Interview with Jeff Boily, CEO of Biowizard-Messaging lab - March 2010


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MessagingLab blog conducts interviews with
entrepreneurs in the life sciences and biotechnology industries, and individuals doing great things in marketing and branding that could be applied to the life sciences and biotech. The first interview in this series is with Jeff Boily of BioWizard.

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Interview with Jeff Boily, CEO of Biowizard-Messaging lab - March 2010

  1. 1. MessagingLabKarl Schmieder Names and Markets Disruptive TechnologiesInterview: Jeff Boily, BIOWIZARD – Part 12010 March 22by Karl SchmiederOne of the features I’ve wanted to add to the MessagingLab blog is interviews withentrepreneurs in the life sciences and biotechnology industries, and individuals doing greatthings in marketing and branding that could be applied to the life sciences and biotech. The firstinterview in this series is with Jeff Boily of BioWizard.BioWizard’s motto is “Research Made Simple.” BioWizard gives life sciences researcherstools and functionalities designed to increase the accessibility and dissemination of information.In the biomedical research community, there is an unmet need for tools like BioWizard’sbecause information is growing exponentially and it is becoming increasingly difficult to stay upto date on information within even your own field.Jeff and I spoke earlier this year. What follows is Part 1 of our interview. I’ll publish Part 2 earlynext week.JEFF BOILY: I’ve been a biotech-pharmaceutical executive for over 30 years and started mycareer as a sales representative. I came up through the commercial ranks, doing sales, marketingand licensing both at Fortune 500 Pharma like Abbott and Wyeth, then working for a publicbiotech in the UK. Subsequently, I’ve been involved with four life sciences startups.For over 12 years, I’ve been a CEO, leading the transformational change of organizations andtaking them to the next level or getting them ready for raise financial capital with VCs/PrivateEquity or IPOs. I’ve also come into early stage startups where you’re starting from ground zero,establish funding and business objectives. Prior to BioWizard, I was President and ChiefExecutive Officer of Rogers Medical Intelligence Solutions, a clinical intelligence and consultingfirm that provides innovative services to the top 50 biotech and pharmaceutical companies,largely in R&D , M&A, and marketing. After five years, we sold Medical Intelligence Solutionsto a New York private equity firm.
  2. 2. In September 2006 MentorTech Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund focused oncompanies originating at the University of Pennsylvania, were evaluating Biowizard as apotential investment. I was asked me to meet with the founders and discuss the market. Onequickly realized this was an outstanding group of scientists and entrepreneurs who were studyingat the University of Pennsylvania perusing their Ph.D. and/or M.D. degrees.They created BioWizard; largely out of frustration in doing their academic research in the lifesciences. They found that they had to scour the web for sources of research information. Thatwas especially true with getting literature out of PubMed as well as product information. Theywanted to create a service that would incorporate Web 2.0 innovations in the science literaturefield.They started BioWizard in August 2005 to solve these research issues, and wanted to see whatelse they could do with the platform.Long story short, I came on board as the Chief Executive Officer helped redo several businesselements, secured initial venture capital financing, then began to market our services to lifescientists around the world. To this day, some 85 percent of our users are either Ph.D.s or M.D.sin various academic, research institutions and pharmaceutical biotech companies around theworld.SCHMIEDER: Could you tell us what is it that is appealing about the site? What makesscientists and researchers come back to BioWizard?BOILY: From a content perspective, BioWizard makes it possible for a user to monitor our siteand use our proprietary search engine to search PubMed a service from the National Library ofMedicine, search several peer-reviewed journals in the life sciences arena, then, if you find anarticle that you believe is relevant to the Biowizard community, or an article you wrote, youcould post it on our site for other users to vote on. It’s very similar to the social bookmarking site
  3. 3. in that it creates a community by tagging content, but it’s aimed at a veryspecific audience.For example, let’s say you found an article in one of 18 scientific and clinical categories on theclinical side of the subjects BioWizard tracks, you would post it. If they liked it and thought itcontributed to overall knowledge, they could vote on it or could start discussions around thearticle. In fact, posing questions to our scientific and medical community regarding articles andtheir applicability to other areas occurs regularly.This ability to post an article and to have people vote on it is very appealing and has been aninnovative idea for sharing content in the life sciences community.And BioWizard makes it easy to join the community. All it takes is a very simple registrationprocess. We do not require names, if you want to remain anonymous. We found anonymity hasbeen very important to our users as many users prefer to keep their academic or professionalaffiliations anonymous. We’ve learned that asking for too much information actually impedesthe sharing of knowledge.SCHMIEDER: How does the model that you described fit into kind of the bigger universewhere peer-reviewed articles are moving onto the Internet. Does BioWizard fit into that debate?Or, is it something that’s grown from that?BOILY: Not really. To post an article on our site, it must already be in one of the approved peer-reviewed scientific or medical journals within the PubMed database. The gatekeeper is PubMed.The articles on BioWizard come from those thousands of journals. The editorial review processestablished by each of those journals is what dictates the BioWizard content and all of these areall peer-reviewed journals. Someone can’t decide to write an article for a “non PubMedapproved journal” and post it to BioWizard. It doesn’t work that way. In addition, Biowizard isalso a LinkOut provider of PubMed.SCHMIEDER: What is the ratio of people who come to the site to search PubMed compared tothose that actually come to the site and post articles so that people can vote on them or interactwith the articles? Are they one in the same?BOILY: As with all things, this approaches the traditional 80/20 rule. I would say that a verysmall percentage of the people who come in actually post articles and open dialogue. A lot ofpeople post their own articles or research that they’ve been associated with, and then users vote.Voting is very simple you simply click on the Vote button.
