rMark Bio Press Release

rMark Bio Press Release

On the Origin of Startups #4: Building Your Advisory Board

On the Origin of Startups #4: Building Your Advisory Board

On the Origin of Startups: A Series on Building a Company

Look for what’s missing. Many advisors can tell a President how to improve what’s proposed or what’s gone amiss. Few are able to see what isn’t there. – Donald Rumsfeld

The process of building an advisory board may seem straightforward but can be fraught with missteps, misunderstandings, unrealistic expectations, or simply poor chemistry.

Lev and I recognized early on that we needed individuals with complementary experience to:

  1. Provide critical feedback
  2. Validate the value of our product
  3. Make introductions to customers
  4. Introduce us to those who could help us fundraise

Advisory boards are just that: they are a group of individuals who can provide your organization with strategic advice based on their business knowledge. You want advisors who will offer you assistance in times of need and can provide unbiased insights that will help you grow your business. In this article, I will share some of the lessons Lev and I have learned over the past few months as we built up the advisory board for rMark Bio.

Identify your tactical needs versus relationship needs.  

In an ideal world, we would have an all-star CEO or financial guru sitting on our advisory board. But every entrepreneur needs to take into consideration the specific role a newly hired advisor will play on their startup’s advisory board. Is this an advisor who offers tactical advice to help your company get off the ground? Or are you in need of an advisor who can offer you access to their business or investment relationships?

Individuals Who Bring Tactical Advice

If you seek tactical advice for your startup, you’ll want to look for an advisor who has previously worked at a startup and understands your current needs. Startups have specific challenges that established organizations do not, and you want an advisor who can navigate the world of entrepreneurship.

Consider the following example. You’re an entrepreneur bringing your idea to market, and your startup needs someone who can help you vet your revenue model and customer acquisition strategy. Suppose you find someone who is a customer acquisition genius and has scaled businesses with established corporations who have strong customer bases. This individual has grown multiple organizations from hundreds of customers to thousands, and built out the operations to support this growth. For a startup looking to acquire its first customer, this individual is going to be a poor fit for your advisory board. If this advisor has never gone through the process of building a customer base from the ground up, there will likely be a translation issue and he or she will not provide much help to your business.

Lev and I have discovered that, regardless of an individual’s “name recognition”, the best tactical advisors have been in our position before and are able to offer genuine, practical guidance based on what has worked for them.

Individuals Who Bring Relationship Advice

Sometimes you want advisors who can has a network of individuals in your specific industry. In our experience, we’ve found many advisors who have a wealth of connections in the investment space but the key is to identify who knows investors that invest in your market. Just like recruiters interview potential job candidates, seeking the “right fit”, you want to interview your potential advisor to make sure they can provide you with valuable relationship advice. Here are several questions we’d suggest asking when you meet with an advisor:

  • What types of industries and markets do their investor relationships typically invest in?
  • What stage of fundraising do these investors like to engage in (i.e. Angel, Seed, Series A)?
  • Have they personally worked with or received investments from anyone in their network?
  • Is their network geographically relevant to yours? (important for Angel investors)

3 Additional Things to Keep In Mind:


Your advisors have other things going on besides working with your startup, such as their own lives and careers. Do not confuse your advisors with your employees; be mindful of this distinction! Set your expectations properly from the beginning and clearly communicate what you expect from your advisors. While asking your advisor to write your business plan or go-to-market strategy is unrealistic, asking your advisor to provide specific insights into those plans created by your team is a reasonable expectation to have. Remember: your advisor is making time in their day to assist your team, so it’s important to respect all the other obligations they already have.


Chances are, you already know your advisor or met them through a recommendation from a mutual acquaintance. These individuals are likely not going to become an advisor at this stage for the money; some may only be interested in helping you because the industry you work in is appealing to them. In reality, the 0.25 – 1 percent of stock you offer does not make your company a top money-making priority for your advisor so you will need to find some other way to add value to your advisor. We have found that most advisors who agree to work with startups are interested in maintaining their network and/or paying it forward from their previous successes.


As with anyone in business, you must respect your advisor’s time. This is especially important because your advisor is most likely squeezing time into their already packed schedule to help you with your business. To avoid wasting time, we’ve found it useful to email your advisor a list of materials or topics to discuss a few days in advance so they can review and digest the information before a meeting. While this information is sometimes incomplete and even “half-baked”, it gives your advisor an opportunity to begin thinking about the next conversation you have with him or her.

