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Strathclyde Business School

Making the most of a Saltire summer

By Ross Henderson - Posted on 9 October 2015

Twenty one SBS students were selected to take part in the prestigious Saltire Foundation’s entrepreneurial scholars programme gaining valuable work experience with companies around the world. Saltire intern Ross Henderson sums up his experience in the US.

This summer I worked with the quantitative bioscience incubator, QB3, in San Francisco, California, for 12 weeks. It was a fantastic experience, one that I am truly overjoyed to have had, and will never forget. QB3, together with the Rosenman Institute, are at the heart of bioscience innovation in the Bay Area – home to the world’s leading universities, corporations, and thought leaders. Having the opportunity to work in this kind of environment is one that should be grabbed with both hands, and I’m happy to say I’ve thrived and achieved a lot during my three months in San Francisco.

I worked in a management consultant role, working with a QB3 client to assess the market for their product, and to build a business plan around this. My client, SmartDerm, a freshly spun out venture from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), have developed a pressure-sensitive wound dressing for use on patients at high risk of contracting pressure ulcers. SmartDerm were very early stage in terms of commercialisation, and very much focused on engineering the perfect product, rather than validating the market for this – a common startup mistake.
SmartDerm was led by highly educated biomedical engineers, in addition to medical doctors who were actively working in various clinics. As an undergraduate with no background experience of medicine or clinical environments, the experience was a daunting one to walk in to.

Fortunately, I love a challenge – it makes life more interesting. After a couple of weeks hitting the books, I became relatively well versed in a niche area of dermatology, and was beginning to learn more about engineering by attending bi-weekly Paediatric Device and Surgical Innovation meetings, where the engineers’ latest iterations were put under the microscope and debated extensively. Gradually, I understood the product, the technology, and the need. My takeaway, especially from a consulting viewpoint, is that reading things out a book isn’t always necessarily the best way to learn; sometimes it’s better to go and find out for yourself – clients value this extra effort.

As the summer marched on I became a lot closer to the guys I was working with on the project, gradually building parts of the business model that added real value to the company. These two go hand in hand. When a project is as short as 12 weeks, you have to make the right decisions to ensure success; there’s simply not enough time to find a fix if you’ve messed up. Bonding with those you work with, on a personal level as well as professional, ensures a closer working relationship, and maximises the efficiency of the project for everyone involved.

By the end of my internship, I had produced numerous deliverables, the most important of which were a market analysis slide deck, and accompanying report. Slide decks (PowerPoints to the rest of the world) are a huge deal in the Silicon Valley, especially for startups. A well-designed deck allows you to communicate your business quickly and clearly, and used correctly, can sway investors towards a seed funding round. On leaving, I was told that my slide decks and reports were going to be used to seek outside investment for the project. Pretty cool, right? The work I’ve spent all summer doing will be used to source investment for a company that will change people’s lives.  If that’s not validation, I don’t know what is.

I’m really thankful for the internship, as it helped me to explore my professional identity in ways I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. Saltire has been the best experience of my life, and is an amazing community to be a part of. For all the interns, we’ve unlocked potential we never knew we had. Although our internships are now all over, I feel this is just the start of the Saltire journey for many of us. And who knows, if SmartDerm takes off, I might find myself back there in a year or so.

Ross Henderson is an undergraduate at Strathclyde Business School, in his 4th year of studying for a BA in Marketing and Business Enterprise.

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