482 Manijeh Goldberg:
Manijeh manEEjzey moved to the United States at age 17, all alone, from Iran, with nothing but a dream to study nuclear engineering. She spoke little English, and soon learned … receiving multiple degrees from Harvard and MIT, raising 2 successful children, building 5 startups, her latest the innovative oncology biotech company Privo Technologies. Supported by the National Cancer Institute, the FDA and several other prestigious organizations, Privo has received over $11M in funding.
Manijeh shares today her mindset secrets that have enabled her to overcome outsized obstacles – and won her prestigious awards, including the MIT Deshpande Innovation Award as well as the National
Tibbetts Award she received at the White House. Listen too to learn how to raise capital and build a diverse and successful team.
Melinda Wittstock: Manijeh welcome to Wings.
Manijeh Goldberg: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: I really love what you’re doing, transforming the future of oral cancer therapy. I want you to explain to everybody your product and what you’re doing.
Manijeh Goldberg: So, oral cancer is a pretty nasty cancer and it happens to grow inside of the mouth basically in the oral cavity. So you can imagine how it can interfere with our daily activities such as talking, swallowing, drinking and many other things that you can imagine we are using our mouth, our tongue every day and if there is something growing on the side of the tongue or near our gums it can really affect your day to day activities and quality of life. So this is what motivated me to work on this cancer. I have been told by a dear friend that’s an oncologist that there are patients that suffer from this disease that has not seen much improvement, the surgeries are very disfiguring, can be very disfiguring because they remove part of the person’s tongue or they remove part of the jaw and these patients will have a hard time dealing with it afterwards, even if the treatment is successful.
Manijeh Goldberg: So it motivated me to work on treatments that are less invasive, less side effects and can treat the patients without causing all these nasty disfigurements that affect the rest of somebody’s life. So, we started with developing a patch that has pretty strong anti-cancer drugs and we use nanotechnology, polymer science, there’s a lot of science involved, but the idea is a simple idea. How do we place a patch right over the tumor if the tumor is accessible and have the tumor basically die, kill the cancer cells without impacting the rest of the body.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s amazing. That’s amazing because you think so many cancer treatments are so invasive and I think now even as this Coronavirus pandemic forces a lot of people to cancel, or have their surgeries canceled and whatnot, this is a very effective treatment for them, it’s an alternative.
Manijeh Goldberg: Absolutely, it doesn’t require operating room, so they don’t have to go to the hospital, the patch can be placed by a healthcare provider, however, they don’t have to be surgeons or they can be trained fairly easily to place the patch right on the tumor and it basically is [inaudible 00:11:45] it sticks to the tumor and delivers the particles that have the drug in it and then the patient can go home within half an hour to an hour and they can continue moving forward and it controls the tumor growth while they’re waiting for their surgery.
Melinda Wittstock: These innovations in life sciences and in biotech and you’ve done a lot of companies in this space, why don’t these innovations end up in the news? There’s so few people that know that this is even possible.
Manijeh Goldberg: You’re right and there was news on one of the local TV stations that they came to our company, to our facility, our labs and did a segment on what we do and they also discussed a young patient that died of oral cancer and they talked to his father and he was really hopeful that this can help other patients and it was sad that we didn’t have the product in clinical trial when his son was looking for a product such as this. You’re right and I don’t know if I can maybe partly take the blame because maybe we should have done more PR, more marketing, but there are… I’m sure there are many companies similar to ours that are working on treatments that if patients knew more about them it would give them hope.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely right. You have 20 years of experience in the biomedical industry and your track record is amazing. You’ve done five biotech startups and one of those was acquired for $475 million, congratulations on that, not everyone gets there, not very many female founders get there. What was the thing, if you had to think about one thing about you and about how you conducted your business and how you showed up, what your mindset was, all those things, what would it be?
Manijeh Goldberg: One thing, huh?
Melinda Wittstock: Well, I know there are many, but what do you think is the main thing and I ask because just it’s a starting point in our conversation-
Manijeh Goldberg: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: But I’m curious what you think the biggest driving force of your success has been.
