Humor from on High

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Things are happening.

Has it really been since last spring that 6'2" has seen some action? As you might imagine, a LOT has happened since then. Foremost in mind is that fellow 6'2" (and sister-blog Tuesdays With(out) Torii) contributor Hops, along with Ms. Hops, have given birth (well, Ms. Hops did most of the work I hear) to a beautiful, bouncing, baby boy. That, along with other significant life events in both of our lives, have lead to an anti-climatic semi-retirement of TWT which we have cleverly announced in the most passive aggressive way possible....by not posting anything and not really telling anyone about the end of days. It's kind of like leaving things open for a sequel, or maybe for taking up the mantle once again when the Twins do something inspiring enough to deserve concerted effort. Whatever the reason we eventually choose to start up again, it was totally planned in advance.

For me personally, life has taken several serious zigs and a couple of zags here lately. A few I will wait to share until later, but one zig I alluded to in the title. I was for a time, underemployed (copywrite: Hops).

Now fortunately (I guess), underemployment is actually distinct from unemployment, although no less frustrating and man-parts-disfiguring. You see, the company I was currently working for had sorta kinda run out of money. That happens when you work for a start-up company, but in our case it was somewhat unusual. We are in the medical field, and recently conducted human clinical trials to get our product through the rigorous (understatement) FDA approval process to become commerically available to sun-dappled soccer moms in Edina and Wayzata. The trial went well -- great, actually -- and we met our primary endpoint* for efficacy and nearly all of our secondary endpoints were extremely favorable for us compared to the current market leader and gold standard treatment. Plus, no ones face fell off. Great, right? Apparently...wrong.

*My favorite tidbit of this whole process, which will be familiar to people in the industry and some who aren't, is that our primary endpoint is a statistical measure called...wait for it..."non-inferiority". Basically a fancy way of saying "just as good as, but not necessarily better, but could be"....a statistical backhanded compliment. But the phrasing strikes me as funny whenever I hear it anyway. Kind of like, "Do you love me?" "Well...I can't say for certain my feelings are that strong, but I can assure you confidentally and with accuracy that I don't HATE you." Try that one with your gal next time...

Anyway, right after meeting our primary endpoint of being not statistically sucky, our licensing "partner" backed out on our deal, a deal that had been put in place at least 18 months before. We had held up our end of the bargain at every milestone up to that point, and this company had raised almost 25 million in venture capital money on the strength of our product and technology (to market and distribute it).... and then chickened out. Do they have to give the money back? Of course not. And what about us? Screwed. The management has spent the intervening 9 months or so trying to put together a new deal. But for the first six months of that, the 9 and 12 month data from the trial was still outstanding and every possible partner wanted to wait to see the results before committing anything (I don't blame them). And once that promising data came out, talks have been better. But still, these things take time and when you are a pre-revenue start-up company such as mine was, time is especially money.

Now being on the science side of things (literally, our labs are across the hall from the offices), I was somewhat unaware of these types of things on a day-to-day basis. But being at a small company you do always hear rumblings, because you run into everyone in the company every day, and talk to people who are in those rooms having those discussions. But still, I wasn't expecting to get called into the big office in July and hear that basically the entire company was being laid off. Bit of a shocker. For the office folks, they had about five or six days until they were cut off. For a few others, a limited stay of engagement while the company runs on the few gallons left in the tank, and the president and founder puts his house up for a second mortgage and distributes his salary to the few of us that were still left. For me, I was supposed to be done on July 15, but then was still there for a special encore performance due to the aforementioned salary redistribution plan. I learned several new phrases as a result of all of this, including "retroactive cost-of-living increase" and "deferred salary". Fun, right!?

It's a strange thing because I have no doubts that the company will raise money and be back on it's feet again soon....the exact time-frame of "soon" however, is not a great comfort for me and so I had been actively looking elsewhere for work. In fact, I have now, since August, been at a fabulous new position and as happy as can be for a variety of reason that I hope to write about soon. And since then, a number of other happy life events have also occurred...big ones...more on that soon....

Labels: , ,