Feb. 28, 2022

Drs Todd & Kim Saxton

Drs. Todd & Kim Saxton are award-winning professors at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, as well as co-authors of The Titanic Effect, The book is a practical guide to help startup founders, as well as their investors and supporters, successfully navigate the icebergs that so often sink startups in the ideation and early stages of development. They’ll tap into decades of academic and professional experience in business strategy, entrepreneurship, marketing, market research, and venture-funded startups to help you navigate the “debtbergs” that so often sink early-stage startups.


Drs. Todd & Kim Saxton are award-winning professors at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, as well as co-authors of The Titanic Effect, The book is a practical guide to help startup founders, as well as their investors and supporters, successfully navigate the icebergs that so often sink startups in the ideation and early stages of development. They’ll tap into decades of academic and professional experience in business strategy, entrepreneurship, marketing, market research, and venture-funded startups to help you navigate the “debtbergs” that so often sink early-stage startups.

Please check out our Life Science Success Resources.  You will find tools that will support growing companies and books for authors I have interviewed.  

Transcript

Todd & Kim Saxton

[00:00:00]

 

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Welcome to life science success podcast. My name is Don and I'm the host of the life science success podcast. And today I'm joined by Todd and Kim Saxton. And, they're going to talk to us a little bit about their book, the Titanic effect. Welcome Todd and Kim. Welcome. Thanks for having us here. Yeah, thanks so much.

Can you, so can you take just a few minutes and tell listeners a little bit about your. Why don't we start with Utah.

Todd Saxton PhD: Uh, [00:01:00] so, well, I could go way back. I come from New Jersey, uh, and got into education by way of consulting and have been teaching and researching, and strategy and entrepreneurship for, um, more than 20 years now.

So lots of fun opportunities to engage with the community, work with students and work with the community on startup related activities.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Very good.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Yes. So I accidentally went to MIT to be a computer scientist, discovered the world of business while I was there. And I switched over to marketing. And so I have an undergraduate degree in marketing, an MBA in marketing and a PhD in marketing and consulting, working in pharmaceuticals.

I went back to teaching full-time and I've been teaching, I guess it's almost 18 years. So not quite his [00:02:00] two decades, but

Don Davis PhD, MBA: close, really close. Yeah. So in a couple of years you get to celebrate an anniversary together. Congratulate. Yeah. So, I mean, definitely interesting backgrounds and, and, um, you know, I think Kim, you know, you've done a lot of work with startups.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started with startups? Yeah.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: So when we moved to Indianapolis to teach, um, we'll Todd was teaching and I was in pharmaceuticals. Um, We just got involved in the university with various organizations in the community that had Starbucks though. We would be or judges that pitch competitions and things like that.

So, Todd. Starting the, uh, I'll never get the name. Right. But a startup accelerator type thing. And from that, we just started meeting with startups, having breakfast, coffee, talking to [00:03:00] them. So now we're an investor in about 20 startups. Um, we've had co-founded and I T help from, um, and it just seemed to explode.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Very nice. And, and, um, Todd, so you, you also, co-founded in Indiana chapter of the society of physician entrepreneurs soap. Um, can you tell the listeners a little bit about, you know,

Todd Saxton PhD: Yeah. And thanks for the opportunity you soap was a great organization. Started a number of years ago now close to 30 chapters around the world.

Uh, I think five or six outside the United States. And there was no chapter in Indiana, sadly, but the idea is to bring together not just physicians, uh, despite. The society of physician entrepreneurs, but really those with an interest in innovating and healthcare, uh, and that could rank from a variety of other healthcare [00:04:00] professionals, not just positions, but also the support ecosystem that either helped spark advise, offer legal advice, accounting, et cetera, uh, to that community.

And it was as you know, very helpful to bring together. The parts of the community, uh, around events or around, uh, learning opportunities, uh, to collaborate. And that's been a really fun, fun

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: journey. Yeah. If I could add, I was kind of an outgrowth, Kelly started a physician only MBA. So we were training physicians about how to start ventures, but then they finished.

