Entrepreneur says quality of venture capital as important as quantity

Jim Pearson knows a thing or two about raising money from venture capitalists. And he has some advice for BioCrossroads:
Teach entrepreneurs the value of money.

Pearson was CEO of locally based medical-device maker Suros Surgical
Systems Inc., one of the fastest-growing companies in Indianapolis history. Just six years after starting that company, which
makes a system for automated breast biopsies, he sold it for $248 million.


Today, Pearson leads another
fast-growing medical-device startup, NICO Corp., which raised $10 million in 2009’s third quarter. NICO makes a promising
machine for minimally invasive brain surgery.

Neither Suros nor NICO ever received any venture capital from
BioCrossroads’ $73 million Indiana Future Fund in 2003 or its $58 million successor, INext, formed last month. Even
so, Pearson is a big supporter. He said BioCrossroads’ fund raising has definitely made life easier for every local
life sciences entrepreneur who’s looking for funding. So have the increased efforts of just about every major local
life sciences firm, from Eli Lilly and Co. to Clarian Health, Pearson said.

“Indiana’s come a long
way, and it’s a lot easier now to raise money,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s easy.”

Most observers focus on the quantity of venture capital available and raised periodically in Indiana. And while
that’s important, Pearson said he’s learned through hard experience that the quality of that money is just as

To be successful, he said, life sciences entrepreneurs—many of whom are scientists unfamiliar
with high finance—must learn when to accept venture capital and when to turn it down. Otherwise, they can quickly lose
control of their companies.

“It’s like that old saying, ‘You name the price and I get to name
the terms,’” Pearson said. “Most people say, ‘I need money,’ and they should say, ‘I’m
looking for this type of money.’ Early entrepreneurs don’t know the difference.”

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