Hal Barron of Calico’s Keynote at MATTER

Hal Barron of Calico at MATTERHal Barron, president of research and development for Calico, began his presentation Monday with a discussion of Calico’s lofty mission: to “increase understanding of the biology that controls lifespan.” While this goal seems grandiose, Barron takes a reasoned approach, encouraging analysis on a long timeline, rather than looking for quick-hitting, short-term wins. This brought Hal to the first major theme of his presentation: smart risk-taking.

He gave a few famous examples of taking smart risk:

Hal Barron of Calico at MATTER – NFL

  • New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s famous decision to “go for it” on 4th and 2 from his own 28 yard line in a 2009 game against the Indianapolis Colts. While Belichick’s decision did not produce a positive outcome and the Patriots lost the game, Barron defended Belichick’s decision as a smart risk, citing analytical sportswriter David Romer.
  • Comedian Chris Rock will often try out new material in small comedy clubs in his local New Jersey suburb. The prolific comedian’s jokes fall flat so often that he has been asked to refund audience members’ money more than once! But Chris Rock is taking smart risk in alienating a small crowd in New Jersey in order to perfect routines he will perform for millions.

These examples underscore Barron and Calico’s approach toward biotech research: that a good decision does not always translate to a good result, and the fear of failure, often compounded by incentives that value short-term success, holds back scientific breakthroughs. Like Belichick and Rock, Calico partners AbbVie and Google look to foster a focus on long-term gains by calculating the risk/reward ratio of a given scenario. When asked about exciting innovations in his field, Barron mentioned CRISPR, a technology that allows researchers to directly edit the genes of an organism’s offspring, opening the door for significant headway into genetic research.

Barron advocates the same approach he takes with Calico toward an entrepreneur’s career: if you care about your job, make good decisions, and push yourself, then initial results do not matter. Barron applies his reasoned approach to failure toward success as well: he downplays Calico’s progress while intentionally striving to make the firm leaner. Hal quoted David Packard in saying that “more companies die of indigestion than starvation,” meaning that many try to accomplish too many projects, rather than perfect a few. He encourages companies to ask themselves what the least important project they’re working on is, and what the chance is it’s going to matter for their company in the long run. If it won’t, he encourages managers to “trim the fat” and not pursue projects that won’t move the needle over a company’s lifespan.

Many thanks to Hal and his sister, Northwestern Law Professor Esther Barron, who moderated the conversation, and to everybody who came for the event.Hal Barron of Calico at MATTER with Northwestern Law's Esther Barron

Tales from the Trenches with Glen Tullman

On Monday, September 28, serial entrepreneur and former Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman spoke at MATTER in the third installment of our Tales from the Trenches series. ContextMedia CEO Rishi Shah interviewed Tullman about his personal drive, current ventures, and business insights. View the entire interview or read our summary below.

Here’s what we learned about Glen:

  • He doesn’t sleep much. “Why would anyone want to sleep when there are so many exciting things to do in life?”
  • He listens to 2-3 e-books per week (at 2x speed because it’s more efficient).
  • He subscribes to 35 magazines, which he scans to look for cross-industry trends.
  • Once, when running a marathon with a business partner, Glen brought a list of topics to discuss. On mile 20 they were still going through the agenda.

For sure there’s something genetic going on here… but in addition to that, Glen spoke about how his mother played a key role in nurturing his drive and entrepreneurial tendencies. To wit: at age 10, Glen had an idea involving solar panels. His mom was so encouraging and supportive that she let him cut a hole in their roof to pursue it. Perhaps not surprising then that he went on to help found SoCore Energy, a successful solar company that produces panels which don’t require any drilling in order to put them on a roof!

Glen Tullman and Rishi Shah at MATTER

We also learned from Glen why he decided to build another startup, Livongo, after 
leaving Allscripts and focusing for a while on investing activities. One of his sons has diabetes, and once woke up with critically low blood sugar. Within minutes a Livongo specialist monitoring his blood sugar called the younger Tullman, coached him on what to do, and waited on the line ready to dial 911 in case anything went sideways. Tullman survived, and told his father that “it felt so good not to be alone” during the ordeal. Livongo has received venture backing from Kleiner Perkins among other firms, and will develop this platform to help people living with a number of chronic conditions including diabetes.

Glen also spoke about how he thinks about building businesses.

