Big Idea: CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum Part 2

16 Dec Big Idea: CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum Part 2

For the second part of the CONNECTpreneur Winter Forum (click here for Part I), the event showcased a panel discussion focused on “Hot Trends In Venture Capital and Early Stage Capital Funding.” Panelists included big names in the investment community, including:

Jonathan Aberman (moderator), Managing Director, Amplifier Ventures; Chairman, Tandem NSI and FoundCorps

Dr. John Holaday, Angel Investor, Executive Chairman, ExoCyte; Chairman, Bioncor; Founder and ex-CEO, EntreMed

Mike Pratt, Managing Partner, Select Venture Partners, LLC

John Tullis, Managing Director, Tullis Health Investors

Nate Yohannes, Senior Advisor, Office of Investment and Innovation, U.S. Small Business Administration

The entirety of the forum was filled with great insight on the challenges that entrepreneurs face, the current state of investing and capital funding, and general tips for business entrepreneurs. The engaging discussion raised many questions from the audience. Each of the panelists and a few of their key takeaways are listed below:

John Holaday, PhD, is an entrepreneur and senior biotech executive with an extensive background in both the biopharmaceutical industry and academic science. He has served as Chairman/CEO and board member of public companies and private start-ups. Despite the lack of venture capital, Holaday explained that this region has a great entrepreneurial community because there are a lot of innovation and ideas.

Nate Yohannes is a lawyer with experience in financial services, regulatory affairs and investment strategy. Yohannes was appointed by the White House Office of Presidential Personal as a presidential appointee in the Obama Administration where he now serves as the Senior Advisor – Office of Investment and Innovation (“OII”), US Small Business Administration. OII operates the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC), a private equity/venture capital program with over $25.2 billion of assets under management, and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), the government’s largest innovation grant focused on small business, effectively making the collective $2.5 billion annually – the largest STEM seed funding pool in the world.

Yohannes explained that the SBIR program obtains 2% of research dollars from 11 federal agencies, which is just north of $2.5 billion dollars. Fun fact; out of the $2.5 billion dollars, DoD is half of the budget. When asked the number one region for funding from the SBIR, Yohannes exclaims that he believes it is this area in particular (Washington DC Metro Area).

John Tullis is a Partner at Tullis Health Investors, where he is responsible for the firm’s investment team and investment process. He is also responsible for the firm’s increasingly global network and for all investments and activities in international markets. Within the healthcare sector, John’s focus areas include healthcare technology and services, medical devices, and healthcare commercial distribution.

When asked what he was up to, he explained that Tullis Health Investors is investing across the nation in non-traditional core markets for venture and growth equity. A lot of their investments are throughout the central U.S., western mountain states, southeast, mid-Atlantic. Their focus is mostly on growth-stage companies and they invest mostly in companies that have achieved a lot in technology development, generally have gotten through the approvals process with the FDA if required, and have begun to develop commercially. Tullis explains that they aim to build relationships with companies that have been around for three to four years, and invest in them when the time is right to help them expand effectively and efficiently.

Mike Pratt has over 40 years of experience in management and finance, in both domestic and international organizations, as well as more than two decades of involvement in the startup and venture capital industry. Pratt’s experience includes early-stage company management, negotiation of strategic partnerships and alliances, and service on the Board of Directors of several companies, including a public-traded corporation in New Zealand. Pratt is also a lecturer in Technology Entrepreneurship at the Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland, College park.

Pratt is currently using his entrepreneur experience to help out other entrepreneurs. Select Venture Partners LLC is currently investing in early stage companies, generally pre-Series A. The company tends to focus on their areas of expertise: enterprise software, staff space delivery, healthcare, etc., and are all actively involved in helping companies be successful.

When prompted with the topic of how entrepreneurs can grow a business without institutional capital, Pratt gave some advice that he normally saves for his students, saying that they shouldn’t take any money as long as they can; the longer they can go without taking any outside capital, they better off they are.

Be sure to mark your calendars now and join SpeakerBox in attending the next CONNECTpreneur forum on March 1st!


Brandan Lickey
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