Mike Stadnisky - Thielsen Capital - Part 3

Don’t Fake it ‘Til you Make It | Cleaning Your Corporate “Underwear” | Thielsen’s Investment Philosophy | The Critical Importance of Alignment

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Show Notes

Part 3 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 conclude our conversation with Mike Stadnisky as he discusses the important lessons that he learned from going through the M&A process, and how knowing about them early can benefit founders. We also discuss why it is essential for you to have the mentality that someone will see your corporate “underwear,” and why proper documentation is tedious yet vital to your company’s success. Finally, we conclude our interview with Mike by reviewing Thielsen Capital’s unique investment philosophy and the exciting things that are on the horizon for them. Please enjoy my conversation with Mike Stadnisky.

Articles & Resources

Thielsen Capital https://www.thielsencapital.com/ 

FlowJo Inc.  https://www.flowjo.com/ 

Phitonex https://www.linkedin.com/company/thermospectralcytometry/ 

Levi’s https://www.levistrauss.com/levis-history/ 

How Do Core Labs Support Life Science Research? https://www.excedr.com/blog/core-labs/

Top Cities for Biotech https://www.excedr.com/blog/top-cities-for-biotech/

What Should Investors & Founders Expect From Each Other? https://www.excedr.com/resources/investor-founder-expectations/

What is Financial Modeling  https://www.excedr.com/resources/what-is-financial-modeling 

Software Tools for Keeping Startup Costs in Check https://www.excedr.com/blog/tools-for-keeping-startup-costs-in-check 

Guide to Reducing Startup Costs & Expenses https://www.excedr.com/blog/startup-costs-and-expenses 

What Is Equity Crowdfunding https://www.excedr.com/resources/equity-crowdfunding-in-biotech 

How to get Funding for Lab Research https://www.excedr.com/blog/how-to-get-funding-for-lab-research 

Guide to Grant Funding for Biotech Startups https://www.excedr.com/resources/grants-public-funding-biotech-startups 

Biotech Startup Funding Options https://www.excedr.com/resources/biotech-startup-funding-options 

VC Term Sheets: What They Include & Why They Matter https://www.excedr.com/resources/venture-capital-term-sheets/ 

Multi-Omics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiomics

Ultrarunning https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultramarathon

Term sheets https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/termsheet.asp

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) https://www.investopedia.com/terms/m/mergersandacquisitions.asp 

Business Development https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/090815/basics-business-development.asp

Decision-Makers vs. Technical Champions https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/champion-vs-decision-maker-whom-target-b2b-customer-frederik-vosberg/

What are KOLs

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-kol-marketing-key-opinion-leaders-retailboss/ 

Go-to-Market Strategy https://www.cognism.com/blog/what-is-a-go-to-market-strategy

People Mentioned

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 transition from academia to business, learning about business development, the importance of differentiating between decision makers and champions in business partnerships. If you missed it, be sure to go back and give part two a listen. In part three, we delve into the importance of patience in partnerships, how to nurture relationships over time, and the significance of financial modelling and strategic planning for long-term success.

Jon - 00:00:54: You're going to beat yourself up for calling in a favor for something that, you know. 

Mike - 00:00:58: You know what people call in favors on all too frequently is like time. Because the startup is like stressing, you know, like we need to get this big partnership done. Look, have a little bit of patience. Like, if you tell the CTO, like, hey, this is really important. They're going to go, look, I get it. But we're running a couple hundred million dollar company here or above. Like, don't be childish. Right? And I think people pull that. I think to your point, there's a very specific time that people do that. And like, they don't exercise enough. And it's hard. You have to have a balance of patience. Right. But as a startup, you're like, I need this done yesterday.

Jon - 00:01:30: There's like that tension. It's a natural tension.

Mike - 00:01:32: That's the symmetry. Right. Like, I think that's not the time to call in that favor. Right. That's a time to like have a more informal conversation with somebody, particularly at a conference of like, hey, man, can we get this going?

Jon - 00:01:44: That's exactly it. And I always talk about it, too. Just like plant the seed early, super early and nurture it over time. And then as you're doing other things, you kind of like. A bit, a bit. And then over time, you're like, all right, it's ready. And then when they're ready, they're ready. There's ways, there are levers you can pull to kind of expedite things. But large orgs like moving an aircraft carrier. It's not like something that you can just like flip 

Mike - 00:02:06: You can just pivot the thing around. Right. Like, I think it wouldn't you be nice at like approach is my favorite. It's like you choose a conference or some calendar thing like in the new year or like a JP Morgan or at, SIDA or whatever. Choose the conference. And this is later on, don't do this at the beginning. Cause it's like, whoa, whoa, simmer down, buddy. But when you're in the negotiation and you're trying to get things moving, it's like, hey, wouldn't it be nice if by this big conference, we could announce it. That's a really important thing to do because like now you're moving it out of science fiction. They can like see it and be like, oh, and by the way, you're also meeting like a fundamental, like human need here. Right. Which is like, Oh, I'll get credit  

Jon - 00:02:46: Yeah.

Mike - 00:02:47: I will have attention. There'll be people around me.  

Jon - 00:02:50: Especially in big orgs.

Mike - 00:02:51: Big time.

Jon - 00:02:52: Yeah. That's something that I think startups may not appreciate as much as that, like that signaling aspect in a large org, even though if for those who are running smaller businesses, it like doesn't compute. Cause like we're going to signal to like what 20 people inside your company. That's like, everyone knows you, right? No one cares. But like when you're in this massive org with like thousands and thousands of people, like how does anyone in that org stand out? Something like that. So that's really clicked for me. I was like, Oh crap.

Mike - 00:03:20: It's this innovation foil, right? Like you get to be seen as the innovator for finding this innovation or by the way, for taking the big company, you know, a place where they weren't there already. Right. I see this with an OEM partnership that we're working on now, right? Like we're taking a very large company into a place where it potentially hadn't been before, right. Or a place where it could expand. And yeah, I mean, to the point like that, it's a big deal. It's like, boom, here's a new industry or like an alternative thing. It's like, here's something that's truly innovative or like really out there. And remember too, though, that you cannot be sidebar, right? Like I think let's ground this again, just back down to like the has to be technically sound, you have to deliver. Like this is not fake until you make it.

Jon - 00:04:00: Oh, that's a no-go.

Mike - 00:04:02: Because by the way, if you do that, just be like, let's get to cover the dark side. If you pull that shit and someone brings in your tech and they're testing it, because that's what's going to happen too. They're not going to be like, Oh, this is great. Like, let's just sell it. No, they're going to assess it. They have smart people. Okay. Like big orgs still have tons of freaking smart people in them, okay. And they're going to bring it in. They're going to kick tires on this thing. And if it sucks, I can promise you this, all the doors that you want to be open are going to shut. So do not fake it until you make it. Okay. Like we call people to try to do that in our industry, like notably Elizabeth Holmes. We saw how that went. Right. Don't think you can do that. Right. If you're like a pre-seed round company and you're proposing, you're like, I think we can do this. That's fun. But always be very honest about two things, by the way. Be honest about where you are technically, like how close you are on the finalization to your point. Just be open about it, right? That's fine. And if you give somebody a timeline that's overly ambitious, I feel like that's okay, right? I sort of had a bit of a reputation for more Elon Musk timelines. That's fine retrospect, maybe that's tough. But I was like, yeah, we can do my Q3.

