Looking Beyond the Resume | Mark Fischer-Colbrie from Strateos

A lot of people gave Mark Fischer-Colbrie chances in his career to do things he might not seem obviously suited for based on his resume. But that’s how you learn what you’re truly capable of.

Now that Mark is the CEO of Strateos, a company bringing cloud technology to life sciences, he applies that philosophy to his own team.

In this edition of UpTech Report, Mark shares some of the lessons he’s learned on building a great team and fostering a positive and productive workplace culture. And as someone who has raised over half a billion dollars in his long career, he also imparts some insights on how to fund that team.

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Mark Fischer-Colbrie became CEO of Strateos in May 2019 following the successful sale of Labcyte Inc., a global laboratory tools company, to Danaher. He has more than 30 years of experience in building and growing laboratory tools, diagnostic, medical device and therapeutic companies, including 3 Initial Public Offerings. In 2013, Mark was named National Finalist, Life Sciences for the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year, Life Sciences for Northern California.

Prior to Strateos, Mark was CEO for over ten years at Labcyte Inc. which invented novel lab tools and automation based on acoustic dispensing. Before Labcyte, Mark ran business development and was CFO at Adeza Biomedical Corporation, a women’s healthcare company, where he filed 9 patent applications and set up and ran clinical trials for diagnostics.

Mark has served as Chairman of JDRF’s International Board of Directors, the largest global funder of type one diabetes research, and served on the JDRF IBOD for seven years. Mark has also served on the industry board of the Analytical, Life Sciences Diagnostics Association (ALDA) since 2011. Mark enjoys participating in long distance triathlon and running events.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Mark Fischer-Colbrie 0:00
I think it’s a lot of being able to contextualize the opportunity for people and connect with them with the value propositions, and what can be done in a very realistic manner.

Alexander Ferguson 0:21
I’m excited to continue our conversation now hearing a bit more about your journey. Where did it all begin for you? And how did you get to this point of being CEO? What was that journey like?

Mark Fischer-Colbrie 0:34
I was really excited about the Australia saw opportunity when I was presented it upon the sale of my last company Lab site today in her and that company, I was CEO for over 10 and a half years, built up an incredibly novel technology that has been adopted all around the world, for advancing life sciences. And that’s a situation where that’s the laboratory tool, associate automation that is employed by all top 20 pharma, all the top contract research organizations, all the top academic institutions for hundreds and hundreds of applications that have had a significant impact on Discovery. And when I saw the Stratis opportunity, I saw the opportunity, again, to have a big impact on Discovery. And I had the opportunity to talk to a number of binding contacts in the industry. And I just said, I have to be part of this team going forward. To drive this to make it happen. My career’s been all about building growing companies in areas. So it’s laboratory tools, automation, therapeutics, diagnostics, taking three companies public sold to, and these have been in areas where you typically have been building from scratch or near scratch and changing behaviors. So these were brand new market segments and brand new areas that require a lot of lift in terms of building the company from scratch. So So I I love that challenge. I think it’s really fun. There’s it there’s obviously, for anxiety that goes along with that, but I love looking back and saying, hey, it’s part of that team that make that happen. So that’s, that’s how I’m built

Alexander Ferguson 2:31
from those two, multiple ventures now and you got the experience, anything you can share from let’s start with the funding side, obviously, being able to make something happen, you don’t do alone, and getting that initial funding to to move it forward. Anything and share of lessons learned that someone else should know.

Mark Fischer-Colbrie 2:50
I think having raised probably over $500 million in my career, everything’s unique salt different and all depends on the the particular external environment, whether you’re dealing with a financial crisis in 2008, versus dealing with our current conditions. And I think it’s a lot of being able to contextualize the opportunity for people and connect with them with the value propositions, a lot can be done in a very realistic manner. I’m the kind of individual that likes to hit his numbers, if you will, have been, like environments for a while. So I’m not the kind of person that likes to go out and, you know, valley here, so you’re gonna have this PowerPoint revenue number. So I’m a believer of building the app to,

Alexander Ferguson 3:54
to move forward, you need a good team, I mean, to really capture that and build that, obviously built a few teams, anything that lessons learned, as far as how do you find that acquire the right team members and build the right culture?

