Three lessons I learned from Fundraising


By David Lindsay, Co-founder of Oncora Medical

If you’re thinking about starting a company with VC money, I have a few tips for you! My company, Oncora Medical, is a Philly-based digital health company that just raised a $1.2M seed round; it builds predictive analytics software for radiation oncologists. While fundraising for Oncora, I learned some valuable lessons.

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1. Act on good advice. When a venture capitalist takes time out of their day to discuss your business with you, validate them by actually implementing their advice. They may have agreed to introduce you to a potential advisor, key opinion leader, or future collaborator. Follow up with those introductions in a timely manner and try to learn as much as you can from the interaction. If the person you are meeting with gives you a specific suggestion about your product or service, make sure you at least look into the value of their suggestion. If you make progress in the areas that they have identified, you have the perfect excuse to reach back out to them with results. A month or two after the initial email, shoot them a specific update email.

I did this with Oncora after meeting Dr. Gary Kurtzman, the managing director of Safeguard Scientifics’ healthcare practice and lecturer at Wharton. He first took a phone meeting with me back in January of 2015, and strongly advised me to break our “software platform” into three discrete products. Over the next month, our team developed product names (and logos) for the three key components of our software. Dr. Kurtzman is now chairman of our board of directors, and one of my closest advisors.

2. Don’t take low probability shots. One of my advisors once told me something that felt somewhat contrary to the standard sound bite, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Paraphrasing, he basically said, “If you miss a bunch of shots, your coach is going to bench you.” When you ask for money and get a no, that is not a good thing. It lowers your confidence (hopefully not too much), but worse, it can make other VCs think they should say no, too (no one wants to buy something that no one else wants).

You can avoid this problem by not asking your VC contacts for money until you are ready (ask for advice instead). You can also phrase your request for money in the subjective. For example, I would always ask VCs the following question during calls: “for you to make an investment in a company like Oncora, what would you need to see in terms of traction, clinical partnerships, etc?” Then go do what they tell you to do and update them in a month (without being too annoying). Then once you have some traction, start asking.

3. Be genuine and nice. This should go without saying, but don’t lie or exaggerate about your progress. VCs are investing in YOU, not just your idea and your traction. When things go wrong with product development (which they inevitably will), your investors want someone they trust at the wheel. When you are genuine, things are just better.

Bio: David Lindsay is on a leave of absence from the MD/PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania and has a BS in neurobiology and MS in mathematics from UConn. He is one of the founders of Oncora Medical, a health technology startup in Philadelphia.

The Wharton Business Plan Competition: Wait, we still have one of those?

Scott Bierbryer WG’14, Co-Founder of VeryApt

“Please move slowly and don’t break anything,” says my Jewish mother

In a tech ecosystem that idolizes Facebook (“move fast and break things”) and Y Combinator, the Business Plan Competition feels particularly anachronistic and maybe even damaging to innovation. I couldn’t disagree more.

Virtually all the finalists have working prototypes and traction

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Hypothetical Snapchat from Joseph Wharton from the last time most people assume we needed business plans. I figure he wears one of those green accounting visors, so I added that.

Read more The Wharton Business Plan Competition: Wait, we still have one of those?

A Tale of Transformation

By Mike Kijewski LPS’10/WG’12, Founder of Gamma Basics

After undergrad, I was teaching AP chemistry and physics to suburban Philadelphia seniors.  My young, undergraduate vision included inspiring them to look at the world in an inquisitive and analytical way and to strive for personal evolution.  After three years of trying to help them discover their own dreams, I understood that I was failing at my own teaching.  While I loved my experiences inside the classroom, I realized that I wanted a career that was more entrepreneurial while still helping to improve the lives of those around me.

Mike used WVA funds to attend the 2011 American Association of Physicists in Medicine converence in Vancouver. At that show, they met their second largest customer.
Mike used WVA funds to attend the 2011 American Association of Physicists in Medicine converence in Vancouver. At that show, they met their second largest customer.

