Dion Madsen

Dion Madsen

Being the CEO of a start-up or even a growing business can be a lonely job.

Recently you may have read several articles in the business press speaking about the value add of Advisory Boards.  What studies have consistently shown was the use of a formal Advisory Board created outstanding business performance.

Statistical analysis of businesses’ financial variables based on fiscal data from Statistics Canada showed that:

  • Sales growth was stronger after instituting an advisory board. In the first three years after an advisory board was set up, sales grew 66.8% compared with a growth of 22.9% in the three previous years.
  • Productivity growth also strengthened after the advisory board was introduced. In the three years after the advisory board was set up, productivity rose an average of 5.9% compared with 3.2% in the previous three-year period.

These studies also compared the financial performance of businesses that have advisory boards with similar companies without a board, showing that, from 2001 to 2011:

  • On average, annual sales of businesses with an advisory board were 24% higher than those of the control group during the period.
  • Productivity (as measured by the ratio of sales to the number of employees) was 18% higher on average for the group of businesses with advisory boards.

Ok, so given that Advisory Boards appear to be linked to much better business performance, everyone is using one, right?  Well, the studies also showed that only 6% of businesses have one and 19% have a formal board of directors, leaving 76% of SME owners without a critical business tool.

According to Jean-Yves Sarazin, CEO of the Delom Group, an advisory board allows entrepreneurs to break free from their isolation and to have a sounding board to validate their strategies. An advisory board allows business leaders to question themselves and forces them to reflect. The mission of an advisory board is to ask the most relevant questions and delve deeper into underlying issues. It can also help compensate for weaknesses. An entrepreneur who lacks financial expertise can benefit from the recommendations of an advisory board member who has financial expertise. Moreover, an advisory board forces the leader to be prepared, triggering the thinking process: “When preparing, one often self-corrects one’s strategy. Having an advisory board builds discipline.”[1]

So, what are you waiting for?  Well, I guess for most people, once you get past the issue of Why?, there is the issue of How?

Brad Feld, Managing Director of the Foundry Group in Boulder and prolific writer on VC issues, has a great post here, as does Greg Spence in this article from the Financial Post.  I think that the big lesson from both sources is that there isn’t a right and wrong way, but there are many decisions along the way to craft the board that delivers the most value.

With that in mind, I am pleased to announce that we have created our own Advisory Board that we plan to use to assist in making better investment decisions and driving value growth in our portfolio companies.

The members are:

Rod Altman, MD, MBA

Rod is a physician, healthcare manager, and venture capitalist.  Currently, Rod is a System Medical Director for Team Health, managing 140 physicians and physician assistants who staff 8 emergency departments across the western United States

Rod brings a tremendous amount of investment experience to our team. From 2006-2011, he was at CMEA Capital where he invested in SurgiQuest, Visiogen (acquired by Abbott in 2009), InSound Medical (acquired by Sonova in 2010), and VasoNova (acquired by Teleflex in 2011), and Baxano (merged with TransS1 in 2013).   Rod was a Founder and Managing Director of Aphelion Capital and also worked at Piper Jaffray Ventures and was a Partner at TVM Techno Venture Management. At those firms, Rod’s investments included Confluent Surgical (acquired by Tyco Surgical in 2006) and Insulet (now public).

Prior to entering the venture capital industry, Rod practiced emergency medicine for 10 years. He continues to work clinically at Stanford University Medical Center, where he is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine in the Department of Surgery.  Dr. Altman received his MD degree from McGill University and an MBA from the University of Chicago.    Despite his long time living in the United States Rod remains a proud fan of the Montréal Canadiens.

Lisa Suennen

Lisa Suennen is a venture expert, published author, leading medical blogger and amateur humorist.  Lisa is currently Managing Partner at Venture Valkyrie Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm providing advisory services to companies, organizations and venture capital/private equity firms in the healthcare field and is a Senior Advisor to Psilos Group, a healthcare-focused venture capital and growth equity firm that focuses on the healthcare information technology, healthcare services and medical device sectors.  Lisa was a co-founder of Psilos Group and a Partner at the firm from 1998-2014.  She also served as the firms’ Chief Marketing Officer.

Lisa brings a tremendous amount of operational experience to our team. Prior to Psilos, she was at Merit Behavioral Care (formerly American Biodyne, Inc.), where she held various senior executive roles including Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Senior Vice President/General Manager of the Public Sector Division (a $300 million business unit) and Senior Vice President of Pacific Region Operations. Lisa joined Merit in 1988 while still in its early start-up period and, during her nine-year tenure, she played a key role in its growth to an $800 million/year company. While at Merit, she also participated in the acquisition and integration of regional managed care companies, the company’s IPO in 1991, and the company’s sale to Magellan Health for $800 million in 1998.

Previously, Lisa served as Worldwide Product Manager for INGRES/Relational Technology, Inc., a relational database company, where she has responsibility for development, marketing and distribution for the company’s UNIX PC software product. Prior to INGRES, Lisa served as Director of U.S. Market Development and as a Manager, U.S. Government and Industry Relations for X/Open, an international computer industry standards setting and lobbying consortium.  Earlier, Lisa spent several years at Regis McKenna, Inc., an international high technology marketing and public relations firm, responsible for government relations and public relations strategy for client companies in the software and healthcare areas.