What are some other tips you have for building your advisory board? We’d love to hear your thoughts and what has worked for your company in the past.



CIM Graduation

CIM Graduation

rMark Bio is proud to announce our successful graduation from the Chicago Innovation Mentors program at MATTER. A 6-month, team-based mentoring program, CIM is designed to assist early stage science-based ventures through a series of challenges including fundraising, product positioning and business validation. Working with our team of CIM mentors, we were able to determine the proper positioning in the market as we grew from a concept to a product that launched in nine months. Thank you to our team of mentors – Gayle Kirkpatrick, Tom Overmeyer, Rob DeMento and Adam Latts – for providing us with critical insights, objective advice and the ideal balance of both practical feedback and positive support.

Jason and Lev would especially like to thank Gayle for her steadfast leadership during our time in the CIM program.

Thank you,

Jason & Lev

P.S. If you are a science-based venture seeking a rigorous mentoring program, we highly recommend applying for or learning more about CIM here.

Dev Note: Couchbase 4.5 Full Text Search

Dev Note: Couchbase 4.5 Full Text Search

As part of our phased plan to migrate to Couchbase 4.5, I built a new couchbase cluster for our development environment. Full Text Search is announced as one of the “Developer Preview” features, and we were eager to take a look.

What I want to call attention to is the amount of disk space that this feature can quickly consume.

Previously, we did not see a need to provide a large amount of disk space to the index location, in the same way that we had for our data buckets.  With the introduction of FTS that is no longer the case for us. For example, we ran a full text search on a small sample bucket consisting of just over 200k items and about 1.7 GB on disk. The resulting index quickly consumed 27GB of disk space.

In short, if you intend to leverage FTS in your development environments, I suggest you allocate as much drive space as you can to your index location.  We love this feature and are excited about future uses within our platform and applications.  I am currently in the process of re-architecting our environment to accommodate the additional overhead.  I’ll follow up with more specifics on the environment once we validate.


— Brian
The Human Design Language

The Human Design Language

Come watch rMark Bio’s VP of Product Design, Annette Thurston, share her thoughts on the next generation of Design Languages and the technologies to empower them.


How to Create Empathy, Adaptability, & Harmony Between Users & their Apps

Thursday, Jul 14, 2016, 6:00 PM

Location details are available to members only.

140 Designers Went

A Human Design Language System.Join us for a talk with Annette Thurston as she shares her unique perspective on designing products that create a sense of empathy, adaptability, and harmony between users and their apps. Based on her extensive background in product design, she will offer insights on how to assimilate story, design, and technology in…

Check out this Meetup →

Upcoming Meetup

Upcoming Meetup

Jason Smith will be the guest speaker at the IBM’s monthly Bluemix/PaaS/Cloud Meetup on Thursday, April 14th.  If you are in the Chicago area and would like to learn more about how big data/healthcare startups can leverage IBM Bluemix and Watson services, please join us.

Using Cloud Computing and Cognitive Technology to Create Health Solutions

Thursday, Apr 14, 2016, 6:15 PM

71 S Wacker Drive
Sixth Floor and Please Bring a Photo ID for Building Security Chicago, IL

45 Cloud developers Went

This event is designed for entrepreneurs and executives who want to understand how to engage with IBM through both technology and operationally when building health solutions with big data.Case studies will demonstrate how startups can to utilize Bluemix services to fast track product development and concept validation. In conjunction, case studie…

Check out this Meetup →

rMark Bio accepted by CIM

rMark Bio accepted by CIM


On January 13th, Jason and Lev presented rMark Bio to a group of ~50 executives, investors, and industry leaders at Chicago Innovation Mentors – CIM.  A couple days after the presentation, we learned several veterans with various backgrounds from the pharmaceutical industry offered to volunteer their time.  We are grateful and excited to work with such an experienced and accomplished team.  As we prepare to enter the market, their experience, insights and wisdom will no doubt have a large impact on our success.

