Monthly Archives: October 2013

Some Fundamentals of a Successful Podcast Campaign

By:  Scott Graves


Radio Microphone

Add a new dimension to your storytelling with podcasts. This can be an excellent way to differentiate yourself in an increasingly crowded social media environment.

At the end of the day the success of your podcast series centers on compelling storytelling.  For many, the challenge is in the delivery.  For others, the challenge is in developing the content.  “I’m a research scientist with no significant accomplishments yet in my career.  My day to day is mundane and not worth talking about”.  Perhaps this is how you feel.  But the path that led you to where you are has filled you with experience, knowledge of problem solving and perspective that will likely resonate with others.  On the delivery side, it is important to have knowledge of how to hold the attention of your audience with compelling content you’ve developed.  This is where spending real time listening to podcasts and other broadcast media for elements you like is valuable.  I highly recommend locating a mentor and working with them to improve your broadcast personality and audible approach.  Co-hosting and guesting on other podcasts is an excellent way to improve your skills while networking with other professionals and generating listeners.

Develop a Show Concept
As with all other forms of media it is well worth the time to focus in on several key strategic elements of your podcast series.  What goals are you trying to accomplish with your podcast?  On ‘No Boundaries Radio’, our focus is on spotlighting innovators from across a broad spectrum of growth sectors.  Each guest is unique in their product/service, industry or approach.  Format can also be a key element to your success. With our series, we decided on a format similar to radio programs like ‘Fresh Air with Terri Gross’ with elements of ‘On Point’, another NPR mainstay.  Whatever your approach, make an effort to stay on course with a show concept and format.  Perhaps you’re a fan of Science Friday?  Focus in on what makes that program a success.  How can you replicate that?  What would you do differently?  Listen to your audience carefully; feedback will tell you what stays and what goes.  Also understand who your target audience is. At ‘No Boundaries Radio’, we focus on garnering an audience split between successful business leaders and entrepreneurs who are just starting out.  Our marketing is targeted to both parties within a host of growth sectors.  I personally spend time building relationships with people as guests and as listeners.  Most important: Show development is a constant process and never ends if you’re doing your job.

Build Your Organization  
Before your official launch determine what your frequency of broadcasts will be.  Know who your audience is and understand what their desires are.  Match their needs to your capability of putting out a quality program.  Quality always before quantity.  In general, I feel a weekly podcast is best but this depends on a number of factors.  There is no hard rule.  The most important thing to remember is stay on schedule. Also understand completely how your shows will be produced, edited and distributed.  Understand both the people and technology that will work for you.  Some opt to work with a producer and internet broadcast service; some simply hit the streets with their laptop and microphone.  The only rule is shoot for quality in all aspects of your final podcast including the people you work with and the technology you use to produce and distribute your recording.

Use the Right Technology
Once you’ve clearly defined the premise, goals, and target audience of your program marry your plan to the right tech.  I highly suggest doing some real research starting with your mentor(s).  What software, microphones, recording equipment and distribution platforms do they find to be most advantageous.  Using the right technology includes knowing the best practices for SEO, keywords, considering what social media and blog platforms will work best for your show, etc.  More expensive is not always better but please consider your listener.  While the recording may not have to be studio quality; a recording poor enough to be distracting is a disaster.  Choosing the right places for folks to find your show (services like BlogTalkRadio℠, Stitcher™, your own blog, Liberated Syndication, etc.) offer a broad spectrum of capabilities and affordability.  Choose what will work best for your audience and for you.

Never lose sight of the idea of compelling storytelling.  Always produce and execute a quality program and you will grow an engaged and enlightened audience.