Read more A Tale of Transformation

R.I.P. FinTech

By Matt Carey C’07/WG’15, Co-founder of Abaris

Financial technology (FinTech) as a niche is dead. No, it’s not going away. Rather, financial technology is on the cusp of becoming so entrenched in every aspect of global finance that we’ll stop thinking of it as a niche and start thinking of it as the core of how financial services is delivered to consumers, corporations and institutional investors. The rise of FinTech will actually accelerate the already blurred lines between bank and nonbank institutions, between an algorithm and a human salesforce, and between the work of machines and the work of flesh-and-blood professionals.

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Shazam and Monetate CEOs Talk Scaling

By Nadine Kavanaugh, Associate Director, Wharton Entrepreneurship

At our recent Alumni Dinner in Philadelphia, Rich Riley W’96, CEO of Shazam and Lucnida Duncalfe C’85/WG’91, CEO of Monetate, sat down and opened up about what it’s really like to scale a company. If you were in the room, you got to hear what Rich Riley thinks Marissa Mayer should do with Yahoo… But even if you couldn’t be there, here are some fascinating insights from these two tremendous entrepreneurs:

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Read more Shazam and Monetate CEOs Talk Scaling

Coming to an Innovation District Near You

By Jeff Voigt WG’85, Principal, Medical Device Consultants of Ridgewood

A not-so-quiet revolution around medical innovation is taking place in the Philadelphia area. The Penn Center for Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania, the Bossone Research Center at Drexel University and the Jefferson Innovation Center are all helping startup medical companies get to market.Innovation District 600 x 450 Read more Coming to an Innovation District Near You

Decisions, Decisions: How to Choose Your Investors

Karthik Sridharan W’07/ENG’07, Co-founder and CEO of Kinnek

Properly choosing your investors is one of the most important, but often overlooked, aspects of building a tech company. As an early-stage entrepreneur, you’re constantly dealing with so many major existential questions (“Will our company exist next week?”, “Why can’t we convince a single person to invest any money in us?”), that the matter of deciding between multiple investors seems like a real first-world problem. I had many friends volunteer the advice that “beggars can’t be choosers” in those early-stages; they figured we should just take money wherever we could find it. Boy, am I’m glad I didn’t listen to them!

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Water Flows Toward Sustainable Business Solutions

By Matthew Brodsky, Editor, Wharton Magazine

The price of oil is bobbing below $30 a barrel—perhaps we’re close to a point where water will actually be valued more than black gold. Then again, until we come to appreciate water’s true scarcity, the price will always be too low. And things that aren’t valued … we know what happens to them. They’re wasted and abused. One alumnus is grappling with this problem.

“How do we advance innovative solutions to water management in the absence of a price that captures the resource’s value?”

Those are the words of Nimesh Modak WG’15, a Wharton grad who earned a concurrent MPA at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

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My Recurring Mistake in Managing Boards…and How to Easily Avoid It

By Todd Gibby WG’97, CEO at BoardEffect

So, I admit it.  I’ve attended a board meeting without feeling fully prepared.  And not just once.  I’ve done it many times when serving in many different roles: as a board member, as an entrepreneur and executive responsible for managing my own board, and as a staff member tasked with supporting the work of the board.  To be sure, there are widely varying degrees of preparedness; and it is fair to say that one can always be better prepared.  So, it’s quite rare that I feel completely ready for any board meeting.  And when I do, it’s usually an indication that I’ve actually allocated far too much valuable time to the task of meeting prep!

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What Did Winning the #WhartonBPC Mean To You?

By Marissa Carberry WG’17, Marketing Director for the 2016 Business Plan Competition

While at Wharton, Tom Austin and Zack Stiefler, both WG’15, founded Bungalow Insurance, an online platform that leverages data and design to improve the experience of sourcing renters’ insurance. Bungalow partners with insurance companies and distributes contracts directly to consumers, who, in turn, source insurance without having to meet with agents. In 2015, the founders won the Business Plan Competition’s $30,000 Perlman Grand Prize.

We checked in with Tom and Zack to see how things have been going since winning the Business Plan Competition.

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