Manijeh Goldberg: I think believing in the cause, in what you are trying to accomplish. If you really believe in it and you can… it gives you the energy to keep going because biotech is… I have to explain that it’s one of the toughest businesses there is. There is the element of science which you’re dealing with human body and we don’t understand many things about our complicated machinery and at the same time it’s extremely expensive from building a laboratory to hiring the experts, to conducting clinical trials. You need to have an amazing belief in what you’re doing to get you over these obstacles that are monumental.
Melinda Wittstock: They are, well, there’s so much beyond our control. I think of Coronavirus right now has got to be the epic example of that. There is a lot beyond our control, but there are things that are in our control that we can really, really focus on. So I just want to go there for a minute. What are the opportunities that you’re finding right now in all the chaos because I mean there’s so many businesses that are struggling, they’re like oh wow, how am I going to pay my team? How am I going to meet payroll? How am I going to close my funding round? How am I going to do this, this, this or that? Or the business just is shut down right now because we can’t have physical contact. Where are you finding your drive and your inspiration right now as we all kind of shelter in place, or we’re locked down, or whatever and there’s so much uncertainty swirling around everybody.
Manijeh Goldberg: You’re absolutely right, it’s not easy and I won’t sugar coat it to say that it’s easy, but you have to get yourself motivated by looking at is there anything I can do to help? Are there things that I have learned in my experience that potentially could be helpful to patients that are either suffering from Coronavirus, or patients that are impacted by Coronavirus? Since my world is around, focused around how to help patients, so that’s where my mind goes to and my thought is okay, with the product that we have built we can control the growth of tumors, we can shrink them fairly rapidly and fairly safely without having big operating rooms, without needing a lot of medical workers, healthcare workers. So I reached out, I talk to my advisors, I surround myself with people that are very bright, very generous, very giving.
Manijeh Goldberg: So I reach out to them and say I have this idea, what do you think? Is there anything we can do? These are people that are very successful coming from different angles and I think that sense of community even though it’s being done remotely kind of motivates me that they are things we can do and my team, my brilliant young team they are motivating, they have ideas and we discuss them. Some of it we know we have to put on the back burner because we can’t do them now and some of them we say you know what? Let’s ask, for example let’s ask FDA, let’s ask National Cancer Institute. Do they think this can be useful to them? So we are constantly trying to undo this very complex ecosystem that we are in right now.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, absolutely. But you have done all this in a very male dominated industry and several times, what is the secret to succeeding for female founders? I think about the fact that still even at this time women only get 2% of available venture capital funding. I mean, and this is for businesses that actually qualify. I mean, they’re highly scalable companies with a good chance of unicorn style exits or certainly nine figure acquisition dollars. Why do we struggle so much with unlocking funding and what have been some of your challenges along the way?
Manijeh Goldberg: So this is definitely a real concern, this is definitely not one of those things that I think people say well, you are imagining it, this is not a problem, it’s a real problem. I’ve seen it myself, my colleagues that are females have seen it and we talk about it. We talk about how it seems… it seems that regardless of your accomplishments, if you are walking into a room of venture capitalists, investors, just the fact that you are a female founder almost you start at a different place than if you were a male, less accomplish, less credibility, less background. What I found, my own experience is that it seems that investors are looking for their clone, maybe a younger version of themselves so that they can relate to them and see how investing many, many millions in this person basically could end up many returns because they can perhaps see themselves in that person.
Manijeh Goldberg: My thought is that some of it could be for the lack of better word, a good old boy network, they can relate to each other and there is a female walking in, in my case with an accent and I smile a lot, but I have done a lot of work in this space, I have accomplished a lot, I have education that’s very related to my field, however, it seems as if I get advice, I get very nice replies and sometimes I get dismissed as if I’m not even in the room. But what I’m there for is not advice and not niceties, I’m there for something really serious. I’m looking for funding to continue with my business so that it ends up in a patient’s hand basically the treatment.