  4. 4. Number of Searches on PubMedHowever, the vast majority of scientists come to the site to search for articles and look at whatnew articles have been posted in their specific scientific or clinical research area. So the exactratio would vary but it’s definitely a smaller portion who actually post and open upcomments.The audience is a global, so we get a great perspective from the people coming intoour site.SCHMIEDER: Let me ask the million dollar question: How does BioWizard currently makemoney?BOILY: We sell advertising and promotional programs to life science and technology firms thathave a very specific focus on the life sciences vertical.SCHMIEDER: How do people find BioWizard?BOILY: We have done quite a bit of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing todrive traffic. The URL for PubMed is quite specific, so we have leveraged the technology sothat we show up in organic searches. That way any users looking for PubMed will also see theBioWizard link. Users can do their PubMed search without having to go to PubMed. However,BioWizard adds a lot of information and value that is not available on PubMed.We also use a keyword advertising program and have done a variety of other marketing programsto help drive users to our site.
  5. 5. Marketing BioWizard.comSCHMIEDER: Which of those have you found to be more successful for you?BOILY: Search engine optimization. SEO has been very productive and key in significantlygrowing our organic rankings in search. We have found SEO to be very lucrative for us.SCHMIEDER: I searched for PubMed on Google and BioWizard comes up as the first result onthe second page. That’s pretty great considering the top four results on the first page arePubMed itself.BOILY: Right, that’s because PubMed is a major governmental entity. If you actually look at thenumber of results , it’s over 30 million. So we’re now on the top of Page 2. That means we’veslipped a bit. We used to be at the bottom of the first page. And that was due largely to SEO.SCHMIEDER: That’s very impressive.BOILY: Not too bad for a small startup firm.SCHMIEDER: I’m curious in terms of the direction that you guys are taking. Where are yougoing with BioWizard? What are your plans?BOILY: We’ve decided that to grow and leverage the full value of BioWizard, we would like toform strategic partnerships. Funding in this particular environment is challenging, as we allknow. Exit strategies are non-existent and M&A has slowed down dramatically. So, we arelooking to align ourselves with a much larger organization where we can leverage our searchengine, our information, and expertise in the life sciences arena. The partner would ideally be acompany that is seeking to offer other services to scientists or researchers and BioWizard couldhelp them retain their customer base.
  6. 6. We understand the biotech and pharmaceutical industries and we understand academic research,the organization is made up of Ph.D.s and M.D.s. Our senior staff include a Medical Officer,Scientific Officer, Chief Technology Officer and President all coming from the University ofPennsylvania.SCHMIEDER: You and I had talked about this previously, you mentioned some of the firms thatand types of companies that would make sense for partners.BOILY: Yes, it’s going to be people who want to reach life scientists. We know some of theprominent computer companies and software companies have very specific programs directed atlife scientists. They might find a partnership with BioWizard an important way to reach thisaudience.SCHMIEDER: Without mentioning names, could one of the larger computer hardwarecompanies or a big database provider being interested?BOILY: Yes, they are all making significant investments into the life sciences because there is arenewed interest in computation for the life sciences. In addition, all the pure–play life sciencesfirms that sell life sciences services and products into the research institutions would make greatpartners.TO BE CONTINUED.Interview: Jeff Boily, BIOWIZARD – Part 22010 March 25by Karl SchmiederThis is Part 2 of my interview with Jeff Boily of BioWizard. For Part 1, click this link.Karl Schmieder: Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about the marketing of the life sciences sinceyou’ve been a part of the industry for 30 years. Could you give us some perspective, especiallyin terms of the economic challenge we’ve been going through? What do you see out there interms of what’s being successful for a company? What do you think companies are failing todo?Jeff Boily: Well, the environment is certainly more challenging overall. So, the major issueswhen you are promoting to biotech and pharmaceutical industries has been this downturn. Therehave been significant job losses within the research areas and that has certainly impacted a lot ofthe programs. For example, many BioWizard’s users are associated with the industry and thatcertainly does make an impact.That being said, research continues to move forward and people still need information andservices. Information is critical in this sophisticated user group. They like to search forinformation, find what they’re looking for and move on. They’re not shopping the wayconsumers do. They’re looking for tools that save them time yet deliver very specific results.At BioWizard, we consider the psychographics of life scientists to determine how they search forinformation, use the service and what new technologies and new programs they want and would
  7. 7. use. We’ve tried to look at what is critical for scientists to use our services. What influencefellow researchers have? And we have found they like very specific information.Based on that information, we added a feature that allows our users to save all their searchalgorithms, then be notified immediately via email if when a new article is added into thePubMed database that meet their search criteria. That way, users could develop sophisticatedsearch algorithms, that saves time and improves results. Specificity is key, they are not lookingfor general information or news that is not specific to their research interests.General articles or news elements in oncology is not of significant interest to this group.. Forexample, they want recent published data on squamous cell carcinoma in head and neck cancer,etc . And, they’re doing very specific things with the information they receive. So, they do notlike wasting their time. This is a more impatient group. They like to come in. Get what theyneed and move on.So if we can provide the services and tools that solve their problems, allow very specificsearches, then they will come back to BioWizard and we increase the stickiness. This is reallycentral to what we have done as a small firm.We know that our audience is not interested in a lot of banner ads. Some of those have worked.But it has to be appealing from a scientific or medical content perspective. In general, thestandard web banner ads don’t work very well with this audience. That’s why we haven’tpromoted Biowizard via banner advertising because we haven’t found it to be effective.SCHMIEDER: Is there anything else that you have found to be effective that maybe our readerswouldn’t think of as being obvious?BOILY: Yes. We’ve used Second Life and have participated in various programs on that virtualworld. We’ve created a persona and were very surprised by the number of people in our targetaudience that participated. Even more surprising were the residual effects of people going backand looking at the content. We’ve found Second Life to be a worthwhile program and recentlywe’ve seen other firms doing virtual life science events in that world.
