Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

Fail Forward

December 19, 2015

FailForwardIn Silicon Valley, where we wear failure like a badge of courage, we must consider that not all failures are *good* failures. Having witnessed first-hand and indirectly ranging from small to spectacular, my rule of thumb when experiencing failure is whether the failure moves you forward.

  1. Moving forward means that you’ve learned something new about yourself, and what you do well, and not so well.
  2. Moving forward means that you are less likely to do a similar thing again, for very specific reasons.
  3. Moving forward means that you build new relationships in your life that adds more meaning and perspective to what you do at work and at home.
  4. It also means that some important existing relationships are different and/or better.
  5. Moving forward means that you see the overall experience as a net positive one, despite the short-term pain and upset.
  6. Moving forward means that you are stronger and better and more grounded overall.
  7. Moving forward means people who know you and used to know you may see you now in a different light.
  8. Moving forward means that you can forgive yourself, and others involved and know better what to expect from yourself and those same others in future projects.
  9. Moving forward means that you have a broader, deeper view of the world, and the people and technologies and things in it.
  10. Moving forward means that you are better and braver and more prepared for the next adventure.

As we go into a new year, look for opportunities to succeed, reach for stars, and if you have to fail, fail forward.

Measuring the Impact of Diversity

November 24, 2015

BeingDifferentI always thought that being different was a *good* thing, but we’ve all been conditioned to conform in various ways. There are many studies heralding the business advantages of diversity in the workplace, most notably Catalyst’s infographic listing 39 benefits of Diversity available at Below are suggestions on what to measure, to help leaders from across the organization ensure that diversity, a cornerstone of innovation, thrives within and throughout the organization.

  1. The most obvious thing to measure is the number of new-recruits. But measuring how these new recruits are different than current staff is also important. Consider diversity in gender, culture, orientation, age, background, and other measures as well.
  2. Another measure is a derivative of the above and often goes un-measured because of it. Measuring the quantity and variety of sources for new recruits helps ensure that a large range of recruits gets considered for employment.
  3. Some companies run programs to attract people of diverse backgrounds to an organization. Whether it’s an innovation competition, a scholarship program, or a community outreach campaign, these types of programs can successfully garner more awareness and more interest from the right people. Measuring the number and impact of corporate programs will also impact the number of job applications received.
  4. If we move on from attraction to retention and development measures, the first thing to consider is the process for identifying high-potentials. Who gets to decide who the high-potentials are? How many leaders are engaged in the process? What’s being measured when identifying these high-potentials? Rare is the organization that has a coordinated, concerted effort to even identify these high-potentials.
  5. Even those organizations who know who their high-potentials are may not have a plan for developing and retaining them! Measure how successful your organization is in developing and retaining people in general, and high-potentials in particular! How will you have a leadership pipeline if you don’t do this?
  6. It’s worth investing in the education of your people in general, and measuring how many of them attend classes and programs and certifications. Emphasize as well *who* gets selected to attend which program, favoring those identified as high-potential.
  7. A strong measure of success for any training and development program (as it is for any corporate initiative) is the engagement and commitment of senior leadership to the cause. Executive participation must go beyond the thoughts and words, but also into specific, committed and ongoing actions which provide funding and resources behind those words.
  8. Retention statistics are important, but look not just at the percentage of retention you have, but more carefully at who’s leaving. Attrition is part of the game when working in a fast-paced tech environment. Focus on and measure the retention of your best-performing high-potentials, even if that means that you might lose an overall volume of people on the team.
  9. If you do all the above well, then there should be more high-performing people with diverse backgrounds in the executive and C-suites. Of course you measure how many people there are of diverse backgrounds in those senior positions, but the problem comes when companies don’t have the diverse leadership they’re looking for and hire outside talent that might not be the right culture/social/program/tech fit rather than look at how to do all the steps above better.
  10. Of course it’s always about the bottom line, so measure:
  • The number of technologies you’re offering successfully;
  • Your expansion into new markets and opportunities;
  • The amount of revenues generated;
  • The number of new opportunities available;
  • The depth and breadth of your partnerships and client base;
  • All other corporate and cultural performance indicators.

And if it doesn’t add up, how could more diverse and varied leadership and talent make it right?

Something From Nothing

January 20, 2015

Something From NothingI live in Silicon Valley, where tech entrepreneurs rule. It’s a world where being smart and working hard are a given, and being creative and resourceful are regularly rewarded. And being able to make something from nothing sets you apart.