Lisa holds an M.A. in political science, a B.A. in political science and a B.A. in mass communications, all from the University of California, Berkeley. Lisa has returned to UC Berkeley as Vice Chair of the National Advisory Council of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University and as visiting lecturer at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business where she teaches the annual course on healthcare venture capital.

Lisa has served as a member of the Advisory Board of the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of the National Coordinator Investing in Innovations program.  She is currently a member of the Qualcomm Life Advisory Board, a member of the Dignity Health Foundation Board, an Advisor to the California Health Care Foundation Innovation Fund, and a member of the Board of Directors of health IT company Beyond Lucid Technologies and medical device company Angioscore.

In 2014 Lisa was named as one of the Top 50 People in Digital Health by Rock Health, Goldman Sachs, Fenwick & West and Silicon Valley Bank. In 2013 Lisa was named to the Healthcare IT News HIT Top 100 List.  In 2011 Lisa was the recipient of the Director of the Year Award (Companies in Transition) from the Corporate Director’s Forum. In 2011 she was also was awarded the U.C. Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies Outstanding Alumni Award.

Lisa also writes a widely read blog on healthcare and healthcare investing found at www.venturevalkyrie.com. Lisa is proud to note that this blog has been highlighted on the Forbes/Women 2.0 VC Women Who Blog List, on MedCity News’ list of 12 powerful female voices in healthcare innovation and social media, and on Health IT News’ list of the Top 10 bloggers to follow on Twitter. 

Lisa is also the author, along with Dr. David Shaywitz, of the book Tech Tonics: Can Passionate Entrepreneurs Heal Healthcare with Technology, published in 2013 by HyperInk Press and available at Amazon.com.

Jordan Shlain, MD, Founder, Healthloop

Jordan brings in on the ground medical practitioner perspective to our team. Jordan is a practicing internist, digital health investor, and entrepreneur. In addition to being a full time doctor and founder of Clinical CRM software (Healthloop), he is commissioner of the Health Service Systems Board of San Francisco and sits on the board of the bipartisan Washington DC policy think tank, Hope Street Group. While interested in policy, Dr. Shlain takes a very pragmatic approach to how health policy translates and impacts the delivery paradigm’; specifically how do digital technologies positively impact patient outcomes and alternative physician payment models. He is board chair of the American Academy of Private Physicians (AAPP) and an active advisor to many digital health companies. He has been named one of the top 100 health care innovators by HealthSpottr and is a frequent speaker at Health 2.0, RockHealth, Economist Big Ideas, Futuremed and UC Berkeley’s Pre-Med 101. He has been invited to consult with the White House and Veterans Affairs to ensure aligned incentives and quality of care (outcomes) are paramount.

Craig Vercruysse, CEO of California Pacific Medical Center

Craig brings a strong customer perspective to our group. Craig Vercruysse joined Sutter Health in 2001. Currently, his work includes operational oversight of California Pacific Medical Center’s four acute care hospitals in San Francisco. Additionally, Craig serves as the Chief Process Officer for Sutter Health’s West Bay Region, Craig provides executive leadership for the Quality Delivery System (QDS), the region’s deployment of the Toyota Management System. Prior to his work in healthcare operations, Craig served as the Region Chief Information Officer where he provided leadership for increased adoption of ambulatory electronic health records in the San Francisco community as well as championed health information exchange.

Stephen Dilly, M.B.B.S, PhD, CEO at Allergen Research Corporation

Stephen brings an incredibly rich set of experiences from the therapeutics industry, having a hand in the development and approval of 11 currently marketed drugs, including Kytril, Paxil, Kredex, Requip, TNKase, Xolair, Avastin, Raptiva, Tarceva, Lucentis and Cubicin.

Stephen currently serves as CEO of the Allergen Research Corporation Inc. Formerly; Stephen was CEO of PhotoThera, Inc., a medical device company, President and CEO and a member of the board of directors of APT Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a drug development company. From 2003 to 2006, he served as Chief Medical Officer and SVP of Development of Chiron BioPharma, a biotechnology company, acquired by Novartis. From 1998 to 2003, he held various management positions at Genentech, Inc., including VP of Development Sciences from 2002 to 2003 and VP of Medical Affairs from 1998 to 2001. From 1988 to 1998, Dr. Dilly held various management positions in drug development with SmithKline Beecham in the U.K.

He is currently a Member of the Board of Directors of Sangamo, Inc. and from 2007 to 2009, he served as a member of the board of directors of Avigen, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company which merged with MediciNova, Inc. in December 2009.

In 1982, Dr. Dilly received an M.B.B.S., the equivalent of an M.D. in the U.S., from the University of London in the U.K. and a Ph.D. in cardiac physiology from University of London in 1988.


Dion Madsen




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[1] Extract from a case study conducted by Chirita, Chapdelaine and Fillion of HEC Montréal, 2010


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Dion Madsen

Those that know me well, know that my favorite words are “Super”, “Great” and “Awesome”. The geek part of me is energized solving the complexity of biology and improving the delivery of care.  I learned patience, hard work and entrepreneurship growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan and teamwork in the rinks and ballfields of my hometown.  After working in Europe and then dealing with bare-knuckle politics in Saskatchewan, I migrated west to Alberta where I began to hang out with some crazy guys doing something called “the Internet” which led to me being the CFO of a publicly-traded company.  After selling the company, I crossed over to the VC side and during a meeting with a vaccine company I had the epiphany of “I can make money and help people at the same time? Awesome!” and I have been working for or financing healthcare companies ever since.

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