Jon - 00:05:04: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Why not? It just reminded me, I was reading an interview on Frank Slootman from Snowflake and someone was like, yeah, so we're playing on 2Xing in this period. He was like, 2X? Why not 3X? And I was like, what? Like, yeah, just like, why not?

Mike - 00:05:22:  I just think there's a place where you can be like really optimistic in it. But like, this is like a lesson I learned the hard way. I presented in Switzerland like using the same presentation and presentation style that I use in the United States. They just stopped me. They were like, it was at CHUV and they were like, just stop. I'm like, what? Like 20%. They're like, just tell us what you can do today. And I thought that was like, no one is a great lesson to learn as a young CEO, like about these cultural differences in terms of like, I was going to do this. They're like, we don't care. They were like, open it up. Let's do it right now. Like show us what interests you today. I think that's really an important lesson for business development too, because I think you need to be very clear about it. What can you do today is the reality. There's no standard deviation on that reality. And that's no, that's a known no. Timelines, features, et cetera, those you can maybe be a little bit rosier, particularly as time goes out, right? It's also the same on the business side. If you have a partnership that you can't support, that's also a recipe for disaster, right? And I mean support in terms of like, who's going to provide the technical support? Who's going to answer the phone? What's the triage on this? What's something literally catches fire? Can you share leads, by the way? Like, is that even possible? Because that's, by the way, I could take a year or four just doing like Salesforce tasks. I mean, that aspect too, I think is equally something where people have very rosy glasses, particularly at startup. Because they're like, oh, I use Pipedrive and I just go, bing, bang, boom. And like, I'm done. I don't need guys. I programmed it myself. And like the big org is like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Like, hold on. You know, we've got a massive IT contract where we spend $20,000 when we have a feature request. You know what I mean? And so I think both of those are other kind of watchouts, I guess I would say, when you're the small guy partnering up. And I think we always did a really good job of almost compartmentalizing. These are our capabilities. This is what we can do now. This is what we think we can do. And we think this is how it fits the partnership. But also, by the way, this is why we think we're the only people to do this. 

Jon - 00:07:17: Exactly. I think I got on my early days, there was like a long time ago when I was just trying to figure it out was like a bit of overpromising. And that I got that out of my system early. I think it was a bit of like imposter syndrome. I was like, kind of that startup. And it's like, I need this now. I need it to be big.

Mike - 00:07:31: Yeah. You're trying to survive.

Jon - 00:07:33: Yeah, you're trying to survive.

Mike - 00:07:34: It's tough.

Jon - 00:07:35: Yeah. And something that was interesting too is what I found on our side works well is just like even before interfacing with a large org, it's kind of almost like a bottoms up. On the customer side, just having like raving fans in your shared customer base and then boom, and then they start talking to the aircraft carrier company and they're like, well, we only hear about you guys. So clearly there's like a fanaticism or a community that's like around this. They're more willing to have that conversation versus like coming in and not having that swell from the customers yet and trying to like, no, no, no, I promise you. Customers love us. And you're like, really? Like we haven't heard anything  

Mike - 00:08:15: You nailed it. I've completely forgot that. You're absolutely right. I think that's another key. I put that back like in our initial conversation, like how do you begin? I missed that completely, but you're absolutely right. Like nothing will tell them that they need to do something like their customers. Particularly, I think people have sort of a misunderstanding around what KOLs are, because there's different species. I think the people you're trying to engage with, people who are very important customers to that organization, who are also vocal and are willing to be like, hey, you guys need to look at this. Because that's a very specific phenotype. People who are like, oh, yeah, that's cool. That's not good enough. You nailed it right on the head there, Jon, right? Because no matter what, they're going to go ask.

Jon - 00:08:56: Yeah. And I think that thing is locating that shared customer as you're scouting out your potential BD partnerships. It's that shared customer where someone can evangelize you. There's nothing like someone else evangelizing you versus you just beating your chest, trying to convince by being louder, which is generally not the best path forward.  

Mike - 00:09:16: Not the best path forward. I mean, that's also a great area where I think social media is an underutilized weapon where you've got that customer who's using the two products, together alongside of what have you. Then, kind of initiates that. I think that's very potent.

Jon - 00:09:31: Oh, yeah. And we're talking about the life sciences not reaching the consumer tech level savviness in this way. This is something that the consumer tech folks are just living and breathing every single day on steroids. And the sciences, I feel like could not just say we had to do it exactly the same way. I think there's still a gap, but you can certainly take inspiration and look at how these adjacent industries are doing it because there's a lot to learn from.

Mike - 00:09:57: Yeah, I think surround sound is kind of the way I always like to approach it, right? And by the way, I think just to extend this just one step further, I think all of the things that we've discussed are also the nascent seeds of M&A. It seems very obfuscated to people like, hey, how do I get there? But this is where it starts. All the things you've mentioned, these co-customers, particularly, by the way, and these relationships that are formed, this is the years-long process. That's where it starts, right? Because of all the things that you've mentioned with these customers, they've obviously been like, this resonates. And then the big company says, hey, look, not only is there a dare there, there's something that we can scale, right? It's so hard because that's the other aspect. Both of these, by the way, are two things I've talked about founders where it's like... It seems like they're entering the dark forest, right? And they're like, oh my, like where? I don't have a headlamp, there's trails here. Like, I don't even know if there's wolves. And I think there's other aspects, again, M&A has like a separate, almost like offshoot of business development, right? But I think where those relationships begin that get you anywhere close to anything that's like that or an outcome that's like that. Because I also like to focus on like non-binary outcomes as a separate subject for startups and smaller teams. But like everything we've mentioned are those ingredients that get you there. 

Jon - 00:11:08: Spot on. And it's funny having these conversations with founders who have gone through the M&A process. And via these kinds of conversations, that is the common thread. You can see it on like stat endpoint fears or whatever. They drop the announcement and it seems like it came out of nowhere.

Mike - 00:11:25: No way.

Jon - 00:11:26: No way. Like these are relationships or BD relationships that have been forged over years. More often than not, it's like you crawl, walk, run. And then eventually you have that big press release. It's like an acquisition is announced. But it's like, again, like starting that combo early and then making it a working relationship. So you could demonstrate that there's some legs to this.

Mike - 00:11:48: Absolutely. 

Jon - 00:11:48: And so on the topic of M&A, I know FlowJo eventually went through the motion of an acquisition with BD. Was that your first acquisition event that you've encountered? Can you talk a little about that? Like what was like going through your first acquisition and lessons learned? 