So what was. And, and we've been involved with a number of ecosystems. So the Indiana venture club, vision tech angel partners, I was on board of the startup ladies. So it was really in our wheel house to then think about an ecosystem in life [00:05:00] science.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, it's interesting that, that you say that because a lot of, a lot of MDs have asked me that question, should I go back for an MBA?

Should I, you know, is there another, you know, sort of route that I should consider to get more, more and more business experience, you know, as they continue to grow. So, um, I mean, it is kind of a common route. It feels like for, you know, people. Have medical experience that want to run a company, um, you know, to want to go back for that MBA.

Yeah,

Todd Saxton PhD: we see a, I would say three categories. The entrepreneur, like you talked about or wants to start a company, uh, figure out how to get funding, how to launch and scale. Um, but there's also a pretty significant group who don't necessarily want to see. But they want to either fund or advise. So we have an angel investing group associated with that program.

Uh, and then there's the group of once the business training, uh, either [00:06:00] to be better administrators or to actually push back against, you know, kind of the suits with pencils, if you will, uh, who wanted it? How change is happening in healthcare. And these are clinicians who want to see that the table and want to be able to speak the language of business, to counter what they see as some of the potential, uh, ramifications of chasing.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. Interesting. So I, I mean, cause I, I, haven't seen a lot of that journey yet here in, in Colorado and the individuals that I'm working with, but at the same time, it's not really the focus that I have either. So that's probably a part of the reason. So, um, Kim, I mean, you guys have a, an interesting picture behind you, um, you know, as your backdrop and, um, you know, so maybe, maybe for our listeners, we kind of jumped a little bit into the, into the book as well.

So you, co-authored a book called the Titanic effect. Can you explain [00:07:00] a little bit about what that book is?

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Yeah, absolutely. Um, after 10 or 15 years of working with startups, we realized that we were hearing some common patterns and problems. And so they would bring this problem to us and see what we thought.

We'd be like, oh, we've heard this before. And so we put together a presentation for a summer conference where we just outlined, you know, some of these big buckets challenges, let's call them. And then we needed a name for it. And idea was that a decision seems really simple on the surface and they don't realize it constrains you.

And so the iceberg idea of payment, and there's a concept in software called technical debt, which is, you know, that you have to make trade offs and choices, which eventually caught up with you. Well, there's also marketing debt and financial [00:08:00] debt and human debt. So we got this from the depre. And if you think about icebergs, you have to think about the Titanic.

So then we started doing research on the Titanic and we discovered that they made the same mistakes that we were seeing and started. So that's how we got to, uh, the kinds of problems that you don't anticipate that could sink your stuff.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: So, I, I mean, I just, uh, one quick aside here, so I've, I've spent a little bit of time researching your book and, and, uh, reading your book and, um, I've really enjoyed it.

I mean, chapter two goes strictly into kind of, you know, the Titanic and what exactly. You know, happened and things like that. And, um, like you said, I mean, you guys specifically talk about, you know, the human oceans and, uh, you know, the technical ocean and things like that. And in terms of, you know, places where you might run [00:09:00] into trouble.

And, uh, the one thought that I had was it seems like there's one opportunity in terms of life science organization. And that would be a regulatory ocean that they also, that they also stumbled their way through as well. So, uh, for anybody that does pick up a copy of the book and I would encourage you to do that.

It definitely is something that, uh, that will be an eye-opener, uh, in terms of common problems. I think that every startup happens to run into. So, uh, so yeah, I, I think in terms of, um, you know, just the, the book and the layout, congratulations, it's a, it's a fabulous read. And so thank you. And, uh, so Todd, you know, what are some of the hidden debts, the non-financial obligations or expectations that startups inadvertently accumulate, but can limit their success or cause.

Todd Saxton PhD: Well, let's start with, uh, one of the most prevalent ones in the [00:10:00] human ocean, meaning the people involved. So I'm going to make up three names. Let's say Don Kim and Todd are sitting around having a beer after a podcast and come up with this idea

Don Davis PhD, MBA: and it starts it out on a napkin. Of course. Yeah,

Todd Saxton PhD: there it is.

And a ambulance the third, third, third, right? Yeah. Tom decides to go surfing. So Dr. Left doing the hard work, but I got a third of the company, right. It's been allocated and, uh, you know, we're the co-founders so one of the, the first we, we call it, you know, in the founder kind of category, uh, is the premature allocation of equity.