Melinda Wittstock: So you stay focused on the mission and I think one of the things that women sometimes forget perhaps psychologically, or perhaps it’s a mindset thing, is that we’re bringing opportunities to enrich other people. It is an opportunity and the venture capitalists wouldn’t exist, but for the fact of the ingenuity, the vision, the incredibly hard work, all the things that we do to build successful companies and so that relationship it’s like look, I’m offering you an opportunity, I’m not asking for a handout and I think sometimes there’s a little bit of it can be subconscious sometimes.
Manijeh Goldberg: That’s what I think, I totally agree with you. That’s what I think. I think a lot of these investors I’ve met are very, very nice people. These are people that they have daughters, they have wives and I’m sure they are very encouraging to them to build their businesses, but I think subconsciously when it comes to investing serious dollars in them that’s when being nice gets replaced by oh, I don’t think so, and absolutely it’s a real concern, it’s a serious problem. I was reading, I think in January there was an article in Washington Post, they were talking about the president of MIT, the previous president, which was a female and I have great respect for her and one of the professors that’s very well known, very well accomplished, both of them to my surprise said exactly what I have experienced.
Manijeh Goldberg: And they said that they have gone looking for investments and they’ve been told that, you know, they’ve been kind of dismissed or nicely told sure, we’ll get back to you and nothing happened, and an advisor told them next time perhaps you should walk in with one of your male scientists that works for you and they can maybe relate to him and thinking he’s in charge, I personally have had that.
Melinda Wittstock: I’ve had that so many times too and I’ve noticed the difference in the room like whether I’m raising funding for my own companies, or trying to pull down a strategic deal with a fortune 500 company, or something like that, I mean it’s the same sort of thing and it’s crazy. I mean do you think the game will change once more women have exits and start investing in other women? I mean, that’s one of my big missions, one of the reasons I started this podcast because I really want to catalyze an ecosystem where women invest in each other.
Manijeh Goldberg: I believe so. I’m an optimist, in general I couldn’t do what I do if I wasn’t. So I’m an optimist, but I’m also a realist. I believe the more women are in these top C level positions and the more exits they have, it’s going to become more apparent that women mean business.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely.
Manijeh Goldberg: We are not doing this in order to just be keeping ourselves busy, we are doing this because we mean business.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, your background too is so inspiring. I mean, you came here to the United States at age 17 alone from Iran and you really had nothing but a dream. What brought you here? What was the thing that that led you? I mean, it’s so brave, 17, you just come here on your own and you study nuclear engineering. What was going through your head as a 17 year old?
Manijeh Goldberg: So I… when I was a kid I thought about how energy and oil and nuclear, and electrical energy tends to have a serious impact on politics.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh yeah, understatement.
Manijeh Goldberg: So, even though I was young I happen to come from a country that had a lot of oil. So in my thought, I could see how if we could come up with safer alternatives to oil, perhaps there would be less wars and so as a child that was my, you know, you’re a kid, you’re an idealist and I was very good at sciences, physics and other sciences. So I thought my dream would be to make nuclear energy much safer and that was my dream and I was able to sell it to my mom. I talked to her and I said mom, I believe in this, I think I can do something. I’m going to study in the best schools in America until I figure this out and she said, okay. So she said even if you didn’t study this, you study anything else, I think I believe you will do something good, so that’s how it started. I ended up not being allowed to study nuclear engineering because of my background.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, because… oh my goodness. So they… oh gosh.
Manijeh Goldberg: Yes, when they found out… as a student I was not a US citizen at that time, I was on student visa. I was told I wasn’t allowed to study nuclear engineering and I wasn’t allowed to go into their reactors, so very quickly I had to determine what else could I study.
Melinda Wittstock: They thought you were a spy.
Manijeh Goldberg: Yeah exactly and my dreams were shattered. I was thinking of calling my mom and saying what do I do now? I don’t know what else to do, but anyways those were not options. So the only option I had really was to pick up my pieces and study engineering, so I did study engineering undergrad and then for my master’s I studied computer science and mathematics, and I was able to start working in the world of biotech and medical devices.
Melinda Wittstock: You’re just doing a small thing now of course, which is curing cancer, I mean now just as a minor thing, right? I mean, when I look at your educational background and the PhD in biomedical engineering and Masters of Science and health and technology from Harvard, right? An MBA from MIT, I mean is there anything that you haven’t studied? It’s so impressive.
