The Man With The Golden Touch: Jeff Williams Eyes Triple Crown Of Sorts With Life Magnetics

5/16/11Follow @xconomy

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, a commodity that’s hard find in Michigan. In fact, Williams and Jennifer Baird, Williams’ predecessor at Accuri Cytometers who now leads Accio Energy, were often cited as those A-List entrepreneurs at the Michigan Growth Capital Symposium last week.

“It really comes down to the people,” says Jim Adox, managing director of Venture Investors in Ann Arbor, MI, which backed HandyLab. “Intellectual property used to be at the top but now I ask, who are the people leading the company?”

Of course, there’s only so much of Jeff Williams to go around. So how does Williams chooses his projects?

“I wish I could do them all but I can’t,” Williams says. “I like to focus on opportunities that make a difference. I do like stories, when you are producing a product that’s much easier to use, a better, faster, cheaper business model.”

It’s fair to say that Williams excels in medical diagnostics. HandyLab, for instance, makes devices designed to help laboratories better detect bacterial infections. Accuri Cytometers’ cell counting machines enable doctors to more quickly diagnose diseases ranging from AIDS to cancer.

U-M startup Life Magnetics, Williams’ new employer, is developing a desktop diagnostic device that uses disposable cartridges to rapidly test bacterial infections. The device will determine how bacteria respond to antibiotics within eight hours of sample collection, the company says.

“It’s a big opportunity,” Williams says. “You can’t get enough days out of the process.”

Judging from Williams’ record, it would seem he and Arboretum have a built in buyer in BD. Not quite.

HandyLab already had a distribution agreement with BD so it made sense for BD to buy that company. But the Accuri deal was a complete coincidence, Williams says.

According to Williams, Accuri had been approached by a number of potential buyers. The company’s investment bankers then contacted BD, which eventually outbid the field for the startup. BD ultimately paid ten times Accuri’s annual revenue, more than double the premium a similar medical device firm would have normally commanded on the market.

Could BD make it three-fer with Life Magnetics?

“I would not envision Life Magnetics being sold for many years,” Williams says.

Still….

“All companies are for sale, it just depends on the price,” Williams says. “It would not be inconceivable [for BD to acquire Life Magnetics]. I’m sure we’ll have a conversation when the time comes.”

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