Business Speed Dating

I spent the last week in San Francisco for the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference during which 25,000 individuals from across the healthcare sector descend upon the bay area. Startups, publicly-traded companies, investors, advisors, doctors, bankers and more all come west to attend presentations and meetings by day and cocktail parties and dinners by night. My calendar was packed with back-to-back 30 minute and hour long meetings – It is a little like speed dating for business. You meet with an interesting medical device company who is looking to raise capital followed by a meeting with an investor looking for an innovative medical device company that will put his money to work. My job is to introduce the two parties in hopes that I can generate a fee on any transactions that come to fruition. So while I participate in the speed dating, I am more of the matchmaker. After a long day of meetings, the ‘festivities’ begin. Many service providing companies such as law firms, private equity firms and banks including Mesirow, will host cocktail parties, occupying all the local bars and hotels, creating what is referred to as “the circuit.” This sort of evening speed dating entails quicker discussions, often sharing more ideas to spur business and investment.

Throughout the week, we met with some pretty interesting companies and a slew of investors. One company, Medsphere, has created an open-source electronic health record platform, employing the core code built by the VA that they were able to duplicate for free by taking advantage of the Freedom of Information Act. Ironically enough, they are now pursuing a Department of Defense grant, essentially taking technology from one branch of the government and selling it to another. Another company has developed a software and service platform to offer a telepharmacy service that would save hospitals a significant amount of time and money. All the while, hospitals such as North Shore LIJ are implementing venture arms that will provide capital for new technologies that will utilized by in their network as well as others. This corporate VC model is fascinating as the investors are also major customers, adding value in twofold. Innovation is slowly but surely finding its way into the healthcare industry and it will be exciting to see the significant changes that are ahead. Conferences such as this, while hectic and fast-paced, create opportunities to share ideas and promote growth for all constituents.

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Your Perceived Ideal: Setting Goals

A friend of mine recently said to me:

“My personality changes constantly; I have no idea who I’m going to be three years from now” 

Having had a similar realization recently, I knew exactly what he meant. Three years ago, I was sitting at my college graduation envisioning a lavish lifestyle in the ‘real world.’ I had a great job lined up as an investment banking analyst, I signed an apartment lease with two of my best friends (and one of their friends) and I was moving to the city where my female interest (Christina) resided. What more could I have asked for? With a college degree and a bright future ahead, it all seemed downhill from there – I anticipated I would get promoted, move into an extravagant apartment and eventually settle down.

During my college’s commencement address, Conan O’Brian said,

“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique”  

At the time, I remember thinking to myself “Why don’t I just become my perceived ideal?” and I’ve only begun to understand the answer to that. The first reason is simple – Life doesn’t go the way you plan it. After working 364 days as an analyst I watched my peers happily get called into our manager’s office to receive their year-end compensation. After he called my name, I eagerly rushed into his office with a preconceived notion on how to allocate this lump sum, however, rather than a bonus, I was offered severance. Beyond the huge blow to my ego, this threw a troublesome wrench in my idealized plans. After the initial shock and anguish, I picked myself up and began aggressively applying to jobs, fortunately receiving two offers, ultimately landing a role at a middle-market investment bank. Having now worked here for almost two years, I can understand the second reason we don’t become our perceived ideals – Our ideals change over time. As time goes by, we become more comfortable in our own skin; our old relationships begin to fade, while new ones blossom; our principles become more coherent; and our desires begin to mature. My job experience has been invaluable in countless ways, yet, I’ve come to realize that investment banking is not my ideal. So while I couldn’t be happier with Christina, contrary to my original vision, I live in a dungeonesque pigsty and am rather discontent with my job; my experiences have taught me that I can hardly foresee my own future, and even if I could make a prediction, life likely has something else in store for me.

One thing I can say with confidence is that throughout all of the changes that transpire in my life, my family has stood by my side. My sister has been a particularly supportive mentor throughout the years, most recently encouraging me to write down my long-term goals. In addition to my 2- and 5-year goals, I have begun writing down my weekly and daily goals, and to be clear these are more minuscule goals such as ‘workout 3x’, ‘apply to 20 jobs’, ‘read 5 chapters’ etc. (not to be confused with my to-do list at work). There is plenty of literature that talks about the benefits of writing down goals including this Forbes article, however, for me, setting goals has given me a greater sense of purpose outside of my job, and more importantly, accomplishing them offers a unique sense of achievement. So while you may not know where your life will take you, set goals for yourself and envision your own future because it is through both the successes and failures you face in which you will define yourself.

P.S. My goal today was to start a blog.