Manijeh Goldberg: I think I have a problem, I lost my dad when I was a teenager, he died in a car accident-
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, sorry.
Manijeh Goldberg: And my dad would come home and ask me how did you do in school Manijeh? And I used to say oh, this happened, that happened and he would say let me see your notebooks. And to this day I always feel like he’s watching over me and wants me to do [inaudible 00:30:15] school, so it seems like I forever have to study in order to please this person that’s no longer in my life, but I remember how excited he would get and he would put his hand on his heart and he would say you make me so proud my girl and I have… I’m choking as I say it, so I think that was a driving factor for me that I always thought I have to learn more, maybe then I would say I’m done learning and the honest truth is you asked me about the one thing, maybe the one thing is the love of learning, there is no end to learning, it’s so [inaudible 00:30:58].
Melinda Wittstock: I actually think curiosity and the love of learning is the biggest single differentiator oddly enough between what makes an entrepreneur a good one or a great one, because if you’re not endlessly curious I don’t know how you can really innovate or invent something truly disruptive or innovative. The other part of curiosity though too is not being attached to the outcome, I mean, thinking about things as a scientist would like everything’s a hypothesis until it’s working and that aspect of where truly innovative entrepreneurship where you’re actually like an inventor, you’re changing the course of history in that way as opposed to just being a business owner they’re very different things, a lot of people call themselves entrepreneurs, but the type of entrepreneur as you are that’s actually truly inventing something, if you don’t have a love of learning and a curiosity, I don’t know how you’d be able to do what you’ve done.
Manijeh Goldberg: I totally agree with you. I think the love of learning is a huge, huge part of being a good entrepreneur because the world is continuously moving.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s constantly changing, right?
Manijeh Goldberg: Constantly changing.
Melinda Wittstock: You think you’ve figured it out and then it’s like oh wait, but over here, but oh wait, but, right? But that’s an interesting challenge too because on one level you got to stay really focused on your final, your kind of destination, but on the other hand you have to be flexible enough and so there’s sometimes a tension between the necessity for flexibility and the necessity also for focus on, on where you’re going.
Manijeh Goldberg: Absolutely. It’s somewhat of a balance, but to me I spend hours almost every night just studying.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, you’ve got a dog [crosstalk 00:32:54]. I have a dog too. Look, it’s okay. We’re all at home, my dog has barked during this podcast so many times, it’s totally cool. I mean, we’re all at home, we got our kids at home, we got all kinds of stuff going on-
Manijeh Goldberg: He’s whining because I’m not paying any attention. He’s sitting on his little pillow not too far from me, but I was hoping and I’m sure you edit this part out, I was hoping that my husband would come and take him away, but I think in order to be quiet he just went to his man cave in the basement [inaudible 00:33:28] and there’s the dog complaining that nobody’s playing with him and here I’m talking to a computer, he can see what is she doing.
Melinda Wittstock: I know, my dog looks at me like that all the time too and just really doesn’t understand it. I mean, it’s sort of like in his… I wonder whether he’s saying look, Melinda you could be out chasing squirrels, what are you doing? You’re wasting your life.
Manijeh Goldberg: Exactly. I’m trying to see if I can tempt him to go outside for a little while, so forgive me for one second.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, no problem. My dog will probably come back in, he’s outside, he got banished out there as well, so he’ll come back in and maybe whine or something as well. So anyway, let’s see, where were we? I’m really curious too Manijeh what you think about the mindset or… sorry, I’m really curious Manijeh what you think of the mindset that’s required for success, particularly as a female founder, are there any specific ingredients that you just have, it’s in your DNA or can they be learned and more importantly what are they?
Manijeh Goldberg: That’s a very complicated question.
Melinda Wittstock: It is, I know I tend to do that. Sorry-
Manijeh Goldberg: No, no.
Melinda Wittstock: We can break it down, but I’m just curious what you think are the critical mindset that we need to succeed.
