NCTechNews Spotlight: CIE Life Sciences Panel Discussion

WILMINGTON, N.C. -- On February 26, the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship hosted a panel discussing early stage financing for the medical device and life science sectors as well as healthcare IT-related businesses. NCTechNews spoke with the moderator of the panel, Gary Hayes, COO & Managing Director of Scale Finance LLC, and one of the panelists, startup funding specialist Bob Creeden for a review of some of the main points of the event.

NCTechNews: What is your background as it relates to early stage financing? 
Gary Hayes: I am a CFO and have been active in the startup entrepreneurial community in North Carolina for the past 16 years.  My firm provides fractional based accounting resources from CFOs to Accounting Managers to businesses across the Southeast.  We also provide transaction support where we advise and assist our clients in raising growth capital. We have 45 professional resources in North Carolina, Florida and Washington, D.C.

Bob Creeden: My background is a career centered around working with early-stage companies as both an investor and an entrepreneur.   Before moving to NC in 2012 I was an early stage venture capitalist in Boston at three firms ranging in size from $35M to $150M, covering both life science and IT investments.  Most recently in the VC world, I started the Partners Innovation Fund which is a group within Partners HealthCare, a $11B healthcare provider in Boston. It was our goal to commercialize technology that was developed inside the system and lead the investments.

NCTechNews: What were some of the more interesting questions considered by the panel February 26th? 
Gary Hayes: Ones that generated a fair amount of discussion included what is the number one trait a CEO should have for these kinds of businesses to be successful; what are current trends regarding types of technology businesses that are gaining the attention of investors; and what strategies should CEOs follow when first getting started to fund life science and medical device companies.

NCTechNews: What are some considerations specific to life science startups? 
Bob Creeden: There are a plethora of issues around the regulatory path and the challenges they represent. There are also considerations regarding reimbursement; adoption/change of behavior of the user; intellectual property; and how your product fits into today’s environment of the ACO and other financial and operational challenges faced by providers, payors and patients.

Gary Hayes: Life science startups have trouble getting off the ground as the capital need is great and the time frame to an exit is pretty long. Plus, the overhang of the regulatory process can have a negative impact.  So early stage companies in this space need to be very creative on identifying sources of capital to move their initiative along on a milestone basis. Having a comprehensive grant strategy as an integral part of your capital structure will go a long way in moving the business forward.

NCTechNews: What do you make of the Wilmington entrepreneurial community?  
Gary Hayes: I think it’s starting to grow and become a meaningful location to start a technology business.  UNC Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has a facility with 42 early stage mostly tech businesses which is a strong indicator of growth.  The event we had on the 26th and the attendance was also indicative of the growing interest in the Tech community across both traditional tech as well as life science and medical device.

Bob Creeden: Wilmington has a growing number of young startups and technology innovators who call the area home due in great part to the extraordinary quality of life that comes with living in a beach community. Another huge plus is the work that the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is doing building a strong network of startups, business leaders, educational resources, advocacy groups and capital resources.

To find out more about the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, visit