In this blog, I'm going to share how I first learned to turn a "no" into a "yes," and some of my earliest, most powerful business lessons that have served me for 30 years.
If you don't ask, you don't get. And if you get a "no," find another way to get to "yes." I first learned both of these things when I was an undergraduate at MIT.
I created my first "start-up" organization during my sophomore year at MIT back in 1980. The group was called Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) -- an organization that I'm proud to say is still going strong today. I started it when I found out there was no pre-existing space organization at MIT. At that very first "founding meeting," 30 people showed up, and at the end of the meeting we had a charter, a constitution and a mission. Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine started a chapter at (Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame later became president of that chapter), another friend started a chapter at Yale. After an article appeared about SEDS in Astronomy and in Omni magazine (which used to be one of the top science magazines), I received hundreds of letters from undergraduates at other campuses wanting to start chapters.
SEDS ultimately became a national and international student space organization, with 100-plus chapters around the world. Running an international organization out of my fraternity living room was no easy feat... especially in those pre-Internet days when communication by phone was cost-prohibitive and the only other option was snail mail. I'm fond of saying that SEDS was the ultimate MBA, teaching me everything I needed about leadership, finance, management and fundraising.
My first lesson in fundraising came when I set out to raise the massive sum of $5,000 (remember, this was 30 years ago!) to cover the cost of printing and mailing the International Chapter Newsletters. Through friends and faculty I had a few fundraising meetings set up, but in each case, as I got close to asking for the money, I ultimately didn't. For some reason, I just couldn't bring myself to make the "ask."
I had heard the phrase, "if you don't ask, you won't get," and I now understood exactly what that meant. Ultimately the first step in raising funds was to overcome my own personal fear of rejection. My next meeting turned out to be with the President of Draper Labs. Draper Labs had been the famed partner to MIT in creating the Navigation & Guidance Systems for the Apollo program, and if there was ever an organization that should support SEDS, surely it would be Draper.
Committed to making the actual ask, I gave the president my pitch with all of the passion I could summon. I knew at the end of my presentation that I really had done my best, and I was quite hopeful.
But at the end, when that awkward silence that followed my pitch finally broke, his response was disappointing: "Peter, I love what you're doing and would love to support you, but Draper Labs is a nonprofit; I'm unable to give you the money you want."
At that, I nodded in acceptance and was literally walking out the door when I remembered another piece of advice: Don't take no for an answer.
I turned back to him and said, "I have one more question: 'Those newsletters I'm trying to get printed -- any chance you have the ability to print them here at Draper?'" He said he did. I continued, "And, any chance you could mail them out to our chapters for us as well?" He said he could.
Ultimately the cost and scope of Draper Lab's contributions of printing and mailing over the subsequent years well exceeded $50,000. A $5,000 turn-down was converted into a massive success by remembering two things:
1. There is ALWAYS something you should take away from every fundraising meeting you hold;
2. Sometimes, the donation of goods or services is much easier and more valuable than cash.
Today, whenever I take a fundraising meeting that doesn't result in an investment, at a minimum I'm committed to extracting value from it. That value can come in multiple forms:
1. Ask them why they didn't invest or contribute. Learn from them!
2. Ask them under what conditions they would invest or contribute.
3. Ask them whom else you should go to and ask for an investment.
4. Ask them for an introduction!
When you invest your time in having the meeting and you're coming from a place of passion and commitment, almost everyone will find some way to help you.
In my next blog I'm going to explore why 100-year-old, billion-dollar companies go out of business... the difference between Linear vs. Exponential Thinking.
NOTE: As always, I would love your help in co-creating BOLD, and will happily acknowledge you as a "contributing author" for your input. Please share with me (and the community) in the comments below what you specifically found most interesting, what you disagree with and any similar stories or examples that reinforce this blog that I might use as examples in writing BOLD. Thank you!
#nanotechnology #nanotech #research #innovation #MIT
..."We might be in a golden age of making such tools,” says , a neuroengineer at MIT, “because most fields of engineering had not been applied to the brain, so there’s just a gold rush of possibility.”
Today I am pleased to announce that four of the brightest and most accomplished individuals in the fields of medicine, drug development, molecular biology and genetics have joined Calico.
• Hal V. Barron, M.D.
• David Botstein, Ph.D.
• Robert Cohen, M.D.
• Cynthia Kenyon, Ph.D.
Hal Barron is one of the most respected clinician-scientists and successful drug developers in the biotechnology industry. Hal will join us as President, Research and Development. Hal was most recently Executive Vice President, Head of Global Product Development and Chief Medical Officer of Hoffmann-La Roche. There he was responsible for all the products in the combined portfolio of Roche and Genentech. Barron joined Genentech in 1996 as a clinical scientist. During the next several years, he held positions of increasing responsibility and leadership within Cardiovascular Research and Specialty Therapeutics. In 2002 Barron was promoted to vice president, Medical Affairs. In 2003 he became the senior vice president of Development and in 2004 he was appointed chief medical officer. In 2003 he became the senior vice president of Development. In 2004 he was appointed chief medical officer and in 2009 he was appointed executive vice president.
