Posts Tagged Silicon Valley

Unicorns by NAATAK – Play Review


“How can we make user experience like flushing a toilet”, rhetorically questions Silicon Valley startup CEO, Mike Jordan (Barnaby Falls), in Anush Moorthy’s play “Unicorns”, a satire on modern era startups. It’s a perfect script to be presented without the elaborate set, costumes, or lights, to a small, intimate gathering of Silicon Valley audience. The play was performed on second stage at Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, by NAATAK company which has won for three years in a row in 2015, 2016, and 2017, the San Jose Mercury News Reader’s Choice Award, for “Best Live Theatre in Silicon Valley”.

Image result for naatak, unicorns

Unicorns traces an engineer’s journey as he joins Oberherr, a high valuation startup. Paranoid Silicon Valley culture has made it imperative for Oberherr, to be extremely secretive regarding their products and offerings. In the absence of talking about their products, in order to get noticed before the big launch and the IPO, the company banks on heavy use of buzzwords. Mike often says, “at Oberherr, we imaginate, innovate, ideate”. Dressed in the style made fashionable among high achievers by  Apple’s former boss, Steve Jobs, in black turtleneck and blue jeans, Mike insists, their engineers “create things from nothingness”.

The company has eliminated desks to enable free flow of thinking and interaction and employees are forbidden to talk about the company, outside its premises. And then there is a palpable omnipresence of the board (Havish Ravipati) keeping a tight focus on the impending IPO. All this paranoia and cutthroat mentality has created interesting dynamics at Oberherr. While Radhika (Tannistha Mukherjee) is highly territorial and least helpful to newbies, her accomplishments go unnoticed in supposedly “egalitarian” workplace, dominated by men.  Ramanathan (Natraj Kumar) has learned to get noticed by sucking up to Mike, and Robin (Rohit Mukherjee) stays out of trouble by staying focused on his laptop. Sahil (Varghese Muthalaly) is fabulous in his role as a new engineer joining Oberherr whose fortune rises and tumbles at the blink of an eye. Sahil shares a healthy camaraderie with a fellow software engineer, Joyce (Aparna Warrier) but couldn’t explain even to his wife Priya (Preeti Bhat) about company’s products.

As seen from a few recent debacles, (one of the prominent one being Theranos) there are interesting shortcomings in the hyped up Silicon Valley startup culture.  The focus on speed and short term gains, at the expense of long term vision and value-add of its offerings is often proportionately correlated with diminishing concern for people, true teamwork and quality of life. People become pawns in a system when stretching the truth isn’t just overlooked but sometimes admired, in quest for world domination and mad rush to IPOs.  Unicorns by NAATAK is a fantastic spoof on the Silicon Valley startup culture. This is a not-to-miss play of this theater season in the bay area. Tickets may be available at www.naatak.com .

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Tale of two Americas influencing #Election2016 & Open Letter to Hillary Campaign


Here’s something to think about… the country is soooo divided that Americans are living two distinctively different realities; it is almost like they are living in two different nations.

America 1

Imagine that you live in the Appalachian mountains off of Virginia or Ohio.  Jobs in mining and manufacturing that were once plentiful are gone and no one has offered you re-training to operate in a different reality that has been emerging.  Opioids & alcohol are easily available to dull your pain (in fact, in parts of Ohio, first time more people are dying from opioid addiction than natural causes).  You see yourself as having no future; the best is behind you. You are enormously proud of your heritage, hard work ethic, and your religious values.

Church used to be your anchor but now church attendance has fallen; you have no anchor. You just want someone new at helm in this country, to shake things up – you don’t care how or who it is as long as the person talks to you in a language you understand and holds someone; an outsider responsible for your plight. Your current reality is so painful that you believe you once lived in a phenomenal nation, and you are losing it to outsiders who steal your jobs. Perhaps you don’t see many immigrants where you live, but you hear statistics of jobs being offshored, terrorists rarely target your geographical areas and you don’t often see women in hijabs but you hear about terror attacks when they happen and it scares the s*&^ out of you. Lowering or raising federal minimum wage has no impact here because there is no economy, no jobs. If someone tells you they will build a wall to keep immigrants out then it resonates with you.  If someone promises to bring back outdated mining jobs back, you are filled with hope.