If you are a healthcare or life science startup in the Chicago area, we highly recommend you checkout CIM at:

New Offices at MATTER

New Offices at MATTER


We’ve moved… (again)

Luckily for us we only have laptops and a few monitors.  Now that we are a part of MATTER, we will be joining the rest of our fellow entrepreneurs and startups at their Merchandise Mart space.

Our new address:

222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza
Suite 1230
Chicago, IL 60654

Stop by and say hi!

 — Team rMark Bio

rMark Bio joins MATTER

rMark Bio joins MATTER


rMark Bio is now a part of MATTER – a Chicago-based Healthcare Technology Incubator. MATTER provides a community to foster innovation for healthcare and life science companies.  We are very excited and cannot wait to start working alongside the amazing entrepreneurs and companies at their Merchandise Mart office.

Learn more about MATTER:

Designing Lean: or How I Learned to Stop Tweaking and Love the Lean

Designing Lean: or How I Learned to Stop Tweaking and Love the Lean

Throughout my design career, I have worked for multiple agencies with a focus on both brand and product. Each agency had their own internal processes and approaches to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, however, many aspects were the same. The budgets were large and the schedules were long and staggered. The expectation was to show clients only polished work presented in a highly designed deck that included a Don Draper-ish story to sell them on the concept.

Since joining rMark, I have learned that designing for a startup is very different from designing for clients at an agency. At a startup, you have a limited budget, a small team and very little time. When I started designing the rMark product, my tendency was to design ‘finished’ screens, paying attention to the UX, UI and features as opposed to focusing on the business outcomes for our customers. It became obvious that the design processes I had established in the past did not work well within this environment and that I needed to adapt – enter Lean.

Jason and Lev had decided very early on to incorporate the Lean methodology into various aspects of rMark’s operations, including business development, customer development, software development and product design. Joining rMark renewed my interest and education into the various applications of Lean across the development group.

I have been reading and applying some of the Lean principles to my workflow, and I must admit at times it has been a bit of a challenge. However, I appreciate the spirit of Lean – how what I design is ultimately meant to be part of a working product to release.

To start, I decided to pick a few Lean principles that would be easiest for me to incorporate into my process immediately. Here they are.

Principle 1 – outcomes, not output. I have developed a few bad habits throughout my career at agencies, such as designing deckware that sells the work instead of just selling the work. I have found these presentation decks to be a bit overkill, however, it was assumed that clients were footing the bill and they required some artifacts to justify their spending. At a startup we don’t have this luxury. With the rMark product, I have stopped wasting my time on superfluousoutput, and instead have worked with the team to identify and focus design on what the outcomes should be – for the user, their business and their partners. For example, while we sell to the executives at pharmaceutical companies to use with their liaisons in the field, the outcome of our product must provide equal value to the liaison as it does to the executive. Simply focusing on one group and not the entire chain would ultimately weaken our product and reduce the rate of adoption. I keep a list of outcomes in a small notebook and review it before I sit down to design so it’s always at the forefront of my mind.

Principle 2 – GOOB. Coined by Steve Blank, GOOB means “get out of the building.” It boils down to getting our product out in front of users sooner than later so that we can acquire the right feedback and not waste time iterating internally on something that may be irrelevant to their needs. The version we present to potential customers will often be paper sketches or low-fidelity mockups. This is opposite to the agency view of “we are the experts, that’s why they hired us.” In just the past two months working at rMark, I have already seen the value of this process. If we don’t get feedback early on, we are only making assumptions about our customers’ day-to-day problems. Letting them view or even use an early prototype gives us a real world view of what they want and need. We have already completed some initial stakeholder interviews focused on validating our hypothesis regarding the principle value proposition, our business model and the key product features/needs we must solve for. Using these data points, I have created the first version of the product UX.

Principle 3 – The third is both a principle and a process – cross-sectional teams for collaborative design. While in Chicago a few weeks ago, Lev, Jason and I spent several hours in a conference room together with the goal of taking the customer feedback to date and individually providing input as to what was feasible to develop within the view of our expertise – Lev being that of the scientists and liaison, Jason of development and sales, and myself of the product design and usability. I began taping up printouts of all of the current UX designs on the whiteboard. These were designs I had completed from my own perspective and understanding of the problem with minimal input from the customers or our team. Several hours of critiquing and listening to a recap of conversations with customers enabled me to redesign elements of the initial user experience and to ultimately cut a lot of the “design bloat” out of our MVP. Designing in a vacuum is not ideal and we accomplished more in the few hours we worked as a team with key client input than I did in the two weeks prior by myself.