Although I’ve spent the last two decades working with tech start-ups as an employee, consultant, vendor and adviser, I started from humble beginnings. Born in Hong Kong, the second of four children, our family of 6 immigrated to San Francisco to stay with my aunt with $20 in our pockets and no job. I learned at the age of 5 about the value of friends and family, the rewards of hard work, the promise education provides, and that the opportunities are available for the hard-working, passionate and creative.

Today, I feel my parents beaming down on the four of us kids from above, proud that we are the educated, independent and good people that are we. In working with the wide range of tech leaders and companies over the past two decades, I’ve also learned a thing or two about creating Something From Nothing.

  1. The opportunities are there for those who can see ‘something’, when so many others don’t.
  2. That ‘something’ must be about what-the-customers-want, not about how sexy the technology is.
  3. Because we are emerging from an Age of Information to an Age of Personalization, technology will be a key part of creating individualized ‘somethings’ for the customer.
  4. Creating ‘something’ takes skill, persistence, creativity, flexibility, and so much more.
  5. Leaders at all levels must ever focus on building momentum, creating positive energy. Standing still, no matter how profitable, is choosing complacency, and others who are more mobile and flexible will achieve that edge.
  6. Choose people to work with who are ethical, talented, and hardworking – in that order.
  7. Choose customers, partners, investors and other stakeholders carefully. Communicate transparently, clearly and regularly to continue to build a win-win, long-term relationship with all.
  8. Your internal team must be working together to meet common goals. Dissenters, no matter how talented, are not worth the investment of time and money.
  9. No matter where you sit within the organization, know when and where you fit best, and know when you should move yourself from one place to another as the company grows. Know also how others fit within the organization and how that is impacting the organization. And if you see a misalignment, do something about it.
  10. Knowing what-you-do-for-whom may change with the times. Knowing what-technologies-work-today may not be the answer tomorrow. Knowing who’s the right customer/partner/investor/staff member/etc. today may not work for tomorrow. Being fluid and managing each of the situations above, and whatever else may arise, while maintaining relationships with all, will separate the winners from the wanna-bes.

Those are my thoughts based on my experience coaching executives and advising start-ups. What are yours?

Business Analytics in Retail and eCommerce

May 12, 2014

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FountainBlue’s June 3, 2011 Business Analytics Event: Business Analytics in eCommerce and Retail and featured:
Facilitator Adrian Ott, CEO, Exponential Edge Inc. and Author, The 24-Hour Customer
Panelist Darren Bruntz, Senior Director, Analytics Platform & Delivery, eBay
Panelist Tobin Gilman, Vice President, BI and EPM Product Marketing, Oracle
Panelist Raj Sen, Group Manager, Multi-Channel Analytics, Adobe

Please join us in thanking our hosts at eBay for graciously hosting us at their facilities and for their ongoing support of FountainBlue. Below are notes from the conversation.
With the explosion of online, web, social, mobile and video, the sheer volume of data over the next four years will approach the total amount ever created in the history of the planet. As our panelists agree that understanding what customers are doing and personalizing experiences based on their behavior is a must-have, not a nice-to-have, the challenge for technology companies and retailers is how to take this volume of data and target, acquire, engage and measure customers in order to provide personalized systems which would lead to better customer experiences and loyalty.

We have rapidly moved from a period of relatively little data, most of it offline, with few big tech companies specializing in analytics and business decisions based on intuition to a period where the volumes of data overwhelm even the largest tech companies, large companies partner with other large companies to cost-effective provide personalized experiences for customers, and seamless presentation of dynamically generated information online, customized to the needs of the user, based on analytics.

The sophisticated business analytics of today’s large tech companies including data management, database technology, data integration, standard BI, end-user, predictive, financial performance management, hardware and software are all leveraged to serve the individual and personalized needs of the user. But there is a challenge of creating scalable, cost-effective solutions which serve a business purpose, and isn’t too high-maintenance from a technology perspective. Each of our panelists and their companies are looking for opportunities to innovate in business analytics space overall, in the retail and other sectors so that we build trust and do the right thing for the customer, saving them time and money, while respecting their privacy.

