Financing MedTech from Boone to Burlington
Flywheel Coworking takes an active role in the communities we serve. Our suite of programming is designed to educate, inspire, and connect entrepreneurs, resulting in new business formation, growth of existing businesses, and a more dynamic and resilient economy. Flywheel designs and operates coworking innovation space in partnership with premier educational institutions and local community partners. We regularly partner with other entrepreneurship organizations to run programming at the intersections of where our organizations meet.
So when Womble Bond Dickinson reached out to us to help develop a program at Venture Café, we jumped on the opportunity. Womble is a transatlantic law firm founded here in Winston-Salem, boasting expert lawyers across twelve broad economic sectors, with 28 offices in the US and UK. In the Winston-Salem office, Womble is lucky to employ Heather Hatcher, Regulatory Scientist, and Martika Harper, Regulatory Research Analyst. They are experts in effectively guiding clients through the complex regulatory landscape governed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) toward market authorization.
Heather and Martika approached Flywheel to help solve a simple question: How do we get all the right resources aligned to help physician-entrepreneurs and others in health industries to start and grow a scalable venture? The NC Biotechnology Center has done a fantastic job establishing NC as a leader in biotech, and we need to match those efforts. We have fantastic resources including two major hospitals, a medical school, and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. Our corporate leaders, government, and ecosystem partners are all rowing the same direction. How can we support MedTech and related industries like we already do with early stage tech, creatives, and small business?
Why did Womble approach Flywheel to help with this? Because we are experienced with early stage entrepreneurship. In just five years of operation we have supported sixty-two companies, and more than 50% have received growth financing and are hiring new employees.. Through the New Ventures Accelerator, we have helped launch 18 new companies in the past 4 years. Those companies have received $10MM in follow-on funding. New Ventures is industry agnostic – our primary criteria are that they are scalable, the founding team is excellent, and there is a compelling innovation driving the company’s competitive advantage. After the accelerator, companies graduate into Winston Starts, a non-profit incubator, giving them longer runways so they can continue working on their business with expert guidance. Through this and our other programs, we are well connected to mentors, investors, entrepreneurs, and government.
For our inaugural event with Womble Bond Dickinson we wanted to address two of the largest hurdles for companies in health industries: Regulatory Uncertainty and Access to Capital. Regulatory Uncertainty is something that Womble is uniquely suited to address, and it’s one big reason why many investors avoid life sciences, drug development, and medical devices completely.
Quick primer on Venture Capital timelines: VCs want to exit all investments and close a fund within 10 years of raising it. That means they typically make all of their initial investments in years 0-5, with some “dry powder” reserved for follow-on investment in those companies that do well. It takes on average 12 years and $350MM to get a drug from the laboratory to the pharmacy shelf. Then the company can start making money and potentially be acquired, finally creating a return for the VC and their Limited Partners. This doesn’t work for most investors, particularly for those who are risk averse or inexperienced with the regulatory process.
With that background, we decided to host two panel discussion at Venture Café Winston-Salem. If you’ve never been, go this week. It’s the front door to entrepreneurship in Winston-Salem. The 1st panel focused on regional resources for entrepreneurs and non-dilutive grant funding. Womble’s Heather Hatcher was featured on the panel with Chris Veal, Counselor at The Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), and David Kaiser, Asst. Dir of the Office of Science, Technology & Innovation, NC Dept. of Commerce. Adrian Smith, Flywheel’s Program Director, moderated.
The 2nd panel focused on venture financing and was moderated by Martika Harper; the panelists included Adam Orsborn, CEO of OrbitalRX (a New Ventures company), Omeed Rahimi, CSO of Encepheal, and Tom Hearn, partner at Dioko Ventures.
Entrepreneurial Ecosystems thrive when led by entrepreneurs. Adam and Omeed exhibited their leadership by giving back to the community and sharing their companies’ stories. They are building world-class companies right here in Winston-Salem, and we would like to thank them for giving back.
OrbitalRX allows you to proactively manage drug shortages by giving you the power of real-time situational awareness through a comprehensive data-unifying platform built to true hospital pharmacy workflows. Their platform actively aggregates data from across the entire health system, as well as external sources, then combines it with situational awareness of each hospital’s unique environment. They are growing rapidly, now with offices in Raleigh and Winston-Salem.
EncepHEAL Therapeutics is on a mission to change the lives of those suffering from substance use disorders and other mental health diseases. They enhance the development of first-in-class medicines to improve treatment of mental health disorders by propelling innovations from the lab into safe, affordable, and effective medicines for our patients. The company resulted from the Neuro Startup Challenge sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.
Several of the audience members were entrepreneurs working on novel ideas in this space. Because of the foresight of the Womble team and the generosity of the panel members, those entrepreneurs now have more resources at their disposal. Flywheel staff will be meeting with several of those in attendance to get them further plugged in to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We consider that a tremendous success, and it’s why we are active in the community.
Thank you to Womble Bond Dickinson for inviting us to collaborate on this program. We look forward to working with them over the coming year!
To learn more about Flywheel’s coworking space, take a look at our website: Flywheel Coworking. Click through to learn more about New Ventures, Open Runway, our acceleration on demand program, Office Hours, and the Flywheel Foundation, which supports all of our programming. You can find us on social @FlywheelCowork.