Manijeh Goldberg: I think some of it is in your DNA and I don’t want to be discouraging and say it can’t be learned, but there is a drive, you see it in some children too. Sometimes you see kids that are just there is the serious drive in sitting there and developing and making something and then you see other kids that are interested in something else. So in my case I always wanted to take my own ideas and see if I can execute them, but I have to say I worked for large companies, small companies before I decided to take it on my own. So I learned a lot by working in these other companies, but what I think is it’s partly DNA and partly surrounding yourself with people that are encouraging, but it can be to some degree learned.
Manijeh Goldberg: What I see… I think in my case, what I see is this constant ability to motivate myself and others. I think if I had to say what was I really good at, is motivation. Because when I get excited I think it’s contagious, I can get other people excited about it and that’s how I can build a team and we work on it together, there’s a lot of passion, there’s a lot of high fiving and there are a lot of times that things don’t work and you need to kind of let yourself go down and pick yourself up the next day. So those are some of the ingredients that I deal with almost on a daily basis. They are successes, but they are a lot of failures when you are on your own, many failures and if you can’t stomach it and that’s the part I said could be in someone’s DNA, you know they are.
Manijeh Goldberg: I have family members, sisters that we grew up in the same household that tell me how do you do that after you had such a hard week? How do you pick up your pieces and continue? And I’d say, I don’t know. I just feel like this is what I’m meant to do. I don’t like the alternative, this is what I’m supposed to be doing and I see people, sometimes I’m envious of those that choose a path that has less obstacles and I think to myself why did I pick a path with so many obstacles? And that’s the part that perhaps is in my DNA.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, I’ve had a life like that too where just I always knew that I had to do my own thing, similarly worked, my background’s in media and media tech and ad tech and social analytics and that kind of thing, but so I worked for all the major media companies, I was an award winning journalist, I did all the things and I felt that I needed those kinds of qualifications before I could go and do my own thing and I find that women entrepreneurs tend to feel that they need to go do that. Like get all these so many qualifications, degrees and so much experience, which is great because it stands us in great stead when we come into entrepreneurship a little bit later in life than men who just jump right in their 20s, in their garage, in their hoodies, right? Whereas we’ve already hired and fired and built things and tried to disrupt from within, got frustrated and you know, right? And it’s a very different profile.
Manijeh Goldberg: Perhaps it’s what you mentioned earlier because we want to be taken seriously and maybe by trying to build credibility by knowing the game really well, by walking in with confidence because you’ve done it, you studied it, perhaps part of that comes from if I don’t have this, if I don’t have this degree or if I don’t know this really, really well, I will not get taken seriously and maybe with men they just assume they can walk in and own the room.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I think that’s changing though because I think people are recognizing that women bring something a little bit different to the mix and I think this is evidenced by how good you are at building teams and I want to talk about that a little bit too, but that we do have this innate, or maybe it’s an archetypal sort of feminine power for empathy and intuition and all these things. And when we actually use them from a place of empowerment, magic happens. I think our society is changing where those skills are actually really in demand and I see men starting to emulate those things in the way they run their companies and so it’s moving more away from more of that traditional masculine command control into a much more collaborative type of organization. How does that manifest for you in your business and the way that you organize it and the way that you lead?
Manijeh Goldberg: I think that you just mentioned something that’s perhaps for me it’s innate, I like collaboration.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, me too. I love it. I think women are more wired that way actually.
Manijeh Goldberg: And I truly sincerely enjoy diversity.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes.
Manijeh Goldberg: I like to work with people from different age groups, from different backgrounds, different nationalities because I learn from every one of the people that bring something into this complicated thing we are trying to do, you learn something from one another and so for me it’s not even I want to be a good person and build a diverse company, I don’t think that way to be honest. I just think what’s good for the company, what’s good for business and when you bring people with diverse backgrounds, diverse genders and diverse age groups you bring in a lot of wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm, courage, cool ideas when you hear somebody young that don’t have as much boundaries talk about what they think versus somebody that has a lot of understanding and deep, deep understanding of the field you’re in and you learn something from them.