  • On hiring: look for cultural fit, passion, and people who have failed before and know how to recover.
  • On firing: do it quickly not just for the sake of the business, but for the sake of the individual who isn’t growing in a position that’s the wrong fit.
  • On sales: The CEO him/herself must be the company’s top salesperson and evangelist. Salespeople must be consultative and learn what customers want. The best salespeople do the “lonely work” before the call — learning about the organization and point of contact and sending materials in advance.
  • On investing: invest in people, rather than ideas.

Steve Collins Glen Tullman Rishi Shah

Thanks to Glen and Rishi for this terrific conversation, and thanks to ContextMedia and Pritzker Group Venture Capital for underwriting MATTER’s Tales from the Trenches series. Next up: entrepreneur Chris Hill on October 26.




Photo credit: Greg Rothstein, @cloudspotter

MATTER Pre-Launch Talk with IDEO Chief Creator Officer Paul Bennett

February 2, 2015

By Mary Lee, MATTER intern

MATTER hosted its first large-scale event last Thursday, welcoming IDEO Chief Creative Officer and world-renowned speaker Paul Bennett. With more than 200 people in the audience, Bennett kicked off the first of what will be many forums designed to engage healthcare experts in conversations about the direction of the healthcare industry.

“You’re practitioners, researchers, executives, lawmakers, innovators, investors and entrepreneurs. But most importantly, you’re all patients,” said David Schonthal, MATTER co-founder and board member and professor at the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, in his introduction of Bennett at the pre-launch event.

“We are all patients,” Schonthal said to the audience of more than 200 who turned out for the pre-launch event. “There are not many markets in the world where everybody who creates, also consumes. Where everyone who adds, also subtracts,” he continued. “What better place to talk about something tricky and complicated, than MATTER?”

In his talk, Bennett contended that the end of life, culturally viewed as a looming and frightening inevitability, is actually an opportunity for design today– “to make death, like life, something that we fill with joy, beauty, hope and possibility.”

And it was through this particular dialogue titled “How might design walk with us to the end of life?” in which he guided the audience in confronting the radical notion of embracing death and normalizing it.

Bennett revealed his most intimate fears like dying alone and life-altering moments he experienced when his father died.

Designing death is uncharted territory in redesigning the ultimate journey, he explained.

Bennett invited the audience to experience these delicate moments in his journey. The conversation led to a provocative challenge: normalize organically hard-to-talk about topics and shine optimism in traditionally dark spaces.

“Design transcends agenda,” Bennett said, recalling a memorable experience in his journey. “It speaks to the politics of optimism.”

As MATTER’s members shift into full gear this week, Bennett’s talk instilled hope and optimism, and reminded them why they were there: to help people.

“It’s a great start to MATTER,” said Andrew Cittadine, a board member of MATTER and Diagnostic Photonics president and chief executive officer, about the pre-launch event. “It really comes down to the enthusiasm and the optimism of the community. It’s simply a great time for Chicago healthcare startups.”

“This is fantastic that someone is taking an interest to try to promote some innovation in the area,” said John Combes, American Hospital Association senior vice president and president of the Center for Healthcare Governance, regarding palliative care. “I think it’s an issue that needs to be addressed and people shouldn’t be fearful in talking about that.”

“MATTER is a place you come when you want to not only push what’s possible, but acceptable,” Schonthal said. “It’s a place where you come when you want to solve hard problems.”

It’s a place to do something that matters.




Introducing the MATTER Curriculum

December 22, 2014

By Maryam Saleh, MATTER Director of Member Experience

This fall, the MATTER team held a number of curriculum design sessions with the entrepreneurial community — 30 hours in all — to discuss the key challenges in getting healthcare technology startups off the ground. Special thanks to Chicago Health 2.0 organizers Subbu Arumugam and Jasmin Phua, and MATTER Mentor-in-Residence Jordan Dolin, who significantly contributed to these sessions. Based on the insights from these sessions, we developed a curriculum of 10 tracks designed to address the most common pitfalls for healthcare startups. Following are descriptions of the 10 tracks.

Track 1: Is your technology solving a problem and for whom?
Many startups start their path with a hot technology that doesn’t really solve a problem for their target customer. This track will include workshops on how to identify the problem and, once identified, how to pitch the story to an investor. iBIO’s PROPEL will be contributing to the content with workshops in this track. Teachers include Booth Professor Waverly Deutsch, Northwestern Professor David Gatchell and medical device entrepreneur Avi Roop.