America 2

Now imagine  you are living in a place like Silicon Valley in California, a place on the cutting edge of innovation.  There is a different social and economic reality.  You work with Muslim engineer, Chinese American scientist, Mexican American patent attorney, Iranian American realtor and your child’s teacher is lesbian.  These people are not aliens but your next door neighbors and share similar interests and values, as you.  Price for 2 BR condo in newly built (and fraught with problems), millennium towers in San Francisco costs around $2M and when economy tanked in 2009 (right after George Bush left office), California was hit harder than Ohio and Indiana.  The number of people filing for bankruptcy protection in the first quarter of 2010 ranked California at number one for bankruptcy protection. Right after Florida and Nevada, California also had one of the highest foreclosure rates with 1 in every 192 houses being foreclosed.

I can personally vouch to the impact of extremely high unemployment, while living in a state where everything is more expensive.  Both my businesses died.  I offered recruitment and soft skills training, but no one was hiring and no one had budget for soft skills training.  In 2009, I made less than $10,000.  I sold my house and while my business continued to remain in a nearly dead mode, in 2010 and 2011, I pounded the pavement for hourly jobs at Starbucks etc. for which I was always considered overqualified.  But California is back in business and so am I; better than ever before.

How did California do it?  I think California did it by leveraging the global trends and with a unique blend of cutthroat captialistic competition and compassionate socialism.  Corporations may not be people but both companies and people in CA exhibit this blend of competition and compassion.  I have some more thoughts on this and if I am not distracted by other things, I may study this more and write another blog.  But for this post, I want to focus on what is required of a political leader to bring the two Americas together. 

Open letter to Clinton Campaign

Henceforth, Ms. Clinton must maintain a laser sharp focus on issues that matter in the swing states.  All focus should be solely on large percentage of undecided voters who swing back and forth between Trump and Hillary.  Stop talking about how racist Trump is or that he is adhering to Alt-Right.   More people learn how racist he is, more votes it is getting him. Trump’s entire candidacy is based on inciting hate and division and taking his message to the masses is only enabling him.  Besides, he has so much air time, everything he does and says is covered.

While American women would largely care for issues like equal pay for equal work, do not focus on sexism in Trump campaign.  In California, I saw ads targeting women, with mention of Trump’s abominable remarks denigrating women.  But California is tuned in already,  In the swing states, there are likely to be more women in committed relationships and more than right to choose and equal pay, they care more for jobs for their husbands.  Still for many, it is a man’s serious and primary responsibility to earn a living.

Do not mention immigration.  Trump has made entire immigration dialog in the country about sound bites (big wall, beautiful wall, Mexico will pay for it, deporting etc.) and more confident and more racist his sound bites, more they are striking a chord.  He effectively created an environment of fear where soundbite solutions are very appealing.  I don’t believe Ms. Clinton can give any effective soundbites on immigration.  That is simply not her style and people are not in the mood to listen to logic on this issue.

Do not mention environmental issues.  While this has been President Obama’s crowning achievement, it does not figure in top 10 priorities when you put it on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Americans are generally more present oriented but are certainly focusing squarely on short term and immediate benefits during this election season.  The more Trump talks about how things will change on November 8, less concerned people are about benefits to future generations.  

Also, do not focus in the debate on Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience.  Americans often care little about foreign relations.  President GHW Bush made great strides in foreign relations and he got little credit for it.  Besides Trump scored a victory looking Presidential in Mexico.  More than that, no one cares.

Image result for maslow's hierarchy of needsThink of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that goes from fulfillment of basic needs and only after they are satisfied, it progresses to focus on social needs.  When people’s basic needs of healthy food, clean water, and safety are not satisfied, focusing on social issues like women’s rights, race relations, immigration, pay equality, and equal rights for LGBTQ, are a luxury they can’t afford.  While Trump may be trigger happy to get access to the nuke button, for America 1, it does not feel like a looming disaster; instead, it enhances their feeling of safety.

Here are the issues that Clinton campaign should singularly focus on.  

Focus on JOBS

Image result for jobsForget all incredible and horrific things said and done by Trump that make him unfit to be the President. Stay singularly focused on jobs and the economy and his lack of concrete plan to create jobs.  In his post convention interview with George Stephanopoulos, Trump was questioned about jobs.  See clip below at 11 minutes, where Trump when asked why he brings in people from overseas to work at Mara Lago resort in Florida, he tried to duck the question by taking talking about other companies offshoring jobs and Stephanopoulos keeps bringing the discussion back to his issuing almost 500 offshore visas since 2010 and Trump deflects it again saying everyone does it because they can’t find American workers.  Hummm, they can’t be re-trained for low level jobs then how is he going to pressure Samsung and Apple to bring skilled jobs outsourced to Indian and Chinese engineers at fraction of the cost, back to America?  Use this clip with Clinton’s concrete plan to continue to create job growth in America.  This is not a sensational piece of news that elite media (largely favored by America 2) will play over and over but you must capitalize on.

