Archive for August, 2009

Politics at Work: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

August 21, 2009

FountainBlue’s August 14 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Politics at Work: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly and featured:
• Facilitator Bobbie LaPorte, RAL & Associates
• Panelist Mercedes De Luca, Global Customer Experience and Chief Information Officer at, previously VP of Global IT at Yahoo!
• Panelist Lise E Edwards, Oracle Women’s Leadership (OWL), Program Manager, Oracle Human Resources
• Panelist Susan Lai, Senior Director, Finance, Symantec Corporation
• Panelists Eileen Sullivan, Group Director, Cadence

Below are notes from the conversation. These notes are copyrighted by FountainBlue in 2006-09 and all rights are reserved. You have our permission to forward the notes on to others, to help support further discussion and connections, but please ensure that the notes are INTACT, and that there is proper acknowledgement for our speakers and to FountainBlue.

About Politics
Let’s face it – office politics is a reality for everyone, regardless of the size of your organization or your position. But it’s good news that it’s a hot topic, and that people are more comfortable talking about it now than before, and supporting each other in addressing political challenges and understanding political nuances.

When asked to define politics, there was discussion about agendas and objectives and leveraging your personal influence and power, and that of others to build that agenda. The panelists concurred that at times there are unnecessary negative connotations around politics, so they advised that we know and accept that politics shapes their career and day-to-day work life.

However, there was also consensus that the WAY this is done will influence how others perceive you. There’s a difference between communicating transparently and building and leveraging relationships and achieving objectives no matter the cost to others.

Advice for Navigating the Political Waters in YOUR Organization
The panelists shared lessons learned about miscommunications and misunderstandings about intent, about motives, about objectives and emphasized the need to build relationships, ask questions, seek alignment, understand objectives, and work together in alignment to achieve shared corporate goals.

Repeatedly, the panelists emphasized the importance of building relationships with people at all levels, and the need to partner with people at many levels to make things happen. And a critical factor for developing relationships is clear and open communication, with an emphasis asking a lot of questions and reaching an understanding on motivations rather than working on assumptions and judgments.

There was an equal emphasize on understanding yourself, and your own passions and objectives, and maintaining relationships while staying true to yourself. Indeed, if you remain true to yourself, you will build your own brand and people will know what to expect when they work with you.

The panelists emphasized that it’s important to orient discussions around what’s right for the company and focus on facts and work, not taking actions and words personally.

Specific pearls of wisdom are listed below:
• Take the opportunity to interview with as many people as possible, to get to know the company and its people prior to starting there. Even after you land, dedicate some time to meeting with key influencers and develop those relationships.
• Don’t lose yourself, your own sense of style. Know when and where to compromise that style.
• In every situation, you have a choice. Be the person you want to be, or you may regret what you did.
• Even if you DO regret what you did, be truthful, forthright, humble in your communications with the people you hurt along the way.
• Decide whether which is the right battle for you at the right time.
• Don’t take sides.
• Don’t let it get personal.
• Seek to understand before being understood.
• Be clear to the people you’re working with.
• Ask for help.
• It can be tiring and lonely to constantly play political games.
• Network.
• Make your mistakes also your learnings.
• Men look at politics differently. They see it as a game, a competition, and they don’t take it personally.
• Not everyone has the best interest of all in mind. Handle closely those who don’t.
• Have the meeting before the meeting so that you can plan and align and avoid surprises.
• Spread your circle of influence.
• Lead with your passion.
• Be politically astute: pick up on things that are said and unsaid about a person, a group, an organization. Plan accordingly.
• Understand why someone you don’t respect might be valued by others, particularly if they are respected by others high up in the management chain.
• Rise above the bullying.
• Be self-aware while being other-centric.
• Be skilled at influencing up.
• Ask for what you want.
• Mentor others. Be a mentee.


Accelerating BioPharma Development

August 21, 2009

FountainBlue’s August 17 Life Science Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Accelerating BioPharma Development and featured:

• Facilitator Peter Berger II, CEO, Alitora
• Panelist Ian Irwin, Director of Drug Discovery, Parkinson’s Institute
• Panelist Michael O’Donnell, Partner, Wilson Sonsini
• Panelist Ted Spack, Managing Director, Fast Forward LLC
• Panelist Craig Taylor, Co-Founder and General Partner, Alloy Ventures
• Presenting Entrepreneur: Yadon Arad, Tiara Pharmaceuticals
• Presenting Entrepreneur: Julia O’Connor, CEO, Accelalox Inc.
• Presenting Entrepreneur: David Zarling, CEO, Colby Pharmaceuticals

Below are notes from the conversation. These notes are copyrighted by FountainBlue in 2006-09 and all rights are reserved. You have our permission to forward the notes on to others, to help support further discussion and connections, but please ensure that the notes are INTACT, and that there is proper acknowledgement for our speakers and to FountainBlue.