Before you even know who's going to contribute. Uh, instead of having a vesting schedule and some milestones. So that is the common stake that particularly, uh, I stay particularly first-time entrepreneurs, but we know some very savvy, experienced entrepreneurs who like, I still make that mistake every time.[00:11:00]

And it's a tough one. Those are really hard conversations to have, but also really important because those are things that can really drag the ship down later in the. You know,

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Todd, I forgotten about this one and there's a startup we're working really closely with and we meet with them every couple of weeks.

And. Three weeks ago, we get to the meeting and the third person was going to take a backseat because they had something they needed to do. And we looked at each other and we're like terrorism.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, there it is. Yeah. Well, it's funny that, yeah, I mean, it's funny that you say that and as a special. Whenever it comes time for, you know, the company to move to, you know, a major milestone, you know, they want to IPO, or they they're about to get sold.

Um, you know, that's a critical, absolute critical time for them as well. And you know, certainly if the company is split in thirds and they don't agree, um, you know, that I'm sure that that can be, you know, one of those major, you know, sort of instances where [00:12:00] this one raises its ugly. Well,

Todd Saxton PhD: a great example of that.

Um, you may be familiar with cliff bar, uh, who had a financial partner and the company was valued at 120 million. You didn't want to sell, he wanted to protect for his employees, their stakeholders, uh, but the co-founder just. The 50%. So that's the $60 billion debt bird that he had to pay off, which with one cliff bar at a time, you can imagine that that

Don Davis PhD, MBA: could take a while.

Yeah. I remember that example from the book as well that, uh, you guys call out that, that specific one. And it's a, I mean, it's an important story, I think to tell, go ahead, Kim.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Yeah, that's okay. I was consulting with another startup fairly recently and she wanted to hold on to 40%, but she was going to give her two partners each 30%.

So that would be fair. [00:13:00] I said they would outvote you. She has never occurred to her. She's like, oh, but I, you know, I took it down because they're doing less than I am like, but is it your money? That's spending it because you want to hold on for majority.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Right. Yeah. And it's so important that, you know, as you make these decisions, I mean, I've, I've interviewed, you know, also lawyers in terms of, you know, where to incorporate and, and things like that on the podcast.

Um, you know, all of these decisions are so critical and what's funny is, is, uh, it makes sense to outline exactly what it is that you want to do. And then consult some people like yourselves to try and figure out, you know, am I making the right decisions or. You know, not, um, at least so that there's some other, you know, thought process, you know, in terms of exactly how to carry this forward as well.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Yeah. And Todd has a great way of working out a formula for vesting over [00:14:00] time. And there are formulas available that you can find in popular press, but that's the big thing is don't do it all at the star. Being at the start gets you something, but it's just an idea. It's not a company.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. So Kim, what are some of the best product development approaches for limiting technical?

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Yeah. So that's a tough one. If we could figure out how to limit technical debt from the start, it would be finding your lack of common and a bucket of gold at the bottom. But, um, being a marketer, of course, I'm gonna say it's all about customers discovery. We're always amazed at how little customer discovery people do this.

Someone comes up with an idea and they think, oh, I can make this really cool thing. And they run off to make it without finding if anybody needs it. And so that's the number one [00:15:00] way to minimize your technical debt is to. Talk to people first, you are going to use this, what problems do they have? How are they solving that problem?

What did they really, really want? Um, and then when you've got something, put it in their hands, you know, some people hold really tight to their idea because they're afraid to hear bad news, but that was early is better than bad news late.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. So, I mean, I remember, I think it was Clayton Christensen who, uh, who, you know, first described the innovator's dilemma and it just said, you know, Hey, look, you know, make sure that you're solving a problem that the world really needs a solution for.

That's kind of the start of the innovator's dilemma. Well, one of our,

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: um, colleagues uses oxygen, aspirin or jewelry. Is this a problem that people need to be able [00:16:00] to breathe? Is it a problem that makes them feel better? Is it something that just makes them look good?

Don Davis PhD, MBA: So, Yeah.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Oxygen is better than through orientation where it sure.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah.