This challenge of getting-heard-through-the-noise has existed for decades, yet it is amplified now for several reasons, including the proliferation of products and brands, the number of channels where information can be presented to customers – from web site to mobile to brick and mortar, plus the integration of all, the relative ease of reaching to customers leveraging technology like e-mail and web sites, the formidable margin pressures put on management with the commiserate pressure to ensure advertising dollars reap rewards and other factors. There may be more information and data to process, but studies find that consumers are using the same amount of time to make purchasing decisions now as they have before.
This all leads to the impatience of customers and the escalating demand for instant evaluation metrics and vetted recommendations from trusted sources. Below is advice from our panelists for better serving that customer and providing value-added, dynamically-generated, data-driven personalized solutions for those customers:
• Be a trusted brand and resource to the customer. Leverage their behavior, history, profile, and other data so that it best serves them while respecting their privacy and adding value to them.
• Leverage social media so that the wisdom of the crowd can best decide the best sellers, the best buyers and the best products.
• Be a neutral body for both sellers and buyers and be clear on policies and procedures for buying and selling.
• From the vendor’s perspective, your business analytics program goal should be more customer loyalty, increased likelihood of up-sell and increased referrals. From the customer’s perspective, the goal might be more timely, more personalized recommendations based on patterns of use, survey of needs, and available product offerings.
• Address the needs of the customer with sophisticated, integrated technologies which appear seamless to the customer.
• Understand and segment your users and note patterns so that you can better serve and even anticipate the needs of the customer.
• Rather than striving to interpret the huge volumes of generated data, seek larger patterns of behaviors and create use cases which would make recommendations on what’s important to the user, without looking at *all* the data to justify that recommendation. Extend the concept further into use case families to better understand customer segments, product feedback, buying trends, etc.
• Collaborate with key vendors to create generic application for future use, keeping solutions simple for customers, retailers and vendor alike.
• Buy or build technologies that would serve your customer, but if possible, don’t create another technology stack which needs to be upgraded and managed.
Below are some ideas and suggestions for entrepreneurs innovating in this space:
• Find the integration between mobile devices and cameras and how it can integrate with more traditional retail experience in brick and mortar stores as well as in ecommerce solutions.
• Leverage social media to more efficiently provided customized, personalized, vetted feedback to niche customers.
• Make it easy for retailers who are not necessarily technophilic to learn and adopt business analytics practices which would serve both their customers and their businesses.
• Leverage personalized online visualization so customers experience the product visually and in 3D in a way that drives customer purchasing decisions without too much extra technology overhead.
• Create a solution which would generate results faster, more accurately, more efficiently.
• Consumers are hungry for the score – how do you create a vetted, five-star instant-gradafication system cost-effectively to them?
• Go beyond tables and bar charts and produce 3D reports like waterfalls or scatter-plots so that retailers can better manage their merchandise online, on-site, in the warehouse, and elsewhere. These reports
• Create solutions which address the intersection of data on behavior, customers, transactions and products and translate it into actionable correlations.
• The pro-privacy movement led by some consumers will make it more difficult for retailers and vendors to understand behaviors of consumers. But this is also an opportunity.

The bottom line is that data is a double-edge sword: it holds the secret to better understanding and serving the customer, but the sheer volume of data makes it a challenge to integrate and protect/secure it while identifying the kernels of wisdom and information which would spell out patterns and better anticipate and deliver actionable personalized solutions for retailers, vendors and customers alike. The market will continue to evolve as retailers open up to analytics, consumers keep raising the bar on what’s immediate and what’s personalized, vendors collaborate to dynamically deliver more sophisticated, integrated technology solutions, and entrepreneurs continue to innovate.

• Wall St. Journal May 18, 2011 Article on Check Out the Future of Shopping covers mobile shopping gadgets
• Our facilitator Adrian Ott , CEO of Exponential Edge Inc. and NAWBO’s Silicon Valley’s Enterprising Woman of the Year 2011 is also the author of The 24-Hour Customer: New Rules for Winning in a Time-Starved,
Always-Connected Economy The 24-Hour Customer, named a Best Business Book 2010 by Library Journal and Small Business Trends, provides a framework that helps businesses turn customer time and attention scarcity into a competitive advantage. The book demonstrates how to make your products and services more addictive through the use of key buying triggers and techniques that redirect customer attention and traction in your favor. To purchase your copy online, visit

Software Meets Healthcare

April 28, 2014

FountainBlue’s August 8 Life Science Entrepreneurs’ Forum, on the topic of Software Meets Healthcare, featuring:
Facilitator Dipankar Ganguly, CEO, BioTelligent
Panelist Ted Driscoll, Technology Partner, Claremont Creek, Member, Life Science Angels and Founding Director, Sand Hill Angels
Panelist John Sotir, Senior Manager, Medical & Test Group, Altera
Presenting Entrepreneur Rohan Coelho, CEO, Rexanto
Presenting Entrepreneur Parvati Dev, PhD, FACMI, President, Innovation in Learning Inc., Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Media-X, Stanford University, Former Director, SUMMIT Lab, Stanford University School of Medicine
Presenting Entrepreneur Marco Smit, President, Health 2.0 Advisors