Manijeh Goldberg: So I think that part is probably something innate in me and many women, we enjoy conversations about what do you think? This is what I think, do you think this would work? I ask my team, some ideas I don’t say this is my idea, my way or their way I can never do that. I’m always asking what do you guys think? Do you think this would work and why? Why would you think it would work? Or if it doesn’t work, come on, tell me why and back it up with data.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. You see now, this is wonderful though because you’re empowering your team to do that. You’re giving them license to really think on their feet and you’re kind of being who you want them to be, which is a wonderful way to lead, like giving them license because they’re going to be better. I mean they’re going to innovate, they’re going to tell you stuff that you may not see, every CEO and founder has blind spots just from our own experience and so to be open to hearing other perspectives and having a really diverse team is absolutely 100% the way to go. I know a lot of women who listen to this podcast, we talk a lot about the challenges of building a team and the challenge is actually building a diverse team because when we found companies, we have our own networks and whatnot. What is your secret to actually building a team that’s truly diverse and attracting all age ranges and nationalities and colors and just you know what I mean? How have you gone about doing that?
Manijeh Goldberg: I almost don’t think about it. When we need to hire a new person, add someone to the team, we look for the person that’s qualified, the energy they bring, the knowledge, the enthusiasm, so there are many parameters to it. It’s almost like being blind to many of the boxes and just really hearing the person’s ideas, values what they can bring and it naturally happens. It naturally happens that you end up with young women in your team that are scientists and men that are interested in public relationships and interested in marketing and you end up people from different countries because they all have that same drive that drives you every day that brought you to this country. There is… it just almost happens naturally, to be honest I don’t go out of my way to say I need to hire a female, I don’t think that way, but happens to be that half of my team are female and the other half are male and we have people of different backgrounds and nationalities just happens because I’m open, I don’t close and put myself in a box and my need in a box and say that’s where I need this kind of a person.
Manijeh Goldberg: I’m open, we hire for example a scientist, let’s say with molecular biology. We discuss it with different people, different age groups and so on and you hire a person that the team even says yeah, I think this person has the right energy, he or she will work really well with us because we work hard, we work crazy hours and some days we work less because things are just not going anywhere and we say let’s just stop, let’s just stop, come back fresh tomorrow morning. And some days we’re working on cells, cancer cells and you stay til one o’clock in the morning with your team. So it’s important for me to hear when they interview also they say yeah, I can see myself working with this person. They seem dedicated, they seem to understand that it’s not a nine to five, this is not a nine to five job.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. Absolutely right. I want to end by… well, actually I don’t want to end yet, but hold on a second let me just re ask this question. I’m curious what the lessons were for you learned because you’re such a wonderful learner, from selling a company for close to a half a billion dollars, how did it feel at the exit? What was it like kind of getting to exit, but what was going on in your mind as you were getting there? Because it can be kind of an emotional experience too.
Manijeh Goldberg: Yes, to the last minute you’re working so hard and by the way I have to say it’s a team work. This kind of things, this kind of exits are major and you require a very solid team of men and women, doesn’t matter the gender, they have to bring a lot to the table. So you are part of a team and everybody is rolling this boat that everybody is helping to move it forward and sometimes you’re just so focused on taking the next step and what could go wrong and there are many things that can go wrong, setbacks and you go back and you rethink where did we go wrong? Should we do something? So it’s a total team effort. When it happens, you are still in disbelief, you are in that mode of rowing this boat and you’re like oh, you mean I don’t have to, really for me that was the biggest thing. I kept… it’s almost like pulling and pushing, really are we done yet? And so it’s when you realize that yes, it really happened, it’s hard to believe, it’s magical, it’s amazing. It happens very rarely, you can imagine these things don’t happen very often, but when it does happen it’s incredible.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. My lead investor does a lot of work with founders to get their companies to exit at the highest possible valuation multiple and I’ve watched it and I’ve seen… I’ve watched him and seen him deal with founders who kind of lose it a little bit emotionally, right? Because their whole identity is wrapped up with this thing that they’ve built and they don’t actually know what’s coming next, right? And they get to exit and it’s like oh, so he’s almost like a therapist in a way, sort of helping them to okay, what’s the next thing you’re going to be doing? And you know these sorts of things, but yeah.
