BIO 2014: Training Bio-Entrepreneurs to Use Coffee, Yoga, and Data

6/24/14

Editor’s note: Court Turner was a speaker in the bootcamp for biotechnology entrepreneurship at this week’s BIO 2014 Convention in San Diego. —BVB

As a venture partner at San Diego’s Avalon Ventures, I divide my work day into three distinct activities: Coffee (at the best coffee shop in San Diego); Yoga (at a studio near my office); and Data (generated by the scientists in Avalon’s portfolio companies).

If you’re an entrepreneur in the life sciences, I recommend you find a way to incorporate similar activities into your work schedule. An entrepreneur must network, process, and execute every day. Exactly how that is done is up to you.

Network (The Coffee Shop)

Whether you are searching for a new opportunity or you are in the middle of one, an entrepreneur needs access to a diverse network of individuals. My favorite place is a low-key storefront that brews coffee with its own house-roasted beans. There, I have met scientists with whom I have started new biotech companies, software programmers who have helped me solve company issues, and recruiters who have provided the temperature on hiring in town. One never knows when the next great idea or business partner will walk in.

So here’s my question for all the entrepreneurs out there: Are you regularly in a place (or places) where the next big idea might be lurking? Where you can meet new people? For me, networking is most effective after the fifth conversation (definitely not after the first). I have never found “networking” events to be impactful; they represent an evening of initial conversations. My coffee shop has become a caffeinated version of the ‘80s sitcom Cheers, where everyone really does know my name. I can’t tell you how many times my conversations in this specific coffee shop have led to an Avalon investment in a new life sciences company or to a key employee who can help me take a current company to the next stage. The coffee is great, the clientele is relevant, and the impact has been tremendous. This is how and where I start every work day.

What do you get from networking? Ideas.

Process (Yoga)

These days, the landscape is always changing for early stage biotech, and Big Pharma’s interests are not always easy to read. In my opinion, a great startup idea is only great if it fits into the context of the overall industry (especially a regulated industry like drug-making). It has to have commercial value and utility. So, if I don’t have time to really separate and reflect on all of the ideas and plans of a particular initiative, it is impossible for me to start.

Separate time (where no one is permitted to interrupt) enables me to think critically and objectively, and to filter the likely from the impossible (weighing the relevant timeline and capital restraints). Of course, your instincts and experience still color the conclusion, and that is where you learn if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Hopefully, over time this process will result in business successes to … Next Page »

Court Turner joined San Diego’s Avalon Ventures in 2008 as an advisor and became a venture partner in 2010. He is a lawyer, and currently serves as the chief executive of Avalon portfolio companies Synthorx and Carolus Therapeutics, and as the chief operating officer at two other Avalon companies, Sova Pharmaceuticals and Avelas Biosciences. Follow @

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