The Right Tools for a Successful Podcast Campaignfor more insights by the author in this podcast ‘Right Tools for Podcast’ produced by SM Graves Creative

Life Sciences Podcasting
Although podcasting has not been used as much by Life Science and Biotech companies as it has been adopted in the Technology sector, its use is growing.  The development and commercialization of affordable technology and services for this makes the production and distribution of a ‘radio show’ within the reach of nearly every one.  Any Life Science company that has made a commitment to making Social Media and Content Marketing work for them should consider trying this tactic.  Podcasting can be a great way to share compelling stories and content especially when time and resources are tight.  Some find the rigors of maintaining a good blog challenging.  A good podcast producer can help you to uncover the many hidden stories that your audience and future customers will value.  Often the process of preparing a great podcast will provide all of the inspiration needed to create a companion blog post.


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Testing, Testing: The Startup Executive And His Corporate Counterpart

Fishbowl on briefcase

Selecting a ‘big fish’ CEO from a large company or an experienced one from the startup community. Matching the style of leadership with your needs is more important than where they have come from .

By:  Michael Kaiser

A startup company, in any business undertaking, is usually the creation of an entrepreneur or inventor, who is either unwilling to continue working for, or dissatisfied with the operational restrictions of established corporations. The move to create a startup company may also be the result of a corporation’s meltdown or downsizing, hence the opportunity “to do what I always wanted, my own business”. For those who left an established corporation, the transition may be as difficult as those who created a startup which then becomes the target of a corporate takeover that affects their hitherto control and independence. In both cases, four elements reign supreme: money, investment, innovation, leadership.

In general, early startups are more susceptible to failure than advanced or established corporations, either due to lack of funding or a specific organizational experience requirement. Obviously that is one area where a former corporation high-executive will have a better chance of success. But the entrepreneur, no matter if by previous corporate title or by sheer personal initiative also wields advantages such as initiative, the product or service it creates, and the independence to move forward without the rigid interference of executive echelons.

The Risk Takers
Entrepreneurial executives are usually recognized as “risk takers” but that is not to be taken as their defining attribute because, not surprisingly, they avoid unnecessary risks that may impact their agenda for success. In the current global economy, those entrepreneurs that will jump in the pool without checking if there is enough water to avoid injury will find the hard way that they are not ready  to swim.

That is not to say that risk is an entry/exit barrier; rather it is the concept that the risk taken fills a need. Recent examples in business history are Steve Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. It was their determination (Jobs worked until the last two or one day before his death), vision and leadership that brought about the global impact of their innovations. (The 10 greatest entrepreneurs – Investopedia).

Organic Growth
The entrepreneur’s personality does not suffer fools, but also requires that he/she should select and be surrounded by capable partners that will support the vision of their leader but also be able to challenge it when necessary. One reason for that is that a startup’s solution to generate income and grow their products or services as soon as possible requires an “organic growth” strategy.

The Established Corporation (EC)
In contrast to a startup, an established corporation (herein EC) has the resources, organizational plans and established business recognition that allows it to expand globally as well as the domestic market. Procter and Gamble, General Electric, Pfizer, Novartis, and Toyota are just a few examples that come to mind. The EC is usually, if not always, listed on a financial exchange such as the New York and London Exchanges, the Asian ones and the NASDAQ. That apparent advantage over the startups came crashing down in 2008 with the economy’s “Great Recession”, which to the present day has not fully recovered.

The Crisis
The economic crisis forced many EC’s to cut the number of employees or facilities, and seek mergers with other EC’s. More surprisingly, even dramatically so, many large corporations had to reverse their established organizational standards to operational policies somewhere between their previous ways and the more dynamic and fast moving startup; imagine the difference between an EC as a tractor trailer and the startup as a sports car. In many cases, top executives that held their jobs for many years were summarily removed or forced to resign.

One particular reason why those EC’s that were able to survive the 2008 economic crisis had to change their entrenched policies as soon as possible was their investment presence in the global marketplace. Even those EC’s long established in the major exchanges mentioned above had to face not only the headquarter loss but those of their subsidiaries in Europe, Asia and Latin America as well.

