practical skills for life science entrepreneurs

foundations 2016



free + open course

Foundations is designed to provide new entrepreneurs with an understanding of the innovation process, teaching them how to evaluate a life science technology as the basis for starting a new business. Learn how you can turn your creativity loose to design the future of healthcare. Whether you're an engineer, scientist, physician, or business expert, this class will bring you up to speed on the medical innovation industry.

Go to the current foundations series

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Wed, April 20
Innovation in Houston:
the entrepreneur's journey

Entrepreneurship can be both an exciting and difficult path, but sometimes figuring out how to get started can be just as hard. This talk discusses what the entrepreneurship scene looks like in Houston, and how to figure out where you fit in. What skills and traits do you need in order to be a successful entrepreneur? And finally, how do you plan an entrepreneurship career, where each step increases your chances of success?

  • Innovation in Houston
  • Entrepreneur vs wantrepreneur: traits of a successful entrepreneur
  • The path to innovation: planning a career


Thurs, May 5
Team Building:
forming a diverse and cohesive team for a seamless startup

How do you build a great team that will lead your startup to success? This workshop will help you to understand the benefits of a diverse team, and how to build your own. Further, you will learn to identify and onboard the best members for your team, depending on the personality of your group so far. This workshop will include case studies in team building to give attendees the opportunity to practice team building.

  • Diverse and cohesive teams
  • Best practices for identifying team members
  • The academic, the expert


Wed, July 6
Market & Competitive Analysis:
Nobody cares about your "cool" tech

You have a great idea, but how do you know if you can build a company from it? Here, we discuss how to define and target the customers in your target market. What do your customers really need, and are those needs being met already? We'll also discuss how to map out the competitive landscape, how to disrupt that landscape, and how you yourself could be disrupted. Finally, we'll identify key the key stakeholders and their needs, as well as how those needs may be in direct conflict with your other stakeholders.

  • How do you define your market? Are you addressing their needs?
  • Who are the key stakeholders?
  • How do you do a competitive analysis?


Wed, July 27
Licensing your Technology:
Get your technology out of the institution

You’ve invented something amazing. Great! But chances are that you did it while at your day job in academics. That means that your institution owns the technology. Here we discuss some of the common points in institutional licenses, some of the challenges of getting a deal done, and how to build a successful relationship with your licensing institution going forward. We will also compare and contrast different licensing models from around the country.

  • Licensing types and terms
  • Challenges in licensing
  • Institutional relationships


Wed, August 24
Startup Structure: Building Your Company with Limited Resources

In this session, we'll discuss the basics of forming and structuring a company. What kind of people should you hire early and which roles can wait until your company is more mature? How do you pay people and how much equity do you give your earliest employees? During this workshop, you'll work with a team to divide up a company among founders, employees, and investors.

  • Dividing Equity
  • Startup Roles
  • Resource Allocation


Wed, September 21
Patenting Your Technology: How to Protect Your Invention

You’ve invented something great, but how do you protect what you've developed? By filing a patent you can prevent others from producing, selling, and comercially using your invention. In this session, Dr. William Childs will be discussing the fundamentals of protecting your tech with patents, including:

  • When to file for a patent
  • How to obtain a patent
  • Patent challenges


Wed, October 18
Fundraising: What to ask for and what you're worth

Here, we'll cover how do you identify potential potential investors, and then how to get them to invest in your company. We'll discuss how to define key milestones that will create the most value for your company and reduce your risk. We'll also cover the most common sources of funding for your company, which can come in non-dilutive and dilutive forms. Finally, we'll walk you through the key components of a term sheet, and what it means for stakeholders' equity.

  • How to identify potential investors
  • What does it mean to be in "fundraising mode?
  • Defining milestones that create value
  • Key components of the Term Sheet


Mon, November 7
Regulatory & Clinical Strategy

Sure, your invention is amazing, and your business plan is solid, but before your product ever reaches a patient, you need to get regulatory approval. We'll introduce you to Allison Komiyama, a former FDA reviewer and discuss what it's like dealing with the FDA today (hint: it's not as bad as you think). We'll also cover strategies for getting approval outside the US and how your path might be different depending on whether you're in Health IT, Med Devices, Biotech, or Pharma.

  • Regulatory Timelines
  • Navigating FDA Guidance
  • Drugs vs Devices vs Heath IT
  • Case Studies


Speakers for Foundations have been selected from the pool of local entrepreneurs in and around the Houston area, having seen their ability to mentor startups firsthand. We believe that these early to mid-career mentors are the best resource for young and aspiring entrepreneurs. These mentors are where we want you all to be in 5-10 years. Our hope is that you make a real and lasting connection to at least one of these lecturers during the Foundations course.

  • Collin Brack, MBA
    Collin Brack, MBA
    President - HLA Data Systems

    Collin is a technology executive with over 15 years of experience in technology management, leadership and operations within the Healthcare and Energy sectors. He has been a business development and product strategy advisor to many early-stage companies. Collin's expertise is advising corporate leadership and entrepreneurs on business development strategies and emerging technology trends that drive the bottom line, including recent shifts to cloud-computing, SaaS revenue models, and data monetization.

  • Holly Willbanks
    Holly Wilbanks
    Principal, The Wilbanks Consulting Group

    Founder and Principal of The Wilbanks Consulting Group, Holly is a recognized industry pioneer, providing innovative advice and strategic planning to employers and individuals regarding talent management and development.

    Prior to starting The Wilbanks Consulting Group, Holly honed her expertise in leading organizations in the U.S. and abroad, including Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX), recruitment consultancy Hydrogen Group plc (London, UK), and law firm McKee Nelson LLP (Washington, DC). Her background is distinctive, with experience as an agency headhunter, in-house recruiter, and graduate enrollment management specialist, giving her clients a unique perspective of the employee development process.