Please join us in thanking our sponsors at KPMG for sponsoring this event and this series. Thank you also to our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts. Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists shared many different ways of implementing software meets healthcare solutions: from pharmacy prescription management to simulations and training, from development tools to mobile monitors and sensors. Regardless of the application, the focus is on serving the customer, by improving efficiency through software automation, by training and learning new behaviors in a safe environment, by reducing development time, by better monitoring behaviors and symptoms, or by providing more accurate, personalized and timely products and services.
Software meets healthcare offers huge opportunities, but there are also many barriers to entry. Solutions must serve a market and customer need, and meet policy, reimbursement and regulatory requirements which are ever-changing. Some of the advances in the technology world, including business analytics, cloud computing and mobile applications, are being leveraged in the software-meets-healthcare space, in the areas of sensors and monitoring, personal genomics, electronic medical records, and other areas. Indeed, we are moving to a world of intelligent agents, which would assume a more active monitoring role than a typical nurse or doctor, in a much more cost-effective, automated and efficient way. This becomes so much more important as demand increases for a variety of reasons, including the aging of the population in general, the increasing health care costs, and the ever-increasing demand for real-time, inexpensive solutions from patients, hospitals, care-givers, providers and insurers alike.
Below are some examples of upcoming opportunities in the software-meets-healthcare space:
– Intelligent agents will help monitor, track, report on and inform others regarding basic indicators from glucose to heart rate to ocular pressure. There is an opportunity for automating hardware and software agents and generating actionable reports to people who would pay for it, and making it easy to spread the word through social media.
– Training and education which would help people make positive lifestyle changes and creating tightly-knit, easily-expandable communities can not only help raise the overall health and quality of life for all in the community, but also create revenues for those managing and creating those communities.
– Adopting software and database solutions into the healthcare spaces offers opportunities in electronic medical records, diagnostics, genomics, and many other areas which require rapid processing of huge amounts of data, and generating reports that inform, educate, and facilitate decision-making.
– There is a drive from the patient side and the provider side for patients to assume more responsibility for their care, and training and education, automation and monitoring solutions which are easy to manage and easy to use for laypeople will be in high demand.
– Solutions which inform the patient and their select network will empower and inform, and ultimately help patients live more independently for longer period of time, which is less expensive and more satisfying for all.
– Mobile devices and solutions will be in high demand, if they are readily available and easy to use. But to ensure ready adoption, make it easy for customers to leverage social media to spread the word and IT departments to approve and support them.
Below is advice or entrepreneurs innovating in this space:
– Develop a solution which your target customer can easily navigate and utilize with minimal training. Take into account, for example, the dexterity, visual acuity, flexibility, etc. of your customers, particularly if they may be limited by physical ailments/diseases, aging, etc.
– Consider the security and data integrity standards for the industry overall.
– Protect patient-sensitive information as people are as sensitive and protective of that as they are of their personal financial information, where there are high standardized requirements for security.
– Serve an existing and passionate market, dont just create a technology looking for a problem.
– For many reasons, the adoption rate is much slower in the software-meet-healthcare space. Invest time in building relationships with hospitals, insurers, providers, etc.
– Build your credibility by having a great solution for a ready, proven market, having an experienced team, developing a scalable solution, and delivering based on milestones.
– Consider who will ultimately pay for the solution, which may not be the end patient, and build a business case on why it is in the best interest of the payor to do so.

The bottom line is that there are huge opportunities for those who are persistent, work with all the key stakeholders and deliver solutions to an eager customer base willing to pay for it.

On Finding Unicorns

November 27, 2013
Unicorn Club: Learning from Billion Dollar Start-ups

Unicorn Club: Learning from Billion Dollar Start-ups

I read with great interest the TechCrunch article on the Unicorn Club: Learning from Billion Dollar Start-ups, defined as the .07% of companies started since 2003 that were valued at over $1 billion dollars by public or private market investors. It got me thinking about some indicators for unicorns: tech-educated professionals in their 30s starting companies with people they already know from school or work in the e-commerce (consumer pays), audience (ads or leads pay), SaaS (users pay) or enterprise (companies pay) space.

But beyond that, it got me thinking about what the next unicorns would be in the next decade, and of course how to facilitate innovation and business success for my clients and the community overall. Specifically, if the 60s brought on the decade of semiconductors, the 70s the era of the personal computer, the 80s, the prominence of networks, the 90s, the rise of the modern internet, and the 00s the prominence of social networks, what will the next decade bring?

