David Weaver is into matchmaking. At CitySide Ventures, he taps into more than three decades of diversified management experience to help early-stage companies connect with the resources they need to grow their businesses.
“Often, it’s the tactical people who start these companies that don’t really have the business experience or the how-to-bring-it-to-market experience,” says Weaver, chief investment officer at the investment management firm. “We’re looking to bring smart money to the table, along with the talent of myself and my partner, Doron York, who has been around this industry on both sides raising money and now deploying money into companies.”
Weaver has helped raise more than $35 million in angel, venture and IPO capital for various companies.
“Many companies that don’t make it fail because they don’t recognize the need to pivot, or they stand in the way of hiring a CEO or somebody on the business side that can help them,” Weaver says.
This week, we catch up with Weaver to talk about the value of pivoting to meet market demand and what early-stage entrepreneurs can do to boost their odds of finding success.
Make the switch
In the 1990s, Weaver was hired as a consultant at Phyisometrix, a Massachusetts-based developer of noninvasive medical devices. The company was attempting to refocus its technology into a new market in which it had no prior experience.
“I helped them put together a whole plan for all the different disciplines of the company to help get into that space,” Weaver says. “I helped find key potential users that would want to publish on the company’s technology to speed adoption and I put together a sales and marketing strategy.”
After he left, the company got into that market and was acquired by a larger company.
“It was a nice way to get them into a market,” he says. “The space they were in, they were kind of lost in all the noise of bigger players. They were able to get into this new market and entice somebody to acquire them with a new upside.”
One of Weaver’s strengths is his ability to help companies that are seeking investors to be honest with themselves about their business model. At Somanetics, another medical device company where Weaver spent time, he identified a situation in which the founders had a technology that was being misdirected.
“The founders thought they had a technology that was solving a problem,” Weaver says. “It was technology looking for a problem, not solving a problem.”
He says the company was pursuing a customer base that was not going to embrace its technology.
“But by taking the same technology and pivoting to a different medical application, we were able to get funding, go public and meet a huge market need,” he says. “The company got acquired by another larger company and then was acquired again. Sometimes, you need people inside who can recognize the need to pivot and a board that will embrace it and take the next steps.”
Most recently, Weaver served as CEO at Blaze Medical Devices LLC., an early-stage medical device company that develops technologies that enable integrated and standardized assessments of blood damage.
Bring in fresh perspective
Early-stage companies are heavily reliant on strong leadership that has a strong vision and the strength to make tough, informed decisions.
“They have to have the ability to persevere and be tenacious, but also be good listeners,” Weaver says. “They have to be able to seek outside direction and pay attention to it. They need to able to make a decision, but also understand that they don’t always have to follow that advice.”
The key is that, when you see things that are not working the way you planned, you need to be ready to pivot quickly, he says.
“Don’t keep plowing ahead on something that is giving you resistance just because you think you have to try and overcome it,” Weaver says. “Don’t keep spending money on something that’s not really going to work. Learn how to find another way. In the back of your mind, have a what-if plan. If this doesn’t work out, where else can I take this?”
Outside advisers can often bring sorely needed fresh insight.
“Some companies start out with a very small team and they surround themselves with advisers, which are often family and friends,” Weaver says. “You need to have objective advisers from the industry and other people who will challenge what you’re doing and be there to help you when you need help. They’re not there to beat you up or be micromanagers. They need to let you run the business, but you can go to them and tell them when you’ve got issues and what you think the solution is. You can share that and then work it out together.”