Mike - 00:12:03: Gosh, there's just, there's a lot that goes into it. I think as a CEO of a small company becomes, becomes an obsession to the point of being a distraction when you're in these processes. And so the goal of all the stuff that Jon that we've been talking about has been essentially to get into the point where you have not just an M&A process, but you have strategic optionality. I think that's really where you want to be. Okay. So what does that mean? Strategic optionality means that you could go off and do kind of whatever you want for the business that you're in. You could go raise capital. That could be venture money. You could go do a recapitalization where you bring in private equity money and then maybe bring in some other assets and grow the business that way and grow both organically and organically. Or you can sell the business wholesale. How do you know or how do you choose between those three? I think is a lot about, to be frank, I think it's about quality of your community and the quality of your leadership. And also their understanding of the market. When we were selling private equity, it just really wasn't on the table as a very competitive player. It was always going to be a strategic. That was the environment. We didn't have any need for VC. We were not going to try and scale it that way. And it was very, very profitable. So we were just like, that's not necessary. We really want to choose this moment in time to go into M&A. This is also really important. We had somebody already, if you will, a party sniff around it and say, hey, have you guys... And this is speaking of a place that has its own semantics. There's a whole banker speak around. 

Jon - 00:13:28: I got to say, that's the hardest one as a scientist for me. I could do the sales, technical sale and stuff like that. But talking banker speak was like...

Mike - 00:13:37: It's different, man. Oh, yeah. I talked to a founder. There was a successful event on his business over the past year. But he said, well, I was meeting with this company. And then they just said, well, we really want to talk about long-term strategic outcomes. And I'm like, they're asking you if you're for sale or if there's a strategic fit. He was like, oh, yeah. Technically, this stuff would work together. I'm like, that's not what they're asking. They care. But that's not what they're asking. And so someone had done that. And they had actually done it in the context of a partner negotiation where they inserted a rofer, a first refusal into the contract, which is essentially like, hey, if anybody offers to buy you, we get first craft. And we're like, so we had that conversation. Like, well, what is that? And why would we sign up for that with you? And why are you putting this in? And at least a really interesting conversation of like, well, at some point, we see you as a strategic asset and you fit here. Well, that's very interesting. And so, of course, it's months later. And we say, okay. And we realize like, okay, there is interest here. The lessons learned from this process would be spend the time, not just like getting your house in order, but like very early on in your business. This wasn't a problem in the flow. But we're just doing this now, having done this a couple of times. Always have the perspective that at some point, someone's going to see your underwear. And so always have in order.

Jon - 00:14:54: Oh, my God. By the way. Sorry. The memory just came up of where they didn't have their affairs straight. And they were getting like trying to entertain. And then boom, diligence starts. Open everything.

Mike - 00:15:07: Everything. 

Jon - 00:15:08: Getting your affairs in order. It's not like rocket science. It's just like good hygiene. It's like take a shower. Make sure to like keep things clean and tidy and organized. It sounds boring. It's not sexy or exciting. But it's like future talk. And I appreciate what past Jon Institute back then. Sorry. I have a horror story where someone opened and it's like. Like, close that back.

Mike - 00:15:28: Yeah. I mean, you're always focused on like the next sale. And you like your cap tables and masks. And who knows what you've got out there in terms of like your corporate documents. This is like where a good corporate attorney is really, really worth it. Even early on in a business. Right. Like, it's so important to have somebody who's like actually mining the shop there. And by the way, I don't think people are like, oh, it's got a lot easier because we've got like cap based or card or whatever. I disagree. I still think you need a lawyer to review your documents. And particularly. You don't have any kind of fundraiser. You have any relationship with investors. Especially if you have anybody on your cap table other than you. You need to be mindful of that. Right. Because option agreements is the same thing. Right. So that hygiene is really important. I would also say IP hygiene equally. If not more so, your patent filings, how you deal with confidential and trade secret information on the same exact plane. Way too many founders don't label or have a real easy distinction between what's confidential, what's not confidential, what's confidential that we'll share in the CDA, hold on, what's confidential that we only need to say internally, and what's trade secret, which is like, you have to torture me to find out.

Jon - 00:16:32: That's so funny that you're bringing this up because my co-founder, so we have two basically co-founders, Stacy and Jeff. I was a science, Jeff was a finance, Stacy was the legal, and she just beat my ass on this. People also don't realize your NDA, you've got to mark it as confidential. You've got to break it into its constituent parts. Most people don't realize that. And you're like, well, NDA signed, put it in the data room. And then you're like, oh God.

Mike - 00:16:57: You need a separate VDR1. So this is just the hygiene aspects. And then just organize your shit. Sounds crazy, but just get your shit organized. Right. Some of these people who are going to be coming in have never seen your company in their lives ever. They're like FP&A people or whatever, right? They're just the ones running the numbers. The one theme I'll pick up from business development though, is this, and it's really important, is that again, you are still in the room of writing the strategy of how this fits for each company. And by the way, you're still in the role of writing the frigging business case. Do not assume that the other company has the time or the understanding of your business, because they don't, to write the business case. For you. And what I mean by business case, I mean, how they're going to make money from your business, right? And the reason that now founders are like, well, I don't know about that. All right, here you go. Why? COGS. There it is right there. Boom, done. They don't understand your cost structure. They understand people. They understand FTEs. Sure. And by the way, they're going to have to pay more anyway, right? Because the indirect cost will go from 30 to 45, maybe 55% overnight. They do not understand what it costs to run your business or where the scale breaks are. Now, this is like super important, right? Supplies, maybe not as much as software, but anything else that gets me.

Jon - 00:18:12: Yeah. 

Mike - 00:18:13: Whatever, right? Pharma, everything that gets me, there are going to be scale breaks and they won't really know where those are. Right? Even in biotech, it's very specific of like, okay, it's this particular RNA molecule, it's got this modification. I've seen that too. Show them. Show them where the economy of scale really makes a difference because then you're showing them, right? You're saying, hey, look, if you're able to sell this or you're able to scale a commercial team or you're able to get this approved or whatever the outcome is, this is literally the pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow, right? Because you're going to get this break on cost structure, which you uniquely know, and then everything else is gold, right? But they need to understand that. And they also, by the way, they need to understand why and how you priced it and if you have price leverage and if you're discriminating on price. It's a whole separate topic that I had the privilege of being interviewed by MIT about, but it's a whole separate thing. But remember, that's something you know and they don't because they didn't price it. And if you're like, I don't know, I just chose a number that sounded good to me, that's not good enough because you're also not showing them that one, you have applied any amount of intelligence to do that, but also that they don't know if they have any pricing leverage, right? And if you're like, I don't know, I just know we actually think we can price a little bit differently and this is how it's going to look, then you're talking about market expansion. And now you're speaking the language these people can really, really understand.

Jon - 00:19:26: And I think that's something that startups, they tend to live in like zero or one land for a very long time. And you got to realize, again, it's like doing your homework. It's like these big companies are not in zero to one land. Usually they are just purely one to end. They want it to be very large, like exactly what you're saying. You got to show them, how can you take this thing to the moon? Like actually.  