Major Changes and Challenges in Drug Development
The panelists represented decades of experience in the life science industry and remarked on the accelerated rate of technology development and science advancement. However, policies, regulations, and cultural hurdles have collectively raised the standards for drug approval, making it difficult to develop and manufacture drugs and bring them to market, despite the rapid advancements in technology. Expanding concerns about drug safety represent both a barrier (to developing new drugs) and an opportunity (safer versions of existing drugs) to drug development.

Indeed, companies have had an increasingly higher standard to meet prior to approvals for each phase of development. Requirements for animal and human trials and innumerable requirements for proving drug efficacy have made it almost impossible for entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and investors to bring drugs to market cost-effectively. Policy and regulation changes and poor management of the approval process have also posed imposing obstacles for companies.

The Role of New Government Funding
With the dramatic and rapid changes in policy and administration and outlook toward the life science industry overall, new interest has been placed on how to identify the key players in the biopharma market, and facilitate forward progress for people and organizations in this industry. As big pharma companies have become more conservative in this constricted market, entrepreneurs are looking more toward government fundings and partnerships with academia.

Advice for Accelerating Drug Development
Start-up entrepreneurs are generally thinking and acting at a more rapid pace than their corporate, academic or government counterparts. Time is of the essence for companies with few resources and small windows of opportunity. Below are some suggestions entrepreneurs can do to continue moving forward while awaiting partnerships:

• Start building relationships with key partners early, and make every effort to maintain strong partnerships and relationships.
• Project-manage effectively as a team to drive deliverables and ensure smooth transition between groups, phases, organizations, countries.
• Manage your resources tightly to make a good impression.
• Keep making the case that safety needs to be balanced with efficacy, and encouraging forward momentum.
• Manage risks. Raise safety concerns in a timely manner.
• Move your concept and organization as far as you can with as few resources as possible. Make a convincing case that additional partnership and support would build measurable and specific traction toward pre-defined milestones.
• Be flexible and creative in securing funding, utilize all sources of funding to move forward with early development, including private foundation, angel investment, SBIR/STTR. Government and foundation grants might be good resource during early development phases, They require forming solid partnerships, AND can be time-consuming AND they can’t provide the kind of investment dollars necessary to grow the company beyond early development, but are still worth investigating.
• Accept where your sphere of influence is with your partners in corporate, government, investment, etc. and leverage where you will have the best payoff, while also growing your influence.
• Leverage outsourcing where practical, but manage the outsourcing projects closely.
• Enlist the support of entrepreneurial industry experts with complementary skills.

Game Changers in the Near Future
There is hope for the hopeful, industrious and resilient life science entrepreneur! The following opportunities were highlighted by the panelists:

• India and China will play an increasingly important role in accelerating drug development, not only as CRO/CMO service providers, but also drive for technology innovation and represent great market. As such, there will be more opportunities and larger markets as countries such as India and China become active in this space.
• Changes to reimbursement policies will make it more practical for existing and new solutions to go to market.
• There are many early-stage concepts which could not navigate all the hurdles of the development process, yet the thousands and millions of dollars already expended has produced science and technologies, even prototypes and studies which may be cost-effectively leveraged into new solutions, if the hurdles can be overcome.
• Advancements in personalized medicine will not only provide custom solutions for patients, but it may also explain why some drugs did not pass regulations. These drugs might then be brought to market, targeting a more specific, more responsive patient population.
• In general, with the advancements in technologies, there is more likely to be knowledge-driven understanding about what went wrong with drugs that could not complete the approval process and how to bring them to market cost-effectively.
• There are opportunities in diagnostic tools, in genomics, imaging, informatics and other scientific areas which could lead to new drugs.