    In 2014, Holly received the Visionary Award from NAGAP, The Leader in Graduate Enrollment Management. Holly has served as President of BioGAP, the biomedical sciences chapter of NAGAP, and she regularly works with graduate students, postdocs, and professionals at leading institutions, including The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, and more.

  • Imran Alibhai, PhD
    Imran Alibhai, PhD
    Managing Director at DNAtrix, Inc.

    Imran Alibhai serves as the Managing Director of the Houston office of DNAtrix. Prior to DNAtrix, he was an investment banker in Peter J. Solomon Company’s Healthcare Advisory Group, focused on M&A transactions in science based markets including biopharmaceuticals, medical devices/diagnostics and life science tools. Previously, he was the Senior Director of Alexandria Venture Investments, where he was responsible for the firm’s investments in emerging companies and funds in the healthcare sector. He also directed investments for PIPE’s and long/short positions in MPM Capital’s BioEquities hedge fund. Imran began his career in early stage venture capital at the Accelerator Corp., where he was involved in every facet of company / project formation and management. Imran holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Neuroscience from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and a B.S. in Biology from Duke University.

  • Bryan Haardt, MBA
    Bryan Haardt, MBA
    CEO - Decisio Health

    Bryan Haardt has more than 15 years of combined information technology, management, and consulting experience. Mr. Haardt is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Decisio Health, Inc., an early-stage Healthcare IT company initially focusing on clinical decision support for trauma and emergency medicine.

    Prior to forming Decisio, Mr. Haardt served as the Chief Operating Officer for Prognosis Health Information Systems, Inc. In addition, Mr. Haardt was the founder and CTO of Cgate Health, Inc., a DFJ Mercury portfolio company. Mr. Haardt began his career as the founder and President of 10X Labs, Inc. 10X Labs was the first company to be admitted into the Intel Incubation Program and counted Compaq amongst its investors. Mr. Haardt graduated Cum Laude from the University of Houston where he was a distinguished student and member of the Honors College studying artificial intelligence and neural-networks.

    Mr. Haardt was a founding member of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Emerging Business Council where he was active in promoting new business growth in the city of Houston. Mr. Haardt served as the CTO for the Houston Technology Center and provided technology consulting and deal evaluation for a number of technology-focused venture capital firms including Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Mr. Haardt is currently an adjunct professor at Rice Universities Jones Graduate School of Business, an advisory board member of the Rice Alliance I.T. and Web Venture forum, and a judge for the prestigious Rice business plan competition.

  • Gray Hancock, MBA
    Gray Hancock, MBA
    COO - Decisio Health

    Gray is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Decisio Health, Inc. Decisio Health provides an FDA cleared class II medical device that displays real-time actionable information with the goal of increasing clinical guideline adherence, which has been shown to improve clinical outcomes and reduce hospital costs.

    Gray was the Head of Trade and Investment for UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) in Houston, Texas. Previously, Gray was the Director of Operations for DNAtrix, Inc., an early-stage biotechnology company incubated out of the Mercury Fund in Houston, TX. Gray handled issues surrounding intellectual property strategy, capital raising, regulatory management, licensing, board recruitment, corporate governance and day-to-day operations.

    Gray’s educational background includes an MBA from the Rice University Jones Graduate School of Management, a Masters of Public Health from the UT School of Public Health, and a BS in Biology from Washington and Lee University. Gray sits on the Roundtable Advisory Board for the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and the Board of Directors of the British American Business Council. Gray also has a faculty appointment at Rice University Jones Graduate School of Management as an Adjunct Professor where he has taught Technology Entrepreneurship.

  • Dan Watkins, PhD
    Dan Watkins, PhD
    Managing Director - Mercury Fund

    Dan Watkins focuses on startups utilizing software, cloud computing and/or machine learning to drive the next wave of scientific innovation in healthcare, agriculture and other industrial markets. Prior to co-founding Mercury, Dan served in a number of operational roles including initial CEO of DNAtrix and Nanospectra Biosciences, both startup oncology companies. Previously, Dan held the roles of Vice President at a boutique investment banking firm and Worldwide Manager of Operations and Control Systems for Scientific Software-Intercomp. Dan currently serves on the board of directors of the following Mercury portfolio companies: Benson Hill Biosciences, Clean Chemistry, Deep Imaging Technologies, DNAtrix, Resonant Therapeutics, Sinopsys Surgical and Swift Biosciences. Dan received a B.S. from Rice University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University, all in Materials Science.

    Outside of Mercury, Dan serves on the advisory boards of Northwestern University’s Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO), the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, the University of Michigan’s Venture Center Council, and the University of Illinois Proof of Concept Fund Committee. Dan is also a co-founder of the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University.

  • Allison Komiyama, PhD, RAC
    Allison Komiyama, PhD, RAC
    AcKnowledge Regulatory Strategies

    Allison is a former FDA reviewer who is an expert in regulatory submissions, quality systems, and biocompatibility evaluation. She started AcKnowledge Regulatory Strategies in order to serve clients who manufacture implantable and other patient-contacting medical devices. She received her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford University and her B.A. in Molecular and Cell Biology from University of California, Berkeley.

    While working at FDA as a biologist and reviewer in the Office of Device Evaluation, she acted as a lead reviewer and consult on 510(k) Premarket Notifications, Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) applications and Premarket approval (PMA) submissions. Her specialty was in biocompatibility requirements for implanted devices. She also researched neurotoxicity and systemic toxicity of medical devices in the Office of Science and Engineering Labs in support of FDA recognized ISO and ASTM standards. After her time at FDA, she worked as a project manager and regulatory affairs manager at an in vitro diagnostic device company, as well as a senior regulatory specialist and director of regulatory affairs at two boutique consulting firms.