In short, incorporating aspects of the Lean methodology has helped me speed up design time and get over the hurdles and pressure that can come with designing a new product for a startup. Next week we’ll be showing the first paper prototype to customers and I am excited to see what their feedback will be. I’ll share the results and more of what I have learned using Lean in future posts.

– Annette

On the Origin of Startups #3: Building a Brand

On the Origin of Startups #3: Building a Brand

Brand is not a product, that’s for sure; it’s not one item. It’s an idea, it’s a theory, it’s a meaning, it’s how you carry yourself. It’s aspirational, it’s inspirational.
– Kevin Plank

On his 3,000 mile drive from Seattle to our new HQ in Chicago, Jason and I spoke multiple times at length about the design, product and the overall business goals of rMark. Our talks are usually fast-paced and move around to different topics, but always circle back somehow to the original point. One evening, while he was driving through North Dakota, we choose a topic to discuss and decided to recorded it to see if anything interesting would come of it.

We choose to discuss our brand, a topic we had been going back and forth on throughout the week since I was refining our logo for use on our business cards, presentations, and marketing materials. We set out to explore how the different responsibilities we hold in a startup impact our perspective of what a brand is, the role it plays to the initial investor, customer, and market, and to capture a little fun, knowing we see things a differently.

I attempted to keep the transcription of the text below as close to the original as possible. Only removing a few too many “umms” and “you know what I means.” Jason Smith (JS) – CEO and Annette Thurston (AT) – VP of Strategy and Design.


Brand Role: Startup
AT: It seems to me that a brand serves multiple purposes for a startup as opposed to that of an established consumer brand. It has to get the attention of and appeal to both investors, consumers and to the general public, while establishing itself as different from the rest of the market. How do you think these roles of brand are different?

JS: I agree there are multiple audiences. For me, the point of brand development during the early days of a startup up comes down to what are we are trying to say to the world. However, we have to remain cognizant of how much time we are spending on developing the brand vs. developing the product. I understand the power of a cohesive brand for the various people we are speaking to, however, if you really want to differentiate yourself in the startup community then build a product that people will be willing to pay for. It’s easy to feel like you’re making great strides when you come up with a creative tagline, you have a great mark, or a great color scheme that separates you from the rest of your competitors. The problem is that you’re only making strides in that area. While that may pay dividends downstream, it’s not necessarily helping create the product people will hopefully one day associate with that brand.

Investors, from my perspective, especially in the early-stage startups, look at us as the brand behind our idea. I personally believe at this state it doesn’t matter if I have a logo or not when I’m pitching them. Our brand is us, our idea, our ability to execute on bringing that idea to market, and ultimately our ability to make money. We’re an early-stage startup coming to them with a novel product to help optimize how pharmaceutical companies perform certain aspects of their business and the proof is in our delivery. That said, I do understand that we will have to capitalize and capture that momentum as we mature by creating a brand around our company and a product that defines us. One of the many reasons you are here.

The Promise
AT: Let’s talk about what you think a brand is. Like a lot people, you sometimes talk about it in terms of the visual identity – mark, tagline, color, etc. But a brand is more than how something looks – a brand is seen as a promise. Think of Coca-Cola, Nike, Taco Bell. Those brands make promises and their customers are banking on the promise being followed through, which makes consumers stick with that brand.

JS: That’s a fair point, absolutely.

AT: So when I think of our brand, I’m not just thinking about how it looks, I’m thinking about what it promises. We’ve never talked about this. What is our brand promising?

JS: From my perspective, rMark is promising our customers a solution which delivers higher-value collaboration recommendations than they would otherwise have today through the current grassroots approaches to find academic partners. It’s the promise of more value in their outreach efforts that leads to resource optimization and ultimately cost savings.

AT: All right. So, you are speaking about our promise to potential customers. What is our brand promising to our investors?

JS: We’re in the early stage of investment so I think there’s a couple promises. First, if we are our brand, then as a brand we are promising that we have the wherewithal to deliver on the vision with the team we have and will hire. That is, we have the key elements for product design and development, business development, delivery, and scientific depth for credibility. Just as important, we know our weaknesses and the gaps we need to fill. We can clearly show all those pieces covered and are able to live up to the promise that we will execute bringing our product in the marketplace. This leads to the second promise – a return on their investment.