Mike - 00:19:47: It's really hard for startup founders to do that. But like, My advice, and it's very tactical advice, is take your financial model, what you think is a financial model, because it's not, and write up essentially a design document for how you think the business could look like from here till 10 years from now. Because you're not going to be able to model. I'm just going to be totally honest with you. And hire a finance professional to do it. Someone who can create a true linked three-statement model. With COGS implemented, the whole thing gave you a whole scaling, right? And have that push and pull with you to act as essentially a de facto CFO for you for call it a month. And with a really good financial model that by the way, you will understand really well. And by the way, this is another aspect of it. The third person on your team that should be part of this, like if you're a CEO, it should be your CTO. If the three of you all understand that model really, really well and can kind of like sign up for them and design that model, have it be done by someone who's a finance professional. And that ends up in your VDR. You're in a fundamentally different position and you're also able to speak to your business in, I would argue, a fundamentally different way. And remember, going back to the notion of strategic optionality, in this environment, where you not only have strategic outcomes, but you also have private equity, that's frankly at the table. This is a must 

Jon - 00:21:02: That's all they care about.

Mike - 00:21:03: Absolutely right, Jon Absolutely right. They're going to be like, great, you're the expert. And they'll look at your model and then they're going to go, they will really work your model, right? Oh, we're going to work this because this is all we can do. We got spreadsheet, people for days. 

Jon - 00:21:15: Yeah. We call them spreadsheet assassins.

Mike - 00:21:18: Absolutely. So I just think I've spent tons of money, if you will, on behalf of these businesses working with finance professionals and have learned, by the way, I've learned a ton from them. So that's the other aspect is that you just learn, choose the master information about how it is. And then by the way, they can also like join when you have some of these finance folks, even if they're a contractor, you know, you have these finance and they're getting in the nitty gritty. But remember, like, take one step back. If you do this, what you said is, hey, we're going to show up to a playing field. And I brought the ball. I marked the field. I brought the jerseys. We're playing soccer because this is my game, right? And it's not your game. It's really important. In every circumstance where I've been on this, which has been going off maybe five times now where I've been in these M&A situations, they're always using your model to start because it's all this privileged information.

Jon - 00:22:12: Absolutely. And I've always talked about this with folks who are starting. It's like your lenders or the finance people make you stronger. As much as as a science person, I'm like, ugh, I didn't get in the business to do this. But absolutely, it's a value of creative exercise of, okay, maybe the acquisition doesn't go through, but you just going through the model and trying to see what are the levers that you could truly pull in your business to actually make a difference and have your base case, your stress case, and your default case. Okay, your default case is like pandemic, everything closed down. What are the chances of that happening? Run the model. And you kind of like loosen it up. And then at the end of the day, as an entrepreneur, you're like, wow. I feel like I have a better grasp of what key drivers in my business I can kind of manipulate to make an actual difference. And then maybe on the next go around, you have that strike up the conversation again. You're like, hey, we blew this model out of the water. Like the base case blew it to the moon. And the conversations, again, very different. And the ball's in your court.

Mike - 00:23:16: There's a lot in that, Jon. One is that like separate a finance partner from someone who's just giving you money is very important. Because then, they can make you stronger. The second thing is that a financial model is the strategy of a business expressed in numbers. You know, there's been more fiction written in Excel than Word. But it's really important that your model makes some fucking sense. Pardon my French. But like, we've seen lots of financial models. And we spend a lot of time in financial models. We have a very narrow aperture with what we invest in. Both in terms of like burn ratio, we look at consumable hold through. We look at, I mean, there's all the stuff we see is just, it's not even like bad financial modeling. It's just like, dude, no, like, where is this going? Right? So that's really important. Because like, if you say one thing, but your financial model tells me a completely different story, I'm sorry, I'm looking at your financial model first, because that's where the numbers are. And that's the dollars. That's where it really matters. And then the third thing is that if you have a good financial plan, if you have a good strategy for the business, you can turn on a dime. And that gives you, by the way, gives you leverage. Because if you're at the goal line, and something gets thrown at you, you don't like, guess what? You can leave.

Jon - 00:24:18: You can peace out.

Mike - 00:24:19: Yeah, you can peace out. And what Jon just said is so important. Like, you know what to do now. It's not like someone forced you to think about it, right? It's different than like, here's my four to five courses on a slide. Like, here's my pipeline. Okay, that's great. Sure. You should do that. However, what the next 90 days are going to look like is in that financial model. And like, or like buy account level. That's another thing, by the way, let's just get this out of the way too. This is another thing I want people to swear on. Stop doing top down financial modeling where you take the size of the market, you give me some percentage of it that you're going to own, and you put a kegger on. Like, just please. Please stop it. Not only is that stupid, it's not a strategy. It's not how anybody in the world sells. It's how you eat pop. You're like, I'm going to eat 5% of this pop, right? That's nothing else operates like that, right? Like, you'd be like, okay, look, there's these number of accounts that are in the world. I have the capacity to go after these number of them with this number of people who I'm going to hire in the next 90 days. Those two things are so fundamentally different, right? And this is like lightning in the lightning bug. I mean, they are so different. And when we see this stuff, we're just like, I don't know how you're going to operate your business. Or maybe you don't know how you're going to do that. But again, the contrast is, Jon what you said right there, which is like, I know exactly what I'm going to do.  

Jon - 00:25:37: Yup, the roadmap is there numerically. Like, we're going to do this.

Mike - 00:25:41: Yeah. So this is maybe another aspect of M&A that's really important is like, you could decide as part of this process, but you don't want to do it. You're like, it's too much there. What we're going to do instead is we're going to take on the small bit of capital. It'll be less expensive because we did our homework correctly and priority. And we're going to go off and go this other path. That's a reasonable thing to do. I think regardless, it puts your feet to the fire. And I think you're pointing that out really accurately. I think that's frankly more what I see my role now as an investor and person who's leading a syndicate. I am forcing that conversation early to be frank, just to be like, hey, almost like putting my hand on CEOs and founding teams shoulder and be like, I don't think you need this much capital. I don't think your financial plan, as you've written it, shows me what you're actually going to do. And I don't think you realize that you've done a lot already. So let's start selling this. You have some. Let's go. I think it's actually because of that M&A experience that we look at a financial model now and we go, okay, that's cool. And then we create our own.  

Jon - 00:26:42: Yeah. That's so funny. We do the same thing. We're a leasing company. So they give us their financial model, their projections. All right, rebuild. And we do a rebuild.

Mike - 00:26:50: You have to. That's fundamental to your business. For you guys, it's got to be a hardcore, core compass. You're like... Man, we better be damn sure people are going to make good on this.

Jon - 00:26:58: Yeah. Yeah. That's absolutely it. And that's a perfect dovetail. So your reps, your four or five reps at M&A was what inspired you to get into the investor seat.

