New Challenges Can Drive Positive Results
Dr. Margaret Jackson, Founder and CEO of BYOMass and Springboard Advisors Eileen Heffernan and Kate Liebelt share lessons learnt amidst Covid-19.
I know many start-up Founders have had to pivot and navigate unfamiliar circumstances as well as an extra layer of both challenges and opportunities during this Covid-19 pandemic. The value of team members, advisers, champions and an industry network cannot be underestimated: you don’t have to go it alone as a start-up founder. Here are the top 3 lessons I’ve learned from running my company during this time
- Prepare for the Unexpected. The most challenging part has been “getting out of the building” which is Entrepreneur / Professor / Author Steve Blank’s method of interviewing stakeholders outside of the Founder’s immediate network to get new data and insights. Steve Blank recommends “walking the halls” of organizations where you are likely to find stakeholders to interview. For example, our team used to roam the Texas Medical Center to find stakeholders to interview. During the pandemic, my team had to conduct almost all our 115 stakeholder interviews remotely. This meant we had to find our stakeholders through LinkedIn, websites, networks and word of mouth instead of walking the halls of medical centers. As we faced the unexpected, we were able to pivot quickly out of necessity.
- Optimize the Silver Lining. Despite the challenge the pandemic presented to us, our team was really pleased to find that many stakeholders we contacted were willing to give us their time and jump onto a video conference call. Like many other professionals and students, we became experts at Zoom quickly! We regret we weren’t able to conduct many interviews in person, however we were able to exceed our goal of 100 interviews in part because the virtual approach made it easier for stakeholders to participate, and we believe they were more willing to participate because many were working from home. This led to deeper insights about our product-market fit, pricing and reimbursement, and other areas. All-in-all, what we perceived as a liability (many stakeholders working from home) was actually an asset for us (more and deeper insights).
- Find the Right Team. I’ve always been confident that my C-suite team members Eileen Heffernan and Kate Liebelt who also happened to be my 2019 Springboard Advisors, were agile and comfortable navigating ambiguity while driving results. These qualities proved invaluable for the success of our team during the Pandemic. We worked together diligently while managing the impact of the pandemic on our families, colleagues, and communities. Sharing personal stories of how the pandemic was impacting our day-to-day lives actually helped ease some of the stress and uncertainty of the situation and kept us focused on our goals. Within this process we also identified a stellar, passionate scientific advisory board thanks to the increased focus and engagement of individuals we interviewed.
The experience of achieving aggressive program milestones during the uncertainty of the pandemic is one our team won’t soon forget. We also won’t forget the lessons learned and skills we honed as we managed through this stressful situation.
Dr. Margaret Jackson is a neuropharmacologist with ~20 years of drug discovery experience. She has a successful track record of initiating and developing small molecule and biologic programs from idea to Phase II (6 INDs). She founded BYOMass Inc. in 2017 and has raised $7.1 million through dilutive and no-dilutive funding. She is Head of Preclinical R&D for Juvenescence Ltd and was previously Head of Eating Disorders at Pfizer and has 2 novel compounds for Obesity, Diabetes and Anorexia-Cachexia in Phase I/II. Dr. Jackson received her DPhil from the University of Oxford and had a Royal Society Fellowship.