April 6, 2017 SDEE Get To Know Your Neighbors Event
By Dr. Roberta Vezza Alexander
Osman Kibar, PhD, the founder and CEO of Samumed, gave the keynote address at the SDEE event Get to Know Your Neighbors event on April 6, 2017. Osman is a seasoned entrepreneur who has founded or co-founded several companies before Samumed. With his entertaining communication style, he delivered a great speech and shared interesting personal experiences and tips for how to be a successful entrepreneur. Here are five tips captured from Dr. Kibar’s presentation:
1. Be Risk Tolerant
Entrepreneurship requires a good degree of risk tolerance. If you are an entrepreneur, you know that what you are doing is risky and may not succeed, but you need to maintain a positive attitude to move forward. Confidence and a bit of arrogance help tackle the risks. Don’t be afraid to do something that has been tried by others without success. You have to believe that you can make it, and that your approach is different enough to give your business an edge.
2. Split Personality is OK
Entrepreneurs have a bit of a split personality. They are confident and maybe arrogant, but they need also to be humble and learn from their mistakes. They are visionary and look at the big picture, but cannot be daydreamers. While looking long term, they also need to stay focused and work on the day-to-day activities and the task ahead, be it a board meeting or the next round of funding. And when it’s time to deliver, “you sober up real quick” in the words of Osman!
3. Have Trust
Surround yourself with people you trust and who trust you, so that you can have the necessary confidence, not only in yourself, but also in your team. Samumed has grown to 160 people since 2008, and trust continues to be a big part of the company culture. Trust is also what brings investors to the company. In the investing word, they say that you bet on the jockey, not on the horse. Likewise, investors need to trust the decision maker in order to invest in the company. Reciprocal trust and honesty allows everyone on the team to speak openly, debate ideas, plan next steps, and make better decisions, as you are all in the same boat and work toward a common goal. Your team may even help you buy a suit when Forbes Magazine wants to put you on the cover of the next issue, and the dressiest garment you have is a turquoise polo shirt…
4. Do Not Panic
Naïveté is another trait of entrepreneurs. Samumed started as a joint venture with Pfizer, and when they split from the big pharma, they did not have much money. By the time the fundraising round brought in cash, their bank account had maybe $9,000! But Osmar never panicked and was naïve enough that not even the lawsuit from Pfizer scared him off.
A successful entrepreneur in biotech and pharma needs to decide wisely what to outsource and what is critical enough that needs to be done in house. Samumed keeps the clinical research activities in house by hiring clinical research associates and other personnel, while manufacturing is outsourced. You also need to prioritize your pipeline to maximize chances of success and revenues. Samumed prioritizes therapeutic areas based on scientific feasibility (pharmacokinetics, route of administration, formulation), clinical trial feasibility, and commercial opportunity. The best financial rewards come from areas with low competition, and Samumed is fortunate to develop molecules that are potentially disease-modifying and, thus, has little competition. Commercialization can be done with or without partners, and Samumed uses different approaches for different molecules or therapeutic areas. Importantly, all the decisions are made by the company, not the investors, so that the company is always in control.
Osman’s presentation was very enjoyable, and all entrepreneurs can certainly learn a lot from his experience and advice.