Life Science Nation’s RESI Conference – The Sweet Spot

16 Mar

An interview with Life Science Nation’s CEO Dennis Ford regarding the up and coming Redefining Early Stage Investments conference series – By Ying Tam





Ying Tam, Head, Digital Health Cluster, Venture Services, MaRS:

Dennis, what is the key differentiator of the Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) Conference?

Dennis Ford, Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series:

The sweet spot. RESI is the only “dedicated” early stage global investor conference out there that I can find. On another note, we actually deliver 10 categories of early stage investors. Also, to your point, RESI is unique and the only one that goes across the silos of Drugs, Devices, Diagnostics and Healthcare IT, which is one of the reasons why JLABS has stuck with RESI as title sponsor for three years now. Many investors have multiple investment mandates covering multiple silo’s in the life science arena.

Ying Tam: Who does the RESI Conference compete with?

Dennis Ford: There are other conferences that we share the marketplace with. RESI is focused on Preclinical, Phase I and Phase II funding strictly. Other conferences tend to be more general and more focused on Phase III and commercialization centric in their content and RESI has 16 panels of dedicated to early stage investment content aimed precisely at fundraising CEOs and scientist-entrepreneurs.

Ying Tam: Explain how you and other conferences know you are getting the right investors?

Dennis Ford: I attend these conferences regularly and pay very high fees ($3,500 + USD) to go and therefore get the attendee lists. From the last one I attended, I downloaded the alleged 120 investors attending and gave them to our research group to validate. What we found was 22 investors that actually had investment mandates for early stage preclinical and the rest were I-Banks, consultants, and finance BD folks who go to these events trying to get fundraising CEOs to pay them a monthly stipend for services to aid in raising capital. All of which is fine for them and a draw which creates revenue. RESI only allows “real” investors with vetted mandates. RESI Investors need to adhere to these strict guidelines. RESI@JPM had 500+ investors so the numbers speak for themselves.

Ying Tam: What about Pharma partners?

Dennis Ford: All of the Big Pharma players globally regularly attend RESI conferences and present on our RESI panels. They are seeking technology assets for their pipelines. Pharma attendees are the scouts and BD players and are typically the buy side staff for the Pharma.

Ying Tam: How is RESI business model different?

Dennis Ford: I created the RESI conference and the business model is a real challenge because the price point has to stay relatively low for our scientist-entrepreneur and fundraising CEOs audience. The challenge is investors don’t pay (and won’t) so only half the attendees pay and that makes it hard from the business side. I can understand why other conferences in the market are more general and have a broader content reach as that really helps the bottom line. That said, RESI is a success on many other fronts which is providing a vehicle every 45 days for CEOs to get in front of investors, start a dialogue, that leads to a relationships and hopefully an allocation. We now have 5 RESI conferences a year, JPM, Toronto, BIO, Boston, NYC and that means that a CEO can get 16-20 investor meetings per event and that is a BIG deal as fundraising is a numbers game. RESI provides a vehicle to match up investors and scientist-entrepreneurs and if they attend all 5 RESI meeting can have a dialogue with up to 100 investor meetings and that is a game changer.

Ying Tam: How successful is RESI in terms of getting companies funded?

Dennis Ford: We have run some metrics and have found 15-20% of the firms who buy our global investor database, attend our RESI conferences, and use the techniques outlined in my book do raise capital. We can do better than that but that would mean really getting the sell side players educated and more efficient at branding and messaging and understanding how to run a compelling fund raising campaign.

Dennis Ford, Founder & CEO, Life Science Nation; Creator of RESI Conference Series

Dennis Ford is an entrepreneur and author with expertise in sales, marketing, and business development. He has spent most of his career launching new companies. Over the last decade, he has worked extensively with global alternative investors interested in high-growth early-stage technologies. His expertise encompasses using database subscription services to create business solutions and using the Internet to create an interactive dialog between buyers and sellers. He is a big proponent of using profiling and matching technology to find that all-important business fit in the marketing and selling process. Before LSN, Dennis was the President and CEO of Brighton House Associates (BHA). BHA was launched in order to improve the way hedge fund and private equity fund managers raised capital and marketed their funds to investors. Ford is the author of The Peddler’s Prerogative and The Life Science Executive’s Fundraising Manifesto, two well-received sales and marketing books.

