The next five years will bring job growth and possible clinical advances for Miami-based TissueTech, which landed South Florida’s top venture capital deal during the second quarter.
Co-founder and CEO Amy Tseng said the biotechnology firm, which developed a method of using fetal tissue to repair eye damage and reduce pain for amputees, will use the new capital to add employees and perform clinical trials as it seeks approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“I’m very proud we can build a biotechnology company here in Miami and I hope we can participate and contribute to the growth of our technology ecosystem,” Tseng told the Business Journal.
TissueTech secured $82.3 million June 26 from Tampa-based Ballast Point Ventures and EW Healthcare Partners, which has offices in New York; London; Houston; and Palo Alto, California.
Before the mammoth funding round, Tseng said the company was already adding employees. Five years ago, TissueTech had just 40 workers. Today, it has about 260, including 100 sales representatives.
Tseng expects TissueTech to complete its current plan for growth in about five years. The company, which has raised a total of $110 million, is not currently seeking additional funding.
Founded in 2001, TissueTech has treated more than 300,000 patients with its products, according to its website. Co-founder Dr. Scheffer Tseng began research for its scientific advancements in 1986 at the University of Miami. The company has received support from the National Institutes of Health for more than 30 years.
Last month – August 30 – brought us National Slinky Day. We did not know the classic toy had its own day, nor were we aware that it was another one of those happy accidents often at the heart of entrepreneurial origin stories.
In 1943, mechanical engineer Richard James was designing a device that the Navy could use to secure equipment and shipments on ships while they rocked at sea. As the story goes, he dropped the coiled wires he was tinkering with on the ground and watched them tumble end-over-end across the floor.
After dropping the coil, he could have gotten up, frustrated, and chased after it without a second thought. But he—as inventors often do—had a second thought: perhaps this would make a good toy. A lot of inventors talk about keeping an open mind and maintaining playful habits, explains Monica Smith, the head of exhibitions at Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.
“The Slinky was something that he saw happen and he thought it was cool. It wasn’t an obvious idea for a toy,” she says. “It wasn’t something he was setting out for—it’s more serendipitous than that. He kept an open mind and found a different use for it.”
Corporate managers believe that to the extent they can predict the future, they can control it. Entrepreneurs believe that to the extent they can control the future, they don’t need to predict it. Entrepreneurs thrive on contingency. The best ones improvise their way to an outcome that in retrospect feels ordained…
Thriving on contingency, outcomes that feel ordained… some could argue this conflates luck and skill. Napoleon famously (and apocryphally) was said to prefer lucky generals over clever ones. (He was reliably quoted on the subject thusly: “A bold general may be lucky but no general can be lucky unless he is bold.”)
Recent research, this time from Harvard Business School, emphasizes the importance of serendipity as opposed to simple luck. In Make Serendipity Work For You authors Mark de Rond, Adrian Moorhouse, and Matt Rogan recount an old tale about three princes from Serendip and their skills of observation and problem-solving:
The princes did far more than make chance observations. The tale is instructive because the princes relied on their ability to recombine a series of casual observations into something meaningful. And it is just this combinatorial skill — the ability to combine events or observations in meaningful ways — that differentiates serendipity from luck. Serendipity is to see meaningful combinations where others do not.
Richard James saw that “something meaningful” and used his engineering expertise to work out the ideal dimensions for the spring – 80 feet of wire into a two-inch spiral. (The exact mathematical equation for the slinky can be found in his patent materials.)
He [Richard] left his family in 1960 to join a religious cult in Bolivia and died there in 1974. He left behind six children between the ages of 2 and 18 and a business in shambles… Using a mortgage taken out on her house, James “gambled everything she had” and went to a New York toy show in 1963.
That was the same year the classic toy’s catchy jingle aired on television for the first time.
“The reason everyone knows the jingle,” her son told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “is that we were too broke to buy a new one. We burned it into the mentality of the country.”
During the Vietnam War, soldiers would sometimes use a Slinky as a portable, extendable antenna for their radios, fastening one end to themselves and tossing the other end over a tree branch to get a clear signal.