As with previous decades, what came before is the technical infrastructure which would support the next era of technology discovery and economic success. And what we think is next will be the rise of the age of personalization. Below are ten potential successes to found and fund in the next decade:

E-commerce (consumer pays) –

1. Proactive Health Management with a Wearable, Diagnostic Component
2. Web and mobile-based proactive food/exercise choice solutions, with a way to compare self to others and implications of food/exercise choices made

Audience (ads or leads pay) – focus on volume of targeted users

3. Mobile Diagnostics (software only)
4. Interactive Mobile Games or conversations/content with targeted social media components

SaaS (users pay) – going beyond apps and storage

5. Mobile Diagnostics, with separate plug-in device (not just software)
6. Mobile and web proactive Health Management Solutions
7. Elder care management solutions for caregivers
8. Community-Based Funding and Gifting Solutions

Enterprise (companies pay) space – More efficiently serving and connecting employees and managing resources

9. Employee Health Management Solutions
10. Proactive, Integrated, Energy Management Solutions

For more information, read the TechCrunch article The Unicorn Club: Learning From Billion-Dollar Startups

Increasing Shareholder Value

May 25, 2012

The WomenNow May 24 Face2Face Panel discussion was on the topic of Increasing Shareholder Value and was sponsored by the Monali Jain Foundation, featuring:

Linda Holroyd (Moderator) : CEO and Founder at FountainBlue

Sumeet Jain: Partner at CMEA Capital

Vivek Paul: Professor at Stanford

Gary Shara:  Attorney At Law

Savitha Srinivasan: Partner, Venture Capital Group at IBM

Our esteemed panelists represented corporate venture, investor, serial entrepreneur and consulting perspectives, with deep experience and expertise in working directly and indirectly with companies of all sizes manage their shareholder value.

They defined shareholder value as the price of the stock for companies that are public, combined with future and anticipated stock value, and the actions taken to manage and maximize shareholder value overall. Whether they are representing an up-and-coming tech company, a small non-tech services company, an investor or a corporation, our panel commented that the companies leaders must proactively manage shareholder value, and work with all stakeholders to maximize such value. Below is advice offered to entrepreneurs for increasing shareholder value:

  1. Act with integrity. Be authentic, sincere and truthful in your communications, reflecting that core integrity in all that you do.
  2. Be the type of passionate, persistent entrepreneur who may even be described as a psychopath in her/his will to accomplish the impossible, despite the naysayer and the obstacles.
  3. Communicate your passion in a way that inspires others to support and follow that vision.
  4. Validate that vision with real market/customer data and needs.
  5. Keep moving the needle forward, making overall forward progress despite inevitable blips.
  6. Set your standards high for everything that you do, and hire the right people accomplish the impossible. Don’t hesitate to lay off the people who aren’t passionate about what you’re doing for whom.
  7. Build relationships and networks to support yourself personally and your cause.
  8. Proactively manage a pivot for your technology/product and company when the numbers and customers are telling you that’s what needs to happen. In order to do this, you must always pay attention to the data, what the customers, partners, investors and other stakeholders are telling you.
  9. Seek counsel from people who are willing to tell you you’re on the wrong track.

10. Put the company in front of yourself. Know when it’s time for you to move on into another role so that someone else can make that company bigger and better.

Our panel discussion concluded with a look to what’s hot in the future, all centered around how technology is making information more relevant, making possible new ways of doing things that even anticipate and predict your needs. Business models and entrepreneurial opportunities will be hugely impacted by these technology changes, and even more so because these technology advances also make it possible for rapid creations of companies that cater to the needs of niche customers, leveraging their desires, needs and patterns and delivering what they were looking for, perhaps even before they know what they need!