http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/video/donald-trump-41028199

Respect & concrete benefits to America’s Veterans

Image result for war veteransAmerica owes to our veterans.  But that sincerity must be expressed with something more tangible than “America loves you and is deeply grateful to you for your service”.  If one vet feels strongly enough to give away his purple heart to Trump then that is one too many vets disillusioned, and whom we must re-engage with.  Our vets must have certain level of job security, access to constant retraining, access to healthcare, including easy access to mental healthcare.  There must be early intervention before PTSD takes an enormous toll on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  Talk about how Obamacare has enabled easier access to healthcare for so many people.

Access to mental healthcare and PTSD treatment

Image result for PTSDTrauma has become a significant part of modern life.  It is not only our vets who need access to treatment for PTSD, but also foster care children who are often shuttled around from family to family, from one location to another.  Children who witness domestic violence, often suffer from PTSD, while their needs may be completely ignored at home and outside.

Concrete plan to deal with opioids and other drugs

 Image result for opioid addictionAs mentioned above, in parts of Ohio, first time more people are dying from opioid addiction than natural causes.  Obama administration and FDA has been deeply concerned about escalating use of opioids and other drugs but how frequently do we hear from Hillary campaign about the plan that is in process?  For instance, the Obama administration is making it easier for doctors and law enforcement to use anti-addiction drugs.  FDA is putting in place steps so that companies seeking approval of any new opioids, must include abuse-deterrent properties and appropriate labeling. But more importantly, there are concrete steps in place to deal with current trends of opioid abuse, including additional training to prescribers on pain management and safe prescribing, encouragement for abuse deterrent formulations, make naloxone more easily available to treat opioid overdose, and encouraging new class of pain medicines without the same risks as opioids.  Ms. Clinton must relentlessly address opioid abuse and significant strides being made under Obama administration to counter that.  

Finally, I humbly suggest that Hillary campaign and the media stop playing over and over and over Trump soundbites that show his racial, gender and other biases – contrary to people being turned off by such bigotry, in the climate of fear he has created and the foundation of hate he has laid, his bigotry gives people a feeling of safety and hope. Considered dialog detailing the history of events and people as done by Rachel Maddow and others and late night shows (Colbert, Noah, Bee, Oliver and others) that point out ridiculous aspects of Trump messages with humor, are however excellent.

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Tackling Global Health – (Kim Bush, Gates Foundation) Keynote Preview at EPPICon 2015


With Obamacare, the discussion about national health has moved to front and center stage.  But what about the status of global health; what are the opportunities and challenges?   Just about a decade ago, availability of resources was the biggest problem in the arena of global health.  But with the rise in public and private giving, to a large part due to unprecedented giving by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates, the challenge has now shifted to better coordination of resources for “equitable, inclusive & sustainable solutions”.  According to Council on Foreign Affairs, “for the first time in history, the world is poised to spend enormous resources to conquer the diseases of the poor”.

Logo da fundação Bill & Melinda Gates

Logo da fundação Bill & Melinda Gates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Kim C. Bush, director of Life Sciences Partnerships at Gates Foundation, is leading the efforts to broaden and deepen the foundation’s engagement and partnership initiatives with various healthcare industry sectors.  With an objective to address the critical global health challenges with speed and effectiveness, the foundation is bringing in the industry in this dialog, in a systemic manner.  The goal of the Gates foundation is to match global health priorities with the industry capabilities.  

Kim Bush will be giving a keynote address at 2015 EPPIC Annual Conference, on March 28th at Santa Clara Convention Center.   Entrepreneurs in life science arena, committed to solving some of the major health challenges of our times, may get big insights into where the gaps and the glaring problems are, as well as where the resources are being channeled.

Lineup of speakers on all panels at EPPIcon 2015, is very exciting, with plenty of networking opportunities thrown in.  Here is a link to the preview of one of the panels on Digital Health – http://bit.ly/1EQtd5y .  No doubt, connected, digital health will also play a prime role in advancing global health.  Come and participate in the dialog, network with like minded professionals in Silicon Valley, and hear from key opinion leaders, angel and VC investors and other industry leaders.  Early bird registration will expire at midnight today, March, 16.  Register today at www.eppicglobal.org .