The CEO’s of established corporations do not differ too much from that of their startup counterparts, but at the same time their experience with entrenched organizational policies and negotiating skills with clients or competitors, as well as the need to report corporate directions to the board of directors, with the support of teams reporting to them, represent a clear advantage in facilitating the conduct of the their business. In contrast to startups, the EC’s can operate and expand their business growth by adopting either an organic or inorganic growth strategy.

There is one specific and important requirement shared by both startups and established corporations in their quest for success: Leadership.

The Twain Can Meet
The old saying that “never the twain shall meet” meant that two things or people are very different and cannot exist together. The British novelist Rudyard Kipling chose a more geographic description: “Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet”.

Well, that is not always the case in the business world, because there is one exception that allows an easier executive transition and it is the established corporation’s CEO moving to a startup. Although entrepreneurial executives like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) were able to wear the corporate mantle as their companies grew to a global level, those are exceptions more than the norm.

The Entrepreneurial CEO
A highly energetic and innovative startup CEO feels the need to wear multiple hats in order to implement his/her vision without interruptions or critique from employees or company directors. Those executives like to put their seal on the company as soon as possible, without interference and distractions. That is particularly evident in software/hardware, life sciences and engineering nascent companies. But once their companies have grown to the level of a large corporation, or are acquired by one, they require financial expertise, resources and organizational rules that are just some of the advantages expected and available in a large, successful corporation. And that is when many entrepreneurs, accustomed to ‘my way or no way’ leave or are eased out their startup after a reasonable time, or are induced to accept executive roles such as Chief Scientific Officer, VP Engineering Division, etc.

The Corporate CEO
By contrast with the above, a corporate CEO executive is often called in by investors/venture capitalists to save a startup that finds itself in rough waters, because its CEO is unable to navigate the storm or his/her ego is such that he/she cannot accept help from experts; the startup in question has a very marketable product or service, but the leader is floundering. Thus, a new, very experienced corporate CEO is called in to take control, even if it is not Jack Welch or A.G. Lafley.

The Lafley case is particularly interesting: as the former Chairman and CEO of Procter and Gamble, he was called in by investors and the Board of Directors to retake the leadership of P&G, a household name that found itself facing losses under the executive that followed Lafley once he left P&G after his successful tenure. The reason for recalling Lafley was obvious: leadership and vast managerial experience with a large global corporation; he accepted the “May Day” call from his former employer (What A.G. Lafley’s Return Means for P&G – Harvard Business Review). The point being made here is that an experienced and recognized corporation executive can, although not always, save a promising startup company from sinking in a storm and lead it to success. There is little chance that a creative, dynamic, innovative startup leader would be called to save a large, global corporation. Yes, the twain can meet, but more often than not, only in one direction.

The subject of this article covers just a few of the multiple scenarios that deal with different examples, outcomes and opinions, as mentioned at the beginning of this article. To afford the reader further information I enclose a list of helpful sources (see below) divided in three sections: 1) Entrepreneurs; 2) Organic and Inorganic Growth; 3) Management.

Recommended Information  

1) Entrepreneurs

2) Organic and Inorganic Growth

3) Management

  • Our History In Depth – Google How a startup became a global power.
  • Google – Wikipedia The startup that became a mega-corporation.
  • Jack Welch Quotes – Brainyquote Worth reading because they reflect his driven CEO personality.
  • Jack Welch – Wikipedia A very successful executive at GE, who also generated deserved criticism.
  • Bill Gates – Wikipedia Notice the similarity of his management style with that of Steve Jobs.
  • Steve Jobs – Wikipedia Without doubt one of the most complex, creative and charismatic entrepreneurial and corporate figures in American history. His abrupt managerial style was widely criticized.
  • What A.G. Lafley’s Return Means for P&G – Harvard Business Review The action an established corporation had to take to regain its market share and why.
  • Leadership Styles – Wall Street Journal Six Different Leadership Styles

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What You Can Learn from an Orchard about Growing your Business


Approach building your company like planting an orchard. Be sure that you know what your customers want today but also a few years down the road as well.

