Empowering professionals with autonomy
“An organization will only be as great as the people you partner with,” says Benjamine Liu, CEO & Co-Founder, TrialSpark – a technology company that runs clinical trials for pharma and biotech companies. Ben believes in hiring the best talent, setting clear goals, and then empowering people with the autonomy they need to achieve these goals. The best organizations encourage people to partner with others from diverse backgrounds so they can assemble teams with different perspectives and insights. At the same time, it’s important that these teams are united by a common mission and values. For TrialSpark, the mission is to bring new treatments to patients faster and more efficiently by reimagining clinical trials.
Passion taking the plunge
Ben’s work with Sir Simon Lovestone’s lab at Oxford helped him realize that long timelines and exuberant costs, which can add up to hundreds of millions of dollars per trial, are a huge bottleneck in bringing new treatments to patients. His passion to break this bottleneck propelled him to build TrialSpark. TrialSpark is a technology company that runs end-to-end clinical trials more efficiently. TrialSpark has scaled a network of sites by partnering with doctors to create clinical trial sites within their existing practices. They run clinical research out of these doctor practices using a team of clinical research coordinator who are supported by software, data, and technology. By decreasing the cost and time of clinical trials, TrialSpark wants to help the industry to test and bring new medicines to the market faster.
“By creating trial sites with doctors, TrialSpark reaches the 98-99% of patients who have never been exposed to trials, boosting recruitment and enrollment rates. More importantly, our model enables patients to participate in clinical trials with their existing doctor, democratizing access to investigational medicines,” Liu expresses.
Full-stack approach to solving problems
The healthcare market is challenging to break into because of long sales cycles. This often results in companies that focus on point solutions for specific problems that overlook the fundamental issues. To prevent this, Ben encourages companies to pursue full-stack approaches to elucidate problems.
“In healthcare, there are often local optimizations that exist in the market that benefit incumbents, but subsequently create a macro-misalignment of incentives. Full-stack solutions can begin to align these incentives, creating drastically more efficient solutions. However, these solutions often take longer to implement so as a founder, it’s important to create a roadmap for your team to take a more ambitious, full-stack approach,” Ben explains.
Fail fast, fail forward!
To Ben, asking the existential questions first is one of the most powerful ways to make meaningful progress in your project. This allows you to fail fast. “It is your job to create a culture and environment that empowers your team to fail fast to find the next angle to solve a particular problem. By asking existential questions first, you enable the organization to disprove or prove out a hypothesis faster and maximize your learning rate,” says Ben.
Ben is a leader who truly enjoys managing his people thoughtfully. When asked about what he is most proud about, he replied, “The team that we’ve built and how dedicated they are about making a difference in the lives of patients – they challenge me to continue to elevate my game and ensure we are true to our mission.”
Managing time in style
Ben is an early riser. He wakes up at 5:45 am every morning and spends the first 30 minutes of the day catching up on biopharma news. About 20% of his day is spent on internal meetings, 30% on hiring, 30% on business development, and the last 20% on strategic planning. “Throughout all of this, the most important thing is humility and active listening — this is key to effective leadership,” explains Ben.
Message for the young entrepreneurs
Ben advises entrepreneurs to pick a problem that they really fundamentally care about and then set a long-term vision. It is so much easier to stay resolute in solving a challenging problem when you are inherently passionate about it.
“My advice would be to work on a problem that you really care about,” Ben shares.
You should always ask yourself whether this is a problem you would be happy to devote 10 years of your life towards,” he adds.