Manijeh Goldberg: Absolutely. You go to a high place of thinking oh my gosh, really? Did it happen? But then you almost there is a downside because you’ve been going a hundred miles an hour every day for months sometimes for a whole year working on a deal and you don’t know how to stop and somebody says it’s done and-
Melinda Wittstock: You’re like what? Wait, what? Huh? What do I do? What do I do tomorrow?
Manijeh Goldberg: Exactly, that happens. Yes, everybody celebrates, there are a lot of blooms and you’re all happy, but then the next day you’re like, what do I do now?
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. But if you’re an entrepreneur you can’t help yourself, there’s going to be another one that lights you up, right? That’s always been my experience as well, I can’t imagine not… well, I love this whole thing and I’m in it right now with that early stage and then growing it and just creating the systems where it’s going to scale really rapidly. I mean, I just, I love that phase, it’s a hell of a lot of work, but it’s exciting and every day is different, every hour, every minute is different just saying, right? And especially now. So tell me about your big vision for where your company is going next. You’ve raised about $11 million so far in the company, you’ve been doing it for about four years. Where is Privo going next?
Manijeh Goldberg: Actually we’ve raised more than that, but we have raised $11 million in awards.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, well that’s nice. Like non-dilutive awards.
Manijeh Goldberg: Non-dilutive awards.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh wow. That’s super smart. I like that.
Manijeh Goldberg: But it’s a lot of work. You have to have really good solid data and you have to get really good at writing these proposals basically. So it’s a lot of work, but to me that was important that I listened to one of my professors that said before you go and raise investor money, build value and if you have a good product, a good idea, try to write proposals to places that care about what you’re doing and so I took that very seriously and that’s what I’ve been doing is building value, making sure that the product is actually in a place where it generates good data because if you go too early to an investor, even if you got lucky and a lot of investors don’t invest in very early ideas, but even if you got lucky and somebody invested for a little bit of investment money you might have to give a huge portion of your company.
Melinda Wittstock: I call it expensive money.
Manijeh Goldberg: Exactly. Very expensive money and there are times that when you are working 20 hours a day for months and months and you’re exhausted and your partner, your children don’t get to see you. I’m telling you there’s a lot of sacrificing in this business and if you don’t own a good portion of the company that you built, it can get very demotivated… demotivating to just think that I’m slaving away, not seeing, not going to my kid’s soccer game and not being able to do a lot of things because there is a lot of things I need to do, it’s a one woman show sometimes and you need to make sure that you think about those things because those days are going to be ahead where you’re working insane hours and you’re expecting your family to sacrifice also not having their mom or their wife or whatever their daughter there and then if you own very little piece of the company let’s say 5%, 10%, because by the time you gave it away for some funding, think about that and that’s what I took very seriously.
Manijeh Goldberg: I wanted to make sure I build value before I look for serious institutional funding. But I have angel investors that have put in money and we have these grants and award funding that have been helping us go through clinical trials and actually try the treatment on cancer patients with oral cancer.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it’s a long game that you have. I mean the difference between your kind of a business in life sciences and all those clinical trials and all of the things you have to go to get some market, it’s very different from just building a podcasting network, which is really complex in its own way, right? But yeah, there’s a lot of technology and a lot of AI and a lot of stuff going on, right?
Manijeh Goldberg: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: But at the same-
Manijeh Goldberg: [inaudible 00:55:25].
Melinda Wittstock: I don’t have clinical trials; I just have customer trials. But this is amazing Manijeh, I’ve enjoyed our conversations so much. I want to make sure that people can find you and learn about your company. So tell us where you are on social media and your website and all the different ways people can engage with you.
Manijeh Goldberg: So if you go to privotechnologies.com, it’s one word Privo technologies, you can see some information about the company and we try to keep it updated, also, we have a LinkedIn page, I have my own LinkedIn page that if you search for Manijeh Goldberg: you’ll see, as well as Privo technologies has a LinkedIn page. So, people can find me there and they can you know, as I said they can message me, or on the contact page on our website you can leave me a nice note and I try to get back, I always try to get back because it’s important to me that we are all connected.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely 100%. Well, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Manijeh Goldberg: Thank you. Thanks for the opportunity.