  8. 8. BioWizards innovative marketing strategies include the use of Second LifeIt allows users to look at these programs at their convenience as opposed to being locked intospecific schedules and traveling, especially with the downturn in the economy where it’s beensome limitations on travel.SCHMIEDER: That’s very interesting because interest in Second Life wanes in the mainstreammedia, but consulting firms like McKenzie have been using it as a global marketing andrecruiting tool. Given that your audience is very highly educated, I’m not surprised that a placelike that would be a good place to find a lot of them at once and make it easy for them to knowwhat you’re doing and how it’s going to help them.BOILY: Second Life caters to a younger audience, but it definitely has a serious group ofscientists who were very interested in our program.SCHMIEDER: How did the ROI on that program compare to others? It sounds like it was verysuccessful.BOILY: We were pleased based on the number of people that were exposed to BioWizard andthe impact our web traffic. Since we are a small firm, we need to really focus our promotionaldollars as efficiently as possible. We don’t have the luxury for broad programs. So, of thevarious marketing programs we’ve tried, we found that one certainly did yield some positiveresults.SCHMIEDER: That type of program probably doesn’t come top of mind for most marketingpeople but it sounds like it made a lot of sense for BioWizard.BOILY: As with all marketing programs, you look at what’s innovative and can drive users.We had mixed feelings whether this would work or not, but it certainly produced positive results.We’ve also done virtual bio conferences – where combinations of speakers do recordedbroadcasts for their audiences and you can circulate, and have a virtual booth, if you wish, during
  9. 9. these conferences as well. We’re finding many other life sciences firms are using this type ofmarketing.So there is a movement to this to try to get to the target audience with specific information thatthey want and when they want it as opposed to mobilization people all over the country, which iswhat we all used to do.Another marketing program we found interesting and brought us some interesting results is avery direct program aimed at university students in graduate school and undergraduates as wellto try to promote our site. Since they’re the ones doing research, they’re very interested in newresources. We ran programs and retained what we call College Ambassadors for BioWizard. Wegot them to hand out pamphlets and BioWizard t-shirts. The t-shirts were in big demand. Thatwas an effective way to get our message out to an audience that is very key to us and they helpedspread the word. We’ve done this for a variety of institutions across the country.SCHMIEDER: Again, that makes a lot of sense, you’ve got the right message aimed at theaudience that will be using the product.BOILY: Correct. We’re also tied in with a number of the academic libraries. We were part ofthe Medical Library Association and had a lot of our users and a variety of contacts within theacademic world. We’re able to link ourselves to various academic libraries. That alsostrengthens our presence in a key environment. We view BioWizard as an information/educationtool, where you come to find scientific and medical information for your own research or foreducational purposes. So those are some of the grass roots marketing efforts we’re promoting atvarious academic centers and the virtual world promotions we’re doing.SCHMIEDER: It sounds like a great way to reach your audience. I’m sure that word of mouthis a big part of your efforts. Is there anything else that you wanted to tell me about life sciencesmarketing in general?BOILY: Well in marketing to the life sciences, you need to keep your user audience in mind andthat audience is very demanding and very sophisticated. They know what they’re looking for.The value of your offering is critical. With BioWizard, we’ve tried to build valuable featuresthroughout the site, keeping the user in mind. So, whether it is to save a search or two, find orshare an article, we’ve tried to make it simple. Tools that simplify either research and thecommunication process will increase the chances that your audience is going to come back toyour site and continue using your program.SCHMIEDER: Thanks Jeff for spending the time with us today.BOILY: You’re welcome. •from → Biotechnology, Entrepreneurship, Global Biotechnology, Interviews, Marketing,Productivity