Ying Tam, Head, Digital Health Cluster, Venture Services, MaRS

Ying Tam is a seasoned entrepreneur and business executive, and is currently Head of Digital Health, Venture Services for MaRS, one of the world’s leading urban innovation hub. MaRS works with a large network of corporate partners and venture funds to help entrepreneurs launch and grow the innovative companies that are changing the future. Ying has co-founded several start-up companies, including Mindful Scientific, a medical device company addressing concussion diagnostics and management, abridean (acquired by nCipher PLC), a software company developing application provisioning and identity management solutions, and i-HRx (acquired by Healthconnex), a digital health company focused on chronic disease management. He has significant strategic and functional experience with operating roles in a wide range of organizations, from early stage companies to major multi-national corporations.

Toronto’s Medical Device Sector Climbs Global Rankings

16 Mar

By Sarah Mortimer, MaRS Discovery District

With venture capital and private equity investing hitting levels not seen since the dot-com boom, Canada is increasingly drawing foreign investors scoping the latest innovations. One of their areas of focus is the country’s medical device and equipment sector, which is now ranked ninth globally, according to Canada’s federal department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.

“The medical devices sector in Canada is one to watch,” says Dan Mathers, investment director at the MaRS Investment Accelerator Fund (IAF), noting that the same government report estimates the sector’s worth at $6.8 billion, with additional exports totaling $1.9 billion. “Canada has always had a very strong ecosystem for driving innovation in health sciences, particularly in medical imaging, equipment and devices. The vision here is big.”

Over the past decade, Canada’s medical device sector has seen steady growth, with close to 1,500 medical device firms based in the country (not including medical imaging or assistive device companies), and a growing number of companies being acquired internationally. For example, companies like Mitra (acquired by Agfa), Karos Health (acquired by Vital Images) and Sentinelle Medical (acquired by Hologic) have paved the way for a new generation of companies getting noticed on the global stage.

Many of these firms are based in Toronto, the fourth-largest city in North America, as well as Canada’s largest city and a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. “There’s a lot of activity here,” said Mathers, referring to successful medical device companies like Perimeter Medical Imaging, Synaptive Medical, eSight and Intellijoint Surgical. “With all the research centres and innovation activity in Toronto, you end up with the ability to turn what was previously science fiction into real-life solutions.”

This growing reputation is drawing investors to Toronto’s annual Redefining Early Stage Investments (RESI) on MaRS conference on April 4. Canada’s largest health investor event, it connects investors to the country’s top health startups across a range of key sectors, including medical devices. Over 150 investors have already confirmed attendance. This year, RESI on MaRS will be followed by MaRS HealthKick on April 5, an invite-only event that will see a select number of companies pitch to investors for the opportunity to win a cash prize.

Mathers, who has invested in eSight and Intellijoint Surgical – both of which recently expanded to the US market – believes Toronto’s concentration of top talent and “hospitals and universities with significant research budgets” is part of what makes the city an ideal location for medical device ventures. For example, the University of Toronto, which ranks 11th worldwide for clinical research and first in Canada for innovation, is located within a short walk of five renowned research hospitals and just across the street from MaRS Discovery District, an innovation hub that is home to a range of tenants, including life science giants like Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS incubator.

All of this is reflected in the bold medical device research currently taking place in the city. “Investing money in trialing new technologies is one of our greatest strengths,” said Mathers, adding that the US National Institutes of Health has ranked Canada third globally when it comes to the number of sites for active clinical trials for medical devices.

Generous funding opportunities for medical device businesses are another draw for investors, Mathers says. A number of Toronto-based venture firms, including MaRS IAF, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Genesys Capital and Lumira Capital, include the medical devices sector as a specific area of focus. The country also offers “significant grant money” for medical device businesses, Mathers says. For example, it offers up to $500,000 in low-interest loans for small businesses, as well as federal research grants, federal tax credits like SR&ED and market readiness funding from organizations like the Ontario Centres of Excellence.

These factors, combined with the low cost of manufacturing medical devices in Canada and the expertise and entrepreneurial support of organizations like MaRS, all lead Mathers to predict “accelerated growth for the sector.”

Arun Menawat, CEO of Profound Medical – a company that makes a real-time MRI-guided ultrasound procedure that destroys cancer cells in the prostate while sparing surrounding tissue – says it’s an exciting time to be in the medical device industry in Toronto.

“There has been a stream of medical device companies that have successfully created growth in the area,” he said. “I think that trend is likely to continue.”

Profound Medical won the MaRS HealthKick Challenge in 2014 and is among the many Canadian medical device companies heading to this year’s RESI on MaRS conference. The company, which went public two years ago, has since grown to a market valuation of $50 million. And in a sign of continued momentum, they secured $17.4 million in bought deal financing just last October.

