Start-up Life: High Risk, Higher Rewards
By Raph Mannino ‘13 | october, 2012
On Monday morning of the first day of this past summer, I can remember when my alarm clock woke me up at 6:30 am. As I began to get ready for work, it struck me that for the first time, there would be no higher-up in an office who would look at me disapprovingly if I decided to come in late. There would be no performance review. There would be no bi-weekly paycheck deposited into my account, with deductions neatly itemized on a pay stub. For the first time, I would be truly self-employed.
I spent this summer working as CEO of Aquarius Biotechnologies, a company commercializing a drug-delivery technology developed by my father, Dr. Raphael J. Mannino. I started the company during my first year, along with him, two other scientists, and an amazing team of three other Booth MBAs: Tyler Akeson, Daphne Hao and Donnie Phillips. Beginning our work last fall, we participated in New Venture Challenge in the spring, practicing our pitch dozens of times throughout the quarter and pulling all-nighters to complete the business plan. As I was looking to continue the progress we had made, I decided to forgo a traditional summer internship, instead splitting my time between Aquarius and work as an associate for Hyde Park Angels (HPA).
The work we had done over the previous nine months had helped prepare me for the role, as I was able to continue existing projects and focus on major development areas for the company. The technical nature of our business has forced me to learn on the job since day one, and this summer was no exception. On any given day, I may have been researching the economics of licensing deals in the biotechnology industry, interviewing law firms to determine which to hire, or brainstorming with our science team the development plans for different applications of the technology. In addition, I had responsibilities to HPA, wherein I was evaluating other early-stage companies for potential investment. This helped me learn what angels and VCs look for, and thus helped me to position Aquarius for any investment we may take.
While I am proud of the progress we have made over the summer, I have learned to be more patient and truly take a long-term perspective. The life cycle for product development in the life sciences industry is inherently much longer than that for other industries, and the possibility that our first product may not reach its first patient for another 3-5 years has forced me to change my paradigm about what my life will look like for foreseeable future. Working for myself is simultaneously the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve ever done, and while the risk is high, for me, the reward is so much higher that I have no trouble motivating myself to get ready for work when the alarm goes off at 6:30 every morning.