AT: So we have multiple promises for the multiple channels that we have to speak to. And then there’s the visual identity that supports the brand and is our public face. We designed our visual ID quickly to get it out there and have been iterating since. What do you think our visual identity right says about us currently?

JS: We’re polished. We know what we’re doing. It looks young, but it’s because as a company, we are young. We’re still figuring a lot of it out, but it speaks to the depth of experience that we have in this industry and bringing products to market. I would say some of the recent tag line evolutions speak more clearly to what our mission is and who we are as a company. But right now, we’re more about completing our MVP and setting out to accomplish our mission rather than spending a lot of time and money on brand.

Tagline Three-Ways
AT: We’ve changed the tag line three times so far. The first was “Collaborate with Purpose”. The second was “The Science of Collaboration.” And now it’s “Data driven. Human powered.” I forget, why did we change it the first time? What did you like about “Collaborate with Purpose”?

JS: I remember when Lev and I came up with that. We were in his condo in Chicago a while back, probably several months ago. We were stuck in this world of using the word social. Everything is social. It’s an overused term today. We’re not really social. People like Research Gate and Medley are social because they are developing social networks for scientists and they have their own value and competition, but that is not rMark.

While the term is great to capture people’s attention, we realized that social is not what we do, but we couldn’t figure out what the right term was. ‘Collaborate’ came to mind because our product is about deriving collaboration. ‘Purpose’ came from the fact that our product promises delivering collaborators that are likely more aligned with pharmaceutical research interest.

So, at the time, that tagline felt right because we moved away from social. However, it took us right into a new lexicon and we inherited the weight of the word ‘collaboration’, a term that is already saturated in the market. Also, the other thing is that we never settled on what ‘purpose’ meant. ‘Purpose’ doesn’t mean anything. ‘Purpose’ is borderline insulting, actually. Were we saying that what our customers do now is without purpose? We were not saying that. We know what we meant by it, however, we couldn’t articulate it properly in a tagline. More importantly, we felt like it was too specific. It was too on-the-nose to be a corporate mantra and tag line. Going back to the point of what sums up your purpose and mission in this world, as a company, I don’t think that “Collaborate with Purpose” did that.

AT: When you think about it, that tagline was not about what rMark does. “Collaborate with Purpose” was a call-to-action to our customers. But the second one, “The Science of Collaboration,” was more about what we do. We are experts in fostering collaboration in the life sciences’ field. When I came up with that, I thought it looked good in type and rolled off the tongue, but ‘collaboration’ is an industry term. I didn’t realize that until I started doing the research and then I saw that everyone uses the word and it lost its ‘cool factor’ to me.

JS: My first reaction was, holy shit, that’s so much better than “Collaborate with Purpose”. It addressed many of the issues I had with ‘purpose’, so we were happy to quickly jump on it. I think it did, to your point, capture more of our mission for what we were trying to accomplish. But the problem was that collaboration is overplayed. The word ‘collaboration’, when you came back with the discovery findings, was so oversaturated. I think that was the main driver to get away from those types of industry terms.

AT: I think another point we had to factor in was that the tagline didn’t speak to the data or the science behind it. Both tagline’s were more marketing speak. So, then we moved onto “Data-Driven, Human-Powered.”You came up with that, didn’t you?

JS: Yes.

AT: How did that come about? As I remember it, we had talked about this idea of adding the human element to it, correct? That our product’s purpose is to connect people, but the ‘human’ sentiment was missing from it.

JS: Exactly. Funny, we are discussing not wasting a ton of time on it. After the “Science of Collaboration” sat with us for a few days, it was still bothering me. It didn’t send the right message. I was speaking with Lev and I was ranting about how we were spending too much time, however, I wanted to get it right and I didn’t think we had it yet. I believe I said, “Why the hell can’t we just say something that speaks directly to our global mission of using data to connect people? Something like “data driven, human powered.”