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Also a plug for http://www.healthtechnologyforum.com 2015 annual conference on May 27 and 28 in Burlingame, CA. Early bird pricing will be effective till March, 31.  Panels include Innovations for the Underserved, Resilient Communities, Population Health Management, and the conference has a dedicated focus on making a positive difference and transforming health globally.  Register soon for an opportunity to hear great speakers and network with professionals committed to making a difference.

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“Build” – Play Review (about a startup in Silicon Valley)


Written by Michael Golamco, “Build” is CityLights’ Executive Artistic Director, Lisa Mallette’s yet another bold venture aimed to bring thematically relevant plays to the Silicon Valley audience.  Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, in Palo Alto, CA, this is a story about — what else? A startup! And what could be more hot than a video gaming company?

I am going to skip a more typical review with detailed plot description, in favor of giving you a glimpse of the future envisioned in this production.  To give a little background of the plot, Kip (George Psarras) and Will (Max Tachis) had earlier conceived a brilliant game that resulted in a grand success, leading to what appears to be a milestone based buyout deal.  Unlike Will, dapper and immaculate, Kip, the creative genius, with disdain for money, and for following procedures, and grave dislike for documenting details to make hand off of work easier for others, has a harder time with monetary success, fast cars, suits and board and shareholder meetings.  Kip spends his days cloistered in his home mourning the loss of his late wife, and has abandoned social life, in favor of staying indoors, in his cluttered apartment, working on his next big project; only this time to give it away via open source and cloud.  And who else to keep him company but an “artificially intelligent” being, an AI robot, oddly resembling his late wife Allison (Morgan Voellger).

English: IBM's Watson computer, Yorktown Heigh...

English: IBM’s Watson computer, Yorktown Heights, NY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you think that it might be too far fetched, think again.  Sometime back, IBM’s AI computer, Watson made history when it appeared on Jeopardy, the popular game show beat most of the contestants http://bit.ly/JOZmwH .  Watson is a computer system, capable of answering questions posed in natural language.  This is no small feat.  Human language is infinitely complex.  That alone makes for a huge challenge in building an artificially intelligent, interactive being.  Puns, idioms, and other contextual expressions, and even the tone of voice http://bit.ly/17FvMmW  and a pause at a different place in a sentence, can completely alter the meaning.  In medicine, AI computer like Watson is expected learn the nuances of the language to offer complex diagnosis, and even indicate the level of confidence it has in the diagnosis offered.

ASIMO uses sensors and intelligent algorithms ...

ASIMO uses sensors and intelligent algorithms to avoid obstacles and navigate stairs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In “Build”, Kip’s AI being is keenly aware of her identity “16 terabytes of data”.  But she is far superior than any ordinary machine and he has built it in human avatar.  The robot takes on Allison’s personality, even the loneliness Allison experienced when she was married to Kip and Kip was occupied with his gaming venture.  This AI machine made out of code is incredibly smart (beats Kip in the word game they play), is intuitive and curious, and even talks about her dreams.  When Will discovers Kip’s secret AI being, he is both astounded and concerned that Kip will forever stay a prisoner of his home, as long as he has the companionship offered by the robot.  Along with this ulterior motive, Will also has fond memories of Allison and is mesmerized by Allison-like-robot.

This is not stuff of idle imagination.  Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have all said that we should be concerned about the future of artificial intelligence.  Louis Del Monte, an entrepreneur, has said that some day, machines could surpass humans and could become the most dominant species, and Hawking has said that machines could eventually “outsmart financial markets” and “out-invent human researchers”.  Days may not be far when machines will fulfill the roles of companions and caregivers.

While it is challenging to imagine the future, this production is tackling the challenges of reproducing that “future” on stage.  It takes the audience into the fascinating world of video gaming as Will and Kip work on deliverables, cleaning out bugs, and packet drops.  Then with the help of high tech design and lighting, the audience is introduced to the AI robot.  Video designer, Nick Kumamoto has worked wonders with some scattered computer screens and lighting.  While AI robot appears caring and concerned, and seems to be a perfect companion, the story revolves around three human beings, one who has passed away, leaving behind memories, and two friends who struggle through their growth and transformation, to keep the ties that brought them together in the first place; gaming, innovation, and their urge to “build” something, in the heart of Silicon Valley.  “Build” will be running at CityLights in San Jose, till February 22, 2015.  For tickets, go to www.cltc.org

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Lean LaunchPad for Life Science Entrepreneurs


Recently, Karl Handelsman, Founder, Codon Capital, talked about the Lean LaunchPad Entrepreneurship program, at www.bio2devicegroup.org event.  Handelsman, with Allan May (Managing Director at Life Science Angels), are instructors in the Lean LaunchPad for Life Sciences program at UCSF and also will be teaching at NIH, in the future.  Handelsman is the Therapeutics cohort and May is the Medical Device cohort.