By:  Andrew Johnson, Ph.D.

What does growing apples have to do with building a life science company?  It turns out that there are a lot of similarities if you look closely.  A successful orchard requires a huge investment in planning (what variety of trees, how much of each, etc.), effort (a lot of work before the first harvest), finances (cost of land, labor, farm equipment etc.) and time (trees need a number of years to mature before your first harvest) to become successful.  The successful orchard keeper needs to have a good assessment of what types of fruit his customers will want in a few years and also how he can differentiate his own business from other orchards in the area to compete successfully.  The leadership of a strong life science business needs to think in the same terms.  What need will your offering(s) fulfill in the future and why will customers come to you rather than to your competitors?  With an orchard, once you plant the trees, you are now committed to your view of the future market for your products and now everything is about nurturing your trees until you have your first harvest.  With a startup, once you have selected a product and/or service, all of your efforts will be to get it successfully to market.  The orchard keeper cannot rip up trees next year if he thinks that the market for his fruit has changed.  Likewise, most startups do not have the funds (or time) to scrap a product offering once they are working to get it to market.  The lesson here is, make sure to spend enough time to understand your market, your customers and how you will successfully sell and then commit to a laser-like focus for getting that offering to market as soon as possible.

Tips for Building a Strong Startup:

  • Plant Trees:  Build your company for strong and steady future business.  Whether you are offering a platform, service or a one-time sale of a large instrument, referrals are the key to efficiently growing profitably.  Winning new customers is costly so getting referrals from happy customers is like harvesting apples in the fall.  The time, effort and investment you put into winning strong early customers will pay off as they share their experience with your future customers.  Building a scalable infrastructure that consistently and efficiently delivers the goods that delight your customers will insure success in the long run.
  • Build a Barrier to Entry:  It takes a while to plant and nurture an orchard.  However, once your trees have matured, you will have happy customers coming on a regular basis.  Building strong relationships with key opinion leaders, establishing preferred vendor status with organizations and establishing your company as a market leader in the technology is a lot like planting new trees.  There is a lot of prep work up front and the rewards are not immediate but once you have done this, this makes it very difficult for competitors to come into the market later.
  • Plant some Pumpkins Too:  As a startup, you need to start generating revenues as soon as possible to prove out your business.  Your team will need to put a lot of focus on getting your first sales and creating happy customers.  Many startups make the mistake of neglecting to build in some time for creating a scalable and profitable business.  You will be planting and harvesting an annual crop like pumpkins to do this. Developing a product road map that contains both near term (pumpkins) and long term (apples) offerings will allow you to get to market faster and get the insights you need to insure a better outcome with your later prospects. However, the key here is using what you have learned about your customers, their wants and needs and enthusiasm for your offering to build an infrastructure that will allow you to maintain the high level of customer satisfaction that will lead to referrals from your customers (See first point – Plant Trees).

Take Home Points:

  • Start building relationships with key opinion leaders and strategic partners early (even before the launch of your first product or service).
  • Use the insights you gain of your customers’ wants and needs from early sales to guide your efforts as you scale the business.  (e.g. if you will start selling using distributors, make sure that you build in an infrastructure (tech support, technical inside sales, social media outreach, etc.) to maintain the level of support and service that your customers valued in the early days).
  • Everything you do and every interaction you have with the public will shape your brand.  A strong positive brand can be a powerful barrier to block your competitors.  Clearly identify the brand identity you would like to have and make sure that you and everyone in the company reinforce this in everything they do and with every interaction with the public.

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Orphan Drugs: Are They Worth It?

Stormy sky over ocean

The Orphan Drug Act continues to bring hope to patients with rare diseases while providing the guidance and incentives that companies need to develop desperately needed therapeutics.

