Guest: Gordon Saul , Executive Director of Biodesign
Mr . Saul has over 20 years startup and business development experience in the medical device and pharmaceutical areas. Prior to joining Stanford’s Program in Biodesign, Gordon was an Executive-in-Residence at InterWest Partners, a leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm. At InterWest, Gordon served as a founding or interim executive in over a dozen medical device and drug companies in the InterWest portfolio.
Prior to joining InterWest, he was a co-founder, board member and senior vice president of business development and marketing for PowderJect Pharmaceuticals, a publicly traded drug delivery company acquired by Chiron Corporation in 2003. Prior to PowderJect, he held business development roles at ALZA Corporation and Advanced Cardiovascular Systems, a division of Guidant Corp. He has also worked in Japan in the financial services industry and in management consulting for The Boston Consulting Group.
Gordon received an A.B. in engineering sciences from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. from Stanford University.
If you were to build a wish list of business skills for a technically skilled person, what would you want?
Big companies often have bandwidth to take in ‘less skilled’ people and train them in the skills that are needed. Smaller companies have less bandwidth to do that. Might want to try go for a bigger company first to get that skillset
How many of your career changes were based on personal decisions, how many were driven by you vs by someone else?
A lot of it was self driven, self directed. Conscious choice to make those leaps. Going into VC was about controlling schedule to spend more time with family
What is your vision for Biodesign?
The fellows program works great. We need to be better at getting from bench to bedside – getting startups up and going and to a stage where they can go to an incubator or be bought
VC doesn’t do as much early stage stuff, but there are incubators who help move the startups along
Why are incubators more viable than the traditional VC route?
Can better amortize the business costs – space, setting up as a corporation, etc. Easier to kill stuff in an incubator when things don’t go right. Also medical space is very capital intensive – incubators can be really useful for capital needs
QUOTE OF THE TALK:
When the timing is right, don’t eat, don’t sleep, just go for it! Who knows when that opportunity will come again?
Want to work in healthcare, but hear that you need an MD. Is that true? What are different roles
Don’t have to get the MD yourself – you can partner with someone to provide the medical experience. The degree can be a differentiator, but it doesn’t have to be – practical experience is useful. VC world – its hierarchical. But companies – show a work ethic etc
How do you get into VC?
Many different routes (one example of someone going straight from business school to VC) connections might be a way, but it can be a windy road
Residency – NOT a detriment for people who want to go into startups/VC – can be very valuable to have that experience to understand the clinics
Perceptions of different stakeholders
Just have to be aware of what kind of biases we bring to the table (PhDs with research orientation) and keep that in mind
How to find people (co-founders, CEO, etc)
Utilize networks, local companies (see if there’s any talent who is interested in moving or knows other people)