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underplay theirs. This was a room full of PhDs and MDs and people who had been instrumental in the creation of a myriad of famous companies and billions in market value, yet they often left that out of their personal introduction.
Fortunately women are also more likely to point out the accomplishments of their colleagues, so many intros were followed by shout-outs from others in the crowd reminding the other diners that the cool chick before them, in addition to being from Philadelphia or Boston, had changed medicine forever in some profound way. Very cool to see the support and lack of competition in the room and all around a very different vibe from other events I attended. The best dinner story was probably the one about how one VC partner and her female colleague use “boyfriend” terminology to characterize the stage and progress of their deals in their staff meetings. I have yet to hear any of my male colleagues refer to one of their deals in progress as being in the stage called “friends with benefits.” It was pretty hilarious. And yes, I confess that there was some talk about shoes and other essential accessories, as well as the blisters many of us had obtained walking from venue to venue, but it didn’t take away one bit from the discussion about healthcare reform or the state of life science venture funding. Mercifully, it was probably the only social event I attended where golf was not a critical part of the discussion agenda.
The overall tone of this year’s JP Morgan Lollapalooza was cautiously upbeat, I would say. There are a few promising healthcare IPOs in the pipeline and a lot of opportunity presented by the changing healthcare field. Good companies are getting funded and bankers are busy again. Times are still tough but unemployment is slightly better. Healthcare IT is all the rage and there were even some whispers about early stage investing slowly climbing again. There was so much action around the conference headquarters at the St. Francis Hotel (also known as the worst conference venue on earth unless you love being crushed to death like you were at Altamont for a Rolling Stones concert) that security was even stronger than the airport in Fallujah. You couldn’t even enter the hotel without a pre-printed approval email, bona fide healthcare credentials and a DNA sample. Apparently the sponsors were very concerned that the Occupy Wall Street crowd might show up given the high ratio of bankers, but fortunately the only place being occupied was Starbucks. With 99 percent of the attendees from the world of healthcare finance, the 1 percent were the dogs cruising through Union Square with their owners, who were forced against their will to stop to let the homesick VCs and investment bankers pet their furry little charges. “Does your dog lead restructuring transactions?” “That is not my dog!”
Now it is time for all of us in attendance to dig the newly acquired business cards out of every orifice and do all that promised follow-up. As they say in the business, same time next year, guys. See you at Altamont.
Lisa Suennen is an independent consultant, board member of AngioScore, and a former managing member of the Psilos Group, as well as the co-author of Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare With Technology? and author of the blog Venture Valkyrie.
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