He discussed his history as an Australian who applied for a post-doctorate position at Lawrence Livermore National Lab almost on a lark, got it and has yet to leave the United States more than 20 years later. Along the way, he advanced at the lab and then left to found two successful start-up companies.
More striking was the panel and the laser focus that early-stage company CEO John Hanna shared with the crowd. He joined Apton BioSystems in Pleasanton a year ago and told attendees just how he structured the company to meet the milestones they’d agreed to with their investors. He spent the prior 10 years of his career as the chief commercial officer, but there’s no commercial officer on the team at Apton. They’re all research and development professionals aimed at hitting the milestones. The marketing people will come later.
“As a commercial and product person, I obsess over the customer,” he told the group. He’s doing the market research himself, meeting with potential customers and helping refine the product in line with customer desires.
His focus on milestones goes directly into the hiring process as they grow their team. He frankly said they would pass on a talented person who didn’t fit into the company at its current stage.
“We script out the interview process all the way through their first day and then their first 90 days,” he said. Each candidate will get a prescribed number of interviews with the same questions and then a tour of the lab and an interview with the CEO. Once they come on board, they go through a specific training program that involves meeting every segment of the organization.
“They all hear from me what the strategy is and what we’re trying to accomplish and what is incredibly important.” Once a person is hired and if their boss asks them to do something that doesn’t align with priorities, the CEO wants to know. That’s how he’s creating the culture of a driven organization.
“We just don’t have the bandwidth to tinker,” he said summing it up.