Samuel Wertheimer, Ph.D.
Samuel Wertheimer, Ph.D.
Dr. Samuel Wertheimer is Managing Director of Poliwogg, LLC, a newly formed company that seeks to finance future healthcare companies through crowdfunding. In brief, crowdfunding involves raising money for projects from private investors via online platforms such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo. However, in the words of Dr. Wertheimer, “What none of those companies can offer is an equity share in a company…[Poliwogg] will enable individuals to purchase equity in innovation.”
Dr. Wertheimer started his scientific career at the bench following the attainment of his master’s degree in epidemiology and his doctorate in biomedical sciences. However, concerns about supporting himself and his family on a postdoc salary made him realize that the academic life was not for him. As Dr. Wertheimer notes, “Academic science is a fantastic career if you’re in the top 5% of grant recipients. Otherwise, it’s a brutal life.”
Dissatisfaction with academia led him to a local law firm. There, he learned about patent law and how biotech intellectual property claims were prosecuted. During this time, Dr. Wertheimer also took an interest in the financial services industry, learning how biotech start-ups raised venture capital and got funded. He eventually joined OrbiMed Advisors and enabled this biotech investment group to raise and invest over $1.5 billion.
Currently at Poliwogg, Dr. Wertheimer will soon be helping biotech start-ups utilize a novel way of raising capital- by working with individual investors who will buy equity shares of those start-ups. In this interview, Dr. Wertheimer shares his 20 year journey away from the bench, to the courtroom, and then to the boardroom- and all without having a JD or MBA. He also notes how, despite his work seeming far removed from the world of beakers and culture flasks, “I use a great deal more science today than I ever did when I was a bench scientist.”
Dr. Wertheimer is also a keynote speaker at the upcoming 2013 Bioscience Vision Summit in Madison, Wisconsin.
Conducted and contributed by Halina | August 2013
“My advice to people is be creative and be willing to take chances, and realize that the intelligence that you had to apply to solving complex scientific problems puts you far in advance of the average individual. All scientists are above average."
Listen to the conversation podcast below (player should appear shortly).
Featured songs: "Bloom" by Radiohead and "Ada" by The National
Dr. Wertheimer has taken some unexpected paths to stand at the intersections of business, science/financial services and social media. Here are some highlights of his conversation with ThePostdocWay:
[When asked about how colleagues reacted to his leaving bench science]: “There were some people who quite frankly seemed to think of me as a traitor to science.”
[On transitioning away from the bench]: “I was looking for other opportunities. I’ve always had an interest in the intersection of business and science and how does science get translated into a commercial enterprise.”
“Poliwogg is becoming the intersection of financial services meets social media.”
[When asked about working on patent law]: “Writing patents is like eating sawdust; it’s very tedious.”
“I’ve always felt that, if you could succeed in getting a PhD, you probably have the ability to learn most of this material on your own. There are good reasons to go and do an MBA or to get a law degree. I would never dissuade somebody who is in one of those programs from completing the program… There are advantages. ..[but] I had to make a living. I didn’t have the luxury of taking two years out now and getting an MBA.”
“I left the bench 20 years ago, so I’ve been out of science longer than I was in science at this point in life even though I think of myself first as a scientist, secondly as a businessperson.”
“At the bench, my knowledge was a mile deep and an inch wide. Today, my knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep.”
“I use my science background every day. A great deal of what I do as part of Poliwogg is, I’m engaged in “diligencing” potential investment opportunities that we’re going to put on our platform. So I spend a lot of time discussing scientific innovation with the innovators, I spend a great deal of time speaking to key opinion leaders in whatever field it might be, trying to understand what’s the current standard of care, how would this innovation impact that care, what is the scientific rationale for this innovation.”
“Academic science is a pyramid. It’s got this giant base of graduate students, and then some of them become postdocs, but to get to the pinnacle of the pyramid- it’s very tiny at the top. Most people can’t occupy that pinnacle. You have to go and do something else.”
[On being a scientist in the business world]: “You still have to be able to ask…what are the important questions and…how do I find the answer, or how do I find the people who might have the answer?”
“What we are doing is providing a platform that will link investors and innovative companies. I’m sure many of you are familiar with Kickstarter or Indiegogo;
these are sort of crowfunding project platforms. Those two in particular do a lot of movies, they do videos, they do some products. People donate, essentially, or they pre-buy a product. What none of those companies can offer is an equity share in a company. What the JOBS Act has enabled is now a private company can sell equity in itself over a platform such as Poliwogg. We are a FINRA registered broker/dealer that will enable individuals to purchase equity in innovation.”