And there it was. We proceeded to discuss it from all angles and filters, realizing it was exactly what we do and want to accomplish with rMark. It stuck with both of us. At the same time, you were working through the same problem. I remember chatting with you on Slack the following morning and running it by you. You sat on it for an hour or two, and when we spoke again on the phone, we agreed it clearly resonated.

While we have the product and everything in place to drive that mission, our company is here to help pharmaceutical companies identify the academic collaborators they should be working with to gain their expert insight. It isn’t solely about science, big data, data analytics, etc. While there is value in how we process data and in understanding the algorithms to ensure the results are mathematically and technically sound, it is not the ultimate value of what we provide for them. It is a means to that end. And that end is found in the human experts.

AT: Those words carry a lot of weight – “driven” and “powered.” And they are both two syllable words and phrases so there’s a nice rhythm to it.

JS: Well, you know me. At the end of the day, I like simple words. [Laughing]

180° Logo
AT: So, we have spoken before about the frustrations of a brand in the mist of evolution. I tend not to get stressed or stuck on something because I’ve done this long enough to know that the best work evolves naturally and my job is to push design and ideas until they have evolved. Until they work. Talk about what that’s like from your side – both a founder and an engineer.

JS: You mean the logo?

AT: Yes. We changed it a lot. When we started and just needed a quick website up it was really just a placeholder. And then we messed around with it periodically and found a direction. Then we settled on the concept and started to refine it.

Did you see the t-shirts I sent earlier? I flipped the mark 180 degrees because it made more sense with the tagline. The pixels being on the left over data and the globe on the right over human. And it’s interesting to me because that mark originally started as a cell and a globe. So it still relates. But it’s a more concise story now.

JS: Yes. Well you work with a couple of guys who have zero ability to do that. You’ve seen the pretty horrific attempt at creating logos we tried before we hired you. The best we could come up with was modifying a font and maybe gradating something. And we thought that was pretty advanced. Then again, we were focused on proving the algorithm and concept, too. When you first came up with the mark, we were moving fast. When you see something that you know is substantially better than what you had before, you just want to put a stake in the ground and move forward. For me it’s “Let me just grab this and run because I have a billion other things to do that include building the product, getting our first customers, and raising capital around that.”

The thing I didn’t account for was the process we’d have to go through. It has been a great learning experience for me, because now I know that when it comes to design and process, I can’t take the first idea and run with it, as is my desire to. While frustrating, it’s actually been really valuable, because coming back to the logo and tagline the way we have has led us to, ultimately, where we’re at right now. More importantly, some of those design decisions immediately impacted the look and feel of our product interface, which was a huge help.

AT: Yes. It’s going to be evolving next week when I turn it around, 180°…

JS: [Laughing] I knew we were going to have that conversation. I just knew it was coming. I haven’t wanted to admit to myself that it was going to happen yet. For me, every time, I feel like, “son of a bitch… now I have to update my freaking keynote template again.” I know it doesn’t take long. It’s just, yet again. By the way, when you rotate it, it looks a little like a “D”. Ricky agrees, too.

AT: From my perspective, I want for it to represent who we are now and where want to go in a year and in five years. And by the time we are starting to gain momentum in the industry – whether that’s in front of investors or pharmaceutical companies or speaking at conference – it needs to tell the genuine story about our company and our product. Once we’re out there, we shouldn’t change it.

JS: Yes, I agree. That’s obviously why you are in this role. We are quickly evolving to where things are falling in place with the product, falling in place with customers and investors. Hopefully, if we continue down this path that we’re on, in very short order, we’ll have multiple avenues that will become very public. I agree with you, I would prefer not to explain why we changed the logo two months after we release. I want people to focus on who we are and what we’re doing.

Right now, for me, it’s not about creating a hundred-year brand. It’s about creating a product that drives a hundred million in revenue. Those are two very different goals and mentalities. That’s the thing though, as CEO part of my job is to get out of the way and let you do what you do, while amalgamating everyone’s expertise into executing our vision.

AT: There is a Job’s quote that says something like, “Design isn’t just what something looks like and feels like. It’s how it works.” So, in that way, you’re a designer, too.

JS: Yes. I like that.

AT: Well, now that you said it looks like a ‘D’, I don’t know. I’ll have to look at it. This is how it works, though. This is how design works. It’s impossible to design in a vacuum. You need to have conversations with people you trust and respect. We might still have to change it, though.

