The Founder’s Apprentice, CEO’s Take Note

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The concept of apprenticeship isn’t new, in fact the concept of learning a trade from a master craftsmen is quite old (from sushi to stone masonry). What is new is it’s formal application and position in entrepreneurship.

To be clear, an apprentice isn’t necessarily an intern or someone who is 20 years old (though s/he could be). S/he may be forty and looking to change careers or pivot despite the associated challenges. S/he is someone who is interested in a trade and wants to learn the craft from someone with many years of experience (or a knowledge equivalency). S/he is willing to work hard, do any task that is given, and act as the eyes, ears, and hands for her boss-mentor-teacher. She’s passionate about the field, the job, and the opportunity to use her innate skill set and those she has acquired to ramp things up. She’s courageous and resilient, challenges are seen as opportunities, and intellectual curiosity takes precedence over status quo-based procedures. Titles don’t matter, the opportunity to learn, create and change the trajectory of her life and others does.

For founders and CEO’s (of companies large and small), it’s about the injection of fresh energy into the company. It’s about working with someone who has a lot to learn (teaching moments) but is highly motivated and excited about the work that is being done (something you can’t teach). It’s about having a sounding board that is distinct from the “only positive news” bubble. It’s also about paying things forward.

So how does one go about finding an apprentice? The likely case is that s/he will find you. An entrepreneurial apprentice will make you take note of her/him. S/he may not fit into any one job description or have a linear work history, but s/he will exude motivation, passion and purpose.

Put out an ad. Put out a challenge. Make the it known that the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is available. Ask her questions. Why is she passionate about the field? Why does she want to work with you? What does she want to learn/what can you teach her? What has she noticed about what you’re doing (both good and bad) and how would she change things if she was in your position? What does she believe/know that no one else does?

Challenge yourself. Take on an apprentice. Great people are at the core of any great business, why not continue that legacy?

The Top 3 Innovation Discovery Festivals in NYC

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I’ve always loved interacting with innovators, artists, musicians, techies, and academics and am the first person to try something new, be it a food or a new technology.When I first started my journey into the world of startups and technology, I didn’t know where to start and so I went to every event, meetup, fireside, festival, lecture I could to feed my ravenous curiosity. Along the way, I kept a list of my faves and want to share them with all of you.

NY Tech Day -April 23, 2015, Pier 92, (free to attend)

I was at the first NY Tech Day. I had signed up for a NYC events list and was like, hmmm…I’ve always liked technology, I’m on sabbatical, let me check it out. It’s where I first heard David Tisch (Box Group) and Charlie O’Donnell (Brooklyn Bridge Ventures) speak about the NY tech community. It’s also where I realized how much was happening in NYC and how fast it was growing. Today, there are over 400 exhibitors and 10,000+ people attend.

Why you should check it out:

1. Meet cool people from some of NYC’s most interesting startups. Today’s 2 person startup, could be the next unicorn.

2. Discover an app/tool that makes your life more fun, removes a pain point, or is just the right solution for someone you know.

3. On volume alone, it has one of the highest concentrations of startups in one place. I’ve seen education, health, food, game startups etc. Something for everyone.

4. Fun atmosphere.

Newco New York , May 13-14, 2015, various cool locations

I was at the inaugural Newco New York and have gone every year since. It’s a great way to see the HQ of some of NYC’s hottest startups and meet the founders where they work (and even go up and shake hands). Year 1 I saw Jonah Peretti speak to a crowd of 50+ of us at Buzzfeed and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures speak at a panel talk at Simulmedia. Year 2, I saw Dennis Crowley speak to 40+ us about Foursquare and Swarm and saw a panel talk at Union Square Hospitality on their philosophy of enlightened hospitality (Danny Meyer was there and he gave us signed copies of his book, which is a good read BTW).

Why you should check it out:

1. Learn something new in an intimate setting. You can learn more about the company, see where and how people there work (architecture of the space often reflects the mission/brand), learn more about startups and entrepreneurship.The line-up of startups/organizations is amazing and it’s like taking a master class from people who are working to build something every day.

2. Go for the serendipity of meeting your next new friend, boss, co-worker or co-founder.

3. Visit the people and places you’ve only read about online/in the papers or whose products you use on a daily basis.

4. Be inspired and let it be the spark for your next great adventure.

Northside Festival  June 8-14, 2015, Brooklyn (Williamsburg)

The Northside Festival celebrates thinkers, innovators, and artists. It has something for everyone, as you can see bands, gallery exhibits, as well as tech/innovation events. They’ve even had panel talks on healthcare.