Prior to joining Genentech, Barron received his Bachelor of Science in physics from Washington University in St. Louis, his Medical Degree from Yale University and completed his training in medicine and cardiology at the University of California San Francisco. Barron’s academic positions include Associate Adjunct Professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He has been issued several patents for his work in thrombosis and angiogenesis and has published more than 90 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
David Botstein is one of the world’s leading geneticists, and will join Calico as Chief Scientific Officer. He comes to us from Princeton University, where he was Director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute from 2003-2013, and where he remains the Anthony B. Evnin Professor of Genomics. David was educated at Harvard (A.B.) and the University of Michigan (Ph.D.). He taught at MIT (1967-1987); became Vice President at Genentech (1987-1990), and then Chairman of Genetics at Stanford (1990-2003). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1981 and the Institute of Medicine in 1993. Among his awards are the Eli Lilly Award (1978), the Genetics Society Medal (1988), the American Society for Human Genetics Allen Award (1989), the Rosenstiel Award, 1992, the Gruber Prize in Genetics (2003), the Albany Medical Center Prize (2010), the Dan David Prize (2012) and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013).
Botstein contributed to the discovery of transposons in bacteria and an understanding of their physical and genetic properties. He devised genetic methods to study the eukaryotic cytoskeleton in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), notably general ways of detecting gene interactions. In 1980 he made theoretical contributions to human genetics by suggesting, with collaborators, a way to map human disease genes with DNA polymorphisms called restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs). This became a cornerstone of the new science of genomics. He later founded the Saccharomyces Genome Database (with J. Michael Cherry) and applied DNA microarray technology (with Patrick O. Brown) to study genome-wide gene expression, notably defining thereby clinically significant subtypes of human tumors. Most recently, he has been devising and using genome-scale methods for studying system-level regulation of gene expression and gene interactions. At Princeton, Botstein established a new introductory science curriculum that combines biology, physics, chemistry, and computer science.
Bob Cohen will be joining as a Calico Fellow, in a role that will span R&D and Business Development. Bob was most recently Senior Oncology Fellow at Genentech. Bob joined Genentech’s Research organization in 1994 from University of California, San Francisco, where he trained in hematology and oncology and served as Assistant Professor in Residence in the Cancer Research Institute. During his first decade at Genentech, Bob participated in leadership roles that contributed to the development of several of the company's ground-breaking cancer drugs. He joined Business Development full-time in 2004 and was appointed Senior Oncology Fellow in 2008. Over the past several years he has focused on the development of antibody-drug conjugates, a means of delivering targeted chemotherapy to tumors. He is an inventor of nine issued U.S. patents.
Bob has a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Amherst College and an M.D. with Distinction in Research from the University of Rochester. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Michigan and is board-certified in internal medicine, hematology and oncology.
Cynthia Kenyon is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the molecular biology and genetics of aging and life extension, and will be joining Calico as Senior Scientific Advisor. In 1993, Cynthia’s pioneering discovery that a single-gene mutation could double the lifespan of healthy, fertile C. elegans roundworms sparked an intensive study of the molecular biology of aging. Her findings showed that, contrary to popular belief, aging does not “just happen” in a completely haphazard way. Instead, aging is a regulated process controlled by specific genes. Using C. elegans, she has now discovered many evolutionarily-conserved life-extending genes and pathways. In particular, her findings have led to the realization that a universal hormone-signaling pathway influences the rate of aging in many species, including humans.
Cynthia graduated valedictorian in chemistry from the University of Georgia in 1976. She received her Ph.D. from MIT in 1981 and was a postdoctoral fellow with Nobel laureate Sydney Brenner in Cambridge, England. Since 1986 she has been at the University of California, San Francisco. Cynthia is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and she a former president of the Genetics Society of America. She has received many scientific awards. Currently, she is an American Cancer Society Professor at UCSF, and she directs UCSF’s Hillblom Center for the Biology of Aging, positions she will continue, while she joins Calico on a part-time basis.
We invite you to stay tuned over the following months as we continue to build out our team of exceptional scientists and clinicians.
Desiree helps cultivate breakthrough startups and non-profits in Silicon Valley and the Cambridge-Boston area. Organizations she's worked with in various roles - from pipette washer and phone-answerer to ops hustler, grant writer, connection-builder, and director - include MIT, Emerald Therapeutics, SkyPhrase (acq by Yahoo! 11/2013), ONE-Nano, InvivoKines, SENS Research Foundation, Foresight Nanotech Institute, Stanford University, Innovations Academy, and A-Life Medical. Desiree gets professional inspiration from precisely leveraging true-value connections between world-class scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors, and promising young students to actualize the full potential in emerging technologies. Desiree has occasionally expounded on the gritty nuances necessary to achieve truly innovative success through mediums and venues such as NewSpace 2012, NASA-Ames, CNBC, AP Wire, TEDx and BIL. In her spare time, she's survived four Tough Mudders, written a crazy-short foreword to Nanotech For Dummies, won a San Diego Mensa No Limit Hold 'Em Poker tourney, and serves as a mentor for The Thiel Foundation.
- Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyDirector, Neurotechnology Partnerships, 2014 - present
- Thiel FoundationMentor, 2011 - present
- Emerald Therapeutics, SkyPhrase, SENS Research Foundation+Consultant, 2014
- Foresight InstituteDirector, Strategic Relations, 2010 - 2013