At last week’s Entrepreneurship 101 lecture we welcomed a panel of life sciences and healthcare entrepreneurs, as well as volunteer advisor and moderator Jon Rogers, as part of the Meet the Entrepreneurs mini-series.

Meet the panel

Don Waugh has over 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, most recently as the founder and co-CEO of Applied Recognition Inc., providing advanced recognition technology to consumer products.

Joanna Griffiths is the founder and CEO of Knix Wear, a revolutionary women’s underwear brand that pairs high-performance fabrics with stylish designs. Joanna has over seven years of marketing and public relations experience, and her crowdfunding campaign turned Knix Wear into the most-funded Canadian fashion project of all time.

Chia Chia Sun is the founder and CEO of Damiva Inc. Trained as a scientist, management consultant and pharmaceutical executive in cancer drug development, Chia Chia debuted her company’s all-natural over-the-counter products for women’s health and personal care on CBC TV’s “Dragons’ Den.”

These three entrepreneurs offered the Entrepreneurship 101 audience valuable advice on three major themes.

1. Value proposition

As an entrepreneur in the life sciences and healthcare space, there’s no doubt that you’ve spent countless hours working on your technology and that you’re incredibly excited about it. When it comes to your value proposition, however, it’s important to be focused on the customer rather than on the technology. You must convey how the technology will benefit the customer, rather than how it works or what it does.

2. Commercialization strategy

The panellists had very different strategies when it came to commercializing their products.

  • Chia Chia leveraged her international work experience to build Damiva as an international company right away, recognizing that the Canadian market is very small in the grand scheme of things.
  • Knix Wear started out by selling to a niche market (although, not the one they had initially intended to sell to). Joanna and the Knix Wear team found that it was easier to write a value proposition for a smaller market with very specific needs, which also helped to minimize competition and allowed the company to grow rapidly.
  • Applied Recognition sought out large partners to expedite their product development and enter the market. This is often a necessary strategy for medical devices, as the cost and time it takes to implement processes from scratch is often too much for a small company that is just starting out to handle.

3. Creating a successful team

In this category, all three entrepreneurs agreed that it is critical to assess your team’s expertise and fill in any gaps with strategic hires. For other non-critical roles, individual tasks should be delineated and outsourced. Startups must spend their money wisely, and all three companies followed this strategy to keep overhead costs to a minimum.

To close the conversation, the panellists shared the two most important lessons they’ve each learned throughout their entrepreneurial experiences. To hear these lessons, watch the video here.

Produced by MaRS.

Next lecture: Board/Governance on Wednesday, March 5, 2014


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Lauren Seymour

Lauren worked with the entrepreneurship programs team at MaRS. She kept track of thousands of event attendees and assisted in marketing efforts to keep them coming back for more. See more…