Symphonic Distribution Founder Jorge Brea. Photo courtesy of Symphonic Distribution
The music industry changes fast. In less than two decades, listeners went from buying CDs to buying downloads to paying monthly subscriptions for streaming services—all while vinyl sales surged. For independent musicians, it can be hard to keep up with the fluctuations in the industry. Symphonic Distribution wants to help.
Founded in 2006 by Jorge Brea, Symphonic is a digital music distribution and marketing company that helps indie artists reach new audiences. Headquartered in Tampa, the company’s 48 employees are also based out of offices in Brooklyn, Nashville, Denver and Bogota, Colombia. Symphonic has worked with artists as diverse as reggaeton artist Daddy Yankee, EDM producer Marshmello and country singer Scotty McCreery. Last year, the company made $14 million in revenue.
Back in the day, the only way to get your music heard by a broad audience was to go through major record labels. But times have changed.
“The music industry has become so democratized that you don’t have to go down that route of being signed to a major [record label],” said Brea, who was recognized by Billboard magazine as an Indie Power Player in 2018 and 2019. “You can work with a company like ours, and we’ll help get your music out there.”
Major record labels have seemingly inexhaustible resources to spend on promotion, but working with an independent distributor like Symphonic means artists typically still control their rights and earn a higher percentage of their royalties.
Symphonic offers clients a “360 experience,” according to Brea, which includes services such as music video distribution, post-production work and marketing to help elevate their products. It helps place music on platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora and YouTube, charging a standard rate of 15%, meaning artists keep 85% of their royalties. Each deal can be customized depending on the artist’s situation.
Brea first launched Symphonic to distribute his own songs. As a local electronic DJ and producer, he couldn’t afford to cut vinyl and CDs, so instead he turned to digital distribution, found some success and started offering the service to other artists.
In recent years, major record labels have caught on to the value of independent, boutique-style distribution. As such, companies like Sony, Warner Music and Universal have purchased indie distribution companies like The Orchard, Ingrooves and Alternative Distribution Alliance, each of which compete with Symphonic.
However, Brea thinks that remaining truly independent gives Symphonic added value for clients, enabling the company to provide exceptional customer service and adjust to changing trends in the industry.
One way Symphonic stays ahead of the curve is by working in markets before they gain mainstream popularity on the global stage. Brea said the company’s current focus is on expanding its presence in Latin America, but he is eyeing artists and opportunities in China, Russia and African countries as well.
Despite the international reach, Brea remains committed to promoting musicians in the Tampa Bay Area. In August, Symphonic hosted the fifth annual Vibes of the Bay event, an event designed to highlight local artists.
“Tampa is a great business, finance and health care market, but there isn’t a big music industry here,” he said. “We want to make sure that we can help artists from the Tampa Bay Area be heard.”
One of our most-read posts here at NVSE is The Fate of Control (December 2009). In it we cite a phrase coined by Fred Wilson’s at AVC – “shtick tolerance” – as a key to any successful long term relationship. As we blogged in that decade-ago December:
You don’t have to accept everything about your partner – outside of integrity/honesty – but you must be able to more or less tune some things out over the long haul. You’re patient with their shtick because they’re patient with yours. It’s hard work.
Fred is back with another outstanding post, once again on the subject of long term relationships. Here’s an excerpt from The Long Engagement:
What I would prefer to see, and do see in many cases, is a founder who takes the time while they are not raising money to build a number of relationships with potential investors and then engages those investors in a process when it is time to raise capital. I like to call this process the “long engagement”.
It might sound like a lot more work than the fast and furious fundraising process that many founders are running these days.
But I don’t think it is a lot more work. Building relationships over a six to twelve month period can take the form of an occasional face to face meeting, emails back and forth, and even a few visits to the office by the investor. And none of that has to have the pressure of a pitch, an ask, and a price.
We think Fred is spot on. In most cases our relationship with an entrepreneur starts early – months or even years in advance of an investment. Ideally everyone involved has sufficient time and opportunity to explore the fit and potential of the chemistry that will prove crucial to success. Here’s how we put it in a March 2013 post, Due diligence: mine, yours, and ours:
Entrepreneurs who are raising growth capital (i.e. bringing on a long term partner) as opposed to selling their businesses (i.e. get the best valuation) should invest a lot of time conducting due diligence on their prospective financial partner. A credible partner will let you (indeed, encourage you) to talk to as many of their previous entrepreneur partners as you want to get a feel for what they are like to work with.