“There are more and more people in New York and San Francisco who are getting the message that there is a pool of talent in Toronto, which is a great thing,” Menawat says, adding that he looks forward to connecting with investors and other great minds in the medical device industry as Profound prepares to present at this year’s conference.

“Getting the medical device community together is something I’m always excited about,” he says. “I think there’s going to be a lot of talent at that conference.”


Healthcare IT Investors Share Their Strategies at RESI on MaRS

16 Mar

By Cole Bunn, Senior Research Analyst, LSN


Healthcare IT entrepreneurs, as opposed to biotech/medtech entrepreneurs, enjoy some favorable realities when it comes to successfully launching and sustaining a new venture. However, even though software and healthcare IT companies require far less capital than a biopharmaceutical product or medical device to get up and running, investors tend to place an emphasis on market penetration and traction, often the rate limiting step for these startups. A key to overcoming this hurdle is healthy ecosystem with innovative institutions willing to put programs in place to help new digital health technologies enter the marketplace and refine their product.

Canada is embracing digital health and the impact it can have on the public, patients and the healthcare system at large. Toronto, as the epicenter of Canadian healthcare and innovation, is naturally working to catalyze venture creation in healthcare IT and will host the RESI conference and a panel of venture investors active in the space.

The session will feature the following investors:

By registering for RESI on MaRS, you’ll be able to listen to the Healthcare IT panel live, interact with the investors and experience numerous opportunities to expand your network.

Hot Investor Mandate 1: Cross-Border Fund Invests in Highly Innovative Early Stage Medtech, Diagnostics and Healthcare IT

16 Mar

A VC firm with offices in California, Beijing, and Hong Kong manages over 100 portfolio companies in the US and China. The firm generally invests in the early stages, mostly in seed and Series A rounds. The firm focuses its investments in U.S. and China, but also considers companies based in Canada.

In the life sciences sector, the firm will consider medical technology, diagnostic, and healthcare IT companies. The firm is open to all types of medical technology in all types of indications, and will look at both 510k and PMA medical devices in development or clinical trials. Previously, the firm has also invested in the synthetic engineering space.

The firm is looking for early-stage companies with a highly innovative product. The management team of potential portfolio companies is expected to be committed to the company full-time and will have a track of strong, successful entrepreneurship. The firm does not require a board seat in its portfolio companies.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email

Hot Investor Mandate 2: Seed Investment Firm Raises New Fund, Seeks Healthcare IT Opportunities

16 Mar

An early-stage seed fund based in Palo Alto, CA focuses on seed stage and sometimes Series A. Typical equity allocations range from $500 – 750 K per company. The firm is open to both leading and co-investing. The firm has been investing from a $50M fund and is currently raising a new fund, from which it expects to make new investments. The firm is seeking opportunities from across the US with a focus on the Bay Area.

The firm invests across multiple industries including healthcare IT. The firm prefers products that do not require FDA approval. Within healthcare IT, the firm considers both consumer-facing and enterprise solutions that demonstrate customer traction and large market potential.

The firm can work with incomplete management teams and would require a board seat on a case-by-case basis. The firm has funded companies in which the founders were either current students or recent graduates from top US universities

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email

Hot Investor Mandate 3: China-based Firm Invests in Preclinical Drugs in Oncology and Chronic Diseases

16 Mar

The biotech and healthcare subsidiary company of a large real estate corporation in China is interested in biotech technology, products and services with large potential in the Chinese market. The firm aims to launch them in China through partnership, investment and cooperation. Typical equity investments range from US$0.7-1.5 million (RMB 5-10 million), up to 3.5 million in later stage companies. The firm prefers to co-invest in a round with a strong, reputable lead. The firm considers opportunities from around the world with a focus on China, the US, and Australia.

The firm is interested in preclinical therapeutic projects in oncology, chronic diseases such as diabetes, and other disease indications with large market potential. The firm is open to all therapeutic modalities.

The firm is looking for experienced teams backed by strong lead investors. The firm may request board representation on a case-by-case basis.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email

Hot Investor Mandate 4: New Subsidiary of Investment Firm Seeks Technology-Driven Medical Devices

16 Mar

A Chinese investment company has founded a new U.S. based subsidiary, which typically makes seed investments of US$50k-250k in technology companies. The firm is currently focused on companies based in the Cambridge, MA area, but it is also open to opportunities from across the US. The firm would prefer companies with a China angle although they are open to investing in companies with a U.S. focus.

Within healthcare, the firm is currently interested in technology-driven medical devices, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The firm is not interested in software-only products.

The firm is looking for founders with strong academic credentials and sector expertise.

If you are interested in more information about this investor and other investors tracked by LSN, please email