Energy Generation Breakthroughs and Challenges

August 7, 2009

FountainBlue’s August 3 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Energy Generation Breakthroughs and Challenges featured:

• Facilitator Awais Khan, Director, Venture Capital Practice, KPMG
• Panelist Jonathan Forrester, Principal, Structured Transactions, PG&E
• Panelist Ripudaman Malhotra, Senior Scientist, SRI International
• Panelist Ryan Murr, Attorney, Goodwin Procter LLP
• Panelist Abe Yokell, Principal, Rockport Capital
• Presenting Entrepreneur: Fareed Sfard, CEO, Ahura Energy Inc.
• Presenting Entrepreneur: Jim DiSanto, CEO, BBE Energy
• Presenting Entrepreneur: Andres Wydler, CEO, Real Green Power

Below are notes from the conversation. The notes above are copyrighted by FountainBlue in 2006-09 and all rights are reserved. You have our permission to forward the notes on to others, to help support further discussion and connections, but please ensure that the notes are INTACT, and that there is proper acknowledgement for our speakers and to FountainBlue.

The Demand for Energy
As global consumption of energy moves from 3 cubic miles of oil a year today to almost 9 cubic miles of oil a year by 2050, due to population growth and growing affluence. People, companies and countries are challenged to meet the overwhelming demand for energy, delivered in a way that works with existing systems and infrastructure and policies. Even with a concerted and collaborative and global effort at conservation, we could reduce the projected demand to 6 CMO/year by 2050.

Even then we would have the challenge of generating more energy. Generating 1 CMO/year requires a battery of about 2500 one-GW nuclear power plants of energy. To meet this need, we would have to install one new nuclear plant, or one thousand wind turbines, or one quarter million roof to PV systems (2 kW each), each every week for fifty years, assuming the systems installed in the first year are still working. See the attached SRI report detailing our growing global energy demands.

Technology Advancements
Advancements in technologies for energy generation are being developed to meet the energy needs, however, finding cost-effective alternatives to fossil fuels remain a challenge. In solar generation for example, there are mechanical, optical, nano and other materials and system innovations, as well as business model and financing reforms, which would make it more attractive for people to adopt these technologies. Indeed, with hardware and software technology advancements AND the rising cost of power, we may in some regions approach grid parity, the point at which photovoltaic electricity is equal to or cheaper than grid power provided by local utilities, particularly in areas where there is plenty of sunshine and high energy rates.

Political and Social Factors Weigh In
Unfortunately, the political and social pressures are precluding energy generation options for different reasons related to safety, ecology, etc. There is continued and growing pressure from consumers to reduce the carbon footprint and produce energy at reasonable costs. With the overwhelming and increasing demand for energy, it is important to consider each energy generation option, from fossil fuel to nuclear to hydro, geo-thermal and other methods. It is important to work together and embrace the up-sides of these options, while working to mitigate the downsides through technology and policy and business model advancement. It is equally important to simultaneously remain unbiased during the decision-making process and focus on the bottom line results rather than on personal and political agendas at the personal, company and country levels.

Financing as a Hurdle
In addition, financing options for energy generation solutions can be quite expensive, and funding sources are limited, especially as venture firms continue to avoid capital intensive projects with projected returns beyond the 3-5 year mark. The vast majority of energy generation worldwide has been planned and paid for by government with some corporate support. Venture capital has played a very small role in energy and cleantech to date. So start-ups are challenged to come up with funds to de-risk their technology solutions sufficient to be worthy of additional investment. Options for financing include government grants and corporate partnerships.

The panel offered their insights on the opportunities ahead.
• Leverage opportunities provided by utilities like PG&E who are providing power purchase agreements which would encourage cost-effective production of energy ready to feed into the grid, particularly when there is the greatest demand – in the summers and during the afternoon hours. For more information, visit
• Consider the various modules for the solution you are providing, and how technology innovation in any one component can increase the productivity of the overall system. For example, innovation in an inverter for solar panels, which accounts for roughly 7-10% of the overall cost of the panel, can maximize the output of the panels themselves, and also be cost-effectively manufactured.
• Consider the entrepreneurial opportunities around the storage of energy, including chemical (battery), compressed air, pumped hydro and other options.
• Although all sources of energy generation should be considered, some options will take a much larger investment to produce results. For example, tidal and wave energy might be a ready, natural and available energy source, but capturing it efficiently has historically been cost-prohibitive due to extremely harsh marine environment.

Leadership is Key
As we continue to face the growing global energy demands, the verdict is out on whether today’s leaders can maintain a bottom line perspective on our energy options, while showing political will power to deliver results which would benefit all. During this crisis, we need to focus on objectives. If it’s merely making life better for billions, we will need more energy. With climate change, we will need to solve new problems including effective desalination, building dykes and sensible zoning, amongst other challenges. In conclusion, we should all be informed and feel empowered to influence who leads and how they lead us through this problem-that-must-be-solved.