Robotics in MedTech

December 30, 2011

FountainBlue’s December 12 Life Science Entrepreneurs’ Forum, was our final life science forum and was on the topic of Robotics in MedTech. Below are notes from the conversation.
By definition, Robots are devices that automatically perform complicated, often repetitive, tasks or are a mechanism guided by automatic controls. These tasks are ones where human activities are augmented or replaced by automatic or semi-automatic devices. The robotics field can be broken down into areas of body interaction (which would include surgical robots, prosthetics, end-effect robots) Power Source (which includes luggable and fixed robots), Movement Detection (which includes programmed movement and myoelectric), as well as Patient Benefits (which includes vertical wheelchairs, stance control). See the attached chart on the medical robotics landscape, courtesy of Tibion.
Tibion offers a wearable robotic device for augmenting muscle and balance functions through sensors and software, and represented the movement detection category on our panel. Restoration Robotics, which is developing and commercializing a state-of-the-art image-guided system (ARTAS™ System) that enables follicular unit extraction and represents the body interaction space, Accel Biotech, which does product development for medical, diagnostic, biodefense and biotech products and represents products from the movement detection, patient benefits and body interaction space and ISS Robodoc, which allows operators to specify a task and the device performs all the actions necessary to complete the task such as drilling a cavity for an implant from CT data, and represents the body interaction space.
Our panelists spoke eloquently both about how they got into the business, for personal and professional reasons, what their companies are doing, as well as the obstacles and opportunities ahead. Below is a summary of advice and comments about the industry overall.
• With the advancement of technologies in software, hardware, mechanical engineering, databases/business intelligence, networks and integration of all, there are many more MedTech opportunities for successful businesses now than ever before.
• With that said, the aging and more affluent global population/potential customer base, and the demand for more versatile, customizable solutions will dramatically increase to serve an ever-growing global market where there are needs for robots to do everything from body interaction to power sourcing to movement detection to patient benefit.
• Entrepreneurs experienced in this area have withstood the financial/economic ebbs and flows of the valley, particularly over the past decade, and seen the rapid rise and fall of technologies-looking-for-a-market. They are best able to see what’s next, based on market needs and customer feedback/demands and are best positioned to leverage existing technologies to serve these needs, many times integrating proven technologies, or applying them in a new way for a new purpose or market.
• Focus more on incremental improvements on proven technologies, for that’s far easily to forecast and plan for than disruptive changes, and you’re far more likely to encounter disruptive changes if you focus on the incremental ones.
In fact, a disruptive change may involve using existing technology in a new way in a new industry rather than inviting a new technology and solution from scratch, which is much less tested, much harder to get adoption and approval and funding and customers.
• Always start with the market need and consider regulatory and reimbursement factors as well as social and cultural issues rather than focus on building the technology and waiting for the patients and doctors to come.
• Design solutions that make therapists more efficient, one that is easy to understand and adopt, one that makes it easier for them to run their clinic as a business.
• Focus on solutions which make sense, and bring patients to caregivers when the need is to specific, too mission-critical. For example, instead of doing remote surgery at a battle site, invest in quickly getting patients to care centers with far more people and resources for customized treatment.
Our panelists agreed that there are tremendous opportunities ahead in this space:
• Integrating software engineering, data analytics, medical device production and pharmaceutical research can help accelerate the development of custom treatments for specific patients and needs. Indeed, it can do much more than that!
• There are huge opportunities in applications of robotics in food production, research (to find a more versatile, nutritious corn for example), distribution, treatment, etc.
• Robotics could enable rapid, customized diagnostics, in the near term in the areas of staph infection,
• Industrial robots did not take off in the US, due more to market/people resistance than technology implementation hurdles. As such, widespread adoption industrial robotics solutions is more prevalent outside the US. If we can change the mindset of the users and adopters, we can welcome and adopt industrial robotics solutions, factory automation at a next level, and once again become more competitive in the manufacturing/operations space. If not, we can design further industrial robot automations for international customers and markets.
• Investigate the convergence of cameras (imaging), networks/mobile, data analytics, etc. as it applies to quickly diagnosing and treating patients in an efficient, customized way.
• Investigate how gaming, sensors and augmentation will intersect with robotics and the opportunities therein.
• See where materials science, medtech, data analytics, and robotics intersect and the implications on how we can better serve our patients.
• To find opportunities to apply robotics, look at what repetitive or dangerous tasks should be done efficiently and precisely and how it can be automated in an efficient (time and money) way to an audience (like patients and doctors) who may not embrace technology. It must be simple to understand and use.
• Each of the robotics categories from body interaction to Power Source to Movement Detection to Patient Benefits may all be applied to how robots can support an aging population to assist movement-impaired patients limited through age-related physical degeneration, diseases or congenital limitations:
o Surgical robots, prosthetics, end-effect robots
o Luggable and fixed robots
o Programmed movement and myoelectric
o vertical wheelchairs, stance control
In the end, complex automation is the key, leveraging technology (software, devices, databases, networks, etc), but it must be integrated into a simple, sustainable solution, easily managed, to serve complex problems for specific users/customers/needs.
Please join us in thanking our panelists for our final life science forum, on the topic of Robotics in MedTech:
Facilitator Jack Moorman, LeVaunt, LLC
Presenting Entrepreneur Robert Horst, Ph.D., Vice President of R&D & Cofounder, Tibion
Presenting Entrepreneur Mike Ouren, Clinical Development Manager, Restoration Robotics
Presenting Entrepreneur Bruce Richardson, CEO, Accel Biotech
Presenting Entrepreneur Dr. Ramesh C. Trivedi, President, Calbiomed International, Inc.

