Observations from JPMorgan Week

The week of January 11th I had the opportunity to attend the Biotech Showcase in San Francisco during what is commonly called “JPMorgan week”. JPMorgan week is a cluster of life science investing conferences held simultaneously in San Francisco each January. It has become a must-attend week for entrepreneurs and investors involved in life science. It was a fascinating week and I saw many exciting companies and met many interesting people. This month I want to share three observations from JPMorgan week.

As you are aware January has been very bad for U.S. stock markets, and the beginning of the month was extremely bad for the Chinese stock market. In San Francisco I was prepared to have investors tell me that they were going to wait till the markets stabilized before they made more investments. I had several meetings scheduled with Chinese investors and anticipated even greater caution from them. But in fact none of the investors I met with were concerned with the condition of the markets. It gave me confidence that while there may be issues with slowing global growth, the drops in the markets we are seeing in January are not signs of a fundamental problem like back in 2007.

My second observation was that many of the life science startups have some connection to university research. While a number of the companies are actually university spinouts (which we track in Startup.Directory) many other startups which are not technically universities spinouts have some affiliation with one or more U.S. universities. These startups work with universities in a variety of ways including conducting contract research and clinical trials. I think this is a testament to the strength and depth of the U.S. university research community and I’m not sure if university research staff gets sufficient credit for the role they play in supporting startup company innovation.

Finally I was generally impressed by the breadth of innovation represented by the 300 or so companies presenting at Biotech Showcase. Furthermore hundreds of other companies were presenting at other conferences that week and I met executives from even more startups who were attending but not presenting. As I flip through the abstracts it seems like there are multiple companies with diagnostics, devices and therapeutics addressing virtually every major disease and many low occurrence (orphan) diseases and illnesses. Probably the majority of these companies will not succeed, but even if a small percentage of them do deliver a product to market they will, in total, enable dramatic improvements in human health care. So the next time you read an article lamenting the lack of innovation or progress in healthcare or other technology sectors, don’t despair. My time spent at JPMorgan week reassured me that innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare is alive and well.


Who is Psikick?

In this new technological world, it can be hard to pinpoint companies that are truly revolutionizing the way that we live. One of those companies is Psikick. They are leading what is known as the “batteryless revolution”. Psikick is a startup company formed in 2012 in Charlottesville, Virginia that is quickly growing into a powerhouse of technology.

They have created a chip that will create a massive wireless network through embedded wireless sensors, which can be placed into anything that can be made “smart”, from your coffee maker to your TV remotes. Their technology is based on a technique called subthreshold processing. While their chip is extremely effective, it is through the chips massive power-saving ability that makes it so unique. The Psikick chip uses only 1/100th to 1/1,000th of the power that current sensors use today. With this, there is no need for batteries, as the sensor can be powered by environmental factors such as the heat from your hand, RF, solar and light power, and more.

All From University Technology

All of this massive innovation began with the combination of brain and research power at the University of Virginia, the University of Michigan, and the University of Washington. Professors at these universities conducted synchronous research on electrical engineering, batteryless foundation, and medical technology to form the backbone of Psikick. When the minds of these universities combined, and shared their knowledge and their technology, Psikick was launched.

All Thanks to Excellent Funding

The growth of Psikick could not have been possible without the funding they have received. As any startup company will tell you, one of the most important and frustrating aspects of the business is finding the money to accomplish what you want to. You can have the idea, but without the money, nothing else will matter.

At Psikick, there are several important backers and investors that have given them the start that they needed. The funding which began at the university level has only grown, with the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan being the dominant investors in the university grouping. The company has won multiple contracts through the Department of Defense. New Enterprise Associates, which is one of the biggest venture capitalist funds, has also given its support to the company. Osage University Partners has thrown in their support leading the last round of $16.5 million in Series B funding in December 2015. This brings the company’s total funding to $22.5 million, giving Psikick a massive start to what is sure to be a successful venture with an innovative product.