A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to speak with Gary Stevenson, co-founder and managing partner with Memphis-based MB Venture Partners. As we wrote recently, in late 2015, MB Ventures co-led a $900,000 investment in SEMDA 2015 alumnus SweetBio.
From his official bio: “Gary co-founded MB Venture Partners in 2001 after six years in healthcare investment banking and research. He also spent seven years in a variety of general management roles with Abbott Laboratories, one of the largest and most diversified healthcare companies in the world. Gary is a board member or observer for several MBVP portfolio companies including AxioMed Spine, BioSET, Kereos, KFx Medical, Hapten Sciences, S2 Interactive, Visioneering, Focal Point Pharmaceuticals, iScreen, Restore Medical Solutions, MB Innovations, EcoSurg, View Medical, Better Walk, Camplex, and CrossRoads. Gary also serves on the board of Life Science Tennessee and ZeroTo510.”
We couldn’t resist sharing Gary’s insights related to what makes a young medtech company investable and why the SEMDA annual conference is worth attending.
Q: What is your investment “sweet spot”?
A: MB Venture Partners began making investments in start-ups in 2002. We have invested in almost 50 start-ups since then. We focus mostly on medical device opportunities, but occasionally invest in biotech companies. Our preferred niche is musculoskeletal disease where we have special domain expertise and relationships. Two of the Memphis-based musculoskeletal companies are investors in our Funds. We have been hosting the investor-focused Musculoskeletal New Ventures Conference in Memphis now for 13 years in which SEMDA is a co–sponsor.
We deliberately diversify across stage, investing in some startups at seed and early stages while adding others that are in later stages of development. We have invested as little as $25,000 and as much as $5 million in our portfolio companies. Though most of our portfolio companies are in Tennessee, we invest all over the country with investments in San Diego and in Connecticut, for example. Lastly, we are active investors. We hold board seats in all but a very few of our portfolio companies.
Q: How does the SEMDA annual conference demonstrate the greatest value for you?
A: Over the years, several of our portfolio companies have attended and presented at SEMDA. We are always eager to see the new and emerging technologies presented, looking for ones that might be the right fit for MB Venture Partners. We also enjoy networking with other investors who attend SEMDA.
Q: What stood out about SweetBio that other young medtech companies can learn from?
A: There are several qualities about SweetBio that were attractive to us. In fact, many of those are qualities we have seen before in some of our most successful investments. SweetBio is focused on an unmet market need that looks to be large and growing. The team has the right mix of complementary and overlapping skill sets that inspires our confidence on execution. We like the current intellectual property position and the regulatory path seems straightforward.
These are many of the same qualities we saw when we made our initial investment in Nashville-based BioMimetic Therapeutics in May 2003, an investment that turned out really well for MB Venture Partners. On top of all this, we really like the local connection for SweetBio. The team was part of ZeroTo510, a Memphis-based accelerator and performed very well. So for all these reasons, SweetBio stood out from all the other investment opportunities we looked at last year.
Q: What would you tell other investors who might consider SEMDA 2016 about why it is worth their time to attend?
A: There are many conferences that compete for limited investor attention. SEMDA is perhaps the most relevant in our region to those of us committed to the medical device industry. We hope to see many of our investor colleagues at SEMDA 2016.
Thank you, Gary! We look forward to seeing you in Nashville next month!
Investors, are you ready to find your next medtech investment? Or are you a young medtech company seeking funding and wondering who is going to pay for your innovation? SEMDA 2016 is the place for you.
Jason Rupp, Executive Director, Southeastern Medical Device Association