Why you should check it out:

1. Discover a new artist, band, film, startup.

2. Mingle with creatives, techies, musicians. This year hosts 150+ speakers (from Linkedin, Ello, Gothamist, ApartmentTherapy, Medium, Elite Daily etc). See tons of bands and films. There’s also a concurrent Brooklyn Live Summer Concert series.

3. Great event locations. Tons of stuff to do at the festival and afterwards too. Brooklyn has great restaurants, music venues, and lounges. You can also hop on the ferry to Manhattan.

4. Learn something new. Teach something to someone. Be a part of a creative community.

Digital Health for Women, by Women

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I’m committed to diversity when it comes to healthcare, technology and leadership. Saw a tweet quoting @JudyMurphyHIT today (#EqualPayDay) on the #HIMSS15 timeline which said that “$42M in greater healthcare firm value when women are represented at the executive level”. Indeed, Rock Health’s “State of Women in Healthcare” provides further data on the need and value for diversity in HIT, inclusive of the fact that not only do diverse teams raise more capital (besides being more capital efficient) but women tend to be the primary decision makers, caregivers and a majority of the workforce.

I could also talk about market opportunity and market size, but I’d rather say this, look to your left, look to your right, look in front of you, look in back of you, it’s likely at least 50% of the people around you, or the people that you know are affected by the biological life cycles of ovulation, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause etc.

I’d like to highlight female innovators who are working to build digital tools for women and girls and in the process, are inspiring them to become fellow innovators and leaders. Links are provided to you learn more about the companies and their teams.

BellaBeat– Pregnancy tracking

(female co-founder and COO: Urska Srsen)

HelloFlo– Ecommerce site for every stage in a woman’s life (menstruation —> to menopause)

(founder and CEO: Naama Bloom)

Celmatix– Personalized medicine company targeting infertility

(founder and CEO: Piraye Yurttas Beim)

Naia Health (Naia Mom)- Smart connected breast pump

(co-founder and CEO: Janica Alvarez)

CakeHealth– Personal healthcare spending management system

(founder and CEO: Rebecca Woodcock)

Eve Medical– Medical device company focused on women’s health (HerSwab: Self-collect HPV samples for cervical cancer screening at home).

(co-founder and CEO: Jessica Ching)

Honorable mention:

I also recognize the men who stand up for women. Great story from Fast Company about “The Menstrual Man”, who defied cultural norms, societal pressure, financial pressure, and lack of formal education, to create hygienic options for women in rural and economically disadvantaged areas: “An Indian Inventor Distrupts the Period Industry”. A must read.

ElabNYC 2015 Pitch Day (20 biotech and digital health startups on the NYC scene)

