Mastering the Venture Game: John Milad’s Journey from Passion to Powerhouse in Life Sciences Capitalism

John Milad’s Masterclass: Navigating Life Sciences Venture Capital with Resilience & Strategy

In this insightful episode of “Bright Founders Talk,” we are thrilled to welcome John Milad, a CEO of ERS Genomics and a seasoned life sciences venture capitalist. John, with his deep-rooted expertise in the field, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our discussion. Our host, Barry, delves into John’s journey from a New Hampshire country boy to a Wall Street financier, exploring his transition into healthcare innovation and venture capitalism. John shares his unique perspective on the diverse paths to success, emphasizing the individuality of each entrepreneurial journey. His story is a testament to the power of ambition and adaptability, reflecting on his academic beginnings at the University of Chicago to his dynamic career in finance, healthcare, and technology.

Throughout the interview, John provides valuable insights into the intersection of business, technology, and healthcare, a realm he has navigated with remarkable acumen. His journey is a rich narrative of evolving from an investment banker to a hands-on role in shaping healthcare innovations, highlighting his roles in various international ventures and investments in health tech, including a seminal involvement with WebMD.

Listeners will be inspired by John’s commitment to enhancing healthcare through technology, and his strategic moves in the medtech sector. His leadership in transforming ideas into successful ventures showcases the importance of vision and execution in the entrepreneurial world. Join us as we explore the depth of John’s experience and gather wisdom from his remarkable career journey.

John Milad's Masterclass: Navigating Life Sciences Venture Capital with Resilience & Strategy
John’s Journey: From Wall Street to Wellness – A Venture Capitalist’s Tale in Healthcare Innovation

John’s story isn’t your typical rags-to-riches tale. It’s more of a ‘from the rustic roads of New Hampshire to the bustling streets of Wall Street’ kind of journey. Growing up in a small village, John was always hungry for more. He recalls, “I was a country boy, hungry to get out and see the world.” And see the world he did, starting with his academic pursuit at the University of Chicago, followed by a dive into the deep end of finance on Wall Street. It’s not just about the big deals for John; it’s about the bigger picture. This early chapter of his life wasn’t just a career move; it was the beginning of a lifelong quest for knowledge and impact.

I was a country boy, hungry to get out and see the world

Imagine this: you’re at the top of your game in finance, and then, boom! A fascination for healthcare innovation strikes. That’s what happened to John. His pivot wasn’t just a career change; it was a paradigm shift. “Finance gives you a set of tools to understand things,” John muses, “how to raise capital, how to value things.” But for him, the real thrill lay in the intersection of business, technology, and healthcare. It’s where he found his true calling. His journey into healthcare wasn’t just about understanding the sector; it was about reshaping it. From London to New York, his quest led him to explore the intricate world of healthcare ecosystems, helping founders and entrepreneurs navigate the complex waters of IPOs and strategic exits.

Picture this: the late ’90s, the dot-com boom in full swing, and John, the ‘young guy’ in the fund, diving headfirst into the burgeoning world of health tech. His work with a precursor to WebMD isn’t just a notch on his belt; it’s a testament to his foresight and adaptability. “It whet my appetite for health tech,” he recalls. This was more than just an investment; it was a pioneering move in a field that would soon become integral to modern healthcare. John’s narrative isn’t just about the successful investments or the strategic moves; it’s about being part of a revolution in healthcare, where technology meets medicine, creating a new paradigm of patient care and innovation.

From Concept to Commercial Success: John’s Trailblazing Journey in Tech Innovation

In the dynamic world of technology, few stories are as compelling as John’s. Starting with a mere concept, he navigated through the intricate maze of software development, embedding cutting-edge technology into life-changing products. John’s journey wasn’t just about developing a product; it was about revolutionizing how we approach digital health platforms. His team’s blend of internal and external capabilities led to the creation of a user-friendly GUI, and cloud-based applications that significantly eased the burden on both patients and clinicians. “It was quite an extensive lift,” John reflects, revealing the sheer scale of the project that involved every facet of software development. This wasn’t just a technical achievement; it was a testament to his leadership in bringing together a diverse team to achieve a common goal.

