With luminaries such as Joe Biden, Bill Gates and Anne Wojcicki as keynote speakers, the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference continues to be one of the most prominent events of its kind. This January, it was once again hosted in San Francisco, widely considered one of the meccas of the medtech industry.
Despite conflicting with other competing events like CES in Las Vegas, the J.P. Morgan conference continues to thrive. With just 20 companies in attendance at its inception 37 years ago, it has grown to roughly 9,000 registrants, attracting executives from some of the most noted life sciences companies in the industry, leaders from more than 450 private and public companies, and innovators and investors from all over. In addition, several thousand healthcare professionals drive or fly to the City specifically to attend meetings, receptions and events taking place outside of the conference.
Again this year, the Fogarty Institute had several attendees, including seasoned executives as well as our Ferolyn Fellows and other entrepreneurs new to the event. Here are a few of the key takeaways:
Connecting healthcare entrepreneurs and investors
The J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference provides a unique opportunity for startups at all levels to introduce innovative ideas to a wide array of venture capitalists, investors and strategics who are visiting from around the world.
“This is one of the few times a year when everyone you need to meet is in the same place. Participants come in with a very open mindset, which makes it easy to set up numerous meetings, scheduled or impromptu, in a relatively short period of time,” said Mike Regan, Fogarty Institute CIO. “Entrepreneurs have a unique chance to meet key decision makers they may otherwise not have access to, and investors are rewarded with fresh ideas and potentially lucrative opportunities.”
“The conference provides an incredible opportunity to connect with the right people and partners,” added Cam Hutton, co-founder and CEO of Healyx Labs.
A chance to explore industry niches and learn from seasoned industry leaders
Conference talks, sessions and keynotes provide insight to key industry trends and advancements, including company initiatives that may not necessarily be publicly available.
Several of our first-time conference attendees noted that the discussions were generally more financially focused, rather than solution-oriented as most of the medtech events are. “While a lot of the focus was on financial outcomes for public companies, including many in the pharma and biotech space, it was invigorating and interesting to hear the good investment ‘vibes’ and positive stock prospects,” said Gabriel Sanchez, CEO of Enspectra, a Fogarty Institute company.
Others, like Véronique Peiffer, CEO of Fogarty company palmm, found it interesting to hear the strategics talk about their performance and plans. Mark Jurovic, CEO of Materna, also found some of the presentations to be helpful in learning more about specific topics and getting a better sense of CEO’s messaging strategies.
“The conference was like a one-stop-shop way to get up to speed on a broad array of healthcare topics,” said Ridhi Taiyal, CEO of NextGen Jane. “As a platform technology, we need to stay abreast of trends in everything from next generation sequencing to liquid biopsies to traditional diagnostic companies.”
Lastly, Ferolyn Fellow Neil Zimmerman was impressed by the wide variety of CEO personalities, backgrounds and experience levels across all the presenting companies. “It was eye-opening and encouraging that many of them don’t fit the typical CEO mold most of us have in our minds,” said Neil. “Also, it was impressive to see the sheer diversity of medical needs being addressed… for example, a number of companies are focusing on rare diseases, pediatrics, and other smaller markets that tend to be neglected because of perceived low ROI. There’s no shortage of work to do when it comes to improving health.”
In-conference and peripheral meetings provide an invaluable networking opportunity
While the meetings and keynote sessions provide plenty of food for thought, it doesn’t stop there. The resounding feedback was that the events that are organized inside and outside the conference provide an invaluable opportunity to network.
“The conference draws highly influential people from across the world into one spot,” noted Gabriel. “I happened to meet one of the CEOs of a major strategic in our space whom I would likely have never met otherwise, and that led to a string of introductions that may be valuable in the future.”
Receptions outside the conference are equally valuable. For example, Stanford Biodesign co-hosted an innovator’s reception that was attended by over 600 people, including the CEOs of major companies. Fellows and entrepreneurs were able to network and gain invaluable insights, pitch ideas, receive feedback and learn about trends in the market.
Of course, there are always a few drawbacks cited, such as cost and crowds, but overall, there’s no denying that the conference is an incredible opportunity to connect people with partners, whether they are searching for investments or financing, new board members or employees.