Entrepreneurs should ask for references from successful investments, unsuccessful investments and current investments. Ask for the venture firm’s entire list of previous and current investments and randomly call a number of them. Find some independent sources on your own who weren’t provided as references but know the venture firm…
Establish a solid foundation for the relationship early: Will you share the same vision? Agree on ground rules?
Once the honeymoon is over, will you collectively put forth the constant effort required to sustain the relationship? How will you resolve conflict? Are communications open and largely free of clashing egos? Does the quality of the arguments make the outcomes better?
TissueTech, Inc., the pioneer in regenerative medicine utilizing human umbilical cord and amniotic membrane, today announced the closing of an $82.25 million round of Preferred C equity financing led by EW Healthcare Partners (formerly Essex Woodlands) and followed by the third round of continuous investments from Ballast Point Ventures.
The funds will primarily be used to pursue regulatory approvals from the FDA for several of its development projects to comply with the agency’s new guidance documents and support ongoing commercial development. Investments will be made to transform technical operations to Good Manufacturing Practice to produce biologics products. A part of the funds will be used to liquidate a previous preferred investor and recapitalize some common shareholdings.
As part of the transaction, Martin Sutter, Managing Director and Co-Founder of EW, and William “Bill” A. Hawkins, III, Senior Advisor at EW and former Chairman and CEO of Medtronic, have joined TissueTech’s Board of Directors. Matt Rice, who is a partner of Ballast Point Ventures healthcare practice, will continue to serve as a Board member, and John Arnott, an accomplished global healthcare executive, will continue to serve as an independent member of the Board.
“TissueTech, and its wholly owned subsidiaries Amniox Medical, Inc. and Bio-Tissue, Inc., have pioneered the research, development and clinical application of umbilical cord and amniotic membrane technology for use in the ophthalmology, optometry, musculoskeletal and wound care markets,” Sutter said. “We have followed TissueTech’s impressive growth over the past few years and are proud to now be able to partner with them as they look to further scale up and transform from a tissue-based manufacturer to a biologics therapy provider. We’re excited about the significant opportunities ahead for the company.”
“The closing of this round of equity financing provides us with additional resources not only for research and clinical trials supporting product development but also to strengthen our commercial efforts,” said Amy Tseng, founder and Chief Executive Officer for TissueTech. “We’ve seen great results to-date with our clinical studies. I am very pleased to have an opportunity to partner with EW and Ballast Point, firms with great expertise in the field of regenerative therapies. I look forward to working with Marty Sutter and Bill Hawkins and am greatly appreciative of Matt Rice and John Arnott’s continuing endorsement of our mission to help build TissueTech into a world-class regenerative biologics company in the coming years.”
TissueTech’s portfolio of currently available commercial products are designed to provide better surgical and therapeutic outcomes for ocular surface injury and disease, chronic and complex wounds, orthopedics, sports medicine, spine, urology, gynecology, plastic and general surgery. The company’s Bio-Tissue portfolio of products contains the only cryopreserved amniotic membrane that has been designated by the FDA as anti-scarring, anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic on the ocular surface. Clinicians have performed more than 500,000 human implants with the company’s products and more than 300 peer-reviewed studies supporting its platform technology have been published.
About TissueTech, Inc. TissueTech, Inc., the parent company of Amniox Medical, Inc. and BioTissue, Inc., pioneered the development and clinical application of human placental tissue-based products. Founded in 1997, Bio-Tissue markets products for the ophthalmology and optometry markets; and Amniox markets products for use in the musculoskeletal and wound care markets. Clinicians have performed more than 500,000 human implants with the company’s products and published more than 300 peer-reviewed studies supporting its technology platform. The Company’s first product, AmnioGraft®, is the only tissue graft designated by the FDA as homologous use for promoting ophthalmic wound healing. Learn more at http://www.tissuetech.com.