Imagine raising the largest funding round in your industry, launching a product successfully in multiple countries, and then receiving prestigious awards like the Royal Academy of Engineering’s MacRobert Award – often dubbed the Nobel Prize of engineering. That’s exactly the pinnacle John reached. His narrative goes beyond just developing and launching a product; it’s about setting new benchmarks in engineering innovation. “Lots of good things happened,” John modestly says, downplaying his monumental success. His journey through the highs and lows of this project reflects not just the resilience required in tech innovation, but the potential for true excellence.

Lots of good things happened

John’s recent endeavors paint a picture of a seasoned mentor and advisor, sharing his vast experiences with a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs. “It’s hard,” he admits about the journey, but he also emphasizes the joy of watching a project reach fruition. His role in shaping the direction and strategy of various companies, and seeing his insights bear fruit, has been deeply gratifying. But perhaps the most rewarding part for John has been interacting with other entrepreneurs, sharing war stories, and offering guidance. “That was probably the most gratifying part,” he confesses, underscoring the importance of sharing knowledge and experiences in the ever-evolving world of technology and entrepreneurship.

Fundraising, as John puts it, is always a challenge, but it’s also a crucible for learning resilience. He reminisces about the times at Quanta, raising almost $400 million – an impressive feat, yet not without its share of dry spells and rejections. “After the 100th investor tells you ‘no’, you’ve got to pick yourself back up,” John reflects. It’s a candid glimpse into the less glamorous side of entrepreneurship, highlighting the necessity of developing a thick skin. John’s journey wasn’t just about the money raised; it was about the perseverance and the ability to keep pushing forward, even when the path seemed bleak.

After the 100th investor tells you ‘no’, you’ve got to pick yourself back up

John’s attempt to raise a new venture fund in a less-than-ideal market stands as a testament to his adaptability and wisdom. He learned to read the room, understanding when to push forward and when to pivot. “It’s about being okay with trying something audacious and accepting that you might not succeed,” he shares. This isn’t just about business strategy; it’s a lesson in humility and the art of listening – not just to the loud ovations of success but also to the subtle whispers of the market telling you it’s time to rethink your approach.

John believes that while educated guesses about market directions are possible, the true challenge lies in the timing. He stresses the importance of surviving the short term to enjoy the long-term benefits, a philosophy forged in the fires of the 2008 financial crisis. “It’s almost foolhardy to have a plan that relies on the world changing,” he advises, emphasizing the need to work with current circumstances while staying aware of potential shifts. His narrative isn’t just about predicting market trends; it’s about the wisdom to navigate through them, balancing optimism with the practicality of survival.

Venture Capitalism Decoded: John’s Formula for Success in the High-Stakes World

In the high-octane world of venture capitalism, success doesn’t come easy. But for John, it’s all about the strategy, execution, and, most intriguingly, the art of ‘social promiscuity’ combined with ‘intellectual promiscuity.’ “You’ve got to be known to find all and find the relevant set of opportunities,” he explains. It’s not just about networking; it’s about cultivating an insatiable intellectual curiosity and a knack for connecting with people. John’s approach shifts from casting a wide net to focusing intensely on the potential winners. It’s a blend of intellectual agility and the resilience to dive deep into multiple areas, a skill crucial in the diverse landscape of life sciences. His mantra? Be socially adept, intellectually curious, and resilient enough to dig deep.

A Holistic View of Ventures: John emphasizes that venture capitalism is more than just finding the next big technological breakthrough. It’s about connecting the dots – from IP and regulatory paths to the all-important question of who’s paying. “Start with the end in mind,” he advises. This holistic approach is what sets successful ventures apart. It’s not just about being enamored with the science; it’s understanding the entire ecosystem in which your innovation will thrive. For John, this comprehensive understanding of the market, combined with a sharp business sense for negotiation and investment management, forms the backbone of effective venture capitalism.

Start with the end in mind

For those dreaming of diving into the world of venture capitalism or entrepreneurship, John’s advice is gold. “Start from the end and work backwards,” he suggests, urging upcoming entrepreneurs to focus on creating a narrative that culminates in success. His counsel extends beyond just ideation; it’s about envisaging the entire journey – from solving a genuine problem to navigating the intricate pathways of IP, regulatory compliance, and commercial viability. John’s advice isn’t just theory; it’s a roadmap drawn from years of experience and success, offering invaluable insights for anyone looking to make their mark in this challenging yet rewarding field.

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