Track 2: Understanding stakeholders in healthcare and new models of care
Startups often fail to create value for the key stakeholders. These workshops will address problems that matter to different stakeholders in healthcare. Teachers include Leslie Wainright and Eric Jensen from AVIA, Anna Haghooie, managing director at Sandbox Industries, Andrew Turitz, managing director at Healthagen, and MATTER Mentor-in-Residence Richard Ferrans.

Track 3: Market-driven product design and development
Workshops will emphasize the importance of customer validation by teaching the Lean Launchpad methodology to product and business model design. Medical device and software development veterans will also discuss what it means to develop products in a regulated environment, under quality systems. Teachers include Lilli Zakarija, co-founder of EdgeOneMedical; Steve McPhilliamy, partner at InsightPD; Bernhard Kappe, founder of Pathfinder Software and Chirag Patel, director of software development at ContextMedia.

Track 4: 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration
We often hear about equity disputes between shareholders, even before the company is officially incorporated. These workshops are designed to emphasize that the bulk of a business’s value is not in the idea but in the execution and ability to build a team to execute on the plan. Teachers include Emmi Solutions Founder and MATTER Mentor-in-Residence Jordan Dolin, and PeopleFoundry Founder Michelle Joseph.

Track 5: Your projections are wrong: topics in forecasting and financing
Workshops will address some basics in entrepreneurial finance. Professors Steve Kaplan and Scott Meadow from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business will cover the material, along with the CFO from Emmi Solutions, John Starr.

Track 6: Go-to-market strategy and sales into health systems
Selling to health systems is not as easy as posting your app in the Apple Store. It’s often difficult to find the right decision maker. Even when you’ve found the individual, do you have the right story to get their attention? How can you score a pilot at a hospital? These are all topics that will be covered by our teachers: medical device entrepreneur Eric Sandberg and Acquirent Founder Joe Flanagan.

Track 7: Clinical trial design and implementation
Setting the right endpoints for your clinical study is critical to your success. Medical device entrepreneur Shawn McCarthy will share his past challenges and learnings with clinical trial design and implementation. Chicago Innovation Mentors will be contributing to this track as well, with a speaker series on the topic.

Track 8: The FDA is your friend
Drug, device, and often software development in healthcare is subject to regulatory controls. This track hopes to familiarize entrepreneurs with the key time points along their commercialization path when they should be considering a consultation with the FDA. The workshops also provide case studies where entrepreneurs can learn about how to position their product and studies as they have these conversations. Joe Braido and Jerzy Wojcik from EdgeOne Medical and CIM mentors will contribute to these workshops.

Track 9: Who’s going to pay for this?
While most first-time entrepreneurs consider the date they’ll need to get an indication for use approved by the FDA, few carefully think through their reimbursement and coding strategies, and how they might go about setting up a study to collect the necessary data. These workshops will focus on coding basics and reimbursement. iBIO’s PROPEL will be contributing to this track with their workshops.

Track 10: The fine print: legal topics in healthcare
Topics discussed in this class will include walking through a financing contract (eg. convertible debt agreement), a shareholder’s agreement, the steps to become HIPAA compliant (taught by attorneys from Breuer, Drinker Biddle & Reath) and understanding the patenting process & licensing of intellectual property (taught by the Licensing Executives Society). IBIO’s PROPEL will be contributing to this track with their workshops.
MATTER will also have specialized workshops on product design and development that take place in the Workshop, Interaction Studio and Stage – our prototyping and simulation environments.

The curriculum will kick off with a half-day event where teachers and our mentors-in-residence will engage in a discussion with MATTER entrepreneurs on the current landscape in which they are hoping to innovate and what challenges they may face along the way. We will also review the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Triple Aim as a guide for framing a product’s impact on the healthcare system. The three aims are: (1) improving patient experience (through quality and satisfaction of services), (2) improving the health of populations, and (3) reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.

MATTER workshops will be interactive, pragmatic, and delivered from multiple perspectives to maximize their utility for entrepreneurs. Watch the website for more information on MATTER programming coming soon. For questions or to sign up, email us at info@matterchicago.com.