Pictured above: (from the left) Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Steve Case, Sam English, and Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey.
Sam English is an experienced biomedical and life science entrepreneur with a successful track record in developing and commercializing university biomedical technologies. He is currently CEO and founder of Attention Point, a provider of online clinical tools for ADHD assessments. Since starting his first company in 2000 (an educational software company), he has directly led the formation of several biomedical companies. In his role at the Carilion Biomedical Institute, he led the development of relationships between Virginia Tech, UVA, and Carilion which led to the formation of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute and development of the Riverside Center. Additionally, he launched and led OptiMetric Technologies, a biochip company based on Virginia Tech technologies, to acquisition by a strategic partner. He also helped launch OcuCure Therapeutics, an ophthalmic pharmaceutical company developing topical eye drops to treat Age-related Macular Degeneration. He helped attract and relocate the biotech company Intrexon to Virginia. Through his consulting company, CIE Partners, he has assisted other biomedical entrepreneurs to advance their inventions through product development and commercialization.
He is a licensing professional in both the Association of University Technology Managers and the Licensing Executives Society. He received his PhD in Biochemistry from Clemson University and is active in the community serving as President of the Roanoke - Blacksburg Technology Council and immediate past-chair of the Board of the Science Museum of Western Virginia. He was recognized as Small Business Advocate of the Year (2010) by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce and received the Regional Leadership Award (2011) from the Roanoke - Blacksburg Technology Council.
CIT: Tell us about your current venture.
Sam: Attention Point is an emerging health information technology company dedicated to improving the diagnosis of neurobehavioral health disorders. We develop and provide web-based assessment tools that help clinicians provide faster and more accurate diagnoses for their patients with ADHD. We have launched our flagship product, DefiniPoint, in Virginia and will leverage that into a national launch in 2013. DefiniPoint is a suite of online assessment tools that allows for easy distribution, access, completion, and scoring of ADHD rating scales, making the assessment process more convenient and efficient for Clinicians, Parents, and Teachers. This improved process results in higher rates of completion/return of rating scales, thus benefiting the Clinician with more information regarding ADHD symptoms. Additionally, the proprietary and patent-protected algorithms of DefiniPoint for the first time, enable clinicians to combine individual rating scale results, providing more accurate and reliable information over any single rating scale. Because DefiniPoint increases the rating scale return rate and improves the information received, clinicians are able to expand their use of rating scales beyond the initial assessment into regularly gathering data to assess treatment efficacy over time — thus providing evidence-based decision making.
CIT: What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Sam: If you’ve never been in a startup before, I suggest that you join an existing team to see what it’s really like. Certain aspects of startups are appealing, but startups are not for everyone. One of those aspects is ambiguity- my second bit of advice. When building a business, be flexible and build a plan and culture that allows for adjustments. By their nature, startups must make adjustments as needed. Businesses that can’t adapt, don’t survive. These pivots (the current term that’s in-vogue) are disruptive and unsettling on an individual level. So, being able to roll with it is critical. Lastly, a single entrepreneur starting a new business is likely to not be successful. My advice is to find others that share your passion and vision for changing the world and develop success together.
CIT: What events/meetup groups are essential for startups?
Sam: The Roanoke - Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) is a terrific resource in our region and is the go-to organization for anyone interested in starting a technology business. The RBTC has numerous networking opportunities and educational programs specifically for startups/entrepreneurs. Additionally, discipline specific events/groups such as VaBIO (for biomedical and biotech entrepreneurs) are essential.
CIT: How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
Sam: As I mentioned earlier, there are very few successful solo entrepreneurs. In my experience, successful businesses take a team working collaboratively to be successful. Additionally, collaboration outside one’s company and circle of friends is tremendously valuable. Everyone needs those external experts to provide real-world grounding, particularly at the early stages.
CIT: What makes Roanoke’s tech scene unique?
Sam: The Roanoke scene is unique because of the strong community support. Built into the fabric of the region is true hospitality and a genuine sense of community. The tech sector is not really a separate sector in Roanoke, but is actually part of the mainstream business community. This integrated business communityis a strength of the Roanoke region.
Sam English, PhD