Todd Saxton PhD: Oxygen for Valentine's day. And she was so appreciative.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: I'm sure

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: we were in Breckenridge at the time. So oxygen is really good in

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Brackenridge. Yeah, right. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. It would be really good at that elevation as well as a, that temperature in the snow as well. So, what are the Todd, what are the parallels between decisions start-ups, you know, make, and then those made in launching at launching the title.

Todd Saxton PhD: Interesting. So I'm going to focus on some of the combination of product and marketing and some of the changes specifically that were made. Um, and you see this in startups, even in larger companies [00:17:00] when there's tension between the sales marketing team and the engineering team. So just one example. Uh, the sales and marketing team and the visionaries behind the Titanic wanted it to be as grand as possible.

So they didn't want a one story dining room. They wanted a two story dining room, if you know, really impressive and awesome big chandelier's right. So while they do that, they had to drop the floor. To drop the floor. They had to lower the level of the bulkheads, which were part of the protective system to keep water from filling and sinking the ship.

Wouldn't be a problem unless you happen to run into an iceberg. In which case, all of a sudden the bulkheads were filling much more quickly than expected, which is why. You know, fit broken happened, had those issues. So, you know, that that coordination across functions is one of the strategy, uh, ocean DeBary said, [00:18:00] we talk about that you need coordinated effort between the people who were doing discovery and the people who were developing solutions.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. And so, uh, in terms of, um, you know, where, where you might see this in a real world example with, so let's just say a life science company, can you maybe, you know, try and, you know, provide some sort of an example.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Oh, there's some low-hanging fruit, so to speak. Let's just say Theranose what an awesome idea.

200 blood tests across six different disciplines, like a drop of blood. We would all love to innovate that, but who thought it was realistic? Meanwhile, They're actually testing people on equipment that doesn't work. I mean, classic example of sales being way ahead of R and D.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. And it, I mean, it's interesting that you use that example [00:19:00] given kind of, you know, the timing of where you are.

And I mean, if I were to rewind some of the executive meetings that I was in, I remember during that period of time, and there were, there were very stern conversations going on about, you know, look, um, you know, is this company on to something or are they not? And all the engineering teams are going.

There's no way to get enough signal from that little bit of blood. There's no possible way to do it. And, um, and I remember, you know, one senior executive turning to the rest of the team and just saying, look, you better be right. And, um, you know, lo and behold, you know, years later you find out all of the, the journey that they went through in terms of, you know, kind of twisting things around and, um, focusing more on, you know, kind of the design of the, the outside of the instrument versus.

The functionality of getting to 200 tests is just, I mean, just shocking, um, you know, inside of the industry, but I mean, part of it comes down to me to [00:20:00] being able to just call each other out and just say, look, I, you know, I haven't seen any papers on this. There's no possible way that you're making the technological advances that you are.

And, um, you know, a guys time to call time to call it quits. Uh, On the

Todd Saxton PhD: other hand, when you have Henry Kissinger on your board, there aren't a lot of people who are willing to put the foot down and say it's nonsense.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Right? Exactly. Well, I mean, I think I've said that though, in a previous podcast though, that I, I also.

I guess I would question two things. One, um, in terms of overall investors, I've, I've read articles that have said, you know, Hey look, none of the, none of the big venture capital firms, you know, out in Silicon valley were actually investing in this thing. I mean, they, they had, you know, more or less said, you know, look, we don't see, um, you know, anything to tell us that we should be investing.

And then, you know, secondly, just not seeing that's kind of sound [00:21:00] scientific foundation, you know, would be another sort of. You know, key indicator, maybe, you know that, Hey look, you know, there's something to be, to be looked at, regardless of who's on the who's on the board that might stop, you know, or not, not allow them to say, you know, Hey look, here's exactly what's going on and we need a bit more time.

Um, Yeah. You know, I guess in that, in that case, as you work with different companies, um, you know, do you also work with them on kind of the tough messages that they might have to communicate as well? Cause I mean, I think we've all been in projects where you just had to say, Hey, look, we need to take a sidestep for a minute and just make sure that everything is sound before we move forward.

