Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Tom AelbrechtEntrepreneurial Boot Camp at Janssen Pharmaceuticals

Serious games designed to improve adherence to treatment... Science fiction? Not at all. This is one of the ideas that made it to and through boot camp and is now being incubated. Tom Aelbrecht, Director Venturing & Incubation at Janssen Pharmaceutica, explains how entrepreneurial boot camps play a part in transforming the pharmaceutical business model.

In response to changing market conditions, Janssen Pharmaceutica is shifting its business model to integrated consumer-centric disease management (see image). This transformation requires a multidisciplinary, cross-company and cross-industry approach to innovation. To streamline the idea selection and implementation process, Janssen Pharmaceutica established the Venture & Incubation Centre (VIC). Tom Aelbrecht: “The VIC wants to be a business incubator and venture accelerator, generating top- and bottom-line growth by launching new healthcare activities adjacent to our core business. We want to foster entrepreneurial talent and build a collaborative community that embraces open innovation.”

Stage-gate Process

The boot camps are the first phase of the stage-gate process conducted by the VIC. Anyone can submit ideas. Those that meet the selection criteria enter the boot camp, where they are further developed and finally presented to a jury of board-level executives. Ideas that are approved then move on to the incubation stage: the idea champions are freed from their regular jobs to allow them to focus on implementation, develop a prototype, identify customers, etc. Tom Aelbrecht: “To increase the viability of these ventures, we ensure close collaboration with the necessary competencies within our organisation such as finance, legal and marketing. And when the idea is brought to the market we also manage the venture’s exit, for instance by integrating it into one of our existing business units or by spinning it off.”

So far the boot camps have been attended by internal employees only. The next logical step is to involve external parties as well.

Motivation Booster

Tom Aelbrecht has nothing but praise: “The real power of our boot camp formula is the coaching and that’s where Vlerick comes in. Its tutors have solid business experience, which is invaluable when it comes to shaping ideas into realistic business opportunity plans. And then there’s the School’s academic and business network, which I’m sure will prove extremely useful for future ventures.”

“These boot camps give people the opportunity to see their idea turned into a business. Think what a motivation booster that is!” he says enthusiastically. “The way I see it, these boot camps are part of one big change management programme with revenue generation as the spillover!”

Boot Camps: Into the Dragons’ Den

“Boot camps usually consist of three two-day residential sessions, each three weeks apart, during which we coach participants in looking at their ideas as any investor would,” explains Professor Van Dyck. “The concept is not entirely dissimilar to the TV show Dragons’ Den (i.e. TV reality show that gives entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of successful business people who have pledged to invest their own money in the best ideas. We use a mixture of readily applicable theory, tailored to the company’s context, coaching and group sessions. During the boot camp the participants fine-tune their ideas into solid business opportunity proposals to be presented to a jury of the company’s senior management and Vlerick staff. The ultimate reward: the go-ahead to incubate the proposed venture.”

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