JS: You know you’re killing me, right?

AT: Should I not say that? Did I just fuck everything up? [Laughing]

JS: If I have to print our business cards one more fucking time, I’m going to lose it. [Laughing]

AT: Well, we actually do have to print them one more time for the new tag line, at least yours.

JS: Ugh!

AT: [Laughing]

From the land of Seattle, to our sweet home Chicago

From the land of Seattle, to our sweet home Chicago

When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it. – Theodore Roosevelt

Sorry folks for the delay between posts.  It has be a crazy few weeks at rMark Bio, so here is a quick update on what we have been up to.

Fueled by Monster Energy Drinks, Peanut M&Ms, Beef Jerky, and a deadline (in retrospect, potentially unrealistic) to meet our movers in Chicago on Friday morning, we packed up my U-haul and hit the road early Wednesday.  Stopping only for fuel, the occasional bite to eat, and dog walks, we successfully made it to Chicago by noon on Friday, May 15th.


Once I settled into my new apartment, the rMark team wasted no time scoping out the local steakhouses, pizza joints, and pubs while getting to know the city…


After a relaxing weekend and recouping from the long drive, it was time to get to work.  We moved into our new offices located in the River North neighborhood. Heads down and with extreme focus, we are busy finalizing our platform, refining our business model, and starting our customer development efforts.



On the Origin of Startups #2: Building Your Initial Team

On the Origin of Startups #2: Building Your Initial Team

“Matching character and actor is what a good director does.” – Bruno Dumont

If your team is like ours, you have a co-founder, or founders, who share in collective passions.  Ideally, these are people who you can constantly bounce ideas off of and who inspire you on a personal and professional level. Despite having all of these qualities, you may find that once you start building your idea, you and your co-founder(s) collectively lack some of the necessary skills to make the inspired ideas a reality.  There are a lot of configurations that present this dilemma: developers who need marketing and business people, marketing wizards who need a development team, or seasoned executives who need the financial team to help propel growth.  So, how do you find those individuals who can enter into your tight group dynamic and fill the gaps around a singular idea?  How do you find someone who will become as invested as you? When you have so many needs, where do you start to look?

These are questions we ran into very early on at rMark Bio.  For Lev and I, our main challenge was finding a person to round out our ability to bring the product to market.  We needed someone who had multi-disciplinary experience in design and product strategy.  Luckily for me, I met Annette Thurston while working at our last company.  As Annette and I worked together on a variety of projects, we not only evolved our ability to work together in a highly-productive manner, we also became close friends.  Although Annette left before I did, I knew immediately who I needed to call when I left and began to focus on rMark.  Annette was the key leader Lev and I needed to bring our idea to reality and the initial product to market.  This new dynamic is proving to be very valuable to our clients and our company.

Most of us have these types of people in our lives, either at a personal or professional level. People you can trust and want to work with. However, there is a caveat in this, too. The individuals you may immediately look to during the startup phase may be your friends or those who you liked working with previously, however, it does not mean they are the right people to be on your startup team.  A startup team member has to be willing to make sacrifices, wear multiple hats, have confidence in their abilities and know what they don’t know.  There is the crucial step of critical analysis when looking for the first people to set the tone for your company, leadership and culture.

At rMark, we are not a college dorm room startup.  On average, we have been in our respective industries for 15+ years. Therefore, when building our initial team we look to hire seasoned professionals who bring a similar level of experience, success, and maturity to the table.  We look for individuals who strive to do something amazing in their careers – individuals who understand what it means to be hungry for success, yet recognize and appreciate when they reach their accomplishments.

Not to state the obvious, but this is critical. As your initial team starts to take shape, you need people who have the personality and temperament to go through the good times and bad. There is no magic formula for finding this quality, so we focus heavily on people who can discuss their successes and failures.  As we interview potential candidates, we are finding that those who speak humbly about their successes and failures can usually best articulate what they have learned. Even more importantly, they can discuss how they have applied these lessons to others projects and other aspects of their lives.  In our experience so far, we have found that the individuals with these traits, combined with the necessary skills, intellect, maturity and temperament, will be the right leaders and champions of rMark.  Though, admittedly, it is nice to have a few people who already fit the bill in our rolodex!



Jason Smith
Founder & CEO
rMark Biogenics