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The Value of Bumping Into People in the Hall: A Lesson from the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference

Xconomy Seattle — 

Twitter and Facebook have taken social networking to a higher level on the web, but I just got a reminder about the power of actually meeting people in person. I’m talking about the kind of interactions that happen when attending a jam-packed professional conference and bumping into a lot of smart people with similar interests. This was one thought that struck me this week on my way home to Seattle from the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco.

Like most everybody else there, my calendar was a relentless series of 30 to 45-minute meetings from dawn to dusk, followed by more networking at receptions late into the night. My official plan was to come away with a bunch of exclusive interviews, and help plan coverage priorities through the year.

But when I had a little quiet time on my way to the airport yesterday, I started thinking about what else happened during the trip, besides the planned stuff. And I started tallying up the names of all the people from Seattle biotech who I saw even though I didn’t schedule anything with them. I came up with 24 people I bumped into accidentally and chatted with briefly—and I didn’t have to tweet them or list my status. They are all working on newsworthy things, and a few of these chance meetings gave me a few new story ideas and insights.

So I decided to list the names of the people I met serendipitously, although my sample was admittedly concentrated over four days at San Francisco’s Westin St. Francis. If you have any similar experiences from this meeting, or any other like it, and found some surprisingly valuable connection happened this way, please don’t hesitate to post a comment at the bottom of the story.

Stacie Byars. Director of membership, Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association. Met in hallway at St. Francis after SonoSite talk.

Meenu Chhabra. CEO of Allozyne. Met at the elevators in the Clift.

Tom Clement. Chairman of Pathway Medical. Met at the BioCentury reception.

David Fanning. CEO of Theraclone Sciences. Met at Canaan Partners reception.

Ken Galbraith. Managing director with Ventures West in Vancouver. Met on Powell St in front of St. Francis.

Carol Gallagher. CEO of Calistoga Pharmaceuticals. … Next Page »

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  • Luke, I completely agree that one of the main benefits of attending this conference are the many chance meetings that occur in the hallways and public places around town. Silere Medical was a presenting company at the OneMedForum, running concurrently with the JP Morgan conference, which was also very well attended. I bumped into many folks at the various receptions late at night as well. Sorry I missed seeing you this week.

  • Chad Waite

    You missed Carl and I, as well as the rest of the Accelerator folks.
    I saw you interviewing someone at the Clift as I was disappearing on a secret mission up an elevator!

  • Micheal, I’m glad to hear you had a good conference. I’m happy to get coffee sometime to learn more about what you’re doing with Silere.

    Chad, I must say I’m curious about this secret mission at the Clift. If it materializes into something later this year, I definitely want to hear about the anecdote in detail. Even the part about how you escaped this reporter’s surveillance—-Luke

  • Michael, I’m glad to hear you had a good conference. I’m happy to get coffee sometime to learn more about what you’re doing with Silere.

    Chad, I must say I’m curious about this secret mission at the Clift. If it materializes into something later this year, I definitely want to hear about the anecdote in detail. Even the part about how you escaped this reporter’s surveillance—-Luke

  • Luke, you’re insightful to blog on this phenomenon of the JPM Conf. The reality is that with tickets to the conference at a premium and the number of banks which have meetings in nearby venues, a significant number of “unofficial” people have gravitated to this meeting each year. They count on the “hallway bump” and the snapshot greetings turn into a full length movie by week’s end. Like you, I’ve certainly benefitted from all of the re-acquainting and networking done last week. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  • Luke, no question that this forum is second to none in the world of life sciences with the number of quality and high profile folks concentrated in and around Union Square.
    While many of us have our schedules full with meetings, the ad-hoc meetings while passing through the lobbies, meeting in the street or while having a breakfast or a lunch meeting at Max’s is the most exciting part. Of course, the various receptions hosted by the folks we all know are the best for bumping into old friends and make new acquaintences. This last week at the JPMorgan conference was an excellent start to 2010.

  • Luke, I’ve been attending this conference since it had the H&Q brand, and it is good to see the industry thriving like it is. It would be great if we could get more of the serendipitous meeting quotient into the next WBBA Invest Northwest conference. Maybe Chris and his team need to secure a more concentrated and centralized venue like the St. Francis — perhaps the Fairmont Olympic? I went down to SF to bump into some of the early-stage presenters in my efforts to find more life sciences deal flow for the Keiretsu Forum. Some of my unscheduled meetings were with DC-based Chas Roads from The Advisory Board Company after his presentation Monday evening, and also my brother, in from Boston to support Lumira Capital’s portfolio companies such as Cardiac Dimensions here in Kirkland. Later on we had dinner down at Scoma’s and bumped into people there. Cheers and thanks for the post.

  • Berry, my understanding is that the WBBA is revamping its annual conference to be more inclusive of not just investors, but pharma business development types from around the country. It will still be held at the Bell Harbor Conference Center at Pier 66, which I think is a great venue with beautiful views, but it’s also hard to fill for a regional biotech investment conference.

    Part of the magic at JP Morgan is that the St. Francis is a classic old hotel along the world-famous cable car route. It’s also well timed in January when the weather is nice in SF and everybody is in the mood to think about the year ahead. And as a compact venue, it creates a jam-packed feeling that seems to raise the metabolism of attendees. It also has the benefit of so much tradition, having been around for more than 25 years.

  • Hi Luke:
    As always, great to see you! In-person, smiling and intently in thought about life sciences! :)

    Thanks for responding to Berry’s comment on WBBA’s Life Science Innovation NW conference this spring, March 16 & 17 at Bell Harbor. We producing a fabulous, 2-day jam-packed program and hope to crowd the halls as well. Registration is NOW open!

  • Kevin Chow

    Probably stating the obvious to those responding to this article, but one of the best things from the business development point of view at JPM are all the coffee shops, diners, bookstores, stairwells, and other nooks and crannies around Union Square where you can conduct pre-arranged or inpromptu partnering discussions. You don’t even need to be registered for JPM yet can achieve a lot of good meetings to get the year off to a good start. You can even rendezvous at the most central meeting point (the famous St. Francis clock) without being registered. Bell Harbor is definitely nice, but not quite as many peripheral meeting spots due to its somewhat isolated waterfront location.