So the plane from Newark to KC is late – SOP for today’s puddle jumping regional jets. All it takes is one delay early in the day and the schedule flies out the window. So the hotel is undergoing renovation – what’s a little dust and riding in the freight elevator? The hotel’s within sight of the convention center and the people behind the desk are nice. You find the best gazpacho you’ve ever had – and it’s at a restaurant in KC.


It’s all part of a recent adventure called the 2016 Kansas City Animal Health Investment Forum. While the animal health industry is close knit, it’s less insular than ever before, and the annual KC Forum illustrates this clearly.

Sometimes the Forum is called “exclusive,” which got me thinking about the various meanings of “exclusive.” Actually, one reason the AH industry continues to grow is that it’s learned not to exclude potential products and technologies simply because they were born outside of “the industry.”

In a recent interview1 focusing on innovation in animal health, industry start-up veteran Dr. Linda Rhodes explained that although innovation is risky business, smaller companies generally find it easier to innovate than large companies do. And innovation is what the Investment Forum is about.

When the KC Animal Health Corridor was launched 11 years ago, it raised some – actually quite a few – eyebrows. But the Corridor’s annual KC-based Animal Health Investment Forum and industry “homecoming” dinner have become known as one of the industry’s go-to networking and business development events, not only for industry people, but also for companies that just may have something the industry needs.

This year 17 small companies were chosen to make their cases for investor funding at the Forum. In the two months leading up to the event the companies worked with volunteer coaches selected by Corridor leadership to ensure Forum presentations were concise, relevant, within their 10-minute-max time frame, and didn’t require No-Doz®.

Lauren Cook, Cathy Moldave Turnstone Animal Health, Charles Calleja of Arthramid LabsLauren and I said “yes” to coaching – it sounded like fun. We had no idea what we’d signed up for and the experience was even better than we could have expected. Our “coachee” Charles Calleja is from France. Unlike some young companies, his – Arthramid Labs – is based on a strongly established business approach and a device that’s already developed. We helped him customize his presentation into an 8-minute, 13-slide distillation and rework of several dozen slides from his business plan. Scheduling meetings with investors and animal health companies is one of presenting companies’ primary objectives, and we were able to help identify specific meeting targets and help Charles optimize the Forum’s new meeting-scheduling app. Technology helped us solve the issue of distance (4,000 miles) and time difference (six hours) between our location in NJ and Nice, France; all of our coaching was done via Skype until we got to KC, where we arranged an impromptu practice session the afternoon prior to the Forum.

How did things go? Charles did an excellent job, had more than a dozen meetings, and – very important – his mom liked the photos and video we emailed her.

Takeaways from L&C in KC?

  • There is lots of energy at this event, and for the most part people are very willing to meet and talk. Frankly, those that aren’t are missing out.
  • Opportunities are there for the taking.
    • Animal health companies and investors can interact with presenting companies, as well as other small and mid-sized companies, that are known to be working on animal health applications at stages early enough for guidance from potential partners and collaborators in the know.
    • Presenting companies benefit from coaching, which not only offers guidance from people with animal health experience but also serves as a reality check – in some cases a much needed reality check.
    • Companies that are thinking about looking at animal health applications or applying to present at a future Forum can learn more about animal health, start meeting some of the players, and see how the event works.
    • Animal health veterans who have started their own service-provider businesses can interact with stakeholders who want to outsource various aspects of research, development, commercialization and other functions.
  • Coaching is fun, and interacting with fellow coaches during two official coaching sessions is very worthwhile.
  • Next year, we’ll arrive a day earlier to take advantage of the KC music scene!

1 J. Harvey. Innovation is finally emerging from companies both new and old, says expert. AnimalPharm. Published 31 August 2016.

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