Mark Fischer-Colbrie 4:09
Yeah, at the end of the day, it’s really about the team. And that’s a condition where I like to say, I’m part of that team, because you’re never successful without the confluence of everybody’s capabilities. And I think the biggest element to learn is, the situation is we all have our strengths. We all have our weaknesses. The question is, how can you best employ strengths from individuals that are to accomplish the task and how can you balance out weaknesses related to the interactions with the variety of individuals at hand so that to me is, is extremely important. It’s a condition where I believe very much in trying people out seeing what they are able to accomplish. And in that environment is a construct where a lot of people gave me a lot of chances in my career to go do things that may or may not have been on paper or things that they would otherwise say that, yeah, Mark should be able to go do this. And I’m a firm believer that it’s good to try people out, see what they’re capable of doing, see how they respond. So I like the progress that occurs in that environment, because there’s so many times that people are able to really deliver on on those kinds of activities. So it’s exciting to see that

Alexander Ferguson 5:42
I imagine that the team itself and the culture that it creates between each other changes as it grows, based, also the number of people at how many team members are you at now,

Mark Fischer-Colbrie 5:54
we’re at 75, but you’re spot on, there is a lot, there are a lot of things that you do differently at various stages of development of the company. And probably one of the hardest things to do is navigate transition for folks who they were out standing, they did terrific job, they worked hard, they’re great people, but the role has changed, and the requirements have changed. And you have to find the proper environment related to what’s going on with the growth. And so that’s one of the more difficult challenges that that has to be accomplished, along with the fact that you have to be thinking consciously about change at every step along the way. And those kinds of activities are ones where it helps to have gone through it a few times before in the context of not that there’s a recipe book cuz it never is. But more acknowledgement of, you’ve got to continue to build to be able to scale things as an organization.

Alexander Ferguson 7:02
You’ve got the team, now you’re ready to grow when it comes to marketing, getting the first few customers or clients and then scaling from there. Any any lessons learned or you have a most favorite campaign or most impactful efforts that you have found that has worked?

Mark Fischer-Colbrie 7:21
I think it’s a factor of multiplicity of approaches in order to change behavior. Because when you’re bringing something new to the market, that’s a phenomenon where you’re having to convince people to do something differently. And as a consequence, is a whole human psychology factor associated with this. What I’m incredibly excited about Australia’s platform is, the kinds of behaviors that we’re looking to shift people to do are ones that they’re doing today in multiple areas of their life. And as a consequence, the barriers that are there to explain what we’re doing and how we’re doing it are much lower, compared to if you’re introducing some brand new technology, if you will. So those those make the task a lot easier. But nonetheless, it’s a multiple messaging component that needs to be out there. In order to get people down the diffusion curve from early adopters, all the way around to broad scale use.

Alexander Ferguson 8:29
Your level of involvement on the outreach, where do you spend your time? Is it is it more on the the client outward facing side? Is it building the culture and team? How do you divide your time as a leader?

Mark Fischer-Colbrie 8:41
I think it’s basically one where it’s about 5050. And that’s one where I have the unique opportunity with the connections and contacts that I’ve developed over the years to being able to foster more rapid adoption of our technologies. And I’m always excited about that. I love science, I love advancing innovation. I’m relationship driven, not transactional. And in that context, while using used to setting up a lot of collaborations with people and usually I find one plus one then is three because you can often get a much better and faster advancement of things when you’re working in conjunction with other groups so so I love that and then the internal operations there’s just that’s an ongoing activity to think about. Okay, well when do you need to get PPM a little bit more probic attic and packed internally, you know, with procedures and other elements and, and there’s just a long list of things to do. But I enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun, balance balancing those priorities off each other.

Alexander Ferguson 9:57
favorite books, audio books, podcasts, As journals that you have read and are reading and would recommend,

Mark Fischer-Colbrie 10:06
I’m doing a whole study on the experience of second generation Japanese Americans during World War Two, the effect of imprisonment of their families and their willingness to serve for the USRP and make tremendous sacrifices in order to help when World War Two. And so there are several books associated with that, that are personal diaries related to those experiences. And I think they’re emblematic of people’s ability to endure and people’s ability to, despite ridiculous circumstances, to be able to achieve in and to have an impact on society overall. So So those that’s really fun.

Alexander Ferguson 11:04
Last question I have for you is what kind of technology innovations do you predict we will see in the near term, the next year, and long term 510 years,

Mark Fischer-Colbrie 11:13
I think life sciences is going to continue to incredibly explode across the board, synthetic biology and engineering biology is going to provide the next industrial revolution. The world of really advancing the therapies and diagnostics is going to erupt with the new tools and capabilities. And so on top of that, if you lever in deep learning capabilities, from artificial intelligence, I just see just unbelievable opportunities across the board and life sciences. And it’s just incredibly thrilling. You know, and that ranges from DNA data storage to new materials to new therapeutics, so yeah, good stuff.

Alexander Ferguson 12:00
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview, you can nominate them at Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



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