Elevate EIR Dan Meek “In a startup you will likely wear many different hats, sometimes several in just one day.”
| Elevate Ventures
November 16, 2020
With experience on all sides of entrepreneurship, Dan Meek’s background is a great fit for helping and empowering entrepreneurs. Based in Fort Wayne, Dan works as Entrepreneur-in-Residence serving the Elevate Northeast Indiana region. Before Elevate, Dan’s roles included President of Seneca Business Ventures and Vice President of Venture Development at Rev1 Ventures. Dan has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Ohio Northern University and a Master of Business Administration from Capital University.
In your role as an EIR, what are key areas you consistently work on with entrepreneurs?
Every entrepreneurial team is different. Many first-time founders can benefit from a surrounding network of advisors (legal, financial, technology, etc.), and should always be seeking solid connections and guidance.
I find that many technical founders need assistance on financial matters for their business. I like to advise companies to begin building their due diligence data rooms very early, as getting information organized for investors will benefit them significantly. This helps identify the gaps, and often these gaps are in financial documents.
Tell me about your experience as an entrepreneur.
I had the most amazing experience in the medical device/specialty pharma industry. It was in the field of respiratory drug delivery, and I had the pleasure of working with so many sharp individuals in the pharmaceutical industry. My company was involved in respiratory drug delivery, and the development of new devices and therapies for lung cancer, asthma, and other pulmonary diseases.
My experience included everything from leadership of product development teams, client relationship and project management, to regulatory and clinical trial support. Seeing patients try new therapies in a clinical setting was very rewarding, and I will always cherish that opportunity. I try to take that experience into my work today with entrepreneurs, sharing the lessons I learned to enable their businesses.
“Seeing patients try new therapies in a clinical setting was very rewarding, and I will always cherish that opportunity. I try to take that experience into my work today with entrepreneurs, sharing the lessons I learned to enable their businesses.”
From your experience, what is something you feel you learned the hard way?
Two things: One, assume the role of your company’s hardest critic. If you can’t see the weaknesses of your company, your customers, partners, or investors will.
And two, perception is reality. It doesn’t matter how cool your technology is. If you are perceived to be a person in the wrong role in your company, it will impact your ability to sell, raise capital, lead, etc. If you truly are in the wrong role, don’t be afraid to change it by attracting the right talent to your company.
You have a great deal of experience in working with medical device companies. What are one or two of the most common challenges medical device startups can face?
Medical device companies generally must raise capital to get to market, and as such, will be in the position of convincing others to invest in their business. So personality, style, intelligence, ability to listen, and being organized are essential for leaders in these types of companies.
I would also advise founders in medical device companies to recognize that they may not be the CEO of the company for each stage of the company and to be ready to attract the types of leaders needed. In my startup experience, the company went through several phases and had several leadership changes. Be prepared for this, as adapting to change is very important in a startup.
Have you faced these challenges, and if so, what is your advice to help entrepreneurs overcome those challenges?
I held several positions in my startup, from project management, engineering, product development leadership, to even regulatory affairs. The company required flexibility and persons with initiative and drive to do what was needed for the best of the company. In a startup you will likely wear many different hats, sometimes several in just one day! My advice to entrepreneurs is to be open to change, be open to being flexible, and be open to turning over certain functions to others without letting ego get in the way. Remember the primary goal is to get to market and make a difference. That will keep you focused.
What’s the most rewarding part of working in your region?
I really enjoy exploring Indiana and meeting so many people engaged in the development of new products, solutions, and ideas. The Midwest has a long history of invention and innovation and this is still happening today. The northeast Indiana region in particular has a strong entrepreneurial community and a great deal of talent. The entrepreneurs I work with here are hard-working, resourceful, and committed to driving growth.
I’m naturally quite inquisitive, so I enjoy learning about new businesses in the region – working closely with entrepreneurs, rolling up my sleeves, and enabling deep discussion on the business, industry, alternative approaches, etc., being deep in or an extension of the business.
“My advice to entrepreneurs is to be open to change, be open to being flexible, and be open to turning over certain functions to others without letting ego get in the way..”
How do you see the region changing or evolving over the next five years (or more)?
Cities and regions are changing significantly all over America right now. In northeast Indiana, I see an intentional movement to position the region for growth of new business, jobs and opportunity. From area revitalization projects to expansion of businesses in more rural areas, northeast Indiana seems to be focused on building on its strengths, and the community leaders are very supportive of entrepreneurial initiatives.
In my first year with Elevate Northeast Indiana, I’ve seen over $3 million invested by Elevate Ventures and other sources in early stage startups across the region. With the deals currently within our pipeline and the companies I know who are raising capital at this time I think it’s realistic that that number will be over $5 million by year end. I am also seeing early stage companies from outside the region inquire/move to northeast Indiana. Building on this with even more speed will bring a big impact to the region so I would encourage everyone reading this to contact me with your next big opportunity.
Which 1-2 resources in your region (or Indiana) do you consistently direct entrepreneurs to take advantage of and why?
I generally don’t limit to just regional resources when there are so many across the entire state of Indiana available to entrepreneurs. Many of the businesses we invest in serve very large market opportunities in the US and globally, so one must keep in mind when searching for resources. Northeast Indiana has many entrepreneurial support organizations, and local economic development organizations that want to assist startups, so I often recommend these resources.
In addition, I know of many efforts to bring additional resources to the northeast Indiana region so stay tuned for future announcements that will help you as you grow your business.