A Slice on Joe Muldoon, Chairman and CEO of FAST BioMedical
Today’s entrepreneur managed EY’s Entrepreneurial Services Department in the ’90s when the word entrepreneur was used for ‘someone who couldn’t hold down a real job’. It was something people opted for when other, more traditional avenues of a career were not possible for them. This was Joe Muldoon’s first brush with entrepreneurship. Fast forward to 2006, when FAST BioMedical was born, and Muldoon’s life continued as a serial entrepreneur.
Muldoon is the Chairman and CEO of FAST BioMedical, though leadership is not a new thing for him. All through school and college, accidentally or by design, he would end up spearheading whatever was going on. So much so, that taking charge and leading are now second nature to him. His journey started in a more traditional vein. As a graduate of the IU Kelley School of Business, he went to work with EY in the early ’90s. He worked with tech companies (software, broadband and wireless) in the first half of his career; moving on to medical technologies (pharma and device-related) in the latter part.
His normal workday now is broadly divided into relationship management, advancing their product portfolio and fundraising. With a small full-time team, augmented by a globally spread-out, part-time staff, relationship management requires a lot of strategy. Muldoon also works closely with FAST BioMedical’s Board of Directors, consisting of subject matter experts. Together, they take care of areas like further capitalization and product commercialization planning.
As is with a lot of entrepreneurs, fundraising can be quite a challenge. Like he puts it, fundraising is “an excruciating, yet exciting challenge.” In the case of FAST BioMedical, the challenge lies in the fact that they are a life-sciences company, so it is essentially a journey of discovery (because one can’t really invent biological processes) and forward engineering to see how they can get the tech to work. Then comes patenting, dealing with regulatory authorities, and more. This is where Muldoon’s experience in a fundraising role has given him a leg up. Most of his career has been spent in either raising capital or aspects closely allied to that. Being in a heavily regulated industry comes with its own difficulties, which the team at FAST BioMedical overcomes via smart strategies and excellent planning. It helps to have a great team too…
Another big challenge is IP development; “Keeping the product development moving in a way that’s reacting to the market because the market changes quickly and the gestation time for getting life sciences products to market is sometimes painfully long. So, you have to make sure that you’re not developing a product that you thought the market needed this year, and six years later, the markets changed.” This means Muldoon and his team need to have their finger on the pulse of the industry and their users, constantly adjusting and updating the product trajectory.
Of the several lessons that one can learn from Muldoon, perhaps the most important one is his people management strategy. He believes in surrounding himself with the best talent he can find. Once in the fold of FAST BioMedical, he ensures that they are treated like the best would be treated. Oh yes, and he spends a lot of time getting out of their way, allowing them to do what they do the best.
Another lesson is to never scrimp on the essentials. FAST BioMedical, right at the outset when they hardly had enough funds, hired the best, high-powered intellectual property firm they could find. They then paid them a significant amount of money to develop patents on innovative technology that would only see the light of day about six years later. While this was a big risk, it ended up being worth it for the company in the long run.
Turning down investors? Not once, but twice? Any entrepreneur would really, really hesitate before doing so. But Muldoon, a believer of trusting his gut instinct, did just this. Twice in the lifespan of FAST BioMedical, he said no to investors when they were almost at the finish line. While it left the investors flabbergasted, Muldoon realized that they were not a good fit and made the decision to end the relationship. Of course, he had doubts and misgivings about what he had just done, who wouldn’t? But he stuck by his decision and has been proven right, because FAST BioMedical continues to grow and thrive, while both those funds are no longer in existence.
Muldoon wants to pass on one of the biggest lessons he has learned in business to all the entrepreneurs out there. The lesson? “If you don’t get it, don’t do it!” Very emphatically shared, he further elaborates, saying that “When you don’t understand the people or the project, you will not be able to add the greatest value possible to it.” He feels that if it isn’t evoking a feeling of ‘Wow!’ in him, he wouldn’t want to waste his time and deprive that project or team of someone who could do more or give more. This kind of mature and holistic thinking has been a good success strategy for Muldoon.
His long-term goals for FAST BioMedical? He has two major ones. The first one is getting the technology in the hands of the caregivers and others who can help patients; the second one is driving excellent ROI for investors and those who believe in him and his dream. He measures his success by his stewardship. The questions he asks himself are: “Are things better off or more secure because of me? Are they that much more valuable than they were before I was involved? Are relationships deeper, stronger, better?” If so, one has succeeded.
Muldoon breathes the “attitude of gratitude”, spending ten minutes at the start of every day counting his blessings, something he has done for 30 years now. His credo: An attitude of gratitude ultimately decides one’s altitude. This is perhaps why Muldoon and FAST BioMedical are on a constant upward trajectory.
Joe Muldoon received his B.S. in Business, with a Major in Accounting from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. He started his career at EY and held senior management roles at Macmillan Publishing, Brightpoint (NASDAQ: CELL), First Mile Technologies and the Indiana Venture Center before taking on his current role as Chairman and CEO of FAST BioMedical. Connect with Muldoon on LinkedIn.