MassCONNECT, MassBio’s mentoring program, matches budding entrepreneurs with industry experts for in-depth, industry-specific support and mentoring. MassBio greatly appreciates the commitment of MassCONNECT mentors who graciously volunteer their time and considerable expertise to helping the next generation of entrepreneurs. For this edition's Q&A, we asked two long-serving mentors to share their advice and experience with us.
Nan Doyle is Director of Strategic Partnerships & Development in the Department of Pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital.
John Tagliamonte is Vice President of Business Development at Juniper Pharma.
Q: What’s your favorite part of being a MassCONNECT mentor?
Doyle: Seeing startups evolve as the weeks go by: the final showcase pitches are usually much more crisp, focused, confident and compelling. Even more “favorite” is seeing the startup then attract interest and funding from investors, business plan competitions, SBIR’s, etc. I also enjoy the connectivity and interaction with other mentors and with the investment community. We all learn from each other.
Tagliamonte: truly appreciate the innovation arising from first time entrepreneurs, spurred by their burning desire to serve patients in need. If my experience can help advance a single product idea one step closer to better treating a patient, then my time has been well invested.
Q: What have you learned in your role as an advisor?
Doyle: The importance of a balanced mentor team, both in expertise that is relevant for the startup and in willingness to commit time to the program.
Tagliamonte: Genius is not in a single person nor an entrepreneur’s own knowledge and talents. Genius is serendipity that visits upon someone prepared to take a risk and who can inspire others to follow a coherent path to address a medical need. Fellow mentors across all functions: R&D, law, finance, manufacturing, commercial, etc. have taught me a great deal about how to get a product or service from idea to serving patients.
Q: What is one piece of advice you’d like to share with budding entrepreneurs?
Doyle: Focus on your audience — who are they, what do they care (or not care) about, how will your company solve a problem for them. Tell the story as a problem in search of [your] solution, not the other way around!
Tagliamonte: Interesting technologies in search of a market tend to be less successful. Having mentored many companies through MassCONNECT, the successful entrepreneurs are those who listen well and can incorporate input from their mentor team while channeling their own and the team's resources into a comprehensive business story. Identifying the unmet need, providing a competitively advantageous solution, and mapping this onto a business plan with funding requirements has been a common theme of the many successful MassCONNECT graduates.