About EW Healthcare Partners
With over $3.0 billion under management, EW Healthcare Partners is one of the largest and oldest growth equity firms pursuing investments in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, healthcare services, and healthcare information technology. Since its founding in 1985, EW Healthcare Partners has maintained its singular commitment to the healthcare industry and has been involved in the founding, investing and/or management of over 150 healthcare companies, ranging across sectors, stages and geographies. The team is comprised of over 20 senior investment professionals with offices in Palo Alto, Houston, New York, and London. For more information, see http://www.ewhealthcare.com.
About Ballast Point Ventures Ballast Point Ventures, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, is a later-stage venture capital and growth equity fund founded in 2002 to provide expansion capital for rapidly growing, privately owned companies, with a particular emphasis on companies located in Florida, the Southeast and Texas. The BPV partners have more than 80 years of combined experience investing in and building high-growth companies in several industries, including healthcare, software, technology-enabled business services and consumer. BPV has $360 million under management across three funds and seeks to make initial equity investments ranging in size from $4 million to $10 million. For more information, visit http://www.ballastpointventures.com.
The independent music sector is larger and stronger than ever.
As the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM) convenes Indie Week in New York June 17-20, executives and artists can celebrate the growth of the worldwide indie music business.
Independent labels generated $6.9 billion in global music sales in 2017 (the most recent estimated figure), up from $6.2 billion the previous year, according to a report released late last year by Worldwide Independent Network (WIN), an umbrella organization for indie trade groups, including A2IM.
“Independence is the ability to be reactive [and] pivot,” says Brea, who knows a thing or two about pivoting. Moving early in his life from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to Tampa, Fla., Brea spent his teen years working as a DJ-producer and releasing original music on vinyl, which inspired the creation of Symphonic Distribution when he was only 21. Today, he connects indie acts of all genres to streaming platforms and recently announced that his company had expanded its presence in Nashville and Bogota, Colombia. “We’ve been able to grow 35% year over year for the past five years,” he says, adding that while one of the strongest regions for streaming is Latin America, new artists are breaking out from African countries and the Middle East.
A communications technology firm has tripled its office space in Charleston on the heels of a first fund-raising round and a growth spurt.
Avoxi’s CEO said it grew out of an office overlooking the Cooper River and plans to expand its team. The move comes as the company has put its focus on building its inventory.
Avoxi provides an alternative to pricey land lines by selling subscriptions to so-called virtual numbers that enable businesses and customers worldwide to communicate relatively cheaply via the internet. They also sell cloud software that helps companies manage their call centers.
These phone lines appeal to businesses looking to expand their reach overseas. Many companies sell the numbers, which don’t require a traditional telephone with a dial pad and receiver.
A bigger inventory of those phone numbers up for sale on the Avoxi website has helped to spur growth.
Avoxi has set up in a new office on upper King Street, sharing a parking lot with The Daily coffee shop and Atlatl, another local tech firm. The move from its former offices triples the company’s space.
The Atlanta-based company says it has built the world’s largest coverage area, now selling phone numbers in 160 countries, up from 20 in January 2018. The numbers are now available to buy from Japan to Pakistan to Kenya. Companies that want to expand overseas can buy phone numbers through Avoxi with an area code familiar to locals, improving the chances they will be able to reach customers.
“For our clients, this gives them the ability to reach those markets instantly,” David Wise, Avoxi’s CEO, said.
David Wise is CEO of Avoxi, an Atlanta-based company with a growing presence in Charleston.
Building the company’s footprint and inventory has had the intended effect, Wise said. In the last six months, he said the company has grown its customer base by 50 percent.
The company was founded in Georgia and expanded to Charleston in 2015. Wise, who is from Mount Pleasant, splits his time between Atlanta, where Avoxi employs about 50 workers, and the Lowcountry.
A transformation for the company came in 2015 when it decided to make a move to Charleston, Wise said. Back then, Avoxi was still selling software it didn’t make itself. When the Charleston office opened, Wise said the company resolved to create its own products. The firm has developed software that helps to manage call centers, also sold on a subscription basis.