It is a mistake to assume that pre-clinical programs are risky and they need to focus on easier low hanging fruit or they must take 10+ years and a billion dollars to create value, said Handelsman.  We have a duty to search for the path to unlock the value of the idea as industrially relevant innovation, and there are examples of biotech startups reaching that point in 18-30 months, said Handelsman.  Lean LaunchPad program teaches scientists and clinicians in startups to do a real world assessment of their idea or technology, before plunking down millions of dollars, in an idea.  Entrepreneurs receive training in determining their product’s market viability, regulatory risk, potential clinical utility, and also likely financing vehicles before making big dollar investments in research, design, and manufacturing.

English: Molecular graphics images were produc...

English: Molecular graphics images were produced using the UCSF Chimera package from the Resource for Biocomputing, Visualization, and Informatics at the University of California, San Francisco (supported by NIH P41 RR001081). PDB rendering based on 1a8e. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Entrepreneurs need good operational models that build a context of value creation, said Handelsman.  Investors like value, not milestones.  “Investors want to invest money and they want to hear a business case, and operational milestones don’t get you there”,  stressed Handelsman.

Big things often have small beginnings and start with contributions from many small pockets.  Sharing the case of a company that started with collaboration and became the behemoth, Genentech,  Handelsman said, entrepreneurs need to start thinking about collaboration, not competition, and begin to look at models of collaboration that would create true value.  After all, strategic alliances built the Silicon Valley and there are many diverse and creative ways of creating partnerships.  Entrepreneurs need to talk with others and be really good listeners.

Successful entrepreneurs are not thoughtless risk takers, but approach problems in a disciplined way.  Value creation for therapeutics begins with thoughtful consideration of who would benefit from solving a certain problem; patients, payers, insurances companies or any other entity?  Once entrepreneurs can figure that out, they can go to a VC and explain the business case.  Value creation, after all, is not what entrepreneurs think or believe, but an idea or concept that gets external validation from the customer.  “Do not constantly worry about keeping the concept in the stealth mode, and talk to a lot of people”, advised Handelsman.  VCs do not count, they are not potential customers.  In the end, one could have a sexy product, but if it does not solve a pressing problem then it is not creating value.  Real answers to key commercialization questions, in the case of therapeutics, lie outside the lab, and entrepreneurs need to actively engage and talk with customers, partners, regulators and so on to figure out the value of their product.  Lean LaunchPad methodology therefore, helps to validate the product, before commercial strategy is considered, saving time, money, resources and in some cases, helping guide the change in the trajectory, for more meaningful outcome.

 

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Japan-US Collaborations in MedTech: 2014 WSGR Medical Device Conference


alRecently US medical device industry has faced some serious challenges due to lack of funding, strong regulatory hurdles, and lackluster job outlook.  On the other hand, for the first time in many years, the major Japanese companies are focusing on revitalizing their Medtech industry.  There is an interest and Government backing, from Japan, to invest in, and collaborate with US Medtech companies, incubators, and venture funds, many of them located in Silicon Valley.  For Silicon Valley startups, this may represent a great opportunity.  At the recent Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Medical Device Conference in San Francisco, a panel of experts discussed the possibilities for collaboration and the challenges and opportunities US-Japan Medtech collaboration may represent.

Japan

Japan (Photo credit: Yashar.Mans)

Jack Moorman, Principal, Le Vaunt LLC, moderated the panel.  Moorman opened the discussion by sharing some eye popping facts about Japanese medical device market.  It was hit hard during tsunami but still it remains a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.  This is a market that ranks 2nd highest in the world after US, pays for devices, nearly 100% of the population has coverage, and represents an aging population with greater medical needs.  Japan accounts for 10% of the total global market and will likely continue to expand, as the percentage of people over the age of 65 rises to 36% by 2050, even as it experiences dire shortage of caregivers.  Less than a 3rd of its GDP goes into healthcare, Japan imports more than it exports, and though it has held down costs to a large extent, a complex review and approval process makes it very hard to introduce new technologies.  But all that is poised to change.  Backed by Government, chief objective of NIH Japan now is to accelerate process for product approval.