Materials Innovation in Clean Tech

December 7, 2011

FountainBlue’s December 5 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Materials Innovations in Clean Tech. Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists spoke passionately about the opportunities for materials innovation, and how it can change clean energy offerings that are both practical and affordable for customers like utilities, corporations, manufacturers and homeowners.
Below are some thoughts on the opportunities ahead for materials innovation in clean tech:
• Develop materials and solutions which would help manage the peaks and valleys brought by renewable energy getting into the grid. This will become increasingly important.
• In the same token, develop materials innovations which fit within existing infrastructure and even make the infrastructure more flexible, more scalable.
• Consider automating basic, needed services which use fewer resources, like anything from window-cleaning to car and battery maintenance.
• Use plentiful, inexpensive, proven materials and scale manufacturing and development using these materials.
• Consider developing solutions which are closer to the ‘load’, where the customer demand is greatest. This may mean many micro- solutions for energy management.
• Adapt current materials which make products smaller, lighter, and more durable under extreme conditions, and its applications in the clean energy space.
Below is advice from our experienced panelists:
• Our panelists cautioned entrepreneurs about investing *too* much time and money into the development of a novel, groundbreaking material, and suggested instead to look at proven materials and adapting them to new purposes, to new markets, using new geometries, new manufacturing processes, new composites/combinations, etc. Not only would doing so decrease the likelihood of creating a product or service more quickly for a proven market and paying customer, but it would also be easier to seek funding and partnerships.
• Develop processes and solutions which would make production of your materials cost-effectively, so that you reach grid parity and customers would get the ROI.
• Make it easy for customers to select your solution, changing from their current option. People want to be earth-friendly, but the financial commitment up-front and the technical/hassle-factor is a hurdle to adopting ‘cleaner’ options.
• Leverage partnerships with academics, entrepreneurs, corporates, etc and collaborate to develop new solutions, distribute them to new markets and channels, etc
• Know your area of specialty and work with others to create win-win partnerships for everything from development to manufacturing to distribution and funding.
• Know your market and sell to your market. Prioritize which markets you will sell to when and know why.
• Provide offerings which could withstand extreme conditions – weather, heat, chemicals, etc. and also last for long periods of time, like a decade or two.
• Follow basic business principles: have a great idea and prove it through measurable outcomes based on aggressive milestones and timelines.
• Consider aerospace and military applications for your materials innovation.
• Collaborate to influence policy to be more friendly to innovations in this space.
• Have your finger on market pulse and focus on the needs and feedback of your customers.

In the end, entrepreneurs who will succeed in this space will focus more on incremental innovations than on creating/identifying a game-changing new material, more about business models than on ‘rocket science’, more about producing real value to paying customers and scaling to meet the current and anticipated needs of a global marketplace.

We would like to thank our speakers for FountainBlue’s December 5 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Materials Innovations in Clean Tech:
Facilitator Jill Weir, Product Manager, TE Connectivity
Panelist Scott Elrod, Vice President, Director of Hardware Systems Laboratory, PARC
Panelist Alissa Peterson, Director, Product Marketing and Business Development, Primus Power
Presenting Entrepreneur Phillip Roberts, CEO and Founder, Ionex Energy Storage Systems Inc.
Please join us also in thanking our hosts at PARC.