Mike - 00:27:08: Yeah. I think a priority, there are non-binary outcomes in life science. This is not Y Combinator. In life sciences and life sciences tools, we are not trying to have one in 25 or one in 30 companies go to the moon and IPO. Okay. By the way, that's also just... Not a sustainable business practice for life science. Okay. And if you're that investor, great. I'm sure that works in your model. That's personally not how I want to do things, particularly in tools. And so we saw a huge gap where I saw tourist money coming into life science tools. We saw overfunded companies that, I mean, gosh, if you look at some of these tools companies now, I mean, they're not doing great, right? I mean, we're talking about companies that are under $100 million in market cap, right? I mean, this is legion and a symptom of a disease which was like overfunding and removing founder control in these businesses. And you're also seeing a huge lack of innovation where they can't innovate their way out of this. So what does that lead us to, right? And like, what do I do with that? Everybody, because I sold my last company in 2020, was like, do a single GP fund, do a single GP fund. Because everyone's like, oh, I got all this money. Like, everyone looked like money bags from Monopoly, right? And I was like, no, I don't do that. Like, I don't want to have to make bad bets just so I can get the fees. Like, no offense to people who do that, right? And by the way, this is by when everyone was raising a growth fund. Yep. Why? Because fees.

Jon - 00:28:29: Yeah, yeah. Fees are one hell of a drug.

Mike - 00:28:32: Yeah, like, woo. So I said, no, what we're going to do is we're going to create a syndicate where people can make their own choices. I've got a great network of people who I've partnered with, like quite literally, as we've discussed, like in business development, right? People who I've done deals with are part of this syndicate and they're also operators. People who I've made money for before are in that too, right? Because they get tools, they understand that picks and shovels are a thing and that it's cool. I remember I talked to a couple of investors, like, this is just picks and shovels. I'm like, you're not for us. It's okay. That's, yeah, picks and shovels all day.  

Jon - 00:29:01: Yeah, all day.

Mike - 00:29:02: I love picks and shovels, right? And by the way, it's funny because like, even saying picks and shovels, like that was the most successful business from the gold rush. Like you're in California, I'm in Newark. Just to ground this in some Western history for a moment.

Jon - 00:29:15: Yep.

Mike - 00:29:15: The Gold Rush, which, by the way, started in 1848, not 1849. That was the most successful business, was the people who had all the hardware and all the consumables to do all this gold mine, right?

Jon - 00:29:27: I'm reminded of that every time I go downtown and I see Levi's.

Mike - 00:29:31: Levi's, Wells Fargo. And again, what were they? They were just like, Levi's was like, these guys need working pants, right? I mean, so anyway, just as a total aside. So we just do picks and shovels.

Jon - 00:29:41: And just real quick, I realized we didn't even say the name. This is Thielsen Capital.  

Mike - 00:29:44: Thielsen Capital, it's named after a mountain that's actually between where I had my office in FlowJo and then the new place I moved to in Bend. So it's quite literally right in the middle. It's called the Lightning Rod of the Cascades. And for us, we're named after a railroad engineer. And so the point there was like, we're going to do that. We're going to do the network a little bit differently. And we're going to have half the people in this network have an MD or a PhD. And if you slice it another way, half of them are actually operators in our field. So they can actually help. And we'll get what I'll become A recurring team. The second thing is we quite literally partner to build lives science businesses. We are builders, right? That doesn't mean just like, oh, we take A board seat. Like, no, it means like we coach. We'll help people form the business. We'll do the corporate hygiene items that you're talking about. We also have no trouble leading in A or issuing A term sheet on A seed round or A series A. We've done all of that. We'll set the valuation. We will take first crack. We'll do pre-seed, seed, or A. It just depends on what it is. The big thing, though, is I think, and it kind of informs almost everything else that we do, is that capital is a commodity, right? Best advice on the capital side I've ever received. But the right value building partner is not. And there's a whole stack that goes into that, right? I'm talking about everything from the strategy down to like, how are you going to operate at conferences? Like, who should you be targeting? What CRM should you use? I mean, down in the weeds, shit that nobody who writes check wants to touch.

Jon - 00:31:09: And they may not have ever touched it ever.

Mike - 00:31:11: Man, you're just knocking them out of parts. It is. I think it's really hard when people get a term sheet from someone who's never been an operator and never sold something. And you just kind of scratch your head like, is that really the person you want with you? That money is going to be really expensive for you. Because if I start adding up all the people you're going to need to hire and bring in and all the bad advice you're going to get, that's very problematic to me. Or you're bringing in money from people who maybe have a track record you don't know. Or a model that's running in the background. Like, another thing that's very... I think people overuse the word contrarian in Venture Capitalists. Like, being contrarian actually means like taking a big step up on like the operation pieces of like how a venture works. And that's kind of what we do. Our fundamental like contrary view is like, I fundamentally disagree with like a model where one in five or one in 10 companies succeeds. I just frankly think that means that you're willing to like ruin 90% of people's lives that work for those companies. And life science, I'm sorry, that's not acceptable. Sorry, it's just not acceptable. Like, I don't know. I'd rather spend 30 years building four companies that were exceptional. And so since I started this effort and we built a very small, very tiny team on this thing, we've looked at over 400 companies. We've issued two term sheets and... Led a seed in a Series A round. It's a very narrow aperture, and it's both on the founder's side, and it's also for what we want to build and how we want to do it. So it feels like craftsmanship, but it's not. I mean, we just are very open about, like, this is how we do things. So a great example is we just looked at a great technology, which we love. Love the CEO, right? Obviously, there's all these things where it has to meet all the metrics and all the things that are pretty standard that have been covered ad nauseum probably in other things. But I think the thing that makes us quite different is we did this modeling exercise that you're describing. We looked at the financial model. We really looked at the financial model. And then Alex, who works with me, is like, I'm going to create another model on my own and look at the FTEs and how much we're selling per FTE and what could we do in research use. And we're like, this doesn't add up. And why have you already hired all these people? And so immediately, it was like, wait, you're already over your seats. And remember, when you do that, or you're the CEO who, in another example, the founders already own... We saw them pre-A and they already own less than 40% of the business because they wanted to pay themselves north of $250,000 for a pre-A company. Those things have an impact on the cap table and they have an impact on the strategy of your business. right? Or in the third instance, where it was like, we're going to take on this capital because our main advisors are telling us that we need to go. These three instances show you how the strategy of your business, the financial model, and the cap table are all intimately related. And if you don't line those three things up, you cannot serve science correctly with how you want to do it. I'm just going to tell you that right now. And the final aspect of that, there was like, I guess it was four vertices. All that top of this is really important. It's something we talk about a lot. How do you maintain that founder magic? You just talked about your three founders, right? There is a magic to that because you guys can make decisions and you can operate and you know the problem and you know the customers, right? And so we think a lot about this. And it literally is magic because there was magic in the founding of this, right? And then we talk about like, so if that's true, then we need to maintain founder control on the cap table. We need to make sure that they're not diluted out the wazoo. We need to make sure that at every step, we maintain strategic optionality. And that generally speaking means getting revenue earlier than you think, which has a tactical implementation of focusing on our commercialization and actually achieving and commercializing, by the way, in research use only where you can sell something to more. What I'm saying feels like very high level, but has impacts on like the day-to-day operations of the business, right? We're looking for people who really are like, yeah, right? I get it. And let's do that. And we kind of joke internally that we're convincing people to operate in their own best interest. But we really are. And look, we tell people, look, what's the worst that can happen? You work with us. You build an incredible business. You look at your P&L in 24 months, and you're like, oh, my gosh. And by the way, your valuation is going to be 10x what it would have been. Okay? And that's not just cockiness. It's just like, you know the market's going to turn over. You're going to have revenue to show for it. You're going to have a bunch of customers. And by the way, you can go on any of these paths that you and I have discussed. You could go off and raise VC. You could go talk to a private equity firm. You could go and sell. Because you have to focus on the things that mattered in your business, right? Which is equally, maybe it's like the final, I don't even know how to organize this, the final plank of what we do. The only thing we tell founders is just stop fundraising. You're wasting time. I'd rather you sell to your customers. Like raise the amount of money that you need conservatively to fund this and get you there and then control your destiny. But like, let's get you to the point where you're not talking to investors anymore. Like I want you in the room where you can make sale. Cause that's what matters. Cause like, look, 95% of these best conversations are going nowhere. They might make you feel good. Might make you feel important, but like, they're not gonna make a lick difference in terms of like how you make that next sale. So a really long way of like talking about it, but like built really on the passion informed by M&A and the passion for like building businesses and seeing it go right. I think particularly the Phytonics days were like super instructive from team building to like for every part of that business. I was like, yep, that's how you do it. And that was in all the aspects that I've talked about. I was like, okay, is it magic? No, but can we like take that genie and put it back in the bottle and do that over and over? I think so. I think so.