Panelist Masazumi Ishii (“Masa”), Managing Director at AZCA Inc. has written about “dymystifying Japan” and he talked about cultural aspects that US companies need to understand when doing business in Japan.  Although now rapidly changing, Japan is a highly homogeneous society, where 95% of the population consider themselves to be middle class.  There is homogeneity in education and employment.  Belonging to and identifying with a group is extremely important to the Japanese.  “For instance, I would introduce myself as Masa Ishii of AZCA”, said Ishii.  In Japan, political preferences are connected to ties to a school but are not divided along liberal or conservative lines.  Also, women face many barriers in advancement in the work place.  Japanese market  traditionally has been impenetrable and very difficult to crack for the outsiders, often because outsiders lack the experience and skills in dealing with companies in Japan.  However, Japan is undergoing a rapid cultural shift.  For instance, the homogeneity is decreasing as the country is importing labor for South East Asia, as its own population is aging.  Japanese Ministry of Education is trying to bring in 300,000 students from abroad.  However, some things are harder to change than others.  For instance, indirect style of Japanese communication is very hard to change.  (I also offer  global inclusion & diversity trainings to companies and focus on helping employees navigate cultural communication challenges between direct and indirect communication styles and this part of the presentation was very interesting).

Ishii also talked about the fact that Japan is emerging out from a long dark tunnel and now has a stable Government (after going through 7 Prime Ministers during last 10 years).  The new Government is focused on fostering economic growth, supporting greater collaboration outside Japan, and Japanese businesses have a strong appetite to invest outside Japan.  Japan is still the 3rd largest economy in the world.  “Japan is not as open as many Japanese think, but it is not as closed as those outside Japan think”, said Ishii and its greater interest in opening up will be creating huge opportunities for US businesses.

Hajime Oshita, President and CEO, MedVentures Partners, Inc. manages investment fund in Japan with investment target of seed to early stage projects and start-ups in medical device arena.   In 2009, Oshita stated new venture fund, INCJ or Innovation Network Corporation of Japan, mainly funded by the Government, with an aim to promote innovation and enhance the value of businesses in Japan.  Medical device require precise manufacturing where Japanese companies excel, said Oshita.  Oshita also presented a strong case that Japan is greatly interested in collaboration outside US and for new ideas, new technologies, and new business partners.

Kenneth McDonnell, General Manager, Business Development at Terumo Medical Corporation, began by sharing the history of Terumo, which was started in 1921, by a physician scientist, with an immediate aim to design and make superior thermometers and a larger goal to promote healthier living with superior medial technology .  Terumo achieved almost $500M in growth, in 2013 and it focuses on three primary businesses, Cardiac & Vascular business, Blood Management business, and General Hospital Supply business.  The company has undertaken a large global initiative for pre-filled syringes.  Pre-filled syringes reduce drug mix-up errors and enhance safety and efficiency in healthcare.  Japan has a robust economy, longest life expectancy, longest “health” life expectancy, and less chronic diseases.  In fact, real issue for elderly in Japan is not healthcare, but care, said McDonnell.  Over 5M people over the age of 65, live alone.  The issue that is discussed is not so much about disease as a burden, but as a social responsibility.  But even the picture in chronic diseases is changing, with rates of diabetes rising, among the Japanese.  Cancers, particularly stomach, lung, GI and pancreatic cancers remain the largest causes of death.  All Japanese are covered by health insurance and patient only has to pay 30% of the cost, with a cap based on salary.  Japan has an excellent healthcare system but one that is going to be increasingly hard to sustain, with the aging population.  At Terumo, “we don’t take the first step, but we are fast followers and interested in partnership opportunities”, said McDonnell.

It seems clearly that the rapidly changing environment in Japan, with greater interest in investing in new ideas and collaborations outside Japan, represents a great opportunity for US medical device businesses, brimming with new ideas and looking for capital.  If they can effectively work through the cultural challenges, this synergy may open new doors and may create win-win synergy for US-Japan medical device industry.

 

 

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“Entrepreneurs must Focus on Market Pain” – Norman Winarsky, SRI


EPPIC organization was found in 1998, with a mission to promote networking, entrepreneurship, and mentoring for life science professionals.  Each year, EPPIC Annual Conference provides a wonderful forum to realize this mission. EPPICon on March 29, 2014 was held at Westin, SF and began with opening remarks by Dr. Norman Winarksy, Vice President at SRI Ventures.

