Well prior to this year’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference (JPM), my email inbox gets flooded with opportunities. And while some are for receptions and peripheral events happening during JPM, the majority are pitches for potential stories. Sent from PR firms, these can include anywhere from 1 to 20 (or more) companies, complete with background info on the company and the executive/s being offered for interviews. One of the pitches received was for a little-known company called BioEclipse Therapeutics. Originally founded in 2006 as ConcentRx (pronounced concen-tricks), the company rebranded in 2016 to become BioEclipse. As the PR firm was offering up the company’s original cofounding CEO, Pamela Contag, Ph.D., digging into the why and how a company goes about rebranding seemed like a solid fit for our audience. Now, had Contag not been so open and willing to share her wealth of accumulated wisdom, perhaps that’s all the upcoming feature in Life Science Leader‘s May issue would have been about (which would have been very short). But this veteran executive was so incredibly transparent, that I actually ended up developing two articles from our face- to-face meeting in San Francisco on Sun., Jan. 12, 2020, with the second to appear in Life Science Leader’s annual CRO Leadership Awards special supplement.
What follows are two sidebars not included in either of the above-mentioned print edition articles. However, as I reflected on Pamela Contag, I thought, “A little preview into how this veteran biopharmaceutical executive thinks could be beneficial for our audience.” So, consider this Life Science LeaderBeyond The Printed Page exclusive number three from what was a sensational interview! Don’t miss out on reading what else Contag has to say by becoming a subscriber today.
What Attributes Are Beneficial For A Startup CEO?
“A long time ago, I thought everybody could start and lead their own company,” says Pamela Contag, Ph.D., cofounder and CEO of BioEclipse Therapeutics. “It was probably pretty naïve of me to hold such a belief, which was why I decided to start my own company.” But upon reflection, the executive does believe some people are better prepared for being a CEO than others. This isn’t to say there is a stereotype of a successful startup CEO or even a stereotypical startup company. “Just because you don’t have Nerf blasters or kegerators doesn’t mean you’re not a fun startup,” she smiles. “It just means every culture is different.” Starting small and growing is very difficult and requires having an instinct for what is required to commercialize a future product. “Would you ever guessed that somebody would be willing to purchase a pet rock?” she asks. Having the instinct and drive to figure out the answers to such questions (early in the process) is as critical to leading a successful startup as is having the ability to deal with HR. “The CEO is responsible for HR, because in this day and age it really is the tone at the top that sets the stage for success at your company.” And don’t forget, if you’re the CEO, then you’re responsible for what happens in your company, either from the board or company side. “You have to possess a personality that’s not brittle; be flexible and resilient when things go wrong — and they will,” she asserts. “Most importantly, you need to share the gift of success when things go right.”
Women — Service to Patients Doesn’t Mean Shortchanging Yourself
Some people start companies for the wrong reason (i.e., to get rich). “In biopharma, you only get rich if the company you formed and the technology or therapeutics you developed actually works,” reminds Pamela Contag, Ph.D., cofounder and CEO of BioEclipse Therapeutics. So, be sure you are starting a company for the right reasons, which to me in biopharma means helping patients.
Here’s another tip for women executives. I always try to be coachable. My first mentor said to me “always put on your financial oxygen mask on yourself first”. “Sometimes in my effort to put the technology or customers first, I took my eye off what VCs were doing with the financials,” she admits. Don’t make this mistake, especially if you are a woman. “Sometimes, women are just so happy to be included, which was especially true some 20 years ago, that we forget we’re doing a lot of work,” she elaborates. There is a lot of information about compensation, and this should be laid out in front of the Board of Directors so that a CEO is compensated appropriately. “Don’t let the VCs tell you this is a good deal for you,” she advises. “Get your ducks in a row and your own personal lawyer to look at the documents to determine if it’s a good deal, because stuff happens.”