. This is really important. So that's hopefully like a good recipe for people who are not just like dreaming about business development, but like, hey, how do I do this? Yeah.

Jon - 00:32:40: I talk about that internally at Exceder too. It doesn't have to be the CEO of like a massive organization either. It's just like, think about when you're calling in favors. Just generally speaking, if it feels like you're phoning in a favor, realize there's like a finite amount of times you can go back to the well and draw. And so just really think long and hard. It's kind of like Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? You just like, right? You just like, you can phone a friend.

Mike - 00:33:02: Got one. 

Jon - 00:33:03: Yeah, you got one. And make it count. Like, make it count. Don't do it on some frivolous stuff.

Mike - 00:33:09: Like, if

Jon - 00:33:10: You can figure it out on your own, figure it out on your own.

Outro - 00:33:13: That's all for this episode of the Biotech Startups podcast. We hope you enjoyed our discussion with Mike Stadnitsky. Tune into part three of our conversation to learn more about his journey. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, leave us a review and share it with your friends. Thanks for listening. And we look forward to having you join us again on the Biotech Startups podcast for part three of Mike's journey. The Biotech Startups Podcast is produced by Excedr. Don't want to miss an episode? Search for The Biotech Startups Podcast wherever you get your podcasts and click subscribe. Excedr provides research labs with equipment leases on founder-friendly terms to support paths to exceptional outcomes. To learn more, visit our website, www.excedr.com. On behalf of the team here at Excedr, thanks for listening. The Biotech Startups Podcast provides general insights into the life science sector through the experiences of its guests. The use of information on this podcast or materials linked from the podcast is at the user's own risk. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not the views of Excedr or sponsors. No reference to any product, service or company in the podcast is an endorsement by Excedr or its guests.