SRI or Stanford Research Institute was found in 1946 to help Stanford University professors make an impact in the world.  It has a staff of 2500, of whom 1000 have advanced degrees and current revenue is in the range of $600M. InvestorPeterGerber&InventorDougEnglebartMany revolutionary technologies like the mouse (invented by Doug Engelbart whom I had an opportunity to meet, before he passed away, when I took his picture inserted here with the first red mouse that investor Peter Gerber is holding), electronic banking, robotic surgery (which spun out as Intuitive Surgical), and SIRI to name a few, have come out of SRI.  All SRI personnel are taught to identify the value proposition and work towards that goal, said Winarksy. SRI is a non-profit organization but gives 34% of royalty to the individual or the team that worked on the specific technology and that is how SRI competes with high salaries in Silicon Valley.  SRI process always begins with identifying the market pain, ideally a larger market opportunity.  Out of about 2000 opportunities identified, about 3-4 get funded and get about 10X return; many of the others become licensing deals and the rest die.  Currently Tempo, a smart calendar is showing a lot of promise, said Winarsky. This was a great start to a day that proceeded with excellent panels, speed pitch sessions and SIG networking opportunities.

Next EPPIC event will be held on May 6 at 6pm at Cubberley Theater, 4000 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto.  Dr. Sarvajna Dwivedi, CSO at Pearl Therapeutics will talk about the entrepreneurship journey that took him and his co-founder to build from a tiny spin out, from Nektar Therapeutics, a world class multi-site organization.  Pearl Therapeutics was bought by Astra Zeneca last year, for $1.15 B.  To register for the event go to http://www.eppicglobal.org .

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Romeo & Juliet – Play Review and Information about Shady Shakespeare Theater Co.


Shady Shakespeare Theater Company produces outstanding performances of the works of Shakespeare, in the park, in Silicon Valley, with a commitment to making Shakespeare accessible to people of all ages and backgrounds.  It was found in 1999 by Dinna Myers, Sara Betts and Jeff Day.  It is a 501 (C) 3, non profit organization and almost entirely run by volunteers.  Many of the performances take place in beautiful and cozy setting at Sanborn Park, in Saratoga.   Shady Shakespeare Theater Company is funded by corporate grants, philanthropic activities, fundraising, and private donations.  Besides outstanding shows in the park, the organization is also involved in school outreach program to bring the excitement of live theater into the classrooms.   This is done through summer Shakespeare camps for kids and teens, through modular classes that schools can choose, and through after school theater performance programs at schools.

 

I have seen many absolutely incredible performances by Shady Shakespeare Theater Company.  Some of the memorable ones include, King Lear – http://bit.ly/MWhMPl , and Lion in Winter – http://bit.ly/17wqj2A .  Romeo and Juliet is currently playing till the end of August, 2013, at Sanborn Skyline County Park in Saratoga and you can purchase tickets at www.shadyshakes.org . It is directed by Jeanie Smith and John Bernard is the Lighting Designer.  Robert Campbell in the role of Romeo and Michael Camplin in the role of Mercutio are incredible.  However, it is Celia Maurice as Juliet’s nurse and Briana Mitchell in the role of Juliet who carry the show.  They are both simply outstanding and give completely engaging, flawless performance.  Celia Maurice as modern day Juliet looks stunning.  Sara Sparks and Christopher Tani are the stage managers and have done a great job, on low budget.  We hope you will support Shady Shakespeare with your donation, with volunteerism, with spreading the word, and by going to watch their performances.

 

Quotes from Romeo & Juliet

 

If you love Shakespearean language as I do, with its vivid expression, rich metaphors that link the concepts, poetic free verse that makes it highly emotive and rhetorical, flowery and dramatic; if you love the sheer beauty of the language, then below is a short synopsis of Romeo & Juliet with some selected quotes.

 

Don’t miss this beautiful performance where “two houses both alike in dignity” clash, but young lovers from two warring houses of Montagues and Capulets, fall in love, and Juliet laments, “my only love, sprung from my only hate.”   When Romeo hears her speak from her balcony, “O Romeo, Romeo!  Wherefore art thou Romeo?” he is readily willing to give up his name, as Juliet says the famous lines, “What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.”  Juliet makes Romeo swear of his faithfulness, but not “by the moon, the inconstant moon, that monthly changes in her circled orb, lest that thy love prove likewise variable,” but instead, she says, “swear by thy gracious self, which is the god of my idolatry.”  Their love is so alike in the height and depth of intensity that young lovers frequently experience, including their loathing to part, “good night, good night!  parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.”  Later, Juliet bids her nurse to get news from Romeo, but the nurse painfully tortures her by delaying sharing the news, and Juliet laments about the slowness of old folks, “old folks – many feign as they were dead; unwieldy, slow, heavy and pale as lead.”  Friar Laurence ominously warns the young lovers to temper down the intensity of their passion, for “these violent delights have violent ends, therefore love moderately; long love doth so; too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.” 