Jon - 00:36:33: You know, I've just been nodding my head the whole time is really refreshing. I like harbored these feelings for a very, very long time, but I have rare opportunities to actually discuss it. And look, the power law distribution VC outcome is a thing. And for some businesses that maybe is the way you go, but I've never agreed with that is the only way to go, which is unfortunately, I think has tricked a generation of founders into thinking that is, is that right? Where this boom, bust, sink or swim, you're either a billionaire or you're on the streets. It never sat right with me when you're talking about like the model, the alignment with your investors, your cap table and the business strategy. I think sometimes there can be a misalignment when someone is coming in completely wanting to go on a less power law distribution path, but they take money where the full expectation is that power law distribution where like we need a hundred bagger. And if it doesn't smell like a hundred bagger in the next two, three years, you're entering a world of pain. We're just like cram down, fire everybody. It becomes like a blood bath. So I think it's like critically important to think about that. And I love hearing that deals. And it's like that alignment and making sure that alignment is there and having that optionality. So you never feel like your arm is like twisted behind your back where you lose that optionality. Cause like, I think it bums me out, frankly, that a lot of arms are being twisted right now. The over-capitalization of the company is the noose that they're hanging themselves by. But two, three years ago, it was all the rage and you're just like, crap. What?

Mike - 00:38:08: Yeah. Why would you not take money in that environment? Right. And, but the problem is then you end up, underwater in your evaluation and now you're in like, people are going to turn the knife on you on like lip breath and debt. And I mean, you name it, any knife that can be turned, it's going to be turned. Remember too Jon, that that power law distribution also has specific applications when it comes to like the probability of a consumer app or product and also biotech where the outcome is really low probability. So I think I get it. And even for like the funds where I might be an LP, what I want to hear them talk about more than that power law is like, hey, how do we enable companies with unfair advantages so that our distribution of outcomes is different rather than like, way where power law all day. I think we're talking about a very specific type of business and we've just been very open about it. To say like, it's going to be tools, it's going to be something that can be commercialized ASAP. And because of that, this is now what we can do. And this is the door that that opens, right? Because you can get to revenue, you can control your P&L, you can control your cap tip. Like we're making a very specific statement about the way that that business can be operated from the CEO down to the salesperson, right? So it's not to like downplay that. I think that's where maybe I got my hackles up is when people came into tools with that idea, I was essentially kind of like, honestly, y'all can buzz off. Like, I'm sorry, because I don't want to see it. And we've seen it, believe me. We spent some time looking at every like blood diagnostic company we looked at for like a year was coming up with their own blood collection device. And we're just like, why? Like, this has been solved. It was this overhang symptom of like overcapitalization where it's like, hey, I know the wheel's been invented, but we've got something that's also round and fits onto this cart. And you're like, no, no, no, no, no. Like, just because you can raise 20 million doesn't mean you need to spend 15 million out of making the wheel. Like, stop. And like, to me, that was like this continued frustration. Oh my gosh. I still think there's a lot of overhang. And I think honestly, for the best founders and best CEOs, they're still able to get money. And I think that that's dangerous. It sounds crazy, but I think that in tools, it's dangerous because I don't think they realize they're like in the cave. They take the money and then they exit Plato's cave. And they're like, holy shit, I could have commercialized already. And this is a very real example. It's like, take a tools business and you do a quarter million dollars the first year in sales and a million in the next. That's like a very standard path. If you're executing like really, really well, by the way. All cylinders all the time. And like, when you're doing a million revenue, like you figured it out, you figured out your go-to-mart, you figured out commercialization, you've probably put in place some partnerships that make a difference. It's going to be a lot easier for you to go from one to 10 and have a story for VCs. It's like, hey, look, take it or leave it because we're making money.  

Jon - 00:40:54: Yeah. And I've always thought that that's always the position you want to be in. And it reminds me of my conversation on our second episode where I was talking to Steve Visco. And they had a full-blown lab, but they just were generating a crap ton of IP and licensing revenue, which just enabled them to just grow the business and the technology to a stature where capital is just now, they can take it if they want it, that optionality. And it's also for your mental. It is great for the mental to know that you're not, you have like one shot, one bullet in the chamber. You have like multiple shots on goal in different ways.

Mike - 00:41:31: And your default alive, right? I mean, that's where you want to be. You don't want to be default half dead, right? You know, we're seeing a lot of that now. And like, even if you were going to get on like what we call the venture treadmill, because it is a treadmill. A treadmill is like, by the way, like I'm a runner, obviously. And so like when you're on the treadmill, you're like, oh, God, I'm on the treadmill. Right. But it just keeps running. Like, even if you were to get on the treadmill later, at least you did it at a place where you were in a position of power. Right. And you have a position of leverage. And you also just bought yourself time in the market. Right. And look, at the end of the day, like if someone gets a term sheet from us and they're like, man, this valuation or whatever, this doesn't make sense for us. We're like, oh, that's fine. You're dealing with different economists. You want to go build a different business. And it's not going to make sense. Also, in terms of like just on our side, in terms of our investor outcomes, which at least we're going to be open about. But at the same time, if you're like, oh, hey, by the way, what we also bring along is the fact that we do know M&A and we do know business development. And we can actually work with you on this. That's kind of a fundamental thing. And that was another thing where, particularly in the finance days when I was talking to venture and they were like, oh, we can help you out because we know these people at these companies. And I'm like, those people don't work there anymore. I was kind of like, hey, what? And again, it's not like downplay the role of ventures. We're just like, wait, what? Like, I don't, and then it kind of made me realize, like, well, hold on. Like, if we need y'all, we'll talk, right? But like, we're going to build this thing. We'll raise money from a bunch of people, particularly the seed stage, who like, frankly, this is the other aspect of it. Like, I'd like to make money for it. That's equally as important. Like, who is on your cap table should be motivating for you. Like, this is some skin in the game aspect.

