Let A Thousand Entrepreneurs Bloom!
Jim Carrey arrived in Hollywood Hills in 1987, like every other
aspiring actor: lot of dreams and energy, no track record. The story
goes: he wrote a check to himself for $10 million and dated it
"Thanksgiving 1995." In the memo line he added "For Services Rendered."
Carrey worked for years before he made
any money – and in moments, weak or strong, he would pull out the check
to remind himself of what he could create and the value of his
As Pfizer employees struggle with career
choices (in the coming months?), a few may explore the entrepreneurial
route and to them I suggest, write a check to yourself with the memo
line: "For forming a great life sciences company." After all, some of
the best life sciences entrepreneurs in Michigan have graduated from
Pfizer (or Parke-Davis/ Pharmacia / Upjohn).
example, the Newton-Mayleban team who were responsible for forming
Esperion Therapeutics - a great company creating a lot of wealth in Ann
Arbor. Roger Newton and Tim Mayleban formed and led this start-up to
its initial public offering in August 2000 followed by a $1.3 billion
acquisition by Pfizer in December 2003.
acquisition, Roger Newton has invested his time, wisdom and cash,
nurturing several entrepreneurs and venture funds in the region,
creating a ripple effect in the economy. Likewise, Mayleban is building
yet more start-ups, allowing his cranium to indulge in a never-ending
Or take the example of QuatRx,
an Ann Arbor based drug development company. The company is led by a
team of ex-Parke-Davis executives, who started it when Pfizer swallowed
their former employer. As a testimonial to the strength of the
management team and its technology, QuatRx has raised more than $67
million in venture capital since 2000 and is currently an IPO candidate.
Pfizer / Esperion executives have recently formed Cerenis, a company
focused on developing small molecule HDL products for cardio-vascular
treatment. Most of the management team members are ex-Esperion or
Pfizer. Cerenis raised $53.5 million in venture capital in November 2006.
example that comes to mind is Felix de la Iglesia, who has a 34-year
career in pharmaceutical development. Felix co-founded Cambridge
Biotechnology Ltd. in 2001, which was then sold to a larger pharma
company in 2004. In 2003 he co-founded QRxPharma
Pty Ltd., a biopharmaceutical start-up company that raised venture
capital in August 2004. In Nov 2006, Felix organized the Michigan
Technology and Research Institute, a service laboratory and a
research-consulting consortium, which is led by two key Pfizer
executives, Michael Bleavins and Elizabeth Garofalo.
All of these companies could spawn the 'anchor company' effect in Ann Arbor.
to say, it will take time for start-ups to create a meaningful impact.
There is always the chance of high mortality and a lot of drop-offs.
But Jim Carrey never looked at the obstacles. By 1994 Ace Ventura, Mask and Dumb & Dumber
had grossed $550 million. Carrey was commanding $20 million a movie… a
year ahead of his prediction. When Carrey’s dad passed away in 1994,
the star no longer needed the check & slipped it in his Dad’s coat
pocket as he was lowered into his grave.
know it is hard to draw inspiration from a goofball such as Jim Carrey
but, heck, when was the last time you wrote a $10 million check to
yourself? Try it. You have nothing to loose and you might like the
feeling enough to do something about it.
Mahendra is looking to invest in the next 'Pfizer' entrepreneur. If you spot one, please email him at: email@example.com