Get to the finish line with Andrew Yoshioka

Andrew Yoshioka explores opportunity. And it’s brought him to some interesting places.

From Boehringer Ingelheim to GSK to YM BioSciences, Andrew has leveraged his experience in pharma and built a business as a management consultant. Here, we make contact with Andrew to talk about what he’s been doing since joining the Canadian startup ecosystem.

Meet Andrew.

Arushi Sachdev: Tell us a bit about your background.

Andrew Yoshioka: I worked in the corporate commercialization side of pharma and biotech in addition to working a variety of scientific roles. The key thing is I am more of a generalist – not a 25 to 30-year career specialist in a narrow discipline.

This tends to fit fairly well with early-stage startups. Usually, entrepreneurs can access a specialist for a defined task, but struggle with the uncertainties of the other pieces of the machinery.

Sachdev: Was becoming a generalist something you actively pursued? Or was it serendipitous in nature?

Yoshioka: This generalist pathway began to develop quite early in my career. I had started out my career in pharmaceutical sales, and the career progression at that time was to move into office-based roles such as product marketing and market research or clinical research.

I accepted a transition to clinical research and this led to being presented with a lot of ‘can you help us with this opportunity here’ and ‘we have this opportunity there’.

So, I think I’ve done about 14 different roles in corporate pharma. There was a company need, and someone saw that I was a quick learner – willing to take on the challenge of helping them solve their problem.

Sachdev: Did this “quick learner” skillset help when making the transition from pharma to management consulting?

Yoshioka: It definitely helped me, but I made a lot of assumptions from the pharma world that did not apply to the startup ecosystem. Canadian pharma is very sales, marketing, and efficiency-based. In contrast, startup commercialization can be two people sitting in their garage with an idea that’s not yet a business.

The Altitude Accelerator uses a rubric that has five stages of commercialization. For me, I was much more familiar with Stage 4. We launched products onto the market that generated revenue, addressed scaling issues, identified market segments, and dealt with reimbursement issues.

Much of what’s coming in the funnel at the Altitude Accelerator are Stage 0, 1, and 2 companies.

We help tech startups of all stages.

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Crossing the finish line.

Sachdev: So, given your later stage experience, was it challenging advising startups initially?

Yoshioka: the benefit of coming from a later stage experience base is that you know what the finish line looks like.

When you research the key challenges of implementing innovation, many startup gurus will say, ‘you’ve got to go talk to your customers.’ Startups will follow this advice but in a fairly limited spectrum. A hour drive or a 15 minute phone call. But, they don’t think about globalization or understanding how things get paid for.

In general, many entrepreneurs have developed their technology to a certain stage, but they have trouble getting customers to pay for it. This could have all been avoided if they actually talked to more customers.

That’s why I wholly endorse workshops like Altitude Accelerator’s Business Model Canvas or Startup Bootcamp.

Your business is far more than just your technology.

You can have a brilliant idea, but the entire business is a much larger exercise than just the technology itself. The technology doesn’t just sell itself. It’s all about the commercial model.

Where else can you learn about government funding, finances, intellectual property, and shareholders’ agreements in a day?

Partnered with BDO, Pallett Valo, and Bereskin & Parr — you’re guaranteed to learn from the best.

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Technology transfer.

Sachdev: Your advice reminds me of our former incubator tenant, AOMS Technologies. They had devised a brilliant, fiber-optic sensor technology, but it was entrenched in academia. It was only through the advisory they received from the Altitude Accelerator that helped them establish their business model, turning a technology into a business.

Yoshioka: I remember seeing AOMS Technologies pitch at one of Altitude Accelerator’s Champion Series panels. They were discussing their fiber-optic sensing technology and how it can be used in fracking in the oil and gas industry.

It was interesting as a citizen, but it was not obvious how I could help them. Through the help of other Altitude Accelerator advisors, they learned how to pursue different business segments and actually realize revenue. They learned to build the operations processes to match the way customers do business. They built up those segments from a business model canvas perspective to make that relationship and that channel work.

Their progress was evident four months ago when I introduced them to a client of mine that was seeking a sensor-based technology. Now, AOMS Technologies is initiating a pilot installation for one of their fiber-optic cables.

Sachdev: Are there any other hindrances in commercializing academic projects?

Yoshioka: There is no doubt universities across Canada have hundreds of thousands of publications in peer-reviewed journals and a similar number of patents. Canada is evolving to a knowledge-based economy, but it is growing slowly. It’s partly because of limited access to capital, smaller talent pools, and an environment that is not conducive to scaling companies.

However, I do not want to discourage the enthusiasm found in entrepreneurs. I think it’s valuable for Canada’s culture, and this momentum is making a future where we no longer need to chop down trees and pull oil to sustain our economy.

Incubators and accelerators like the Altitude Accelerator are helping.

Andrew and the Altitude Accelerator.

Sachdev: And we’re lucky to have your help. Why did you become a Altitude Accelerator advisor?

Yoshioka: Being at Stage 4 in commercialization, I realized I lacked some of the knowledge and awareness of early-stage commercialization. Therefore, I wanted to work with startups.

I stayed at the Altitude Accelerator for the advisors.

We tend to bounce ideas off of each other, and there’s a wealth of experience in the room. There have been countless opportunities from us working together and recognizing each other’s expertise.

Sachdev: In a few weeks you’ll be giving a presentation at our Startup Bootcamp. Can we get a teaser of what you’ll be discussing?

Yoshioka: I will be focusing on knowing what the finish line looks like and then developing a stepwise path to test the assumptions. Essentially, how to succeed and fail quickly and cheaply.

Join Andrew and us at next week’s Startup Bootcamp on November 7th.

Partnered with BDO, Pallett Valo, and Bereskin & Parr — you’re guaranteed to learn from the best.

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