Otherwise we're going to have further problems down. Yeah. So

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: interestingly, working with someone who, um, was dissatisfied with a product they were using in life sciences. And so they innovated it to make it easier to use because they love the technology. It could deliver something cheaper than the [00:22:00] current standard, and they were one of the leading edge users of it.

And so they wanted to bring this new thing, but we worked with them and we said, late step. In the whole market of this particular area, this, the technology has carved off 10% of the market. You're kind of fixed something that 10% of the market to technology market. This current lender is 90%. So what are you going to do that they didn't do?

That is going to change the adoption of the whole technology. Is this the piece that's holding people back and instead we said, what about. Other market over here where there's no competing technology, but still a need. It's a little cheaper, but it's a little bigger. And every time you go to talk to them, they're excited [00:23:00] to talk to you again.

You were like, no, no, no. This is my passion. And we were like, well, is it your passion to make money?

Don Davis PhD, MBA: And I know I'm not re recalling the facts exactly. Right. But I, I seem to recall that, uh, PayPal made a similar shift as well. I mean, they seem to have made that sort of pivot, you know, as well. I think they thought that they were going to be an online banking.

Uh, You know, partner or something like that. And then eventually they became essentially how we all, you know, move money around to people, uh, you know, pretty easily until, uh, until Venmo and others have come along. So,

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: yeah, so I think they started out as a way to change hands for electronic money when you're physically together.

And they realize that it was better when you had people who weren't together. I needed change money between hands and all those people. EBay.[00:24:00]

Yeah. So it moved from like a PDA to PDA transfer to an over the internet. I don't know you transfer,

Don Davis PhD, MBA: right? Yeah. And I, I mean, I've certainly sent my fair share of money that way. I'm glad they did pivot. So Kim, in terms of, um, you know, business model or alternatives that startups can explore that make them more scalable.

Um, what might do. Yeah.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: So I think a lot of people start a business thinking that the way they're going to make money is acts what's cut. Say a subscription box to start with, and then. They don't ever really stop to think like, well, what are other ways of generating money? I mean, I could have an online store.

I could have membership, I can have brick and mortar stores. I can have other people selling for me. So one of the things we sometimes do with people's think, well, what are other configurations of the [00:25:00] way that you could make money with this? Um, there's been a lot of creative ways, right? So we see capital investments get leased, capital investments get rented, right?

So it's re envisioning, does someone have to write a check for a hundred thousand? That's hard to convince them to do. Can they write a check for $2,000 a month? What does that look like?

Don Davis PhD, MBA: And, um, so Todd water parallels between decisions, startups make, uh, and those made launching the title.

Todd Saxton PhD: Well, one that I liked the references, the choice of investors in how much investors can drive strategy and strategic choices.

So just a few elements of the Titanic. Uh, they, their history in the 1870s and eighties was really based on speed and they [00:26:00] won what was called the blue ribbon competition, crossing the Atlantic. And last time they won that multiple times. Um, but at two different points, they brought in investors that drove major strategic change.

In the first case, they were foundering financially new investor came in and oh, by the way, you're now going to use the shipyard that my nephew runs, which was a good ship yard, but that's a pretty big change when you're making these shifts. And then the second, and this comes back to a JP Morgan of JP Morgan chase fame, uh, in the late 18 hundreds, early 19 hundreds who drove this decision toward luxury away from speed and in doing so, it was kind of running counter to the DNA of the company and why we think a lot of entrepreneurs feel.

Reason that million dollars getting that investor and going for venture capital. That's like the badge of honor. You're not a [00:27:00] serious entrepreneur until you've done those things. They don't really think about the trade-offs associated with getting any investor money, but particularly the kind of investor that's going to help them beyond just writing it.

You're really looking for a strategic partner, not just a source of dollars. And those were some of the parallels. So reflect back from the Titanic and decisions that founders

Don Davis PhD, MBA: make. So critical. I mean the one, the one sort of bad behavior that I've seen for some investors. And I don't, I don't really understand why this happens and maybe you've seen it as well, but I've seen some investors come in and say, Hey, look, you're a, you know, a 20 person company today, you know, within the next, you know, two to three quarters, you need to grow to a 200 person company.