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On April 2, hundreds of healthcare and biotech innovators, investors, entrepreneurs and stakeholders attended ElabNYC’s 2015 Pitch Day at the Microsoft Technology Center in the heart of Times Square. A total of 20 teams presented to a standing-room only crowd, with products and services addressing topics from preventing early childhood tooth decay, to genomic analytics, to protein engineering (related to scientific research/discovery, diagnosis and treatment of disease), to managing addiction, to novel targeted approaches to treating breast, oral, prostate and pancreatic cancer. The number of companies, as well as the wide swath of topics represents the richness of the NYC ecosystem when it comes to healthcare and biotech entrepreneurs and innovation.
Eric Gertler, Executive Vice President and Managing Director for the Center for Economic Transformation at the NYCEDC opened the event and spoke about the economic engine of entrepreneurship in NYC. He also touched upon two key unmet issues in the areas of life science and health information technology in NYC: (1) access to capital and (2) a need for wet lab space. Initiatives to address these issues have included the Alexandria Center for Life Sciences, the NY Genome Center, BioBAT at SUNY Downstate, Harlem Biospace, Kiiln NYC, and the work of ELab. Additionally, on April 1, the NYCEDC recently announced a $150 million Early-Stage Life Sciences Funding Initiative, a private-public funding partnership which includes the NYCEDC, Celgene, Eli Lilly, GE Ventures, Flagship Ventures, and ARCH Venture Partners, as well as a major expansion of space at the Alexandria Center.
Mary Howard, the Program Manager at ElabNYC, spoke about the successes of Elab alumni. Portfolio companies have gone on to licensing deals, further institutional investment deals, NIH innovation grants, and received funding from such organizations as the AHA, the Robertson Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The following is a list of all 20 companies from the class of 2015:
1. ARL Designs (CUNY affiliation): Super-hydrophobic Virtual-Well Microplates Enabling Accurate Nanoliter Dispensing for High Throughput/Content Screening at Low Cost. They’ve developed an nDAP (nanodroplet array plate), which allows for the analysis of an array of individual cells in 3D and over time. Additionally, cells can be retrieved at any time for further analysis.
2. Brooklyn Biosciences (NYU affiliation): They’ve developed a novel protein that significantly increases the efficiency of transfection reagents, which are used by scientists to deliver DNA and RNA into cells.
3. NY Protein Biologics (Columbia affiliation): They’ve developed patent-pending protein technologies, inclusive of those related to protein engineering and gene optimization to maximize protein expression.
4. Optologix (CUNY affiliation): They’ve developed a research tool that uses blue light instead of chemicals/traditional agents to regulate the production of proteins.
5. NoMoCan (SUNY affiliation): They’re developing a targeted therapy (a monoclonal antibody) that selectively and specificly finds and kills pancreatic cancer cells.
6. Sveikatal (Weill Cornell affiliation): They’ve developed a therapy for oral cancer using a novel retinoid (Vitamin A) therapy.
7. Zakan Therapeutics (Einstein affiliation): They’ve developed a “bio missile” designed to bypass healthy cells and attack and deliver anti-cancer compounds directly to metastatic cancer cells.
8. MedHexim1 (SUNY affiliation): They are developing a diagnostic test and therapy for prostate cancer focused on Hexim1 as a biomarker/target.
9. PHD Biosciences (NYU affiliation): They are developing an oral nanomedicine, a transition state inhibitor for triple negative breast cancer (lack the 3 most common hormonal receptors that fuel breast cancer, and thus hormonal treatment is not effective).
10. Avalia Immunotherapies (Einstein affiliation): They are developing immuno-oncology therapies for the treatment of cancer (i.e. prostate cancer), inclusive of using a therapeutic vaccine or immunomodulator using the patient’s own immune system to kill cancer cells.
11. Yiviva (Yale affiliation): They are developing high-quality, evidence-based botanicals (phytomedicines) to address age-associated diseases. They’ve also developed a proprietary database.
12. MySmileBuddy (Columbia affiliation): They’ve developed a tablet-based educational and action plan technology that helps parents and community health workers manage the risks for early childhood tooth decay.
13. Genetical Lens (Independent): They’ve developed Well-Child Lens, a video-enhanced mobile application designed help both parents and doctors streamline all aspects of autism screening and surveillance for toddlers. They are expanding to ages birth-5 years and are including other behavioral disorders.
14. Addicaid (Independent): A social recovery platform and resource for recovering addicts and alcoholics. On the enterprise end, data insights, improved coordination and a potential reduction of aftercare and operational costs. Substance abuse is one of the ten elements of essential health benefits covered under the Affordable Care Act.
15. Scalable Genomics (NYU affiliation): They’ve developed Big Data bioinformatics analytics software that can be used on clinical, environmental, genomic and forensic samples.
16. Hyperfine (Independent):  They’ve developed advanced analytics software for personalized medicine (use of an individual’s personal genetic profile to help guide  preventative, diagnostic and therapeutic healthcare decisions).
17. Innovative Neurons (Independent/Zahn Center): They are developing a FAST (Fast, Accessible, Safe, Technology) medical device called the Retractable Multi-needle Syringe, designed to enhance safety and help prevent needlesticks -a concern of healthcare workers that work with sharps.
18. InfrasSonic Monitoring (SUNY affiliation): They’ve developed a noninvasive heart monitoring device to provide high-quality information in nonclinical settings.
19. S.A.L.T. (Weill Cornell affiliation): They’ve developed a mobile app, which used in conjunction with urine test strips, is a point-of-care tool that can be used to track salt levels in urine at home, a measurement used in looking at kidney disease.
20. PainQX (NYU affiliation): They’ve developed an algorithmic software that provides an objective way to measure pain in humans and animals. EEG-based, leads to pain score.
For more in-depth information on the companies and the work of ElabNYC, be sure to check out their web site here: http://elabnyc.com/participants/