Jon - 00:43:03: Oh, personal story. Like, so Excedr, founded Excedr with one, 100% of my life savings and friends and family loans. And that was real. The amount of, oh, not only one, I got to keep the lights on for myself, but two, this is like meaningful to my loved ones. Oh. Best believe ran a tight ship and a hardworking one at that. That's alignment. And you know, people talk about like alignment, like theoretically, it's like, no, this is like real alignment.

Mike - 00:43:33: Let's relate this back to what you've been saying. What that aligned is, Charlie Munger, show me the incentives and I'll show you the outcome. That align your incentives with the cap table. It aligned with the financial model, right? And how much you were spending and then also your day-to-day operations, right? And it also still to this day informs what you would consider in terms of an outcome and like how successful and where you want to take your businesses. Like what you're pointing out is really important. And it also relates to like, can you lay your head on the pillow at night and be like, I did the best for those people and myself that I could possibly have done, right? And I think that's really, really important. And I think too many people, again, when there was too much capital, it's kind of like, well, I'm just taking this on. It's not my money.

Jon - 00:44:15: Yeah, that was it. That was like, ooh. Can't be good.

Mike - 00:44:19: Oh, it's tough, man. I guess you're right. It's not your money. That's right. It is your money. And it's not your uncle's money. When it's not that it's abstracted from you, right? I think the thing I remember was I had a friend, you'll know who he is, who was taking on extra shifts in the ER so he could fund the investment. And like, you know, he's dealing with like some pretty sideways stuff in these shifts. And I'm like, that's how much he believes in what still kind of felt like science fiction or building stuff out of DNA. And like, that's really meaningful, right? And it's not to say like, oh, go out and hustle your friends and family for money. Like, it's more just like, if you're a founder and you have the privilege and have the confidence to take that kind of capital on, just know that your motivation is going to be a lot different. And I think what I've done is attempted to take that discipline and bring it into having a syndicate where like, I could not put my head in the pillow at night and go. Yeah, we're just going to do 10 investments this year because I'm going to reap the fees. Like, nope. No, what we're going to do is we're going to build one business and do a reasonably good job of that. And we're going to do that for 18 months. And we're going to look at a whole slew of other companies. And if one or two other companies wants to sign up, which kind of we're in the process of now, and sign up for this model and say, you know what? Like, yeah, like we think we can work together. Okay, then we'll roll up our sleeves again and we're going to help you get to that same point while we get this other business essentially to scale. And frankly, up and out of where, out of where we add a lot of value, which is also maybe the other side of this, which is like know where you don't add value anymore, right? I've told founders before too, I was like, look, if you're at the point where you're at double digit million in revenue and you're like, hey man, how do I get from here to a hundred? I'm like, I'm not your job.

Jon - 00:45:56: Yeah, like I'll put you in touch.

Mike - 00:45:58: Right? Different skill set, right? Completely like just different. And that's the other kind of side of it is like how you manage your money, right? It's like, you need to have the right where your business is at and you need those right people who have literally done, right? Because you said scar tissue earlier. I mean, they know, they have the calluses from running that race, right? There's lots of different races out there, right? So find the people who have that and who might also be wanting to help you for free for a while, because that's another aspect that I think happens. Like, I think it's one of the things that we offer out the gate, which is like, hey man, these are some things we think would help your business immediately, right? The one that I always love referring to is like, people come to us and they're like, oh, how do I commercialize? And I started referring to my friend, Daniel's business, SCiLeads. And they use it. And they're like, oh my God. People like search for like, who's using what? What other kind of research are they doing? What conferences are they doing? And it's like, their mind is, you can just hear their mind.

Jon - 00:46:47: Yeah.

Mike - 00:46:48: And we're like, look, here's an introduction to Daniel. He's got this incredible team. They see every commercialization model that's out there. And like, if someone's willing to like, give you that free help, that's probably a pretty good and like, they're already like, but no, this is seriously something you should use. And this is heavy. That's probably a decent indication that they like know what they're doing. And it's because they've been there before. And hopefully also their network is still active, right? Because they still know what the heck's going on. Not just in like the market, the investment market, but also like in the buying market, in the partners market, like who's out there.

Jon - 00:47:16: Absolutely. Man, this is super exciting. So like, you know, sounds like you've got a lot of irons in the fire right now at Thielsen. What's in store for the next one, two years for y'all?

Mike - 00:47:26: Sure. I think I'd like to see us leading. And this isn't like a metric. The funny thing is, this isn't a metric that I'll measure us on, right? Because it has to be the right business. I think if we are lucky, we will be in a position, I do mean like we are, like because we're going to have to sift through, right? And maybe hopefully someone listening to this podcast. Oh, that's someone we want to partner with to build. Then we will help build whatever that means. One exceptional life sciences school business per year with funding and then help. That would be an exceptional outcome. And then, you know, you end up with a portfolio of those. And I think the other aspect of it is like, when you're doing something like this, it's, and we're in the process of doing this, particularly with Alex, who works with me, who's a PhD student at Harvard, and it's just taken this outside of the business, both the modeling and the operate, he's like a fish in water, right? And what I'm hopeful is like, we can get his level of experience up, right? As an operator, as an investor, et cetera, where we can actually start figuring out like, how do you scale this? Not just like the advice. It should not just be like some one man thing. Like, I want this to be like, hey, there's a network that you could grow here, right? What do you want to do? What do you want to do with this, right? And do you want this to scale? And we want to like grow the number of people who can look at these investments. We want to grow the amount that we want to build. I think that at some point, I'd like to actually, take a bit of a step back from the investing side of it and actually just be like, no, you know what? When you need me on the board, plug me in. That'd be ideal. And so we'll see if it goes that way. And that's what's exciting is also trying to bring people up in that and work with new founders or second time founders and say like, look, there is a playbook here. And look, even if they don't take our money, I'd like to see some of these businesses get built.

Jon - 00:49:08: Yeah. That's the same way on our side. It's like, sometimes it's not a good fit. And that's totally cool. That's totally cool. But I still want to see you kill it.

Mike - 00:49:16: Yeah. I still get investor updates for stuff we passed on.

Jon - 00:49:18: Yeah. It's like, I still want to see you kill it. Absolutely. I think that's like the life sciences has a general communal aspect to that. I can't say so much in software, just pure play software outside of the life sciences. But I definitely feel a certain amount of like resonance amongst the life science community. We have a shared North Star.

