BioCatalyst: Sheridan Snyder, a true serial entrepreneur




Episode Loading...




PharmaTelevision requires Javascript enabled and Adobe Flash Player to watch our programmes. If you do not have Flash installed, you can download it for free from the Adobe Flash homepage.

Improve your Internet experience and start watching exciting new video content.

Video title: BioCatalyst: Sheridan Snyder, a true serial entrepreneur
Released on: August 17, 2012. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
Share/save this page:
Email
Bookmark
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Follow us:
RSS
Twitter
  • Summary
  • Transcript
  • Participants
  • Company
In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, filmed at #BIO2012 Convention in Boston, Fintan Walton talks to Sheridan G. Snyder, LLB, OBE, Chairman, President and CEO of BioCatalyst International, Inc.
Genzyme: Origin, Growth and business model
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at BIO in Boston, 2012. On this show I have Sherry Snyder, who is the CEO of Biocatalyst, but also a Serial Entrepreneur, a Founder of Genzyme amongst many other companies, welcome.
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Thank you very much.
Fintan Walton:
Sherry, I want you to be on the show because you have an interesting story, you are a true serial entrepreneur most people in our industry probably recognize you for the foundation of Genzyme, but what I found interesting was that you were actually had done a few other companies before that, so just I wanted to get some feel for you and why you got become how you became a serial entrepreneur? What's your first experience?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Well see I guess the first experience frankly that got me into it was a high speed mailing machine I developed and it was being developed by our family business the Sheridan Company which is a major bookbinding machinery company. My father passed away and the other side of the family tried to take the business away from him, I decided to create a company to defend my father and so that's one of those stories it started, so I created a high speed mailing machine that about three-years later I sold to Pitney Bowes.
Fintan Walton:
So that gave you I suppose the mission to find an objective ultimately?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
It did, but it introduced me to the culture and the process of creating company which is a very exciting and very interesting, very challenging, constantly you have to get up every morning and think of different approaches and what does the market look like and has it shifted in, what does competition look like so there are so many facets to it, it's a very interesting process.
Fintan Walton:
And what was the second company?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
The second one was a larger company Instapak, which is a foam-in-place packaging methodology for industrial package, I mean injecting liquid urethane into a corrugated container and having a rise in place around the products so you literally could take heavy electronics through fragile electronics no longer did you have to crate them in a wooden box then and so that became a significant company. It's now the largest division of Sealed Air Corporation the Air Bubble Company and so foam-in-place packaging for a whole level of electronics, industrial products has become a that's pretty much a standard it's a billion and a half type company.
Fintan Walton:
So from that you went from a high speed mailing machine into packaging and then the third one was Genzyme, so how do you?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Well you know as far as I just tell the story about how foam-in-place packaging. Someone showed me they wanted to be able to package an individual dish in China so they tried to put foam into a clam shell like a hamburger print and from that I said, what if you went into a box and in the Genzymesituation it was a venture capitalist that had funded me in Instapak and he approached me and said we are in electronics the name of the venture capital firm is Oak Partners and the Senior Manager was Ed Glassmeyer who has funded many of my companies and he said Sherry we want to develop a biotech company with you, we're all in electronics and we want to see if we can get into biotech and I said Ed you've got the wrong man I don't like science, I haven't been in the science so how could I develop a science based business and he said you know, I know the man you've been able to put markets together and products together and you work with people well and then he said I invest in people I don't invest in technology and so a way it went and so the Genzyme was just really the combination of a scientist by the name of Henry Blair and I, and Henry had some experience in enzyme purification and so from that point we started developing a business on our own which lead us eventually to Roscoe Brady at National Institute of Health who had his passion in working on Gaucher's disease, where very ill hasidic Jewish children who had lose their lives from this disease by age 23. So that really was the transformation intobiotechnology and then I got intrigued by the aspect of being able to take entrepreneurism and actually help people and save some lives.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so just going back to the beginning of Genzyme, because clearly you were brought in by a venture capitalist did you put money yourself into, did you back it yourself?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Yes, I back all my companies myself for the first five-years it's always generally between 5 and $7 million, the each one of these companies sort of has a relatively predictable pattern and then at that point my role is putting it together and overseeing this the establishment of it then after six or seven-years I bring an operating management and then I go back and start my next company, I always have my own investment in the company for the first five-years.