Founded in 2001, the company waited nearly 20 years to take any startup funding. In December, the firm announced it had secured $10 million from Florida-based Ballast Point Ventures, which has invested in close to two dozen tech companies in the Southeast and Texas, according to its website.
Wise called the funding “go-go money.” The company is spending it on expanding its inventory and customer base. It’s a notable sum for the Charleston area, where venture capital for tech firms is in short supply.
The latest addition to The Library in St. Pete is Unlocking Creativity – How to Solve Any Problem and Make the Best Decisions by Shifting Creative Mindsets, authored by Michael Roberto. As his interview in Forbes magazine explains, creativity doesn’t typically come from the lack of ideas, but from barriers in organizations that stifle creative thinking.
This is the 3rd of Professor Roberto’s books to join our library, and the first one for which you can find both a brief introduction and a trailer for the book at Youtube.
From among the many terrific insights in the book, we’d like to highlight two:
1 – Shaping team climate is more important than an “obsession” with reorganizations (p. 94-98).
(H)e presumed that organizational structure drives performance, as many business leaders do. Unfortunately, that causal link is much more complex than many executives realize, as the studies of mountain climbers and sports teams illustrate. Leaders can adopt a variety of organizational structures, and each comes with its own costs and benefits. We cannot simply crank up an algorithm and select an optimal structure that promotes creativity, innovation, and growth. No such perfect structure exists, no matter the strategy, industry, or circumstances…
Leaders need to think about how teams perform their work, and how they can create the conditions that will enable those groups to flourish. The best leaders pay close attention to team climate, behavioral norms and ground rules, and the design of the work itself…
Julia Rozovsky’s People Analytics team collected data on 180 teams throughout Google. She explains what they discovered:
“We thought that building a perfect team would be pretty algorithmic in nature, because at Google, we love our algorithms. [However] What our research showed us was that it’s less about who is on the team and more about how people interact that really makes the difference.”
Google identified five attributes of their highest-performing teams, and “a climate of psychological safety proves to be the most important by far.”
We could not agree more. As we ourselves have written, systems and processes are important but what makes a team great are the ‘robust social systems’ in which the members’ informal modus operandiensure that all those well-designed systems function properly.
2 –It can take time for creativity to pay dividends (p. 172).
Remember, though, that many creative breakthroughs occur when individuals make connections between seemingly disparate concepts. Those links and relationship s may not become apparent overnight. Sometimes, it seems as though these breakthroughs are simply the product of luck. On the contrary, Harvard scholar Ethan Zuckerman argues that, “Engineering serendipity is this idea that we can help people come across unexpected but helpful connections at a better than random rate.”
Lest anyone think we’ve given too much aid and comfort to sloth, inefficiency, and other bad habits, we’ll close with Gary Player’s thoughts on the subject: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
NB: We’d like to thank the good professor for comparing venture capitalists to Soviet planners (p.80). We’ve actually known and admired Professor Roberto for a long time, and in fairness to him, he is merely quoting an entrepreneur. (Ahem, while not objecting…)
Here are a few other instances where we’ve cited the professor’s thinking here at Navigating Venture:
We saw this column by our friend, Frank Williamson of Oaklyn Consulting, in the Memphis Business Journal and thought it was excellent. Frank captures well the way we, and many others in the Southeast, like to do business and both the importance and pleasure of focusing on building long term relationships.
COURTESY OAKLYN CONSULTING
Frank Williamson is founder of Oaklyn Consulting, a Tennessee-based strategy consulting firm that has a financial focus.
Source: Memphis Business Journal
As a Southerner by birth, I grew up in a culture where manners were of paramount importance.
When interacting with authority figures and peers, I came to understand the social benefits of maintaining proper eye contact, saying “please” and “thank you,” and having a firm handshake.
Yet, out in the professional world, I’ve been struck by how the continued value of these and other niceties isn’t commonly discussed. According to some studies, social skills are 85 percent responsible for personal success, as opposed to 15 percent from learned technical skills.
Out of the 10 U.S. cities boasting the highest levels of business growth, seven are located right here in the South, according to a recent CNBC article. The past five years have seen huge levels of business and employment growth in Southern cities, including Nashville, Orlando, and Charleston, South Carolina.