By:  Kelsey McCormick, MS

Nearly a year ago, I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook (yes, one of my guilty pleasures!) and came across a very disturbing picture of a newborn with horrible blisters and open sores all over his body.  With immediate heart ache, I had to know his story.  I found out he was suffering from Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a rare genetic disorder that causes the skin to be so fragile that the slightest touch or friction can cause severe and painful blistering—internally and externally.  My eyes filled with tears seeing this poor baby and his family.  I have followed him on Facebook for nearly a year.  He struggles with severe pain every day, constant bandage changes, infections, lengthy hospitalizations, etc.  Why had I never heard of this?  What is being done for this poor, helpless baby?

Thanks to Facebook, I am now AWARE.  And awareness is what will ultimately spread the word and help those suffering from these horrible unmet medical need.

The orphan disease challenge
EB is classified as an Orphan Disease because it affects less than 200,000 people in the U.S.  It’s such a horrible disease and therefore low prevalence is a good thing!  But . . . the bad thing is pharmaceutical companies are typically less motivated to develop treatments for diseases that only affect a small number of people.  The generated sales are usually minimal compared to those with a cancer that affects a larger population (e.g. breast cancer or prostate cancer).

But what about this poor baby suffering on a daily basis?   Not to mention the suffering of his parents and siblings (and the family wallet!).  How can we help him?

 A winning solution for patients and pharmaceutical companies
Thankfully, Congress recognized the unmet medical needs and the lack of treatments/therapies for many rare diseases, which led to the passage of the Orphan Drug Act (ODA) in 1983.  The ODA provides incentives for the development of Orphan drugs (See associated Regulations here:  Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21 Food and Drugs, Part 316 Orphan Drugs).  Shortly thereafter, the Office of Orphan Product Development (OOPD) within the FDA was formed to help guide the Sponsor Companies through the complex regulatory pathway of an Orphan drug from discovery to market.  As one would hope, the passing of the ODA and its incentives has led to a major increase in the market approval of new therapies for Orphan diseases.

There is hope, much hope, for my little, precious Facebook friend!

Special opportunities for companies developing orphan drugs
Naturally, one would ask, “What are the incentives of developing a treatment or therapy for an Orphan Disease?”  To list a few:

  • The Prescription Drug User Fee (PDUFA) is waived. And they aren’t cheap! See below for fee rates for FY 2013

Fee Table

  • There is a 50% tax credit to help defray clinical study costs
  • Eligibility to apply for the FDA Orphan grants program
  • 7 years marketing exclusivity

Those are some good incentives!

Now what?  How do we do this?  What are the next steps?

In order to obtain the above incentives, the Sponsor Company must apply for Orphan Drug Designation with the FDA and if “approved,” the FDA will grant the Sponsor Orphan Drug Designation in writing.  Specific instructions can be found here:  How to apply for Orphan Drug Designation

Is it worth it?
It sure is.  Take a few minutes to Google Epidermolysis Bullosa and perhaps a story or two will catch your attention just like my little EB baby Facebook friend caught mine.  Within minutes, I would bet my glass of wine (and anyone that knows me, that’s huge!!) that you will feel the “real” motivation towards finding treatments and cures for the many unmet medical needs.  The incentives from the ODA are just icing on the cake. 

Key Tips for Success with Orphan Drugs

  • Motivation for your company’s goals is critical . . . the path to market for an Orphan Drug has many gray areas . . . there’s no easy answer, so one must have true commitment and passion for the suffering patients whose finger is in the pill vial or arm is at the tip of the syringe.
  • Attempt to obtain Fast Track Designation with this, the FDA will be more proactive and help facilitate the development and expedite the review of drugs intended for an unmet medical need.  All in hopes to get the drug to the patient faster!
  • Defining meaningful biomarkers early can help in selecting a quantifiable clinical endpoint and accelerate completion of this process.
  • Early and consistent communication with the FDA is critical before and during the development of your Orphan drug (or any drug for that matter!).

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