By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
Chris: Our deal flow seems to be great – as good as or better than we anticipated. As long as we can continue to get good deal flow and increase the number of angels, and there’s good financing [being arranged], the entrepreneurs realize this is an active group, and the angels see that this is a good place to get good deals. That’s what we’re going to continue to work on.
We have a pretty large database of angels, and we host a lunch here in our office once a month. We typically have six to eight angels who are invited by their peers.
We sit down and talk to them about what’s going on with WINGS, give them some examples, and see if they’re interested. It’s been pretty good. Of the six or eight whom we invite, we typically get two or three who sign up and start to become active with the group.
Irina: What do you think angels can do to increase their chances of success?
Chris: I think being a part of a group like WINGS, where you have peers who have expertise in a wide variety of medical technologies, means that when you see an opportunity that looks valid, you have people who you can easily reach out to who are experts and who have experience in that space.
I think part of it is having a screening committee that has experts in regulatory [matters], intellectual property, marketing, business development, and so forth. This is helpful because there are a lot of potential glitches in a company.
And some of the risks can be identified, which by the time you get to the point where you’re ready to make an investment, hopefully, you’re aware of what the pitfalls may be, or maybe they’ve been worked out for you. That’s probably the main benefit of being part of a group like this versus doing your own investing in technologies or people you come across.
Irina: What do you think entrepreneurs could do better?
Chris: Reach out to as many people who are willing to offer advice as possible. That’s the good thing about Seattle. It’s a collaborative community, and people are, for the most part, willing to provide feedback and guidance.
That way, you can at least understand what investors are going to look for or what your potential acquirers or competitors are doing. But a lot of it is making sure you’re talking to people who have experience and have been there before, and try to do your best to de-risk your project.
Irina: What do you do as the president of the WBBA?
Chris: Basically, we have a number of programs. Our initiatives are focused on working with our tech transfer offices, our thought leaders, and our entrepreneurs to identify promising technology, to help them put infrastructure around them, and to get them up and running.
The second area we focus on is capital formation. WINGS is a part of that. We also have another program where we bring venture capitalists and strategic partners to Seattle to meet with our companies. And we have some initiatives around federal funding and non-diluted finances as well.
A third area is talent. So, we have programs that help to recruit, develop, and keep the talent here needed to grow our ecosystem.
The final area that we focus on is on policy, both at a state level and the federal level.
Irina: Who are your strategic partners?
Chris: Our strategic partners are primarily the life science organizations that support us. Again, we’re totally funded by members. A lot of our members are the Amgens, the Gileads, the Novo Nordisks of the world, Dendreon, Seattle Genetics, a lot of what we call associate members. Law firms and accounting firms are also members.
From a strategic standpoint, we do partner with other state or provincial associations that are adjacent, that is, Oregon, Montana, and British Columbia. We also do quite a bit of work with the state department of commerce and some of the local city and county economic development offices.
The state department of commerce sit on a number of our committees. We reach out to them when we’re recruiting organizations or members from countries like China or India. They have relationships internationally that they can help us with.
I get asked quite a bit by the governor and other legislators to testify on committees about what’s going on in innovation in life sciences. I’ve been on a number of task forces and worked on other strategic issues for the state.
Irina: Thank you, Chris. Great insights.