Fintan Walton:
But that was the big risk because you know now everybody like genes and technology are old hat if we can say that, but back then this was really a disruptive technology nobody really knew how this could be applied at that particular time, so you were taking a big risk?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Well, I guess that's fortunately or unfortunately what makes an entrepreneur, he is not always logical and in but one has confidence in oneself and say I don't understand exactly what this path is going to be but I am gonna figure it out and so I go into any industry like that and it's very hard not to find some opening of new technology that you can establish a competitive position that's sustainable and so.
Fintan Walton:
Yes, but I suppose your style has to be different to a normal business, because you are not really quite sure of your direction at any one moment in time?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
That's correct, that's correct and my style is to get very close to the founding scientist. I team with a top person in that scientific field, learn from him or her broaden the understanding of the science sometimes in an academic sense and then get very, very involved in understanding the market and the competitive situation and what's required from the marketplace. Customers and markets create the need for an entrepreneurial effort you don't, you can't push science just out into the marketplace you have to understand why you are pushing it and what's gonna happen when you do push it.
Sheridan G. Snyder's views: Essentials for Entrepreneurialism
Fintan Walton:
Right, so that leads you into other elements of your career and life I suppose, I know you like to play tennis occasionally, but that lead you into another area which was quite incredible which was the meeting with Arthur Ashe, could you tell me that story?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Yes, fairly early on I got involved in organizing and promoting tennis tournaments and then in 1968 and '69 I actually was involved in creating the first two US Opens at Forest Hills and so I gained a lot of friendships in competitive tennis at that point and Arthur Ashe and Charlie Pasarell were two of those people and I was especially close to Arthur and it was just one day we were sitting outside the US Open Club at Forest Hills and Arthur asked me Sherry why do you keep working on developing the US Open it's just gonna put more money in people's pockets like myself and we have enough money the way it is now, why don't we try to create an inter-city tennis program and get in kids in the inter-city who haven't been able to play tennis expose this sport to them and I just sort of kiddingly sid to him Oh sure Arthur we are gonna go in and throw tennis rackets and tennis balls in the inter-city and see what happens and he made it very good.
Fintan Walton:
They are normally associated, Tennis is not normally associated with inter-cities?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
No it is not, it's not an inter-city sport interesting enough there are tremendous number of public tennis courts that aren't being used for instance 785 of them in New York city alone that during the day aren't used at all and so there was a resource it could be used and so Arthur's comment to me put me on notice he said well Sherry I thought you were an entrepreneur you are suppose to think of ways in which you can do this and so that was enough challenge for me and so we decided that and Arthur thought of the team aspect putting the bears and the wolves and the tigers with red uniforms and blue uniforms and they love the team aspect of 12 and under 14 under, 16 under and now it's a United States Tennis Association major program in a 160 cities and 500,000 young children each year, so and that just started with my going down to Harlem River playground on a 168th street in Amsterdam Avenue in New York for two-years in developing the program on the court.
Fintan Walton:
Do you feel that's in all the things you've done where you would fit that in terms of your achievements?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
That I think was the most difficult, there wasn't you could work with in other words the tennis was looked upon as a sport of the elite in Newport and Forest Hills et cetera, and so at first it was resisted very heavily in a matter-of-fact so heavily that most afternoons and evenings after I got through at the tennis courts I didn't have many tyres on my car so many times I had to purchase tyres just to get home and so I had to stick with it from that standpoint it was difficult, it was a very much a people situation I had to convince the people and the community, I had people that ran the church and so forth and as a frankly a white person going into and you are talking 68, 69, 70 you talk a difficult period in race relations and they were very suspicious of me as I am coming down to try to develop these tennis programs, what is he got behind this? Why is he doing this and so it had some elements to it that made it more difficult than some of the others.
Fintan Walton:
Right, just going back then to your continued entrepreneurialism you've more, you've stretched out more to help other up and coming entrepreneurs to set up their business?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Yes, I look upon, some people look upon entrepreneurship as a as something that's relatively difficult, I don't happen to, I think if you have the passion, you have tenacity you can there is someone always ready to support you if you convince them your passion and your commitment you understand the market, and so yes I try to get people to go in that direction because I think not only for their sake but I think for the economy sake 92% of our new jobs come from small business, so these entrepreneurial companies that look like they are very small companies you know Genzyme started out with three employees Henry Blair, myself and an administrative assistant, it has a 11,000 employees today and so those things really do happen. You hear it as a fairy tale, but you can really build a significant company and most of those companies have developed into something where there is a fair number of employees so I there is a whole lot of people who could be good entrepreneurs.
Fintan Walton:
And are these things that individuals inherits through their genes or is it something that, that they can develop themselves?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
I think it is in their genes, it's a combination of being able to accept a risk to a certain extent and risk to the point you don't get scared but you are thinking well, one. The second thing is ego who wants a strong ego to show him or herself that here she can rise to the top as an individual business man and create a business.