 

And then this beautiful dialogue between Romeo & Juliet, when Romeo comes to spend the night with her, after their wedding, but must leave at the crack of dawn, and tells Juliet he hears the lark, but Juliet persuading him to stay some more, says, “It was the nightingale, and not the lark, that pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear,” and Romeo responds, “Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops”.  Juliet finally acknowledges that Romeo must leave, “It is the lark that sings so out of tune, straining harsh discords and unpleasing sharps.”  While leaving, Romeo assures her that they will meet again and have many years to talk about their current troubles “and all these woes shall serve for sweet discourses in our time to come.”  Later when Romeo hears that Juliet is dead, he persuades the apothecary to sell him poison and the apothecary reluctantly agrees, saying “my poverty, but not my will, consents.” Romeo responds, “I pay thy poverty, and not thy will.”   Don’t miss a chance to hear the beautiful language and see once again the performance of this most famous love story of all times, for “there never was a story of more woe, than this, of Juliet and her Romeo.”  For tickets, go to www.shadyshakes.org

 

 

Romeo & Juliet

Romeo & Juliet (Photo credit: http://stephrando.fr.cr)

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Lessons for Starting a Medical Device Company in Silicon Valley


Mr. Michael Allen, a serial entrepreneur, (previously in executive roles at Xlumena, Metrika, and Chemtrack), and currently CEO of Vascular Designs, a targeted drug delivery company, talked about “starting a medical device company in Silicon Valley”, at www.bio2devicegroup.org .

 

Financing is one of the major early challenges that entrepreneurs face.  While it begins with a good idea, they also need to obtain some seed financing, and they need a short 2 page summary.  Their business plan should be an outline that includes some financial projections, some data about market and market need, information about regulatory path and reimbursement issues.  Advocates, typically medical experts, are also needed.  With these pieces in place, they would be ready to go for institutional financing and begin to meet the investors.

 

The VC model has changed, said Allen.  Traditional VC model used to focus around a goal with very high end value, in the range of $250 M where 10’s of millions would be invested.  It was built around the idea of large management teams in the early phase and a ready sales force in anticipation of the launch, that often never happens.  Many VCs who adhered to this model, are out of business.  The current model is to focus on a goal to achieve a moderate exit.  Team is scaled in proportion to the need, sales force is maintained at small level until product and market are demonstrated.  It is assumed that delays are inevitable and cash is king.

 

Allen talked about his experience and learnings from leading ChemTrak from seed stage to IPO exit, with 6X return.  ChemTrak was a diagnostic company, with a single use diagnostic kit to measure Total and HDL cholesterol and other non-instrumented quantitative tests.  He also shared lessons in leading Metrika, another diagnostic company that was sold to Bayer, with 1.5X return plus ongoing royalty deal.  Metrika’s several products included A1C test, giving patients with diabetes on the spot feedback on their A1C number and e.p.t. pregnancy test.   They had some good patents, but mixing electronics, optics, and chemistry was very challenging, said Allen.  Allen’s next company Xlumena, is medical device company with products aimed to advance image guided endoscopic therapy.  These products allow minimally invasive alternatives for diseases of the organs that surround the GI tract.  Summarizing some of the learnings, Allen said, CEO is responsible for everything, no matter who makes decisions.

 

Allen’s current company, Vascular Designs offers a new treatment option for people suffering from life-threatening illnesses like cancer, through targeted drug delivery, as opposed to systemic approach.  Through transfemoral catheter, drugs can be delivered directly into the tumor cells and block the blood supply.  It allows for high concentration of drugs delivered, while at the same time, reduces systemic exposure, thus minimizing caustic side effects.  This procedure can be performed as an outpatient procedure, takes only about an hour, and nothing is permanently implanted.  For success of a venture, Allen stressed, it is very important to hire the right people.  He discussed hiring process he follows and also emphasized the importance of spending time and writing a good job description.  The talk was followed by Q&A.

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