Tom Cohen

What was your role in BALSA?

Consultant for two projects (OTM II and Traxxson), project manager for one project (Remedical).

What did you learn from your BALSA experience?

In terms of tangible skills I gained training and practical experience in market validation from my time in BALSA.  This includes identifying potential markets for a technology, generating lists of KOLs with contact information, the strategy behind writing survey and interview questions, and then the confidence needed to conduct phone or in-person interviews with accomplished individuals.  BALSA also gave me a strong starting point off which to build a St. Louis network.  The BALSA name is thought of highly around town, association with the group ensures you will be thought of as more than just a bench scientist.

Where do you work now?

I am completing a post-doc research position at Wash U and also leading a molecular diagnostic startup called Nanopore Diagnostics, LLC.

What advice would you give current BALSA consultants?

First, take networking seriously.  Have business cards made and use them, go to networking events and LinkedIn connect with everyone you meet.  Reach out to individuals with the jobs you want and ask them for coffee or a conversation over the phone.  Use the .edu email address and present as a aspiring professional looking for some mentor-like advice.  If you do this, research the person's history before the meeting to ensure you make the most of the time.  Second, if you have any interest in entrepreneurship, go for it while you are in your current academic position.  Take a chance, apply for a business plan competition, write a grant, if you don't have an idea or technology, go ask Tech Transfer if there is any unspoken IP waiting to be commercialized.