Ohio Venture - OVA Review Newsletter
News from the Ohio Venture Association meeting on May 11, 2012


Keynote Address:

Early Stage Fund Raising – Trials and Triumphs from the Trenches


  • Baiju Shah, BioEnterprise


  • Rahul Aras, Juventas Therapeutics
  • Jake Orville, Cleveland HeartLab
  • Jon Snyder, Neuros Medical

Early stage companies must constantly be fundraising and promoting themselves, even though raising capital is always harder than one might initially expect, and doubly so in this difficult economic climate. Those were among the main themes that arose from a panel discussion of successful life science ventures at OVA's May luncheon.

"I always used to say everyone should wait tables and see what it's like to serve. And then everybody should sell, and hear what it's like to say no. There's nothing like sitting across from somebody and asking them to write a half-million dollar check. And hearing the word no, no, no, maybe but no," said Jake Orville, founder, president and CEO of Cleveland HeartLab. "It's really tough, and I remember coming home four times and telling my wife, 'It's just not going to work.' Luckily I woke up the next day and said, 'Let's try it again,' or we wouldn't be here."

In the end, he said, his investors "... really stuck through with us, for much longer, and at greater capacity than was ever originally anticipated, expected or even hoped." The result has been spectacularly successful thus far. The company, now 30 months old, is on track to record $30 million in revenues this year.

Juventas Therapeutics' Rahul Aras agreed. "Fundraising is difficult, and the bar is high. And I probably went into that a little naively at the onset. Venture capitalists have a lot of opportunities, and a lot of reasons to say no." But in the end, he added, what helped his cardiovascular therapeutics company thrive was "... good data, a good team, and a demonstration that when we say we're going to do something, we've done it."

For Jon Snyder of Neuros Medical, it involved understanding the different specialties and time horizons of various VC groups, and how they might fit into what he was trying to build.

"When I was putting together Neuros, we basically talked to everybody. From organized angel funds, to early-stage VCs like Glengarry. Some VCs that had an Ohio presence, and then some coastal VCs. But part of it was understanding what the VCs wanted to see, and at what stage, so that we knew what the right timing was to go out to them, planting that seed...but you have to talk to many people. We probably talked to 70-80 VCs to find the right fit, to find the right time, to also find out what their motivation is. We're always fundraising, we're always marketing what we're doing. We're always engaging with VCs. That never gets switched off."

Jake Orville is a serial entrepreneur. Not long ago, he and a couple of partners exited a startup doing about $20 million in revenues by selling for about a half a billion dollars. "And we realized that revenue is interesting, but technology, intellectual property and innovation is really what people want." So the three partners went on a nationwide hunt for interesting technologies for their next venture. "The three of us went to San Fran and Boston, looking for technologies. And someone said go to Cleveland. I had done business with Cleveland Clinic, so we went to Cleveland Clinic Innovations, and compared to what we saw on the coasts, we were just blown away."

Indeed, it always comes back to the underlying technology. As Raul Arras said, "It really had to do with the technology. I really never felt a sense of risk, simply because it made a lot of sense. If you can execute on it, you should be able to develop something out of it. The best advice I got from my board (in terms of funding) was crawl, walk, run. And that's really the mentality we took through this whole process. I think the region provides a nice foundation from which you can start crawling and then developing the company."

More information:

Webcast from the Meeting:

Click on the image below to view the entire presentation as video.

Video Webcast from Recent Meeting
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OVA's New Video Archive is Online:

OVA is pleased to have recently added an archive of program videos to its website. You'll find the full video record of most OVA formal programs since 2008 at www.ohioventure.org/video-archive.html.

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