I don’t think this is a coincidence. Although our region’s economic success certainly can’t be attributed to solely etiquette, as a Southern business owner, I feel that it has played a part in businesses deciding to establish themselves here.
With civility seemingly on the decline in our world, it’s worth thinking about how we can incorporate this general attitude of courtesy into both our work and personal lives.
Respect in the negotiation process
First impressions are everything. When you treat a business partner with a lack of respect during the process of making a deal, you shouldn’t count on the relationship continuing. But, by bringing a different attitude to the negotiation process — treating it as an opportunity for both sides to solve a problem rather than as a situation where only one side wins — you have the potential to build a relationship that extends beyond a single deal and may result in a more mutually beneficial agreement.
In my experience, those who adopt the attitude of a hard bargainer are being short-sighted, trying to extract some kind of immediate value from a deal instead of seeing it as the first step in a lasting partnership. Naturally, you have to prioritize your interests in any negotiation, but empathizing with what the other party hopes to achieve can make a huge difference in the way you relate to each other.
I saw this dynamic play out recently with a client, a family-owned business that was up for sale. One buyer stood out from the others by the level of consideration he showed toward the family, which was understandably concerned with continuing its legacy. The buyer’s approach took into account the benefits of maintaining a strong, lasting relationship, while keeping his own business interests in mind. In the end, both parties felt the sale was a positive experience.
Balancing work and life
Some business owners may disagree with me, but I believe that the time we spend away from work is as valuable as the time we spend building our businesses. It may not always seem wise to leave work undone just so you can make it home for a family dinner. But, there’s a good argument to be made that the Southern tradition of keeping a healthy work/life balance has the long-term benefit of setting up the next generation for success.
I’m not advocating giving short shrift to business matters. However, there is real value to leaving the office at 5 p.m., staying largely offline during dinner and through the evening, and letting your home life be your primary focus until the next morning.
A major part of Southern civility is our continued devotion to passing on our values to each successive generation, both in our families and through nonprofits. By putting time and effort into this, we raise up a new generation that will eventually enter adulthood with an understanding of how Southern etiquette can be applied to their personal lives and business relationships.
The individual income tax-rate cuts of the 1980s helped make LLCs the default business structure for startups – but the 2017 reduction in corporate tax rates, coupled with the capital gains tax rate increases in the 2010s, have changed the dynamic.
For years, Mr. Bisges started ventures using limited-liability companies, known for their flexibility and tax advantages. But when Mr. Bisges and his nephew, Aaron, started planning StillFire Brewing, their accountant suggested the C corporation.
Mr. Bisges is pinning this part of his business plan on Section 1202 of the Internal Revenue Code, an underused provision expanded under Mr. Obama, and one that is gaining new attention after the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made it more attractive.
The strategy is particularly advantageous for business founders who expect to start small, keep earnings inside the company, make annual profits and then cash out. If a taxpayer holds C corporation stock for five years and follows the technical rules, capital-gains taxes on a subsequent sale get erased—on gains up to $10 million or 10 times the original investment, whichever is greater.
In a nutshell, the article argues that it may now be tax advantageous for entrepreneurs to realize their profits in the form of long-term capital gains instead of ordinary income because they can exclude from federal income tax 100% of the gain from the sale of qualified small business stock.
LLCs, S-Corps, and C-Corps each offer different advantages and restrictions, and choosing poorly can lead to expensive and difficult changes down the road. There are many complexities and issues to consider and no one right answer. Just as people shouldn’t decide to have children for the tax benefits, we advise founders to not view tax considerations in a vacuum when choosing the legal structure for their businesses. They need to think hard about the long term goals for the business and seek expert advice on the optimal legal structure.
You can, however, reduce the number of future headaches (and possibly legal bills) if you choose the structure that is most appropriate for both your current situation andyour long-term objectives. Aside from avoiding personal exposure to business liabilities, the main considerations when choosing from among the three structures are tax consequences and corporate governance issues.
We ourselves have invested in both C’s and LLC’s, and have found the defined governance structure of a C-corp is almost always preferable. For a more expansive view of our thinking on the subject, we recommend you check out our 2010 white paper, To LLC or Not to LLC.