Well, if their sales funnel doesn't grow at that same time, There's no way that they can, that they can sustain it. And so they wind up in this massive amount of debt with [00:28:00] salary and human capital debt that, that they can't sustain. And then they wind up in this position that if they wanted to, let's say they're at 200, 250 people and all of a sudden they want to go public.

Guess what you're going to have to go. Do, you know, probably multiple rounds of, of headcount cuts before you're even ready to get started because you've made a wrong decision. And now. Now you got to go make some tough choices and unfortunately, you know, impact the lives of people. And I just, I don't understand that one.

It's just baffled. Well, I

Todd Saxton PhD: think there's been this spiral of escalation, of expectations of returns, and we sometimes refer to it as the swing for the fences, uh, you know, kind of funding model that you have. We don't care if you've never played baseball, just waiting for the dang fences. Uh, and yet one in a thousand or maybe one in a hundred is going to hit that.

But you know, when we started in angel investing, [00:29:00] There was some ratios for, if it was somebody of a further, along the closer to exit. If you could get three to five X, your investment, that was really solid, you know, and, and you'd hopefully build a portfolio where you had a few of those, and if it was early more uncertainty, you might look for five to 10 X.

Well, over the last 10 years, those numbers have gone. Five to 10 X, the 15 to 20 X, and now we're here. Like, we're all good at anything, unless there's going to be a 30 arts, you know? Well, okay. Think about what kind of growth it's going to take in the valuation of a company. What, how does that translate to sales, et cetera?

And you're just, you've prompted this, this spiral of, of expectations that is unreasonable and more importantly, actually. Forces behavior of growing as fast as possible, hiring a bunch of people and then missing expectations and, you know, letting go and the company not, not doing well. [00:30:00] So yeah, I share your you're concerned about

Don Davis PhD, MBA: that.

Yeah. And so Kim, what are some of the trade-offs in the downsides of using the lean startup? Well, I got that.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Well, you know, the talent with the lean start there. So there's a lot of things I really love about the lean startup. You know, it doesn't have to be perfect to get started. We agree, get something in people's hands that they can see touch and feel and really understand now, oh, by the way, if you want a broken, I send it to me.

I'm really good at that. Um, and this idea of having hypotheses, we love the idea of experimentation, like say outright, what do you think going to happen? So. You say, if we invest here, we expect to see this kind of return or this type of conversion. That's all really good. But what happens with these experiments in practice that we've seen is what we call the pin ball [00:31:00] entrepreneurs.

So they go over here and talk to this person and oh, they told us we should do. So we're going to go over here and talk to that person. And they said, dude, this, oh, so we got a ricochet back over that way. And eventually you're like, I don't even remember where you started and I don't know how you got here, but it's not really looking good.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I certainly have seen my, um, my fair share as well of, you know, just kinda trying to get something out in the market so that people can see it, touch it, feel it, and, um, seeing that as kind of a launch pad for success, you know, from the standpoint of people can at least provide you feedback, but then you have to sort of decide what is still, what is your direction at the end of the day?

That's part of being a leader is, is, uh, helping to sift through all of that and not just, you know, ricochet around like a ping pong ball, like. [00:32:00]

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Well off, and you're going to be in a marketplace for five to 10 years, talking to investors, talking to employees, everybody's going to pair that. But when you have wild pivots, everybody gets confused.

And when we have the allergy one, which was going to be a fuel additive, and the next thing we know, it's like flowers. It's a food additive and we're like, which is based in algae. There's like a lot of issues to

Don Davis PhD, MBA: overcome. Yeah. I, I can completely sympathize with that approach. So there are three questions that I like to ask every guest and I'll start with Todd and then come back with, to Kim.

What inspires you?

Todd Saxton PhD: Um, still not just entrepreneurs, but, but innovators and we've gravitated toward healthcare as addressing [00:33:00] problems that, that we think are really important and change the quality of people's lives. And. Well, there were a number of marketing sacks, kind of startups in our ecosystem in central Indiana, like selling one more pair up $250 sneakers.