Mike - 00:49:35: The why is the same for everybody, right? Like it's reasonably similar, right? And there's different ways of slicing that, right? It's also that it's kind of interesting in the way that life science and life science research in many ways is also kind of separated from like the dirty business of like drug pricing and healthcare. Do you know what I mean? Like, it's very interesting. And like, I always tell people, because like, you know, people who are just particularly out West or they're like, oh, it's evil pharma companies. I'm like, you know what? Like, I think chill out for a moment. Like, yeah. Have you met a researcher for a pharma company? So to me, they're going back to the sort of like separation of church and state. It's like, again, because of that shared North Star, it is very, very interesting. And I think we do a crap job as an industry of like, actually explain to people what we do, like a really, really shit job. I think it's to our detriment. And I think it's because it's so dominated by people's interfacing with the end product of decades of passionate people working and it going through some other spreadsheet somewhere that they don't control. That's a whole separate ball of wax that I am no expert in. I just know that as an industry, we do a crap. Like when I was, I remember working with the folks at Regeneron when they were going through, you know, their antibody processing. I mean, it's Herculean. And I'm like, where is this story? And I don't know, like, it's not like our industry should do this. It's more just like, I think that if the press could maybe scratch the surface just a touch on like, how do these miracles come into being? I mean, I think we maybe got close with the CAR-T story with having a narrative that made sense, right? Where people were like, oh, okay, God, like Carl June. Okay. I can kind of see this, but like, that's one that I can name. And I've been doing this for a while. Right. And so I think that would be one where I would love see more coverage that says, hey, like, look at all. And cause remember like people like you and I, what we do is we support the people who are actually doing the heroic work. Right. And we're putting bullets in. Like we're like here. 

Jon - 00:51:25: Yep. Yep. Yep.

Mike - 00:51:27: Right?

Jon - 00:51:27: Exactly.

Mike - 00:51:27: Like, keep firing. Right. And whereas I want the camera to be on this people who are really firing. Right. Cause it is incredible. The work that somebody is supposed to do. Right.

Jon - 00:51:35: Yeah. Incredibly inspiring. It's just like helps get it like every day. Like, I mean, sometimes they're just fires that would need to be put out and it's not the most fun thing, but you're just like, damn, but it's worth it. It's absolutely worth. You've been so generous with your time, Mike, like honestly, and I know you're a busy guy and I always like to round things out with two traditional closing questions. So the first one, would you like to give any shout outs to anyone who supported you along the way? 

Mike - 00:51:59: Obviously, my wife, Heather, we mentioned. I have an incredible friend group, which we actually call family because we mean it that way. And they have been hugely supportive as investors and also people who call me out on my bullshit. My grandma, my PhD mentor, for sure. Veronica, kind of like my Red Bull marketing mentor. Obviously, my parents, their impact. I also would say this. I think that the teams, particularly my FlowJo and Phitonex teams that I had the privilege of really building the FlowJo team kind of building from a smaller team into something that was not very small and then also my Phitonex team, which I think was really nice in the sense that I got to build it from scratch. I mean, they were exceptional, just exceptional teams that I had. Again, I had the privilege of leading them. It's not the other way around. And they continue to do awesome, amazing things. I think that's also maybe the other kind of testament to the team rather than the CEO. They've removed the dude who was like the front man. And unlike many bands where it's like, oh my God, that band sucks now. That band putting out hits. You know what I mean? They keep crushing. And so I think that's great. And there's so many folks. But I think that when we talk about the context of this interview, it's usually impactful. And the other one would be the customers. I went on this, I called it my eat shit tour for FlowJo And there were some customers who just absolutely just tore me up. And that was pretty important for that FlowJo business. We would have not gone any further than that. And also my partner in the FlowJo business. I just learned huge amounts from him, similar for Alvin and Craig and the Phitonex. I mean, these are like, he's got every single one. And I'm like, outpaces me by 10 or a hundred fold on intelligence. I always am like, I was just doing the blazer, shaking hands. Hopefully they say, maybe they say nicer things, but it's kind of fun to work with geniuses and be like, wow, there's a lot of horsepower here.  

Jon - 00:53:40: Yeah. I feel the exact same way. I'm like in the presence of greatness. You're just like, oh, maybe a load of osmosis. I can see this a little bit and take it with me.

Mike - 00:53:49: I feel smarter from being around you. Like it's really good. I mean, it's really important to just be in those rooms. Sometimes you're like, dude, I am probably the dumbest person in this room.

Jon - 00:53:58: Yeah, it's humbling. And it's great. He's like, hell yeah. Clearly, I'm in the right room.

Mike - 00:54:03: In the right room.

Jon - 00:54:04: Exactly. And my last closing question, if you could give any advice to your 21-year-old self, what would it be?

Mike - 00:54:10: Maybe it wouldn't be a piece of advice. It would just be like, I think the friends that I formed around that time period became so valuable to me long term that I would just be like, hey, man, like what you're doing now with like this group of friends is going to be incredibly meaningful for the next several decades of your life. And just not appreciate it, but sort of have a little bit more perspective of like these peers that you're forming, like it's really important what you're doing. This is important. Which sounds crazy because it's like you're 21, you know?

Jon - 00:54:38: I'm drinking a beer with my friends 

Mike - 00:54:40: For sure. Like those guys, right? But at the same time, you're like, no, for real, like you chose well, because this is going to be really important that you have this friend group for a long time, like longer than you probably thought you'd know. They're going to keep you as you want a straight and narrow, right? And like, they're going to be there with you. I don't know if that would change anything, but I think it would make me appreciate it more, particularly early on in my career. Not add down, I think. It was just like, ah, Brian. And luckily they were patient enough to still be my friends, to be honest with you. So I think maybe that's what I would say at 21. 

Jon - 00:55:11: And honestly, I couldn't think of a better place to round things out. It's maybe not a piece of advice, but just a reminder, a little bit of perspective, you know, having seen things kind of unfold over time. But Mike, thanks again. This was super fun. I feel like I could do like another like six hours. We can space it out next time. We did a little ultra marathon right now, and maybe I can work up to an actual physical one. But thanks again. And I'm 100% sure all the listeners out there are going to find incredible insights across the board throughout your journey. So really appreciate it.

Mike - 00:55:44: Thank you, Jon

Outro - 00:55:47: That's all for this episode of The Biotech Startups Podcast. We hope you enjoyed our three-part series with Mike Stadnisky. Be sure to join us for our next series, where we chat with Terry Lo, President and CEO of Vizgen, a biotech startup commercializing the next generation of spatially resolved single-cell genomics tools to power the future of research and discovery. Terry is a pioneer in the emerging spatial biology market and has a proven track record of driving exceptional growth across global life sciences organizations, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche and PerkinElmer. In addition to over two decades of experience scaling and building global biopharma and diagnostic organizations, he is an expert in developing business strategies for massive market growth with innovative products. Terry's experience growing life science organizations offers many insights that founders can benefit from. 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 dot E-X-C-E-D-R dot 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.