Interview with ELabNYC Program Manager Mary Howard: Part 1
December 05, 2016
In part 1 of our interview, program manager Mary Howard discusses ELabNYC’s entrepreneur training and mentorship program, tells us about the different types of organizations it partners with, and shares a couple of interesting success stories.
DP: Mary, tell us a little more about ELabNYC, its entrepreneur training and mentorship program and what types of professionals are involved.
MH: ELabNYC is a program that was started five years ago. We were beneficiaries of an initiative in New York City from the Economic Development Corporation, which is part of the office of the Mayor. Our mission is to educate the sciences and research engineers from the research institutions of New York City and help them take their innovations to the market. It’s called the commercialization process, and it’s a very practical program that helps people understand the basics and work out the basic steps that they need to start creating a company and get the wheels turning so that they have a business to operate. So, ELab has two major components to it. One is an entrepreneurship education program. This program is augmented by networking. For most entrepreneurs, and especially in the life sciences, there’s so much complexity that they have to deal with that there’s not a small team that they need, it’s a large team that they need and the experts that they need are in very specific areas. So, to complement the education that we offer, we help connect these new businesses to those very specific resources so they can get their businesses launched. It’s really about connections.
DP: So it looks like you have a great collection of participants in your program – people in the technology world, entrepreneurs, students, academics, people in government.
MH: There’re students – grad students, master’s students – there’re postdoc faculty, there are primary investigators, there have been chairs of departments, there are MDs, there are also – in addition to the physicians – there are also MBAs. So it’s a very exciting mix of people with different backgrounds who come together and work through their launch plans in the program.
DP: Who are some of your partners?
MH: Well this is a community-based program. The interest, as New York City Economic Development Corporation expressed when they started this, was to help build the ecosystem in New York City. So from the get go we were interested in bringing together the hospitals. So Mount Sinai Hospital is a major partner, the Northwell Hospital System – which is the largest hospital system in New York State – is a partner. What they do is they provide us opportunities to meet with their executives to provide feedback to the teams for the purpose of looking for pilots and looking for partnerships and getting feedback on their new ideas. It’s been fabulous. In addition to the hospitals, we have partnerships with other government agencies in New York City that are supporting these entrepreneurs. We also work with the group of experts who can provide the support to figure out what are these launch steps. So, EisnerAmper – their role has been so instrumental. As a founding corporate supporter for ELab, there is an understanding about what the needs are of launch stage entrepreneurs. There’s a lot of education that’s required. EisnerAmper has provided professional staff to help teach P&L creation, they have provided professional staff to help provide feedback on what are and questions for these entrepreneurs to develop stronger P&Ls. They have provided workshops on valuation. They’ve provided workshops on preparing for investors. The expertise that EisnerAmper has brought through their professional staff has been critical for these entrepreneurs to get a real-world sense of the expectations of people who they will be meeting. One of the big concerns for potential investors, for organizations that review grants or provide other support for early stage companies is do these entrepreneurs have enough of a plan that there is confidence that they could execute it and come to something that would be meaningful? The financials are a critical part of that, and it takes a lot of time to both understand what that means and to develop fundable financials that can be reviewed by professionals and that will be credible. EisnerAmper has really led this program in that area. We’ve also worked with some law firms. The law firms have been important in providing the expertise for corporate law so that these companies can be formed properly so that the firms, when they are getting investment term sheets, can get them reviewed by a professional who’s experienced in launch-stage deal terms. We have been fortunate to work with law firms that have expertise in intellectual property, to help assist both in the filing of strong patent claims and also to help license that technology from the research institution.
DP: It’s a big step from innovator to entrepreneur, and we all need help along the way. I would imagine that there’s a lot of support professionals who have a role to play, whether it’s an accountant, an attorney, a financial professional. Maybe you can tell us about the role that these support professionals play.
MH: It’s essential, and I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have people who have actually done this before.
DP: Mary, if you could share a success story or two.
MH: Every year we invite 20 innovators to come and spend six-and-a-half months with us. There are some extraordinary stories from that first year. There have been two exits of ventures that have already been acquired. There are two mergers of the 20, and there are three ventures that have created growth-stage companies.
DP: Good stuff. Mary, we’re going to share the rest of your insights in part two of this podcast. In the second part of this interview, available at EisnerAmper.com, Mary gives us some tips for transitioning from the research lab to the boardroom, assembling a successful biotech team, pivoting your company when necessary, and implementing financial metrics. So don’t miss it.