Just somebody that doesn't really need them is a little less inspiring than like, I don't know, saving lives or something like that. So, you know, if the energy, the enthusiasm, the passion. Almost every entrepreneur, we work with hats for the problem that they're solving is, is inspiring to me. And I think sometimes the press promulgates this idea of the entrepreneurs, either being just like bungee jumping, wild, whatever, or somebody that just tried to get rich quick.

And at least in my experience as a very small percent of the. Entrepreneurial community. And if we can do [00:34:00] something to help them be more successful or to fail less it a few less than icebergs and survive the ones that they do hit, uh, that, that, to me, it's a very validated.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. So the one, the one sort of aside that I would take with your, with your answer as well, that I've asked you on the show before of certain guests is, you know, if your treatment doesn't make it through the valley of death, what has.

And, uh, the unfortunate story for a lot of them is they truly could die. I mean, the, the next best cancer therapy or the next best, you know, saving therapy for the cardiac patient just might not make it to the end. And, um, so, you know, I, I agree with you. I think, I think finding that inspiration and helping entrepreneurs along is a lot of, there's a lot of fun as well.

Kim wanted inspired.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: So I, I agree that the passion that people bring is really inspiring. I want to see people who want to change the world. No, not another [00:35:00] me too. I don't get very excited about that, but when someone sees a real. And can envision an answer. Um, so in the last year or two, we become more aware of social justice issues.

And so we see some gaps in terms of minority businesses, having access to customers and tools and the knowledge of how to access customers. I'm inspired when people want to fix that problem.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, absolutely. So Kim, why don't we start again with you? So, um, what concerns.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: So my concerns right now are probably more on the sociopolitical spectrum.

I'm really concerned about the polarization that we were creating. We've been doing some research in vaccine hesitancy, and I just never seen such polar data before between the people who are absolutely convinced. It's fantastic. And the people will think it's, you know, the mark of death. [00:36:00] Um, so I'm worried more broadly about what that means for this country and the spirit of business.

Like it's hard as a business to get your arms around these two polar opposites. We have people even in education who are desperate to be in the classroom, and we have people who don't ever want to be in the classroom again. How do we bring that together to have a cohesive culture and approach that makes everybody comfortable and

Don Davis PhD, MBA: safe?

Yeah, absolutely. And Todd, how about you? What concerns you.

Todd Saxton PhD: Um, I could build more off that theme, but I'll, I'll go somewhere else and kind of come back to, um, the cult of entrepreneurship, if you will. And the pressure that some people feel to, you know, becoming an entrepreneur, start a company, what that means, and also be realistic expectations of that journey.

And. Not everybody should be an entrepreneur. And there [00:37:00] are a lot of other ways to successfully innovate, to help change the world and going out and raising a bunch of money particularly, uh, is, is not for everyone. In fact, it's for a relatively small percent, there are lots of other ways to have like a side gig that is self-sustaining.

You don't need to raise money around it, but you can pursue your passions and make a difference. And that to me is a successful entrepreneur and has nothing to do with, you know, our annual return over or how much money you raise.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah, absolutely. And Todd, what excites you? Can I ask

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: that? Sorry, fairly good at interrupting.

But, so we were scratching our heads prior to the pandemic because we were seeing that entrepreneur, the breaks were on third year flight. And we're saying like, we see so much popular press about entrepreneurs. Why is this continuing to go down? And now we're seeing a [00:38:00] shift through the panic. That entrepreneurship is back on the rise, but it's disturbing what percent of those people are doing it because they have do it's a survival tactic and not an opportunity tactic.

So I think that's going to continue to be an issue, but if you have to create your own business in order to have an income. That's great. And do it be that solo entrepreneur, be that lifestyle business run your own world. That's great. Just be okay with that. Don't feel like you have to be the kind that raises money, right?

There's different kinds.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: And this is, I mean, it's a tough road, right? I mean, I, I, I'm kind of the first to admit, I say there's some work that I do with different companies in terms of trying to find the right funding sources and things like that, and try and, you know, just provide a little bit of direction around that.

And what I find so often is one. [00:39:00] I have entrepreneurs who come to me. You know, don't have, you know, a one pager to explain what their company's about. And they also don't have a pitch deck, but yet they want to meet with investors. And I mean, I, I, the first thing I tell them is, look, there's no investor that wants to meet with.