Fintan Walton:
Confidence I suppose really?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Confidence, ego.
Fintan Walton:
Little bit of stupidity?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Yes a little naivety doesn't help but the real smart ones find out why you don't do it, so now that's why the smart ones aren't entrepreneurs.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and in the end I suppose influence that you've got to be able to influence people?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Yes you absolutely have to have a good communication sense as especially as a business man you have to gain the confidence of the technical people and the scientifical, scientific people and realize that we're all going in the same direction because sometimes they can't understand that there is a scientific direction, as a business market direction but they really are one and so communicating, marketing skills to be able to communicate with the first people taking on new technology there is a tremendous amount of communication involved.
Sheridan G. Snyder's perspective: Future growth of Biotechnology industry
Fintan Walton:
Right, we are here at BIO and you know you are one of the early founders of biotechnology through Genzyme and our industry is going through reasonably tough time at the moment trying to raise the challenge of raising finance for new start-up companies, but even existing companies are finding it difficult and of course we all realize how important biotechnology is in terms of its contribution in the future to new therapies and so forth. How do you see the industry now, are you concerned about where we are now, is this are we off the page in terms of what is visioned, envisioned for biotechnology and then how did you see this evolving into the future?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Well you've got core segments of biotechnology, you've got agricultural biotechnology, you've got ecological you've got but of course one of the main focuses of this conference and other biotech conferences is medicine, and the human health and therapeutics and from that standpoint one of the frankly the weaknesses is we don't have enough business entrepreneurs that marry with the scientists who are spinning out many times their science from an academic institution et cetera, and they really need that support of that person who is gonna go out and raise the money. Now every now and then you will find a very outstanding scientist, entrepreneur that loves to go out and raise money and be told why he is crazy with the valuation and so forth that's a difficult role to play, and so I would like to see more expertise from the business side coming together with those scientists in the early stages as opposed to either one of them trying it alone, it is definitely a business scientific task and you need expertise from both sides.
Fintan Walton:
And on that basis do you see our industry continuing to grow, its future is assured?
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Well it's certainly has a tremendous way it can grow and I think there are few things that have to happen that haven't quite happened yet even though the biotech industry as we know it and Genzyme was one of the first of the four biotech companies here in Boston and so we used to have a soft wall league we had our tough time getting four teams together and now in Cambridge that's pretty easy to do, but I think there is going to be more of a clinical involvement so that the definition of where biotechnology is going is gonna be better defined by the clinicians and I think the clinicians have held back and have not been involved in biotech enough.
Fintan Walton:
Sherry Snyder, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Sheridan G. Snyder:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Sheridan G Snyder
President
At the time of recording this PTV interview Sheridan G. Snyder serves as Chairman, President and CEO of Biocatalyst. Sheridan G. Snyder is an entrepreneur with over forty years of experience, and a major figure in today's biotechnology industry. Mr. Snyder graduated from the University of Virginia in 1958 with a BA, majoring in Romance Languages. His first company was Cambridge Mailing Machines, in 1964 that manufactures high speed envelope inserting machines. Since then Mr. Snyder has subsequently founded 13 companies. These include Genzyme, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which now has a market cap of over $18 billion. Mr. Snyder's most recent venture was Upstate, a biotechnology company based in Charlottesville, Virginia which was recently sold to Serologicals Corp. In 1971 Mr. Snyder also founded a packaging company, Instapak, which markets a new form of industrial packaging whereby liquid urethane is injected into a package and expands to 120 times its original volume in 15 seconds to form a complete protective barrier for heavy, fragile, technical equipment. It is now the largest division of Sealed Air Corp. Biocatalyst International is the most recent of Mr. Snyder's business enterprises. It was founded with Mr. Snyder's vision of bridging the gap between countries that have brilliant science and the United States.
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
Biocatalyst
Biocatalyst is a group of experienced business and scientific entrepreneurs who are focused on transitioning a scientifically validated product to an accepted product in the marketplace. Biocatalyst is an operating team, as opposed to an investment firm. Biocatalyst provides the seed capital, experience and market knowledge to make this happen, at which point Biocatalyst raise expanded venture or corporate funding and organize a completely independent management team. The transition from lab to a well defined market to 10 or more initial satisfied customers to a full independent company is what Biocatalyst define as the startup process. This path to success is well known to the Biocatalyst team, with multiple examples of previous success to prove this point. Companies which have benefited from these startup principles include Genzyme, Dyax (Biotage), Upstate Group, Instapak/Sealed Air and many others.