Personalized Medicine

November 15, 2011

FountainBlue’s November 14 Life Science Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Personalized Medicine, Biomarkers, Invitro Diagnostics: The Science Advances, The Business Opportunities, The Cultural Dilemmas. Below are notes from the conversation.
We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives and experiences on our panel, representing decades of expertise in personalized medicine, biopharma, oncology, infectious diseases, internal medicine, proteomics, and optics. They each spoke eloquently about the evolution of the personalized medicine industry and the opportunities and challenges ahead.
Our panelists are quite bullish about the opportunities in personalized medicine, remarking on the great progress made over the last decade or two, leveraging revolutionary technologies, research and other innovations and success stories from companies such as Cepheid, Genomic Health, Roche and Gilead. As we move from the first generation of non-specific diagnosis focused on treating symptoms (all typical of health care today), we gravitate toward solutions which require information correlation, providing organized therapies targeting those who would be most responsive to them, based on detailed analysis and research prior to treatment, known as translational medicine. Examples of such include digital imaging, genetic predisposition testing, and clinical genomics. The longer-term objectives for personalized medicine might include disease prevention and effective chronic disease management, and might leverage molecular medicine, CA diagnostics, pre-symptomatic treatment and lifetime treatment. (Source: Richard Bakalar, MD, IBM Healthcare and Life Sciences, November 3, 2004.)
Based on a Bernard Associates October 2003 report published in, the opportunities in personalized medicine might include the following:
• Addressing patients with adverse event risk
• Serving treatment non-responders
• Serving treatment low-responders
• Introducing solutions to market with faster approvals
• Recruiting patients with less effective, more expensive drugs to new treatment
• Increasing use of drugs for diagnosed patients not treated
• Expanding treatments to new diseases and subgroups
• Diagnosing earlier and leveraging preventive treatments
• Enhancing patient compliance
• Securing better reimbursements for best-in-class drugs
Our panelists made the following comments and advice:
• Because of the nature of the industry, personalized medicine is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, with opportunities for success for only the most committed and resilient.
• Segmenting the patient base (high/low responders, high/low likelihood of recurrence for example) will provide better treatment for the patients, better data for the practitioners, better results for the payers and insurers alike.
• Making solutions easy for the physicians to use, for patients to take, will increase the overall effectiveness of the treatment.
o Getting quick test results will help doctors more quickly make diagnosis and recommend treatments, and also increase the likelihood that the patients will begin treatment. An example is TB testing which currently may take a week, but may eventually take an hour or two, while the patient is still in the office.
o Educate physicians about how to fold these easy-to-implement solutions into their day-to-day practice cost-effectively, and within reimbursement requirements and regulations.
• Focus on creating actionable testing to striate the patient base and recommend treatments based on patient-specific data.
• Create more cost-effective, more effective alternatives to current traditional treatments to 1) serve a more niche market, or a larger market, 2) save costs for patients and insurers, 3)
• Collaborate with clinicians to create value-based pricing and a more receptive regulatory environment conducive to more effective translational medicine.
• Leverage experts in databases and automated systems who can analyze data and recommend treatments, help research differences and similarities in patient and disease and further the research and effectiveness of personalized medicine overall.
• Research families/chapters of diseases as well as types of patients and their correlations with disease susceptibility, with an eye to prevention and treatment.
• There are huge opportunities around treatment resistance – whether it’s a low-responding patient or a patient which develops resistance to treatment over time.
o If it’s delayed resistance, make sure that lab data is current, rather than that taken at the onset of treatment.
o With that said, the difference between samples taken at the beginning of treatment and after the resistance has developed might give insights about the disease, the treatment and/or the patient and classes of each.
• Combination therapies might address the needs of low/non responders, or those who have developed resistance following initial treatment.
As the industry evolves, here are some critical questions to consider:
• Will patients be willing to pay higher prices for treatments more specific to their profile?
• Will diagnostics become more valued and more expensive as people begin to recognize the importance of detailed patient data prior to treatment?
• Will pharma continue to the most influential stakeholder?
• How can patient groups, advocacy groups, clinical collaboration groups, insurers, pharma and other stakeholders better collaborate?
• Will it be cost-effective enough to provide conclusive data which physicians would embrace?
• Will physicians have the time and inclination to embrace new diagnostics and personalized treatments? What are some practical financial incentives for them to do so?
• Will payers band together to insist on better diagnostics and more specialized treatment options based on more sophisticated diagnostics? How will payers work with insurers and physicians and others to make this so?
• What is the most efficient way to measure and communicate ROI and overall savings for diagnosis and treatments?
• Who will fund entrepreneurial innovations in this area, and if it’s not funded, how will the industry continue to evolve?
• How will global solutions and markets evolve?
Whatever the opportunities and questions ahead, we’re in agreement that personalized medicine is not to be swept aside: it is a business opportunity and there is a real need to deliver optimal treatments for patients, and benefit stakeholders across the value chain.
We are grateful to our panelists for FountainBlue’s November 14 Life Science Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Personalized Medicine, Biomarkers, Invitro Diagnostics: The Science Advances, The Business Opportunities, The Cultural Dilemmas:
Facilitator Audrey S. Erbes, Ph.D., Principal, Erbes & Associates
Panelist Michael Bates, M.D., Vice President, Oncology Research and Development at Cepheid
Panelist Dean Schorno, Chief Financial Officer, Genomic Health
Presenting Entrepreneur Giacomo Vacca, Ph.D., Founder & CEO, Kinetic River
Please join us in thanking our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts.