Biotech Jet-Setter, Chris Rivera, Aims to Build Washington’s Life Sciences Cluster, Part 2

1/13/09Follow @xconomy

Yesterday, we ran the first part of an extended interview with Chris Rivera, the new president of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association. He talked about how his skills are different from those of his predecessor, Jack Faris, and the assets this region has compared to Boston and San Francisco, the two global life sciences capitals where he has spent much of his career. Today, we follow up with how he intends to raise the profile of Seattle as one of those hotspots.

Xconomy: I see you have four old-school turnstile Rolodexes on your desk. Are you working through all of that?

Chris Rivera: Those are Jack’s (Faris). My cards are all over the place [pointing to another Rolodex on another part of the desk]. I’ve gone through a few of his.

X: How many people do you know in Jack’s Rolodex? Is your network in a whole different sphere of industry insiders?

CR: My Rolodex is very different. I’m meeting a lot of people I’ve never met before. I’m meeting angel investors, association leaders, law firms, accounting firms. My Rolodex is really with a lot of investors I got to know when I started building divisions in companies in Boston and San Francisco. I know a lot of former colleagues, who are now consulting or doing other things. One of the things I’m trying to do is reach out to people I’ve encountered over my career, and start to have them look to Seattle, and hopefully make an introduction to what’s going on up here. A lot of it will be letting them know about Washington’s life sciences industry, and why they should be interested in it. Our Rolodexes are complementary. There’s very little overlap.

X: What are your goals in the first six months or year?

CR: Strategically, first and foremost, I want to make sure we’re providing value to our members. It’s about thinking of us as a business. We need to do a good job of marketing and communicating why there’s a benefit to being a member of WBBA. Second, it’s not just Washington, but nationally and internationally, we need to help facilitate access to capital. Are there one or two strategies we can facilitate, and push through on a local, state level, or just bringing more investors in here to look at companies that trying to get financing. Third, is making sure we do what we can as an association that licensing technology out of institutions is not as cumbersome as it has been in the past. I want to make sure we have relationships to help get companies started. Fourth, I want to help facilitate the recruiting and retention of talent. The reason I based my company in San Francisco (Hyperion), is that I went from two employees to 25 employees in two weeks after signing a financial transaction. I hoped to base the company here, but I couldn’t find the talent I needed. I hope we can help facilitate and work with the universities and other companies to develop talent and keep it here.

X: What about interaction with the general public? I’m curious what reaction you get from the general public when you say you run the biotech association, or you’re a biotech guy?

CR: I’m generalizing, but I don’t think the knowledge or understanding of the biotech or biomedical industry is as well ingrained here as in Boston or San Francisco. In those two markets, if nothing else, people can at least … Next Page »

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