This week I had the opportunity to ask David Maine a few questions. David works with two different biotech startups, DxDiscovery and Strykagen. DxDiscovery focuses on antibody based diagnostics and therapeutics while StrykaGen is developing transformative therapeutics and diagnostics for life-threatening rare muscle diseases. David himself received a BS in Environmental Resource Economics and a MA in Economics, both from the University of Nevada, Reno. Currently David oversees the business operations and development of DxDiscovery’s suite of diagnostic products while he serves as CFO of StrykaGen. The transcript of the interview follows:
Reid: How did the idea for your startup come about?
David: Academic research has extreme potential for application into commercially available products or services. The idea for startup formation happened organically with successful licensing/partnerships between academic laboratories and private companies. Utilizing these successful experiences towards commercialization from UNR faculty, and assistance from Ryan Heck from the UNR Technology Transfer Office, we have been able to develop a business model that translates academic research into the private market and contributes to local economic development. Between both companies an annual total of $1.5 Million dollars in R&D is underway, employing 11 past or current University of Nevada, Reno students.
R: What pieces of advice would you give to college students who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs?
D: Get out there and make it happen! Work for free, take a risk, fall on your face in front of important people, and get up smiling. You can sleep when your dead.
R: What’s your process for idea generation?
D: Explore the landscape for needs, listen to the academic answer, and formulate strategy for adaptation.
R: What skills would you say are most important to being successful in entrepreneurship?
D: In my opinion, the ability to face failure head on and try again is the single most important thing. This may sound funny, but I learned everything I needed to know about being an entrepreneur through skateboarding. You fall, you fail, you get hurt, you bruise, and you bleed. Yet each failure builds up to achieving your goal. Then you blast it and feel great, and your wheel catches a rock and slams you back down again. This is entrepreneurship, keep pushing.
R: What have been some of your failures and how have you dealt with them?
D: Translating academic know how to a business model or plan is a very tricky process. I worked very hard to develop a business plan for the Sontag competition that reflected the business opportunity and the research. When it came to the 2nd year of entering the competition, (first year did not make it past the 10-page plan), I made it to the finals. My final pitch ended up embarrassing me to the point where I knew 5 minutes in I had failed. The failure came directly from listening too much to everyone else’s advice and forgetting why I was there in the first place. Moving forward I developed a filtering system for advice that has helped me derive basic understanding of the motivations of advice and which pieces hold value.
R: Where do you see you or your startups in ten years?
D: I would like to see DxDiscovery develop a rapid diagnostic test for Pertussis and Lyme disease for use around the world. Additionally, I would like to assist in the development of a therapeutic treatment for meliodosis using our antibodies.
I would like to see StrykaGen fully develop their therapeutic treatments through FDA clearance and be available for patients who suffer from the various forms of Muscular Dystrophy, muscle disease, or muscle related issues.
R: What do you think is the major difference between entrepreneurs and someone that works for someone else?
D: There are no sick days in entrepreneurship.
R: How do you spend time outside of Business?
D: Hanging out with my kids, skateboarding, mountain biking, trail running, or anything outside. I truly enjoy living in these mountains.
R: Who has been your biggest inspiration?
D: Kids, all of them. They live unfiltered, for the most part, and I am always amazed when listening to them.