I mean, you, you could have the greatest thing in the world and there's nobody that's going to waste their time on you until you've put in your, put in the work to go create your pitch deck. So go do that first, come back. Let's have another conversation about what you have, but then I kind of look at the, kind of the broader spectrum in terms of, in terms of investment.

And what I see right now is that a lot of companies that have kind of the cutting edge. Let's say cancer therapy. So if you have a car T cell therapy, if you want to go, go do CRISPR gene editing, um, there's investment for you. Uh, if you have an artificial intelligence product and in software, um, there's investment for you, um, for the people that are kind of in-between and aren't doing anything with COVID.

It's going to be a tough road. I mean, I, and, [00:40:00] and I've, I've had people, you know, they have great stories, great drugs that they're working on, but they're, they're working with, you know, epileptic, um, you know, an epileptic medicine that they want to get out, out in the market. Um, and it's gonna be a tough.

Place to move forward. And that's what I kind of continue to see in the market. And it's really unfortunate. Um, and I hope to see things kind of recover on the other side, uh, you know, from an investment perspective that we'll see things advanced, but you know, who knows what happens in this.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Yeah, that is a challenge.

There's always the sexy, you know, and then there's the rest. I mean, talk to any women out there. Tech has really been on the rice and you want it to last, you have a very specific approach. Um, but I'm, I don't know if we're going to get back to change, right. As people have bigger and bigger expectations, they love the beauty of AI because of the magnitude and scale of what you can do in charge, which is [00:41:00] really different from a, you know, a pill or some treatment that, you know, a small population requires, but I'd argue an important population.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, Kim, what excites you.

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Oh, my gosh. I've thought about that lately. Popcorn excites me, but it's a different, there's a lot of innovation of popcorn. Of course we are from Indiana where there's a lot of cores. The enthusiasm I see in this next generation, you know, we've talked about the millennials and now we have the gen Z.

We have been really impressed with some of the, the gen Z that they've been able to work with the students in terms of how some of their values are different. I'm really liking this idea of a circular economy. You know, that once a good is may. Days and kicks being read years. Um, so some of that really excites me to think [00:42:00] about things that I don't normally think about.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: And Todd.

Todd Saxton PhD: Uh, similar. I, I think an extension of some of our earlier discussion we're at a time, partly because of COVID partly because of politics that people are rethinking a lot about their approach to life. Um, I think, you know, and look at some of the studies about kind of philanthropy giving back or giving to, um, They submit a very high level across multiple generations.

So baby boomers or our generation, it's more of a legacy effect, you know, and we kind of had our careers and you know, we're now thinking about what's going to happen next. Uh, but all the way through, down to millennials and other generations, there is much more, I think, social awareness of the inequities and a passion for trying to address those and.

Despite them, the [00:43:00] political headwinds that Kim was discussing, that leaves me hopeful feeling that we have, you know, lesions or folks out there that care about what I think are the right things. Everybody won't agree with me, but, um, and, and are willing to invest to between's agents and that isn't.

Don Davis PhD, MBA: Absolutely. So in terms of, um, uh, where people can find out more about you and then find out more about your book, uh, can you tell them a little bit more about, you know, where they can find out more about the Titanic effect and maybe get in touch with you?

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: Well, sure they can go to the website, the Titanic effect.com and also the books on Amazon, but we're also at Indiana university.

And so, um, it's pretty easy. T Saxton or MK saxton@iq.edu. We get emails all the time. Honestly, on Monday we got an email from the website of somebody you had read. Twice and one to [00:44:00] see if he could take us to lunch, which was pretty exciting. And, um, yeah, we're always, we'll do one poppier lines for anybody.

Um, there you go.

Todd Saxton PhD: And if you're in Hawaii, you just have to pay for us conjecture

Don Davis PhD, MBA: and you'll go is what I'm hearing is you'll go anywhere tropical, you know that you have to go, especially for lunch.

Well, Todd and Kim Saxton. Thanks so much for being a guest on the life science success podcast. Thanks for being here. Thank you.

Todd Saxton PhD: Really enjoyed the conversation. Yeah, it was

Kim Saxton PhD, MBA: great.

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